Graham Young and Roz Laws review the latest films
Midnight In Paris * * * *
12A, 94 mins
Woody Allen has had a turbulent last decade. It’s generally acknowledged that his best films probably came earlier on, with Annie Hall, Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters.
Since the turn of the century, his work has been very hit and miss. For every decent movie like Match Point, there were two that flopped, like Scoop and Cassandra’s Dream. His lacklustre last film, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, was barely released before it disappeared without trace.
But Midnight In Paris, his 41st, is definitely one of the better ones, thanks to a top cast and sparkling dialogue.
Owen Wilson plays Gil, engaged to spoilt, rich Inez (Rachel McAdams) and on holiday in Paris with her and her parents.
The city itself looks beautiful, and the first few minutes is like a ‘wish you were here’ moving postcard. It seems Allen really has transferred his affections from New York to Europe.
Gil is a Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of becoming a serious author. Inez is only bothered about buying expensive furniture for their new beach house.
One night, Gil wanders off alone to get some air and gets lost. As the clock strikes midnight, a vintage car drives up and invites him in.
Suddenly he’s transported back to his favourite era, Paris in the 1920s. And not just any old bar in the city, but the one frequented by F Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) – oh, and isn’t that Cole Porter on the piano?
Then he meets Pablo Picasso and his beautiful muse Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who swiftly beguiles Gil too.
She, meanwhile, thinks the Golden Age is the Belle Epoque of the 1890s – it seems that no-one is happy living in the present.
Like every Allen film, it’s dialogue heavy so you have to concentrate on what they’re saying. It might even be worth watching again to pick up little gems you missed first time round. This is not a movie for people who don’t know much about early 20th century culture.
Look out for Carla Bruni as a museum guide, Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali and Michael Sheen, with a beard and American accent, as know-it-all intellectual Paul.
There are parts when it’s in danger of getting too pretentious, but then the down-to-earth charm of Owen Wilson shines through and pulls it back.
The time flies by, which is always a good sign. When it ends you realise that the plot is fairly insubstantial, but it’s still a watchable, enchanting 90 minutes. RL
PG, 101 mins
It is eight years since secret agent Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) last ‘graced’ our screens, and I see no reason why he should be brought back for this pointless sequel.
Sacked after allowing a head of state to be shot in Mozambique, English has retreated to a Tibetan monastery. But agency MI7, now led by Pamela Thornton (Gillian Anderson), has to recall him when an old contact demands to speak only to English.
He reveals a plot to kill the Chinese leader by a group of assassins called Vortex.
The mission leads English to Hong Kong and to Switzerland, for a snowy, Bond-like action climax – if Bond was an idiot.
All the clowning and stupidity gets very annoying, as does the preposterous notion that English can attract gorgeous women – Natalie Imbruglia in the first film and now Rosamund Pike.
Yes, OK, I did chuckle a little. Some of the scenes are quite fun, like a wheelchair chase and a helicopter flight involving a David Soul song. And the cast, including Dominic West, are pretty good.
But a lot of it is cringemakingly awful, like when he batters a pensioner over the head. And it’s blindingly obvious, to everyone but English, who the traitor is.
If you think people falling over and being repeatedly kicked where it hurts is hilarious, then you might enjoy this. Anyone with any intelligence is advised to steer clear. RL
* * * *
15, 113 mins
Like Steven Spielberg’s Munich, Helen Mirren’s new movie is dressed up as a revenge thriller with Mossad agents trying to kidnap a Nazi doctor for trial.
Based on an Israeli film, the two-generational story features the older and younger Rachel played by Mirren and Jessica Chastain alongside Tom Wilkinson and Marton Csokas (as Stephan) and Ciarán Hinds and Avatar’s Sam Worthington (as David).
The three characters need to capture evil Doktor Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen) and, more importantly, keep him alive.
Shakespeare in Love director John Madden attempts the most complex film structure in recent memory in order to show the older trio coping with the consequences of their earlier dangerous actions.
He’s saved, largely, by Christensen’s malevolent class, reminiscent of Ian McKellen in Bryan Singer’s overlooked adaptation of Stephen King’s Apt Pupil and Christoph Waltz winning a best supporting actor Oscar performance for Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. GY
15, 91 mins
When Lancastrian bride Gemma Redmond lost husband Ian to a summer shark attack in the Seychelles, it was a brutal reminder of the enduring reputation of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws which would still be accepted at face value today as a genuine thriller about the dangers of the deep.
In contrast, Shark Night is a bad taste frenzy, with cameras tied to the bellies of some beasts contained by crooks in a salt water lake.
The naff 3D adds a kaleidoscopic feel to what is simply underwater ‘torture porn’. GY
15, 135 mins
Danish director and depressive Lars von Trier opens Melancholia with an ultra-slow motion prologue, as if the 135-minute running time will last for an eternity of sadness.
If there’s a certain beauty when a mysterious new planet crashes into our own it’s clear that Happy Endings Aren’t Us.
Terrence Malick went all evolutionary in the middle of The Tree of Life recently, but at least Brad Pitt and Sean Penn had already floated the film.
From the heavens’ near stillness to the jerky hand-held camera at a wedding reception for Justine (Kirsten Dunst), von Trier’s contrasting styles are jarring.
Rather like John Hurt’s father of the bride hiding spoons in his top pocket at the same time as miserable ex Charlotte Rampling has a face on her like a bag of spanners as she bemoans all marriages.
Charlotte Gainsbourg is Claire, the sister of a bride whose boss and new father-in-law is played by Stellan Skarsgård.
Long before lovely Spider-Man star Miss Dunst ends up urinating outdoors a la Kate Winslet in her post-Titanic riposte Hideous Kinky, you, too, might well be as depressed as Claire’s husband and fed-up event organiser Kiefer Sutherland who makes a sensible exit from the pretentious mess.
You can feel melancholic at Cineworld Broad Street today (Thursday) and at the Electric Cinema, Station Street from tomorrow (Friday). GY
* * *
15, 106 mins
Directed by John Singleton – who’s clearly forgotten his auspicious, Oscar-nominated Boyz n the Hood debut was 20 years ago this month – you’re unlikely to see a more ludicrous chase thriller all year.
Especially as the title seems to refer to another movie.
And yet, because I was in the mood for some easy-on-the-eye escapism after Lars von Tears, I quite enjoyed the sheer implausibility of the nonsensical plot about a young man who’s discovered his parents aren’t who he thought they were.
Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver build up their pension pots; Twilight’s junior beefcake Taylor Lautner exercises. GY
15, 92 mins
Chef Ewan McGregor falls in love with scientist Eva Green while we are expected to appreciate the value of our senses.
McGregor’s Young Adam director David MacKenzie has returned to cinematic values after his experimental You Instead bombed last month.
But, as with Melancholia, this is a half-baked apocalypse in slow motion.
With the grinning McGregor returning to butt-shot mode, Bond girl Eva Green frequently appearing topless and the mood somewhere between 28 Days Later..., Prospero’s Books and TV hit The Naked Chef, any potential thriller element is soon diluted beyond repair.
The global 24-hour film Life In a Day was much more thought-provoking – and fun – last June. GY