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Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Movies Release Roundup 8 April 2011

Unlike last week, there are quite a few movies to be talked about this week that I haven't written reviews for. Important ones at that. On with the show...

The biggest disappointment of the week, if not the year so far, Sofia Coppola's Somewhere is a far cry from her breakthrough films, The Virgin Suicides and - more crucially - Lost In Translation. The latter is easily one of my favourite films from the last decade and Somewhere is superficially a return to a similar style of filmmaking. It's very slow moving, it focuses almost entirely on two characters doing very little, it's languidly and deliberately shot and it is very, very light on plot. The difference this time, though, is that while Lost In Translation dealt with the very universal theme of feeling lost in life and finding comfort in simple human connections, Somewhere is about a very famous film star (played solidly enough by Stephen Dorff) feeling bored with his life. There is definitely a sense that this is a personal film to Coppola as her presumed stand-in, the actor's young daughter (the very impressive Elle Fanning) tries to connect with her super famous father. Unfortunately, it's not told from her perspective so this aspect of the film feels very underdeveloped and it feels much more like a very slow, very extended moan about how empty and vacuous a film star's life could be. And I'm sorry but who gives a crap? We see him playing video games, engaging in meaningless sex, falling asleep -TWICE - while watching a couple of pole-dancers doing their thing, being forced to do mind-numbing promotion for his latest film and wondering around doing nothing. Did I feel sorry for the poor schmuck? Not as much as I felt sorry for myself for having to sit through the self-indulgent wingeing of this pampered, over-privileged idiot. Ya know what, Mr Famous Movie Man, I kept thinking to myself: You're bored and unfulfilled in your life? Fine. Take up pottery, hang gliding, stamp collecting, excessive drug consumption or any other hobby that strikes your fancy. Just please, keep this self-involved, unsympathetic, uninteresting naval-gazing the hell out of my cinema! Really, Ms Coppola, you're capable of so much better than this.

The other biggie in this week's arts-cinema releases is much, much better. Barney's Version isn't perfect and is a bit of a mess of conflicting genres and plot-lines but it's a very involving and very enjoyable piece of cinema. Effectively the life story of a world-class misanthrope, Barney's Version traces the title character's life across three different marriages, involvement in a possible murder and a career as a television producer. It's interesting that for so unapologetically unlikeable a character, Barney actually managed to evoke not just sympathy from me but I soon started to find him to be genuinely endearing. A large part of this, of course, is that Paul Giamatti is sublime in the lead role. Not only is he the go-to-guy for playing curmudgeonly grouches, he is also great enough an actor to bring real depth and dimension to what could easily have been a one-note caricature. The rest of the cast is great - with Dustin Hoffman and Rosamund Pike offering up particularly great performances - but this is clearly Giamatti's movie. The sardonically witty script is excellent too and, along with TV-veteran Richard J Lewis' direction, it's especially adept at making sure that the other characters feel real and relateable enough that they bring out the humanity in Barney himself. I don't know how the film stacks up against the acclaimed novel its based on but, taken on its own terms, the film may not be free of flaws but those flaws only help make Barney's Version the gem that it is. (9/10)                   

There is also the Bollywood film, Thank You, and the kids 3D animation of Rio but neither of them were, as far as I know, screened to the press. But, of what I have seen...

Best film of the week: Barney's Version.
Worst film of the week: Somewhere. Just as dull as The Eagle but much more irritating. 


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