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Monday, June 6, 2011

New Movies Release Roundup 2 June 2011

X-Men aside, there are two other worthwhile films that were released this week. And one that's not all that worthwhile but was much less gruesome than it really should have been. On with the show...

Matthew McConaughey? A seemingly generic courtroom drama? Come on, did this have any chance of being any good? As it turns out, yes, yes it did. For a start, McConaughey was actually really good as the smarmy lawyer with the heart of gold and his supporting cast - including Marisa Tomei, Bryan Cranston and William H Macy - was top notch too. There is little about the characters or the plot that we haven't seen before but, once you accept that that The Lincoln Lawyer is very much by-the-numbers, there is really a lot to like.

The basic plot involves a very successful lawyer being hired to represent an immensely rich young man who has been charged with raping a prostitute but, as he soon find out, there is far more to the case that meets the eye. Like I said, it is very generic. To its great credit, though, it understands its pot-boiler roots and while some scenes are quite grizzly, it has a likeable pop sensibility with its multiple twists and turns and shamelessly exploiting thriller tropes to keep its audience on the edge of their seats. It ain't great but it's a good, unpretentiously generic little film that will, I'm sure, delight fans of the legal drama/ thriller to no end. And there's more than enough there for the rest of us too. 

From the sublimely ridiculous to the gut-wrenchingly poignant, Beautiful Boy is this week's big art-circuit release. It tells the simple story of a married couple whose already shaky relationship is put to the ultimate test after their only son shoots and kills a couple dozen students at his college, before turning the gun on himself. The ensuing hundred minutes is a brutally raw exploration of the couple coming to terms with not only the loss of their son but with the unspeakably horrible acts that he committed in his final moments.     

Shot with a documentary-like intimacy, Beautiful Boy is an incredibly grueling viewing experience. The subject matter is tough enough as it is but add to that the very real feeling that you, as a viewer, are intruding on the private grief and heartbreak of this couple and it becomes almost unbearable. That it is not actually based on a true story doesn't help in the least.

It is, as such, a difficult film to truly recommend to people but that doesn't really change the fact that it is an immensely powerful piece of filmmaking with two incredible performances at the centre of it. Maria Bello and Michael Sheen never fail to impress but they up their game even further here by bringing real believability into two characters who could so easily have never escaped their slightly caricatured (she, the domineering mother and he, the emotionally distant father) personalities. It is also very sharply written in that it allows its story and its characters the chance to organically develop without succumbing to the obvious traps of melodrama and plot contrivances. It may be a film to be admired, rather than enjoyed but when there is as much to admire as there is here, it's hard to complain too much.

And then we have Prom. If ever there was a film that was born to be sneered at, it must be this one. And, to a large extent, deservedly so. Its obsession with that most silly of American high school traditions, the prom, reaches breaking point within the first three minutes of the film and plunges into depths previously unknown for the next couple of hours. It is also badly acted and incredibly lame and its attempts to be this generation's Pretty In Pink, Say Anything or Fast Times At Ridgemont High only makes it look all the more pathetic. It is simply complete rubbish from start to finish.

And, yet, what's weird is that though it is demonstrably just incredibly bad, it is somehow also, kind of, OK - especially if you are a member of the film's obvious target audience. It's not that it's so bad, it's good and, as we have established, it's certainly not good, but there is something about the good-natured rubbishness of it all, that makes it far more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Maybe it's that it reminded me of better films or maybe it's that it is so seemingly oblivious to its obvious lameness that it becomes charmingly hopeless but whatever it is, I simply found it impossible to truly hate it.

Prom is easily one of the most pathetic, badly made pieces of crap to be unleashed on our cinemas this year but, when the time comes for me to compile a "ten worst of the year" list, I can promise you that it won't even be up for consideration.

Like I said, it's a decent selection of films - even the obviously bad film is totally OK and the rest are quite impressive. I have not seen the South African film Ek Lief Jou - which is, at least in part, in Afrikaans but I doubt I'm missing much. Still, I can't judge it so...

Best Film of the Week: X-Men: First Class!
Worst Film of the Week: Prom. Even if it's much less painful than it had any right to be.     

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