Sunday, 1 April 2007

March film roundup

Little Miss Sunshine *** - Yet another dysfunctional suburban family dramedy (see also: Happiness, Napoleon Dynamite, The Safety Of Objects). This has more substance than most, with strong morals about being true to oneself and one's family, and it has one crucial ingredient that cannot fail to be funny: a bright yellow VW camper van, that's malfunctioning as badly as the family that owns it. But it's also a strangely amoral film in certain regards, and its sideswipes at the utter ridiculousness of junior beauty pageants will seem to UK audiences to be picking on a very easy target indeed.

Look Both Ways *** - With the visual inventiveness of Tom Tykwer at his best, this film nonetheless very obviously has a woman director - which is no bad thing, dealing as it does with everyday fears and emotions of normal people, particularly when confronted with death at close hand. The Australian cast may not be well-known in the UK, but that's also a good thing, investing the film with an intimacy and immediacy that would be lacking if they were all stars. The nightmarish animated flashes that haunt the lead character are very obviously an extension of the director's earlier short animation (also included on the DVD) but are an effective and expressive medium. A compelling and promising directorial feature debut.

Layer Cake *** - Not being a massive fan of the great British gangster drama, I did not have high hopes for Layer Cake - but fortunately it is amongst the more slick and interesting of that genre. It's notable nowadays mainly for being Daniel Craig's biggest pre-Bond role, and he's pretty good, although since absolutely everybody else sports a cockney accent, it's not absolutely clear that he's the right man for the role. There are a couple of spurious asides that don't quite work amongst the twisting plot. There's a couple of nice little jolts at the end too, although hardly on a par with Fight Club or The Usual Suspects.

An Inconvenient Truth *** - Neither as boring as it sounds (it's a slideshow by Al Gore, interspersed with his thoughts on climate change) nor as convincing as it should be, this documentary inhabits a strange position in US and world politics. "Hi, I'm Al Gore, and I used to be the next President of the United States," says he, to a ripple of laughter from his audience - and he seems relaxed and spontaneous, even though he undoubtedly uses the same line every time he presents this show. Unfortunately, the points he makes about climate change (increased temperatures, massively increased species extinctions, and the end of the gulf stream) are chosen for shock value and he fails to back up a single one of his assertions with evidence of causality - a crucial requirement for convincing the climate change sceptics. He might be forgiven for sticking to a resolutely non-technical argument, in order to reach the widest possible audience, but this merely means that inevitably he alienates those hungry for more detailed information. Despite best intentions, it's going to change nobody's opinion.

Hot Fuzz *** - Fans of Shaun Of The Dead will be well pleased with this comedy action adventure, which amply does for police buddy films what Shaun did for zombies. Anyone left underwhelmed by the earlier work, though, won't find anything particularly new here: it's hilarious in places, but not nearly consistently funny enough across its running time. And the "surprise" twist ending (or at least, the bit before the climactic gun battle) will be familiar to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of the works of Agatha Christie.