Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Quarterly film roundup - January to March 2008

Blood Diamond *** - Leo DiCaprio dons his best Seeth Eefreecan accent as a ruthless mercenary diamond dealer who may or may not have a little compassion in his heart. Overall an adequate thriller but could have been edited down to a keener run-time.

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason ** - Goes to great lengths to repeat every single one of the most humorous gags from the first film, to generally unamusing effect. Where a new concept for a joke is introduced, more often than not it misfires. If Bridget Jones is supposed to be a hero to modern women, then why on Earth must this film (and, presumably, the book) attempt to mine comedy from far-Eastern women's jails and lesbianism?

Atonement **** - Very effective and affecting costume drama exploring a girl's guilt at a one-off case of childish jealousy and its devastating repercussions. Amongst the emotional anguish, it might by easy to overlook the film's technical achievements: an astonishing one-take Steadicam scene set on a wartime French beach is both low-key and dazzling, natural and virtuosic.

Serendipity *** - Two strangers meet by chance and feel a connection - but she's evidently a bit of a hippy, because she feels that their relationship should be governed by supernatural forces. This is a quirky, non-traditional rom-com which is mostly rather sweet. It's a bit unfortunate that love triangles tend to leave victims in their wakes, however, because while her partner thoroughly deserves to be ditched for the romantic ideal, his partner is entirely blameless.

Singin' In The Rain **** - They don't make 'em like this any more. While some of the songs are all-too-apparently selected to showcase MGM's catalogue rather than to drive the story, it's still brilliant, with catchy tunes, wit, charm, absolutely hilarious jokes, and that classic rainy set-piece.

Beauty And The Beast *** - Disney's award-winning take on the tale is let down in places by the odd non-sequitur, uneven plot development and some irritating "humorous" banter, and the well-known set-piece (swooping down from the ballroom ceiling) has lost some of its shine in the light of more recent advances in animation technique. But it still has romance and charm to spare.

Letters From Iwo Jima **** - The second of Clint Eastwood's pair about this wartime island conflict is told from the Japanese point of view and is markedly superior to Flags Of Our Fathers. The story attempts to explain the Japanese mentality: their dogged refusal to give up on their hopeless task; their ever-prevailing sense of honour. And, even as it condemns the officers for their cruelty, the film cannot help but be an awe of the men's courage.

Ice Age ** - Raucous, annoying and even tedious in places, this is the story of a prehistoric migration in which all the animals band together to escape onrushing disaster. The film fails to notch up the tension sufficiently quickly, the animals aren't sufficiently cute to hold a younger audience's interest, and the inclusion of comic vignettes involving a single-minded squirrel seem to be an admission on the part of the filmmakers that the film overall just isn't that funny. And an attempt to address important issues of identity and belonging fall flat, mainly because the character in question refuses to discuss them in any way.

Ice Age II *** - An improvement on the original, but no classic, this is essentially a take on the road-movie genre but with added sabre-toothed tigers. This time, the jokes are funnier, including some nice flights of fantasy that recall the wackier daydreams in Scrubs. Furthermore, the film doesn't try to burden itself with such awkward issues as before - this time, it's a simple theme of good vs. bad and doing the "right thing".