Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Review Round-Up 5

I haven't done one of these round-ups for a while (in fact a bit longer than I thought) for a variety of reasons, possibly the most important of those being that I haven't seen many films recently that I felt strongly enough about to drive me to write a paragraph about them. However, with such a wide array of films in the cinema either now or very soon that I really want to see (and all of which I inevitably won't get to see), such as Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, Revolutionary Road, Valkyrie and The Wrestler, as well as a few I'm sure I've forgotten, hopefully this won't be a problem for the foreseeable future.

That said, here are a few reviews of stuff I've watched recently.

Mamma Mia!
Whilst I accept that this is intended as a lighthearted and fun film, it grated on me as twee, vacuous and poorly written. It didn't help that I'm in no way a fan of ABBA, so the film had a lot of ground to make up before it started. With such a star-studded cast, many of whom have proven themselves as talented heavyweights of cinema, the acting was decidedly average. The only person who mildly impressed me was Meryl Streep, who was also the only one of the big names who was able to sing. Pierce Brosnan, for example, sounded like a mediocre David Bowie impersonator with a head cold. The story was ludicrous, which in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but never really entertained me. Some of the ABBA songs felt like they'd been forced in despite not really having a lot to do with what was happening in the story. I could go on for ages picking this one apart, but I won't. Essentially, the only redeeming feature for me is that the film never takes itself seriously for a second, and the entire cast give it everything they have all the way through, but in the end Mamma Mia! just wasn't for me in any way.

A film I wasn't expecting to enjoy, but ended up being entertained by all the way through. On the surface this is merely a bright and cheery musical with overly simple characters and situations, and at times that's all you get. But there's more to this film, with underlying themes of racism, prejudice and social change. They're never explored in extreme depth, but they are key to the film's plot. The cast is strong throughout, with Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken and John Travolta (in both drag and a fat suit) adding credence to the film, and the younger members of the cast also giving impressive turns - Zac Efron and Nikki Blonsky stood out for me. Overall, thoroughly enjoyable and well made, if a little too simplistic and "girly" at times.

Son Of Rambow
A polished and skilfully made film. A large amount of child actors, none of whom annoyed me at any point. Bill Milner and Will Poulter as the two main characters William and Lee respectively were particularly impressive. The film is set in the early '80s, and whilst it uses pop culture of the time to add authenticity, the film never relies on nostalgia to gain kudos. A story both funny and emotional in generous and well-balanced measures, and which ranges from schoolboy humour to sinister without feeling contrived at any point. Finely crafted and thoroughly enjoyable, Son Of Rambow is simply an excellent film.

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