UK Film Releases | Friday 20th April 2011
Happy Bank Holiday weekend! It’s Easter madness at the UK cinematheque this week, with more films than we could squeeze into the Quotables Review. However, we’re still bringing you snippets from reviews of loads of this week’s releases, including Russell Brand as Arthur, comedy romance in Beastly, another injection of Fast and Furious with the new Fast 5, a somewhat premature How I Ended This Summer (we’re still enjoying spring!), Wim Wenders’ dancing delight Pina 3D, festival favourite documentary Sweetgrass, Fast 5′s 3D documentary counterpart TT3D: Closer to the Edge, and our Pick of the Week, Luc Besson’s Adele Blanc-Sec!
Russell Brand stars in the remake of Arthur, taking on Dudley Moore’s boisterous billionaire the brink of an arranged marriage to a wealthy heiress but ends up falling for a common working class girl instead.
Russell Brand doesn’t exactly improve on Moore’s playboy billionaire so much as convert the character’s tragic immaturity into alcoholic toxicity. Brand, already a Dionysian visual joke of swirling hair and rock-star poses, is always funnier when saying less. Too bad he’s got a lot to convey here; he comes off as more of a match to his narcissistic arranged bride, Susan (Jennifer Garner), than must have been intended.
— Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out
Brand shares a British heritage with Moore, but his comedy is much different. The guy is a talent, no doubt. Only last week, he put an undeniable comic jolt into Universal’s animation/live-action mix Hop. But there is edginess to Brand’s humor, even an aggressiveness. His Arthur creates scenes, not laughs. He’s a pathetic, bratty little boy who refuses to grow up rather than a genial alcoholic who wouldn’t harm a fly.
— Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
Starring High School Musical’s Vanessa Hudgens and I Am Number Four’s Alex Pettyfer, Beastly is the edgy teen romance between handsome high-schooler Kyle who has been cursed to look like everything he despises. The only way to lift the curse is to find someone who will love him for who he is inside.
Barnz gives no life to any of these characters, nor does he make their situations the least bit believable. Perhaps most disappointing, since witchcraft underlies much of what is supposedly happening here, is that no sense of magic whatsoever pervades this movie.
— Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter
But all good humor must come to an end, and a love story has to be able to fall back on tenderness and sweetness eventually. Unfortunately, every time Beastly reaches for either of those things, it’s … really bad.
— Linda Holmes, NPR
The Fast and Furious series continues with part 5 of its speedy franchise. Vin Diesel is back in the driver’s seat, taking on one final heist job in Rio to set himself up for a lavish retirement.
There may be more brains in your bucket of popcorn, but this gleefully silly smash-’em-up heist film is sturdy enough to restore much of the fan goodwill torched by the horror movie that was the Diesel-free The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
— Megan Lehmann, Hollywood Reporter
Full of foot-to-the-floor action, bikini babes and gleaming hoods, Fast and Furious 5/ makes no attempt to adjust the formula. But why should it? Converts may be scarce, but fans will lap up its major-league mayhem. Oh, and stay for the end-credits cliffhanger…
— James Mottram, Total Film
How I Ended This Summer
Set on a desolate island in the Arctic Circle, where two men work at a small meteorological station, taking readings from their radioactive surroundings. One day, apprentice Pavel receives news for Sergei and can’t bring himself to relay it. When his deception is discovered, dire consequences are not far behind.
Visually, it’s not ugly, but sundry shots of spectacular ice fields feel academically picturesque and impart a sense of prettiness not profundity. Characters, too, totter in arbitrary circles, their motivations entirely unfathomable. Their gradual descent into savagery is signposted by much anguished wailing and even a laughable shot of Dobrygin gnawing at some salted trout like a grizzly bear in a body warmer.
— David Jenkins, Time Out
Sergei Puskepalis (Sergei) and Grigory Dobrygin (Pavel) give powerful performances, but the real star is Mother Nature — her fury and her beauty, which cinematographer Pavel Kostomarov breathtakingly captures with his hand-held camera.
— V. A. Musetto, New York Post
Wim Wenders’ 3D dance documentary is a tribute to the life and work of world-renowned choreographer Pina Bausch.
Instead of abandoning the idea of making a film about Bausch, Wenders has made a worthy tribute to her, inviting members of her ensemble to express their feelings about their mentor, partly through words, but mostly through achingly heartfelt performances, using 3D technology’s enhanced depth of field to capture the depth of feeling ever-present in Bausch’s work. It may not win any converts to the art form, but ‘mere’ movement has seldom been so moving.
— David Hughes, Empire
Presumably the 3D’s main role is to substitute for the “liveness” of the original performance, and there’s no doubt that 3D adds a lusciousness of texture to the company’s already refined and polished visuals. As the camera hovers over lines of dancers moving in unison, or inspects their controlled, intense gestures, Wenders creates an impeccably stylish, almost sculptural rendering of the performance.
— Andrew Pulver, The Guardian
Shot in the summer of 2003, this documentary follows a group of shepherds taking a herd of sheep one final time on a 300km journey through the snowy hills and valleys of the Beartooth Mountains of Montana, in the extreme northwest of the United States.
Sweetgrass does without interviews and without voice-overs. The only human voices heard are those captured in random snatches of conversation…. Made as well in the restrained tradition of Frederick Wiseman, “Sweetgrass” is intent on doing no more than observing, on having as unobtrusive a presence as possible in the world it is recording. But that world turns out to be as compelling as the circumstances under which the film came to be made.
— Kenneth Turan, LA Times
The film is visually stunning, filled with more breathtaking shots than you can count: silently falling snow; clouds’ moving shadows caressing a green mountainside; a bird singing on a single, bare branch; the cold white moon set against a midnight sky. It’s pure poetry.
— Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
TT3D: Closer to the Edge
By vividly recounting the TT’s legendary rivalries and the Isle of Man’s unique road racing history, this 3D feature documentary will discover why modern TT riders still risk their lives to win the world’s most dangerous race. It’s also an examination of what motivates those rare few, this elite band of brothers who risk everything to win.
Whether you like motorcycle racing or not, Richard de Aragues’s debut is a must-see evocation of the event’s inherent dangers and the ‘balls to the wall’ bravery (or stupidity) of its adrenaline-seeking, carefree contenders. In the realm of the rousing sports doc, this truly excels.
— Richard De Aragues, Time Out
Billed as the world’s first 3D sports movie, that third dimension is really just window dressing on a motorbiking doc that’d be exhilarating in only two. The Isle Of Man TT is pure cinema—an insane blur of leather and machines that claims several lives every year—and director Richard De Aragues shows the bikers in their fearless element…It all makes for a motorsports movie you don’t need to be a petrolhead to enjoy.
— Phil de Semlyen, Empire
Pick of the Week: Adele Blanc-Sec
Set in the early 20th Century, Luc Besson returns with the tale of a popular novelist and her many distractions from suitors, to cops and monsters.
A romp magnifique, with enough thrills, giggles and pretty pictures to reward adventure-lovers who wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of taking in a treat with subtitles. Don’t miss the mid-credits postscript.
— Angie Errigo, Empire
The cast is terrific, bringing plenty of sassy attitude to each hilarious role. Everyone is so impulsive that the plot seems completely out of control from the start, and things get increasingly silly as it continues, with some genuinely ridiculous twists and turns along the way. Adele’s repeated cry “Into my arms!” usually results in something both corny and amazing. Yes, it’s hugely imaginative, but it also feels somewhat made up as it goes along.
— Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall