In this week’s roster of UK cinema releases we have the latest addition to the Coen canon in the CIA comedy caper, Burn After Reading. Shia LeBeouf stakes a further claim to the Hollywood A-list in the high concept cyber-thriller Eagle Eye, and a washed up ’80s rockstar wannabe gets another stab at fame with his nephew’s band in The Rocker. But what did the UK critics have to say?
Last year, the Coen brothers picked up the Academy Award for Best Picture for their neo-western thriller No Country For Old Men, and at 94% on the Tomatometer, this was long-deserved acclaim for Joel and Ethan Coen, and set their already high standards to an even higher benchmark. It’s an oft-quoted theory that the Coens make two types of films; Screwball caper comedies a la Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski or the ‘serious,’ tougher and more gritty efforts like Fargo and Miller’s Crossing. With No Country they made, arguably, their toughest and grittiest film yet, with great success, so it makes sense that with their follow up, instead of trying to outmuscle their modern masterpiece, they’ve stepped into screwball mode for Burn After Reading. To many this may have seemed a risk, with their last comedic outing, Ealing comedy remake, The Ladykillers taking a bit of a critical kicking at 55% on the Tomatometer, but the Coens’ gamble seems to have paid off with Burn After Reading, as it currently stands at a respectable 78% on the Tomatometer. Despite a few calls from the critics over the lightweight throwaway feel of the film due to its slender running time of 96 minutes, most have been raving about the daffy turns from all the actors involved, with many praising Brad Pitt’s brainless portrayal of fitness instructor Chad Feldheimer as comedy gold. With a killer one/two combo of their last two movies, fans all over will be waiting with baited breath for their next cinematic outing, A Serious Man, due for release next year.
Shia LeBeouf’s rise to the top of the pile in Hollywood surely hasn’t been hindered after being taken under the wing of Steven Spielberg. With a starring role in Spielberg’s Dreamworks Studio teen-thriller Disturbia, followed by a lead role in the Spielberg-produced, robots in disguise, action adventure hit Transformers and finally being cast as Indiana Jones Jr, Mutt Williams, in Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, LeBeouf has become an instantly recognised presence on the big screen. In Eagle Eye,(produced by Spielberg unsurprisingly) he is back with Disturbia director DJ Caruso, and is out to carry on his winning streak in this cyber thriller, as Jerry Shaw, a slacker who gets embroiled in a terrorist plot, out to clear his name with help from the FBI. Unfortunately, the critics didn’t allow themselves to get carried away with the high octane, low brainer action, and many dismiss the film for its preposterous and implausible plotting, accusing it of borrowing too heavily from many other superior, and classic, films. The critics who liked it enjoyed the snappy and thrilling pace of the brainless entertainment on offer, but not enough to escape the ignominy of a measly 28% on the Tomatometer as it currently stands.
Rainn Wilson is probably not a name too well known to UK audiences, but he has a face that makes you think “Hmm, I recognise him from somewhere” thanks to small roles in Juno, and My Super Ex-Girlfriend, as well as a regular role in the American remake of The Office, and a recurring one in the critically-acclaimed Six-Feet Under. In The Rocker, Wilson takes centre stage as ex-rocker Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman, a drummer with fictitious ’80s rock band Vesuvius, who was given the boot moments before the band hit the big time, and who has been coming to terms with his near brush with superstardom ever since. He gets his second chance to reclaim his rock-god throne, when he joins his teenage nephews, high school rock band A.D.D., whilst showing his young band mates the merits of a rock and roll lifestyle in the process. The Rocker seems to have fared better with the UK critics than it did with the US critics, who, in the main had panned the film for its formulaic and unoriginal style, unfunny and forgettable script and shameless similarities to the vastly superior School Of Rock. UK critics weren’t so harsh, and many enjoyed the brisk humour, snappy one liners and good natured feeling to the whole proceedings, even if some of the slapstick doesn’t quite get the laughs it hopes for. Currently at 39% on the Tomatometer, The Rocker isn’t quite that rocking.
Also worth checking out this week…
Young@Heart – Full of endearing characters, this doc about a choir of “seniors behaving badly” is uplifting and delightful. 88% on the Tomatometer.
La Zona – A slick and smart Mexican thriller of middle-class panic and vigilantism, that is lean, mean and often shocking. 78% on the Tomatometer.
Quote Of The Week
“A worse film might be dismissed as sobsploitation.”
Young@Heart. Nigel Andrews, Financial Times.