This week’s UK releases, expect big laughs as Ben Stiller’s star-studded Hollywood satire comedy blasts onto our screens in Tropic Thunder. The sound of a big old biological clock ticking away heralds two maternally yearning movies onto our screen, Helen Hunt’s directorial debut Then She Found Me, and another directorial debut, this time for British director Joanna Hogg, with Unrelated. Finally, a horror comedy featuring the geek nirvana coupling of zombies and strippers, called unsurprisingly Zombie Strippers, crawls (albeit scantily clad) onto British screens this week. But what did the UK critics have to say?
With Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell seemingly holding a duopoly on big American comedy flicks for the past year, Ben Stiller storms into the fray with his star-studded (Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr, Steve Coogan) passion piece, Tropic Thunder, which he not only starred and directed, but also wrote and co-produced. Steve Coogan plays the director of a war movie, who unwittingly leads his cast of prima-donnas into a real life warzone. Stiller is Tugg Speedman, the earnest action star, Jack Black is drug crazed comedian Jeff Portnoy, but the big laughs belong to Robert Downey Jr as Kirk Lazarus, the method actor who undergoes skin-pigmentation surgery to replace a black actor in the fictional film within the film. UK critics were divided; most enjoyed its early laughs, but many felt the jokes ran out of steam as the movie descended into an all-action film, funnily enough, the kind of action film Tropic Thunder had spent the first half aiming its satirical barbs at. There are enough laughs and classy action to keep it Certified Fresh at 83% on the Tomatometer.
After winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in As Good As It Gets, Helen Hunt has struggled to regain her form with middling roles in middling films, but she turns her hand to directing for Then She Found Me Out. Hunt plays April Epner, a thirty something wife, with a biological clock ticking away, who is dumped by her husband, only to fall into the arms of housewives’ favourite Colin Firth‘s character Frank. Bette Midler plays the role of Hunt’s mother with gusto, but dodgy cinematography and a dull script caused the critics to dismiss the movie, though not to dismiss Helen Hunt’s future career as a director. Critics all agree that Hunt shows enough promise behind the camera, to go on to prove that she can do better next time round. Then She Found Me currently stands a middling 51% on the Tomatometer.
British director Joanna Hogg earned her directorial spurs helming classic British television staples such as Eastenders and Casualty, but her first feature Unrelated has been heralded by the UK critics for its assured and classy direction. This enigmatic drama centres on British holidaymaker Anna (Kathryn Worth), who escapes an unhappy marriage, and finds solace in the company of younger holidaymakers, whilst lamenting her decision to not have children of her own. The critics lauded Hogg for her ability to make a British movie unburdened with the sensibilities usually de-rigueur in most British rom-coms. Definitely a name for the future, Unrelated is currently at an impressive 85% on the Tomatometer.
Zombie Strippers provided an excuse for most publications to publish pictures of the scantily clad, self proclaimed Queen Of Porn, Jenna Jameson this week, but despite the flesh on show, and schlocky premise of stripping zombies, the movie itself has been widely derided by the UK critics for it’s cheap production values, hammy acting, and poor scriptwriting. There are some laughs to be had in the outrageous premise, but not enough to keep it afloat. Camp and gory sexploitation flick Zombie Strippers reviews are as rotten as the zombie strippers rotten flesh, and it currently stands at 40% on the Tomatometer.
Also worth checking out this week
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – An imaginative and thoughtfully engaging anime film with a highly effective visual design. This coming-of-age comedy drama has mad inventiveness to spare. 87% on the Tomatometer.
The Chaser — A frantic and taut Korean serial killer thriller. One classy, if bloody and messy, gut wrencher of a movie. 82% on the Tomatometer.
Linha De Passe – A gritty portrayal of modern day family life in Sau Paolo, with vividly drawn characters and an uncompromising resolution. 73% on the Tomatometer.
Quote of the Week
“Watching the Korean film The Chaser is like chewing diamonds — you know there’s something of value in there but mostly it’s just a mess of pain and blood.”
Wendy Ide, The Times.