This week in the UK cinemas we have Oliver Stone’s latest presidential dissection, the George W. Bush biopic W. with Josh Brolin in the title role. Also out is Pride & Glory, a US cop thriller with a stellar cast, and an adaptation of the Noel Coward play, Easy Virtue, starring Jessica Biel and British stalwart Colin Firth. But what did the UK critics have to say?
In a momentous and historical week when the USA got shot of President Bush and replaced him with a newer, shinier model, Oliver Stone’s latest film W. hits the UK cinema screens with some mischievous scheduling at play. Never shy of making incendiary political pictures, this is Stone’s third presidential picture, following JFK (84% on the Tomatometer) and Nixon (74% on the Tomatometer), but where does W. stand in comparison? At a rather bland, almost Fresh but not quite, 57% on the Tomatometer, it seems that W. doesn’t quite stand shoulder to shoulder with Stones previous political polemics. The critics enjoyed the performances in the film, with Josh Brolin being tipped for honours in the award season, and the stellar supporting cast putting in quality turns.
Reviewers also applauded the films warmth, humour and honesty in its portrayal of a man who, rather than being the embodiment of imperialist evil, was actually simply out of his depth. This approach angered others however, with many grumbling at Stone’s apparently toothless and even handed approach to the subject. The director was accused of pulling his punches with a flippant and neutral film that many are calling a missed opportunity. Made on a shoestring budget, and rushed out to meet its election time scheduling, the film has also been derided for its cheap production values and throwaway nature. So not classic Stone then; and another example of his fading powers perhaps?
Pride & Glory is a cop procedural that brings together two of modern cinema’s more enigmatic and possibly problematic stars; Edward Norton and Colin Farrell. Norton’s last film was Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk reboot (a decent 67% on the Tomatometer), and Farrell has had a mixed year so far with the disappointing Woody Allen flick Cassandra’s Dream (49%) and the hilarious In Bruges (81% on the Tomatometer). So how would they do when they share the screen in Pride and Glory? Not very well as it turned out. At a measly 35% Pride and Glory has been dismissed by the critics for being a cliché ridden, predictable and hackneyed picture despite a decent turn from Edward Norton. Macho, derivative, generic and unforgivable are just some of the many adjectives used by the hacks to describe Pride and Glory, which means the film shouldn’t be proud, or expect to bathe in any glory at all.
Easy Virtue is a big screen adaptation of the Noel Coward play of the same name, which recently showed at the London Film Festival. Starring the stunning Jessica Biel as Larita, the glamorous American bride recently married to Ben Barnes‘ English gent John Whittaker, who is brought to 1920s England to meet the stuffy parents. Some critics enjoyed the films fizzy and breezy tone, along with performances from the stars who deliver the witty dialogue with playful ease. Others however were less amused, slamming the film for its lack of laughs, heavy-handed approach to the source material, and its smug and irksome soundtrack, which may have been better suited to the small screen. Currently standing at 53% on the Tomatometer, Easy Virtue has not been given an easy ride by the UK critics.
Also worth checking out this week…
Let’s Talk About The Rain — A loose and subtle French ensemble comedy of manners with solid performances and a few witty one liners. 77% on the Tomatometer.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies – This clever spy spoof plays politics and movie conventions for laughs and features a great turn by Jean Dujardin as a smarmy-suave nouveau-Bond. 76% on the Tomatometer.
Quote Of The Week
“A detonation of flatulent, macho-sentimental gibberish is what this ugly and violent film positively farts out of the screen at you.”
Pride And Glory. Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian.