It is a busy week at UK cinemas with a decidedly mixed bag of releases that include a silly comedy about a geek, a drama about Jane Austen’s early years, a tacky piece of vigilante nonsense and a stylish war drama that pays homage to the films of the 1940s.
The latest comedy starring Eddie Murphy in multiple roles (after films like Coming to America and The Nutty Professor) is a rather unfunny mess. Norbit (Murphy) is a geek who loves a girl (Thandie Newton) he knew as a child from the orphanage they grew up in. But problems stand in his way: her fiance (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and Norbit’s wife (Murphy again). The film is crude, crass and there a precious few laughs here. The only thing to admire is how Murphy juggles the different roles but that loses its novelty after about 15 minutes. In a nutshell it is unfunny and not very clever either.
Becoming Jane (PG)
Like Shakespeare in Love this is another costume drama dealing with the private life of another English writer. Only in this case Jane Austen gets the biopic treatment as Anne Hathaway portrays the young novelist. It tells the story of her early life and her flirtations with the Irishman Thomas Langlois Lefroy (James McAvoy), based on speculation about their relationship together. The production design and acting are all agreeable but the central conceit (how Austen’s own life would inspire her books) is a little laboured and lacks the charm and invention that could have made it something special.
After The Football Factory (2004) and The Business (2005), writer-director Nick Love inflicts another sloppy crime drama upon us. When a former soldier (Sean Bean) returns from Iraq he decides to form a vigilante mob to deal with a criminal who seems above the law. Coming across as an unlikely combination of Munich and Death Wish it tries to tap in to the disillusionment with the state of modern Britain. Unfortunately, like Love’s previous films it is sloppily put together and comes across as some kind of tacky exploitation film. Beware people who label this kind of film “edgy” or “controversial” – it is just a poorly made crime drama that belongs in the DVD bargain bin.
The Good German (15)
Director Steven Soderbergh re-teams with George Clooney in an audacious attempt to make recreate a 1940s style film. It tells the story of a US war correspondent (Clooney) who returns to Berlin during the Potsdam conference and discovers a web of intrigue involving a former lover (Cate Blanchett) and his driver (Tobey Maguire). The film it is shot in black and white and uses plenty of old school tricks but has a modern day approach to content like sex and violence. The acting is also done in the old fashioned style, but the performances are all very engaging as Clooney, Blanchett and Maguire bring a good deal of nuance to what seem to be one dimensional characters. Although it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea Soderbergh deserves a lot of credit for creating a small but perfectly formed experiment.
FILM OF THE WEEK: The Good German