Reviews In Short is a regular feature here on Thoughts On Film that basically consists of short, paragraph-long reviews of movies I have watched recently, old and new alike, which I didn’t get a chance to review in full. As always feel free to comment with your own thoughts and opinions on each of the films.
The success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel last year means we’ll be getting more films in the same vein that are aimed at an older audience not usually catered to by the whiz-bang of most Hollywood movies. Time will tell whether most of them will be any good but in the case of the latest, the mild-mannered Quartet, the road is still pretty steady. This slight but still ultimately charming OAP comedy-drama set in a retirement home for classical musicians placates to its target audience in ways that sometimes feel patronizing or obvious in its humour around the inevitabilities of getting older but for the most part the film is enjoyably light entertainment. This is largely down to the stellar cast which includes Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Michael Gambon, Billy Connolly and Dame Maggie Smith, the latter of which is the best thing about the film. This is the directorial debut of legendary actor Dustin Hoffman and it’s a solid if unremarkable effort. 3/5
Playing for Keeps
Scottish hunk actor Gerard Butler has gone from shouting “This is Sparta!” with a shield in his hand to starring in a line of production line rom-coms, the latest of which is Playing for Keeps. From the director of the sentimental but moving The Pursuit of Happyness, this sees Butler playing a former football (or soccer, as it has to be called in this American setting) player who is now a wannabe sportscaster with a young son he hasn’t been around for all that much and an ex-wife about to remarry. It showcases the sort of schmaltz that’s found in the worst films of this ilk, with lazy writing that leads to a crushing sense of predictability. A plethora of actresses are utterly wasted including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Jessica Biel and Judy Greer, whose only real purpose is to fawn over and jump into bed with Butler, while Dennis Quaid turns up in his first scene with an envelope full of money which seems all too indicative of his reasons for agreeing to be in the film. This is Kicking & Screaming with added schmaltz and sleaze that sees 2013 kicking off with a stinker. 1.5/5
V/H/S is yet another found-footage horror movie, a style which has become grossly overused in these last few years. However, there’s more to this anthology horror than just a gimmick. The brainchild of Brad Miska (founder of Bloody-Disgusting.com) and made up of different segments each directed by someone different, this is a mixed bag as is the case with most chronology films like this but there’s enough wit and attention to genuinely creeping the audience out that its shortcomings can be forgiven. There are six segments all told, with one involving a group of people who raid the house of a dead man in order to find a mysterious VHS tape linking the other five sections. The horror ranges from the good, such as a monster-themed segment which kicks things off and a serial killer tale set in the woods, to the ineffective, such as a dull stalker-themed road movie sequence and a mishandled webcam style installment. But with so many horrors that are tired, cliched and boring I welcome ones like V/H/S which, even in its less effective or frankly nonsensical moments, at least is attempting to do something interesting with the genre. 3/5
Searching for Sugar Man
2012 was a seriously good year for documentary with the likes of The Imposter, Marley and Aiweiwei: Never Sorry to name but a few, and music doc/investigation thriller Searching for Sugar Man only adds to that list. The doc follows the search for Rodriguez, a singer-songwriter in the early 1970s whose music sold hundreds of thousands of records in South Africa but was virtually unknown everywhere else. No one really knew anything about him and he hasn’t been heard from since his heyday – rumours were abound about his committing suicide on stage at one point – and the audience is allowed to share in the shock (even anger) at the fact that this wonderful music didn’t result in the man behind it being hugely successful. The way the filmmakers choose to reperesent this musical search makes for an involving, often surprising and extremely well-made documentary. 4/5
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That’s it for Reviews In Short – until next time!