Jonathan's review of The Lovely Bones
"a somewhat deflating and disappointing experience"
'The Lovely Bones' is a frustrating film. Partly because the involvement of as talented a director as Peter Jackson inevitably raises expectations. And partly because it promises to tackle a difficult and troubling subject, but never quite gets to grips with it. For all the craft and expertise which have gone into creating a vision of the afterlife, it has very little that's transformative or insightful to tell us about death or loss.
What remains is a surprisingly conventional supernatural thriller. Not a bad one by any means, and some of the key performances have the kind of quality that hints at what the film might have been. Saoirse Ronan is luminous as Susie Salmon, while Stanley Tucci makes your skin crawl with a performance that fully deserves his inclusion among the Best Supporting Actor nominees at the Oscars and Sunday night's BAFTAs.
By contrast though, Susan Sarandon is criminally underused in what becomes little more than a sitcom role, and Mark Wahlberg just seems out of place as the father all but broken by grief.
These failings don't help the cause of a film that seems to know what it wants to say but struggles to articulate it, and is ultimately a somewhat deflating and disappointing experience.
jonathan's review of Crazyheart
"an outstanding piece of acting"
Perhaps inevitably, US journalists have suggested that 'Crazy Heart' is 'The Wrestler' with music. It's not necessarily an inaccurate description, given their thematic similarities and the fact that they're both small scale pictures
which have attracted a lot of praise for their leading actors.
It is a little dismissive of both films though - and perhaps particularly this first movie from director Scott Cooper, which is as thoughtful and subtle as it is emotionally consistent and believable.
All the performances ring true, but the film is clearly owned by the measured and moving work of Jeff Bridges in the lead role. He is one of the most under-rated of all American screen actors, and as with 'The Last Picture Show', 'Fat City', 'Starman' or 'The Fabulous Baker Boys', this is a part which he inhabits from start to finish.
It's an outstanding piece of acting, one which I feel confident will see him named Best Actor at the Oscars on the seventh of March. Not just because of the quality of his work in 'Crazy Heart', but because Academy voters may well feel that after a forty year film career studded with unpredictable choices and interesting performances, 'The Dude' is long overdue for recognition.
Jonathan's review of Solomon Kane
"a fantasy movie that sets itself apart from the competition"
Pulp fiction genius Robert E. Howard more or less single-handedly created the sword and sorcery genre, but even by the standards of his imaginative output, 'Solomon Kane' is a curiously dark character.
In bringing him to the screen, the film takes on just a little too much of his grim outlook and tortured personality, as the visual palette is on the grey side. But that aside, and given that this is a comparatively low-budget production, its makers have done a magnificent job in creating a fantasy movie that sets itself apart from the competition.
It's directed with a real swagger by Michael J. Bassett, has a strong sense of its time and place and a beautifully pitched central performance from James Purefoy. He meets the challenge of playing such an unconventional hero head on, as Solomon carves his way across the screen, aiming to save his soul and find a purpose in his tormented life.
He's a one-man frontline in an old-fashioned, straightforward battle between good and evil, which comes to a head in some brilliantly mounted set pieces, and which drives this distinctive and hugely enjoyable adventure.
Jonathan's review of The Last Station
"Unrestrained, crockery-smashing, pistol-shooting Slavic passion"
There's a story that when Christopher Plummer met with the Russian epic film-maker Sergei Bondarchook to discuss his role as Wellington in 'Waterloo', the director asked him - through an interpreter - how he intended to portray the Duke's disability.
Having done extensive research and read nothing to this effect, Mr Plummer was a little puzzled, and told the director he knew of no such affliction. "What about his stiff upper lip?" asked Mr Bondarchook.
I tell you this because 'The Last Station' supports the idea that Russians - even the kind of aristocratic Russians seen here - wouldn't really get the "stiff upper lip" metaphor. It may look like a Merchant-Ivory film, with well-to-do Edwardians taking tea on the lawn, but there's no trace of any English reserve here.
Instead this is a drama that's packing some major emotional heat. Unrestrained, crockery-smashing, pistol-shooting Slavic passion, played to the hilt by Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren as the Count and Countess, supported with typical skill by James McAvoy and Anne-Marie Duff.
And having assembled such an impressive cast, screenwriter and director Michael Hoffman handles the increasingly intense conflict without lapsing into melodrama - no easy feat when in a sense this is a very upmarket piece of soap opera.
But when it's as well performed as this, and so beautifully shot and scored, I'm not about to complain about that.
- Production Manager
- Marian Lacey
- Sound Recordist
- Phil Clayton
- Jonathan Ross
- Bex Palmer
- Tom Webber
- Assistant Producer
- Howard Brenner
- Assistant Producer
- Emma Pollock