ANDREW COLLINS: FILM OF THE DAY
Clint Eastwood is now as admired for his work as a director as for his acting. As a result, his body of work has diversified to include more surprising, complex material: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby. One of my favourites from Clint’s new century is Changeling, a 1920s-set drama very much skewed to the female perspective. Written by Michael Straczynski (TV’s Babylon 5), it casts a compelling Angelina Jolie as a single mum reunited with her missing nine-year-old son after a highly publicised police search — except she claims this is not him. As a result, her character is smeared and she is locked up. The film, based on true events, becomes a legal battle and is intelligently told, with fine attention to period detail (Eastwood’s jazzy score fits, too) and a solid cast including John Malkovich, Amy Ryan and Jeffrey Donovan. Depicting an institutionally misogynist era, it reflects well on Clint, although Changeling missed out on the expected Oscar haul.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ★★★★
Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, this time accompanied by their insufferable cousin Eustace, help Prince Caspian on his quest to find seven lost lords, in the third CS Lewis fantasy adventure saga to transfer to the big screen. Ben Barnes feels more secure in his role this time round, and Will Poulter is wonderful as Eustace, but the effects are still the main attraction, and help to make this an exciting family adventure.
Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling TV character hit the big screen with this US-set outing that sees his National Gallery official overseeing the unveiling of “America’s greatest painting”, Whistler’s Mother, in Los Angeles. Atkinson’s wordless, slapstick performance was a hit around the world, helped immeasurably by there being no need for a translation. He’s obviously channeling the stars of the silent era, though perhaps director Mel Smith could have noted the shorter running time of most silent movies, too.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters ★★★
The young siblings from the old Grimm fairy tale have grown up to be anything but sweet as candy in this dark “what if” action fantasy from the director of Dead Snow. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton give killer performances as the tooled-up steampunk slayers, but there’s not really enough depth in this one to warrant a sequel – which was recently announced, with the same stars attached but a new director, Bruno Aveillan.
Noel Clarke wrote and stars in this teen drama set in a west London school. Inspired by Clarke’s upbringing around Notting Hill, it has a hard-hitting surface realism and some lovely interaction between the kids. But it may well set parents’ teeth on edge as it shoehorns a month’s worth of tabloid headlines into 24 hours of sex, drugs and violence.
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