painful

Review: Knight and Day

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The Pitch: Mission: Interminable. (Not what they intended, I hope, but what we actually got…)

The Review: It’s amazing how one piece of furniture can affect a whole career. Who knows what would have happened to the last few years of Tom Cruise’s career if he hadn’t jumped around on Oprah’s sofa with such ill-advised abandon? One can only hope that he might have been getting better material than this. Five years ago, Tom was still a major box office draw, able to mix Spielberg efforts like War of the Worlds with smaller projects such as Collateral and everyone still respected him. Since then, a string of flops, even in some cases where the material has been good, and now expectations have been dialled down for a new Cruise movie.

Cameron Diaz has also not had much luck in recent years, although her career downturn goes back slightly further, having never really recovered (at least, apart from voicing Princess Fiona) to the eye-shattering mess that was the Charlie’s Angels sequel. Both stars have managed to make some interesting acting choices over the years, so you’d hope that they could manage to come up with something at least half decent here. But you’d hope wrong.

Where to start? Might as well start with the performances themselves, which have little enough chemistry in the opening plane sequences, but soon the actors take on the appearance of people who’ve been paid up front and don’t feel they have anything to prove. At points, this less resembles a film and more a competition to see who can give the least interesting reading of a line. The script is devoid of anything approaching genuine wit, and on repeated occasions you see situations coming a mile off and find yourself thinking immediately of better pay-offs or wittier comebacks. (In the case of one particular scene, most of those were in the Lethal Weapon movies twenty or more years ago – and even the last of those didn’t feel as tired or disinterested as this.) The supporting cast are no better, Paul Dano feels like he’s in the wrong film (but that one wouldn’t be any better) and Peter Sarsgaard manages to reach new levels of not-acting and viewer boredom.

The whole movie is devoid of suspense, believable threat or indeed, by the end, logic, but the biggest disappointment are the action sequences. For about five seconds, a Spanish set-piece near the end, with motorbikes whizzing through tight city streets and low slung cameras sets the pulses racing, but only serves to highlight what a crushing disappointment the rest of the action is – when you manage to make the crashing of a commercial airliner into the countryside feel so devoid of interest, you’ve achieved something, just not something to be proud of. The best analogy is to imaging playing a videogame where you cannot lose a life – at no point do you feel even remotely like the characters are in any kind of peril, which for an action movie like this is near fatal to its ambitions. For Cruise and Diaz die-hards only.

Why see it at the cinema: Cameron Diaz in a bikini. That’s all I’ve got. There was quite a good movie in here somewhere, but sadly you won’t be seeing it, thanks to the ineptitude of all concerned.

The Score: 3/10

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Review: The Rebound

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The Pitch: What it feels like for a girl … to be the older one. (Or, Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Hot. Take your pick.)

The Review: The career trajectory of Catherine Zeta Jones has been an almost fairytale one. Girl from the Welsh valleys, hit British TV series, failed pop career, obscurity, then returns to conquer Hollywood with an Oscar, and a marriage to one of the biggest names in film. There was a fascination at the time with the pairing, not least because at the time, CZJ was 31 and Michael Douglas was 56. It doesn’t take a genius to see how the marketing men came up with this concept. There’s probably a more interesting movie in the concept of the life of the Hollywood actress who wins an Oscar and then finds herself condemned to a life of insipid romantic comedies, but instead we’re saddled with this.

Coming so soon after the recent French hit Heartbreaker, which managed to do so much right in both romance and comedy, it’s genuinely dispiriting to see one that gets so much so wrong. Watching this, you find your mind wandering to better examples of the genres that The Rebound encompasses – better age gap movies (Harold and Maude, for example), better overbearing Jewish parents movies, better obnoxious and troublesome kids movies, better male / female discourse on relationship movies, and so on.

But we’re not talking a midly acceptable movie whose peers best it for quality, we’re talking a painful excuse for a movie whose jugdement you find yourself calling into question at every turn. The initial set-up is poorly handled and doesn’t engage sympathy for any of the characters. There are two interviews whose purpose is to set up the characters which feel hideously unnatural because they come straight out of Exposition for Dummies, chapter one. It takes an unnecessary amount of time for our two leads to interact in any meaningful way, and the various chapters of their burgeoning romance are all slow and obvious, right up until the last act, which goes off in random and unwanted directions and seemingly doesn’t know how to resolve matters. Most of the fault must be levelled at writer / director Bart Freundlich, who’s made so many indifferent or poor movies over the years it does give you cause for concern that studios keep giving him money to spend.

The bright spots? Justin Bartha is OK, and feels sort of natural around the kids, and might do better with decent material, and… well, that’s about it. Catherine Zeta Jones isn’t likeable or sympathetic, the supporting cast get nothing interesting to do, the score is incredibly poor and kills some scenes stone dead, there’s maybe one scene that will linger in the memory after you’ve seen it, the movie has nothing interesting to say about any of the concepts it raises, and there’s scant believability in the passage of time that the movie portrays, which also serves to rob you of whatever emotional investment you had left in the final scenes. Hopefully whatever movie you see on the rebound from this one will be better – it would be hard for it not to be.

Why see it at the cinema: My excuses – I had three hours to kill before The A Team and nothing better to be doing (or so I thought), and I also made comment about CZJ’s face in an earlier blog. I can report that it does look someone’s put a bulldog clip on the back of her head and pulled her skin taught – she shows no facial movement that would be able to be recognised as emotion, which just doesn’t help the movie on top of all its other faults. I had pretty poor reasons, when it comes down to it, and I was the only person in my screening. Hopefully there will be one less at as many as possible of the remainder.

The Score: 2/10

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