A few quick reviews of films recently seen.
City of God ****
The “City of God” is a poor suburb of Rio de Jeneiro in Brazil where the drug trade is the most appealing industry for children to build their carreers in. This film follows the life of Rocket – a boy who loves photography and is motivated to build an honest living for himself while living in a suburb corrupted by drug related warfare and crime. As the film tells Rocket’s story it also tells shorter stories of those that have an impact on his life and in doing so creates several sub-plots to hold your interest throughout the film. In addition to a lot of foul language and some scenes of a (mainly implied) sexual nature there is a lot of strong violence in this movie which often sadly involves very young children, yet apart from an occasional bit of bad acting nothing seems out of place or over the top in this movie, which is made all the more moving for having been based on true a story. This is not a “must see” movie since I can see no reason to assault your senses with the horrors of a city’s slum culture from over 20 years ago, but if your curiosity demands such a journey then this film is able to provide it.
The Martins *
The Martins are a city dweling family with little money and many pressures. When they fail to win a holiday in a competition the father decides to steal it from the real winners. This much, and more, you will learn from reading the case the the film comes in, unfortunately there is not much more to the plot than that, the film doesn’t have a real ending, or a moral. The Martins is mainly a comedy and is not short of comedy talent, the lead role is played by Lee Evans of whom I am quite a fan, yet there are few genuinely funny moments. There is a lot of swearing, most of this can be seen as realism for the kind of family shown but some of it is wildly out of place, perhaps that was supposed to be funny. Watch the trailer for this film and you will have seen all the funny parts, what is left of the plot isn’t really worth seeing.
Mona Lisa Smile **
Take Dead Poet’s Society, change everyones gender and swap the dramatic scenes of a boy whose parents refuse to let him be creative with some uninspiring scenes of a teacher choosing which man to spend her time with and you have Mona Lisa Smile. An arts teacher, played by Julia Roberts, brings liberal views into a traditional girls school in the 1950s and hopes to bring about changes over night that the governors believe should take the course of years to come about, if at all. The teacher questions her own values in the light of all that is happening around her but any resulting changes are subtle. The film is okay of you’re stuck for choice, it is never boring, but it doesn’t really go anywhere that interesting either.
Phone Booth **
Virtually all of this film is set at a phone booth in New York, so you have to know from the start that there are not going to be many different scenes in this film and that in fact not very much can really happen. A man answers a ringing phone to find there is a sniper somewhere in the street with a gun trained on him, he must do as the man says or face the consequences. There are very few twists in the plot and the biggest one is quite obvious, to the point that you’ll possibly already be thinking there are some very stupid characters in the film for allowing the twist to be possible before it is revealed. Aside from a weak ending, some excessive revisiting of ideas and some questionable activities and decisions on the ground the film is gripping. It is hard to think that the makers set out to achieve anything more than a sense of tension over the fate of the man who answers the call, and this they have very much suceeded in. Watch this one with low expectations to get the most out of the tense decision making taking place in the phone booth.
Calcium Kid ***
When a British boxer gets injured in training his inexperienced sparring partner steps in to take his place. It’s a comedy and stars Omid Djalili as the manager of the Calcium Kid, a professional milkman whose first real boxing match is to be against a world champion. The Calcium Kid is played by Orlando Bloom who manages to act some of the simpler comical sequences so brilliantly that they are funny enough to laugh out loud at. This movie is meant to be a bit of fun and that’s exactly what it is, just sit back to enjoy it and you may also find it is a little bit ( though only a little) cleverer than you were expecting.