Movie boffin: what’s happening at the cinema

By admin
16 October 2013

Take your pick from two biopics and two thrillers opening this week.

The movie to see this week is Gravity (7-9PGL), which is directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) and stars Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts on a routine spacewalk when disaster strikes – their shuttle is destroyed and they’re set adrift above Earth with their oxygen levels falling.

The film received almost universal praise: critic reviews aggregate sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic gave it 98 and 96 per cent respectively, the former describing it as “an eerie, tense sci-fi thriller that’s masterfully directed and visually stunning”. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy praised the film, “At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realised survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise”. British film magazine Empire’s Ian Nathan gave it five stars and called it the film of the year.

Two biopics also open this week but both have received less than stellar reviews. Oliver Hirschbiegel, who directed the acclaimed Hitler biopic Downfall (2004), is also behind the lens for Diana (10-12PGL) in which Naomi Watts (The Impossible) plays the titular Princess of Wales. The film depicts the last two years of her life, focusing on her secret relationship with Pakistani heart surgeon Dr Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews of the TV series Lost).

Given the talent involved it’s shocking how bad this film apparently is. It’s been almost universally panned, scoring 23 per cent on Metacritic and an average of three out of 10 on Rotten Tomatoes. Empire and fellow British film magazine Total Film both gave it one star, with the latter’s Kate Stables writing, “History gets a full Mills and Boon makeover in this uber-fluffy, clumsily fictionalised treatment.” Empire’s Angie Errigo echoed Stables’ sentiments, “More terrible and tacky than one could have imagined, it will soon be forgotten and consigned to the True Movies channel.”

Ashton Kutcher gets the chance to prove his acting chops in Jobs (10-12PGL), in which he plays ground-breaking Apple founder Steve Jobs. Rather than focus on a specific period the way Diana does, the film gives an overview of Jobs’ life, from when he drops out of college to his ascent as a tech guru.

The movie got better reviews than Diana, but they were still mixed. Metacritic gave it 44 per cent while Rotten Tomatoes awarded it 26 per cent, describing it as “an ambitious but skin-deep portrait of an influential, complex figure [that] often has the feel of an over-sentimentalised made-for-TV biopic”. Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “The film-makers fall into the trap of overly sentimentalising a widely beloved public figure who represents an enormous cultural significance. At the same time, however, they keep the movie frequently engaging.”

Many reviewers were at least impressed with Kutcher’s acting – Michael A Smith of Mediamikes.com wrote, “Kutcher bears a striking resemblance to Jobs and manages to embody him in full”, while Louise Keller of Urbancinefile.com.au found that “Kutcher is surprisingly good – a little mannered at times – but delivers the essence of the man”.

Being one corner of The Hunger Games’ love triangle (and Miley Cyrus’ ex-fiancé) has made Aussie actor Liam Hemsworth famous but he’s yet to find acting success outside the would-be blockbuster franchise. He plays the lead in Paranoia (10-12PGLV), a corporate thriller about entry-level employee Adam Cassidy, who after a costly mistake is forced by his company’s ruthless CEO, Nicholas Wyatt (The Dark Knight Rises’ Gary Oldman), to spy on Wyatt’s former mentor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). Adam infiltrates Goddard’s company, impresses him with cutting-edge software and is soon living the high life, but becomes trapped as a pawn in Wyatt and Goddard’s game and realises he’ll have to find a way out or end up dead because he knows too much.

Unfortunately for all involved the film received overwhelmingly negative reviews, scoring 32 and four per cent on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes respectively. On the latter the consensus was that Paranoia is “clichéd and unoriginal, a middling techno-thriller with indifferent performances and a shortage of thrills”. Andrea Gronvall of Chicagoreader.com panned Hemsworth’s performance, writing that “in a movie about a new generation’s hunger to topple the old guard, pretty boy Hemsworth is outclassed by his veteran co-stars, who get more mileage from baring their teeth than he does baring his chest”. Arizona Republic newspaper critic Barbara VanDenburgh’s verdict was that “Paranoia is ostensibly a thriller, but there’s nothing remotely thrilling about it. This slick, plodding bore is as exciting as watching somebody else tap out text messages”. -Sandra Visser Share your thoughts:

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