Do we really need a female cop buddy movie that falls somewhere between Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys? Probably not, but we have got it anyway, and with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy at the helm, the film manages to hit the funny bone on a pretty regular basis, even if some audiences are likely to find the humor grotesque. The director is Paul Feig, who has a track record in American TV comedy that includes Arrested Development and The Office, and whose 2011 feature Bridesmaids proved that he could span the feature film divide. With The Heat, he has created a crude, low-brow audience-pleaser that plays to the strengths of his two stars. Dialogue is sharp and tightly edited, and is well-synced with the physical humor; the first is often profane, and the second violent to an extreme, but cast and crew give themselves over to the wholesale mayhem of The Heat to create something really quite funny.
There are big fighting robots and Godzilla-type monsters, the kind of overblown apocalyptic scenario of Transformers, and the anime absurdity of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. There is an abundance of blockbuster silliness in a story about super robots battling invading aliens coming through a wormhole in the Pacific Ocean. The robots are piloted by twin controllers who are required to enter into a kind of mind-meld, providing a core of pop psychology that takes the place of actual emotional interaction. At the helm of this bizarre story is the creative talents of Guillermo del Toro, who has proven with film’s such as the Hellboy franchise that he can provide both depth and visual impact to fantasy features. It is tempting to think that the visual elements will overwhelm attempts to achieve anything deeper, and the referencing of the kind of boy’s adventure emotions of Top Gun doesn’t do much to alter this, but del Toro is a master of his craft and he may well be able to turn this unpromising material into something more than the sum of its parts.
A documentary that looks at one of the most neglected roles in the film industry, that of casting director, and focuses particularly on the work of Marion Dougherty, who not only more or less created that position, but also anchored it as part of the creative process for some of the greatest films to come out of Hollywood. Dougherty helped break the mold of only casting the most handsome or beautiful, and helped to launch the careers of actors such as Robert Duvall and Glenn Close. Her vision helped create the groundbreaking look of such films as Midnight Cowboy, Panic in Needle Park and Taxi Driver. While inevitably a bit of a hagiography, with the good and great of Hollywood speaking about her genius, the film provides a look at how one woman’s commitment changed an important aspect of the Hollywood system. A must see for cinephiles.
The Rooftop (天台)
Jay Chou’s (周杰倫) second attempt at making a feature film, following on from his less than mind-blowing Secret (不能說的秘密) in 2007. Roof Top is a romantic fantasy set in a fictional Asian town that plays to a nostalgia of Taiwan’s “good old days” of innocence and friendship. Chou plays a handsome young man from the slums who has his heart set on Xin Ai (心艾), an emerging entertainment industry star, played by newcomer Li Xinai (李心艾). The two meet by accident and an unlikely romance blossoms, though this inevitably meets with resistance and draws Chou’s character into all kinds of capers. Chou sets aside his celebrity status to play a poor boy with nothing, who teaches his love interest that the outward trappings of celebrity are not worth the candle. Inevitably, the result is somewhat contrived and self-serving.
The Girl with Nine Wigs
Films about beautiful, caring people dying of cancer usually sound all kinds of alarm bells, offering as they do far too many opportunities for a poisonous mix of heavy melodrama and cheap sentimentality. The Girl with Nine Wigs, based on a best-selling German novel by Sophie van der Stap and directed by Marc Rothemund, has, by all accounts, managed to avoid the worst of these pitfalls. It features a strong performance by Lisa Tomaschewsky, who captures the mix of tenacity, vulnerability and confusion in a young woman faced with the horrors of chemotherapy just at the moment when she thought her life was about to really begin. Inspiring and uplifting, if not exactly a bundle of laughs.