Another royal drama about the Princess Diana. Alas, this film by Oliver Hirschbiegel, who made the excellent Downfall about Hitler’s last days, manages to swerve away from unforgivable tastelessness only to crash and burn in a maelstrom of cliches. UK critics have slammed the film, and even Variety magazine, taking a more objective tone, laments the film’s ineptness in treating such a complex subject. The film looks at the love affair between Diana (Naomi Watts) and Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), which ultimately led to the tragedy in the Pont de l’Alma underpass. Instead of looking for insight into what might have made Diana tick, Hirschbiegel seems content to play follow the thriller playbook, ramping up the emotional drama. Worse still, the clunky script by Stephen Jeffreys fails to present either Diana or Khan as real people we can sympathize with.
Inferno 3D (逃出生天3D)
The Towering Inferno with 3D and Chinese characteristics, Inferno 3D is a big-budget extravaganza by dynamic duo Oxide Pang (彭順) and Danny Pang (彭發). Starring Sean Lau (劉青雲), Louis Koo (古天樂) and Angelica Lee (李心潔), the movie is about a fire that engulfs a high-rise building in southern China and the subsequent rescue mission by the city’s fire department. The film has the usual emotional dynamic between firemen and victims trapped by the conflagration, set up through a backstory. When that is out of the way, the fire is lit and all the action centers on the building going up in flames. Lots of macho types look to find their own way to save the victims, ranging from high-wire and underwater escapes, and the directors have taken great pains to create a real sense of danger. A solid cast and big-dollar effects ensure that those looking for nothing more than effective entertainment will be satisfied.
Some people just cannot wait for the next team-up of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other people simply couldn’t care less about muscle-bound actors putting away some (more) easy money for their retirement fund. Even diehard fans were probably not vastly engaged by their previous effort, The Expendables 2, but Escape Plan seems to have a plot and other cool stuff like that. Stallone and Schwarzenegger don’t really even pretend to act, which is probably for the best. Stallone is the ultimate jail breakout expert who gets double-crossed and falls off the grid in a super high security prison. He needs to get out to burn the people who did this to him. He meets Arnie, an aging inmate with a strong Austrian accent and big muscles. They plan an escape. It is all very improbable, but the film has high production values and some decent chemistry between the two stars. Above average for those who like this sort of stuff.
Dutch film that is being heavily marketed in Taiwan, largely based on the gimmick of its interaction with audience smart phones. Directed by Bobby Boermans, the film tells the story of a young psychology student who downloads a smartphone app and discovers that it changes her life in all the wrong ways. The app downloaded by Anna Rijnders (played by Hannah Hoekstra) gradually begins to terrorize her, distributing compromising photographs, videos and text to her friends and causing mayhem, assisted by Anna’s brother, who has recently received an electronic implant. An app that audiences can download will provide additional extras and information related to the movie during the screening, making App something of a groundbreaker in terms of cinema gimmickry. What is a little more unexpected is that early reviews suggest that the film actually has intellectual pretensions as well, and it seeks to explore the ways our smart devices come to dominate our lives. App might be the beginning of a whole new era of cinema interactivity, or just a bit of a cheap thrill. At least no one can complain if you get your phone out during the screening.
Foodie rom-com from Spain with international aspirations, Tasting Menu is a light frothy concoction that is perfectly enjoyable, if not particularly memorable. The concept: The last night of one of the world’s greatest restaurants — think a seaside elBulli — and a couple, separated for over a year, come together for a dinner that will make or break their relationship. In the background, Japanese investors look at potential new developments and a worldly-wise widow dines with the ashes of her late husband, and dishes out small dollops of wisdom to keep the protagonists on track to the expected grand affirmation of eternal love. The film is more No Reservations than Babette’s Feast, and though it has some scenes of intimately tender gastronomy, it totally lacks either the social insight of a film like Eat, Drink, Man, Women or the exuberant sexual charge of Tampopo. Tasting Menu is a bit like cotton candy, fun to look at, quick to digest and immediately forgotten.