Film Reviews: The Blind Side, Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang, Perrier's Bounty and Shank.
New films reviewed by Graham Young and Roz Laws.
The Blind Side ****
Cert 12A, 128 mins
Many actors have won Oscars in recognition of their entire body of work, rather than the particular film for which they were nominated.
Sandra Bullock is certainly not among them.
Her career is one of the most inconsistent in Hollywood. For every good performance, in movies like Crash and The Proposal, there have been films as disastrous as All About Steve (for which she won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress of 2010), Premonition and Speed 2.
So it came as a surprise when she won the Best Actress Oscar for The Blind Side. I’m not convinced she deserved it, but her performance is certainly strong. She plays a real person, Leigh Anne Tuohy, a blonde, ballsy interior designer, married to a rich Memphis businessman and with a happy family life.
Her adorable, clever son Sean (Jae Head) befriends Big Mike, aka Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron). Michael is a Forrest Gump character, a gentle giant with an IQ of only 80 and very little education.
With a dead father and drug addict mother, his home life is tragic.
But it’s transformed when his footballing ability wins him a place at a private church school, and when Leigh Anne takes him in.
“He’s like an onion, you have to peel him back a layer at a time,” says her husband.
“Not if you use a knife,” says the straight-talking southern belle in this smart, witty and touching film.
It’s based on a true story but I get the feeling a lot is fictionalised. Could Leigh Anne really scare off a gang of drug dealers?
Some will find it overly sentimental but it does succeed in pulling at the heartstrings – and Sandy proves she really can act.
Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang *****
Cert U, 109 mins
New York-born Maggie Gyllenhaal recently had to be content with a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for Crazy Heart.
But she’s so sublime here as a quintessential English mother – echoing Jenny Agutter at her peak – Maggie will surely one day collect the best actress prize herself.
And, in all probability, deserve it more than new champ Sandra Bullock.
By a quirk of fate, while Bullock was pretending to help a young black man through his studies in The Blind Side, Nanny McPhee star Emma Thompson was already bringing up Rwandan refugee Tindyebwa Agaba in real life.
As well as also giving birth to her only child Gaia in 1999 by second husband Greg Wise, she has now spent 15 years writing and working on her two Nanny McPhee films.
Such devotion is apparent in every scene and, as someone who clearly adores and understands children, she confidently relishes the chance to appear on screen again in the title tole.
Miss Thompson’s own best actress Oscar for Howards End (1993) took the pressure out of her career long ago.
And so, like the inspirational veteran star Maggie Smith (Mrs Docherty), her only need is to relish McPhee’s hairy moles, bulbous nose and oversized front tooth.
The Big Bang will remind adults of all the films they used to devour when they were the sort of children to whom this will appeal to now.
Based on the late Christianna Brand’s three Nurse Matilda books (1964-75) and directed by Susanna White (Bleak House), the comedy is set on a remote farm caked in manure.
With her husband away fighting in the war, Mrs Green (Gyllenhaal) has to cope alone with three children and the arrival of two posh cousins.
Eros Vlahos makes one of the most remarkable children’s debuts in memory as Cyril, a frightful cross between Boris Johnson and Stephen Fry dressed like Rupert Bear. Can Nanny ‘small c, big P’ McPhee bring him under control?
From the colourful cinematography by Mike Eley (Touching the Void) to the score by James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight), the whole production is first class with a genuinely moving climax.
When The Blind Side has long been forgotten, Nanny McPhee will be entertaining future generations again and again and again.
Perrier's Bounty ****
Cert 15, 87 mins
Michael McCrea (Cillian Murphy) owes £1,000 to brutal Dublin gangster Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson), and needs to raise the money pronto before heavies break his bones. His bad night continues to get worse when his estranged father Jim (Jim Broadbent) turns up to tell him he’s dying.
He gets into a fight with the cheating boyfriend of his neighbour Brenda (Jodie Whittaker), but then at least Liam Cunningham offers him a spot of burglary to raise the cash.
And so begins a convoluted plot involving blackmail, murder, vicious dogs and wheel clampers.
The dialogue, though littered with swear words, is surprisingly eloquent. And we see Broadbent in a whole new light, as a tough, trigger happy, cocaine-snorting dad.
The violence is extreme and the humour is very dark, but if you like edgy comedies, you’ll enjoy this.
Cert 15, 94 mins
Set in London 2012 – half way between the Olympics and the World Cup Britain hopes to stage – this is a familiar, depressing film about gang violence and ‘kids killing kids’ in deprived inner city London.
Bits of it are well shot using various forms of media including animation.
But the risible script is incoherent, the dialogue frequently unintelligible and the story is nothing new.