A-Team scores a 'B' for bang
SHORTLY before the screening of The A-Team that I attended, I spotted a cinema operative hauling two massive Santa Claus-sized sacks of popcorn through the crowded auditorium and out towards the concession stand in reception.
Looking back, it seems an apt image in terms of encapsulating the spirit of what was to follow. This big-screen homage to the popular but pulpable Eighties TV show is all over the shop, to the point of being out on the street, but consumed in the right spirit you'll find the buckets of corn go down easily.
Liam Neeson stars as Col John "Hannibal" Smith, the commander of a crack US Special Forces outfit who find themselves dishonourably discharged and jailed for a crime they didn't commit. The less said about that crime the better, as if I start about the missing millions in Baghdad, I'll have to write something about how it all started in Mexico. Next you'll need to know about the sinking of a ship in LA and attempts to fly a tank in Germany. And then there's the quotes from Gandhi. Confused yet? I know I was.
What is important to relate about this Joe Carnahan directed action-adventure extravaganza is that the special effects are impressive if totally unrealistic -- did I mention the flying tank? -- while there are more big bangs and explosions than you can shake a stick of gelignite at. The Hangover's Bradley Cooper has some good moments as Face, and brings some decent comic energy to his portrayal, while something similar can be said about Sharlto Copley as the 'insane in the membrane' Murdoch.
Understandably, pro fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson fares less well in his attempt to emulate the original's iconic Mr T. Neeson brings some much-needed gravitas to proceedings, but as the stogie-puffing Hannibal, a bit like the overall spectacle, it's a case of close but no cigar.
The A-Team is now showing
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky
UNLIKE their respective genius, the torrid love affair between 20th-Century icons Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky didn't stand the test of time. In charting the latter, Dutch director Jan Kounen's sumptuously shot biopic delivers fascinating and compelling insights into the enduring reputation of the former.
Based on a book by Chris Greenhalgh, the story begins in 1913 Paris, at the historic premiere of Stravinsky's (Mads Mikkelsen) seminal work, The Rite of Spring. To say that the audience is divided is to understate the situation. Accustomed to works such as Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty, many are outraged by the subversive nature of the spectacle, and a near riot ensues.
In attendance is the statuesque Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis). Unlike most of the audience, she recognises the unconventional spirit of a fellow traveller in Stravinsky's piece, and when, seven years later, they are eventually introduced, she offers him the use of her chic Parisian villa. Penniless and exiled as a result of the Russian Revolution, Stravinsky reluctantly accepts, and moves in with his consumptive wife Katya (Elena Morozova) and their four children. Naturally, Coco and Igor both know this proposal is as much a passion statement as an offer of patronage, and sparks soon fly.
If Coco & Igor finished as it began then it would surely be closing in on masterpiece status, such is the sheer propulsive force of the opening Rite of Spring sequence. Although those mesmeric initial impact levels aren't quite sustained for the duration, striking performances from Mikkelsen and Mouglalis, together with the stunning cinematography, embellish an experience that is undeniably a veritable symphony for the senses. Director Kounen also brings a poetic sensibility to proceedings that is guaranteed to keep fans of artful moviemaking enthused.
Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is at the IFI from Friday
Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)
ERA-defining artist or pervy old Parisian -- whatever your opinion of Serge Gainsbourg, there's no denying he'd led a life of pleasure by the time he died. With his role as France's aural aphrodisiac assured, this playful biopic from award-winning graphic novelist and director Joann Sfar should let newcomers understand the Gainsbourg enigma better.
We're first introduced to Gainsbourg as a big-eared Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Paris, his imagination running wild following his first encounter with the female form during a life-painting class. Before embarking on a diet of wine, women and song, Gainsbourg (played by doppelganger Eric Elmosnino) is torn between his loves of painting and music. The music eventually wins out, and a mass courtship of both listeners and ladies ensues. By the time of the infamous Je t'aime... moi non plus and a reggae version of La Marseillaise, he's become a sozzled, chain-smoking provocateur with a string of failed relationships behind him.
Sfar's graphic novel background shines through, creating a comic-like world as suggestive as Gainsbourg's songs. Puppetry is used with Professor Flipus, an imaginary Mr Hyde in the Jim Henson mould. Flipus dishes out conspiratorial nudges for the initially shy piano crooner, and represents an exaggeration of the Jewish features he first bemoaned but then utilised in his seductions. Similarly stylised are the characters revolving around his piano. At every turn, a new set of bedroom eyes materialises through the red velvet and clouds of Gitanes smoke. Playing third wife Jane Birkin is English rose Lucy Gordon, while Laetitia Casta is a whirlwind of legs and blonde hair as Brigitte Bardot.
Moralists beware; with little mention of the casualties left in his wake -- his children barely feature -- and his ultimate demise, Gainsbourg is a celebration of Gallic decadence rather than a lesson in self-destruction.
Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique) is now showing