Mini Reviews: Burnt, Paper Towns, Spectre

A very eclectic grouping, I know!

But there are some movies I look forward to watching, like The Revenant. Then there are movies I look forward to, just not quite so much. But I had questions, questions, questions! Is Spectre as silly as Skyfall? How bad is BurntCan Cara Delevingne act?

Paper Towns

Quentin (known as Q) has his whole life mapped out – graduation, college, medical career, marriage, kids. But that’s only if the really cool girl across the street doesn’t get him arrested.

Q (Nat Wolff) has grown up idolizing his neighbour, Margo, but his kooky little playmate is now Cara Delevingne  – waayyy too popular to speak to him.

That’s until one night when she needs him to help inflict revenge on her lying in-crowd pals. Faced with his perfectly understandable reluctance, she gives him some spiel about “living for the now”, and not waiting until you’re 30 to be happy.

We’ve only known her for seconds, but she’s clearly a menace. Does clever Q challenge her, and insist life can be worth living while working towards your goals? He doesn’t, because he’s blinded by her awesomeness, and because he’s a sap.

After a vandalism spree and a slow dance, Margo vanishes. Convinced she’s left clues for the timid lad to follow her, Q leads his geeky friends and Margo’s impossibly beautiful former BFF (Halston Sage) on a road trip.

Nat Wolff is one of those scruffy, shaggy, sort-of-handsome young stars, but the road trip really drags, and a boy urinating into a empty beer can mid-car journey isn’t as funny as the filmmakers think.

Adapted from a John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) YA novel, Paper Towns suffers without the mercurial Margo. Delevingne is really great casting – Margo is a flawed person, but you understand why other teens project enormous mystery and importance onto her.

The lack of parental involvement rings false, as if the film doesn’t know how to work the adults in. When Margo goes all Gone Girl, her parents just shrug. What kind of people just allow their cars to disappear from the driveway, or teenagers to skip school for a road trip? Surely not the parents of this amiable, well-adjusted crowd.

A wholesome teen movie with an edgy star, perhaps Paper Towns just didn’t translate easily to screen. Worth it for Delevingne’s brief performance.

Burnt

Bradley Cooper used to play Jennifer Garner’s housemate on J.J. Abrams’ spy drama Alias. The actor played a clueless chump whose job was to get punched in the face by the CIA.

Now Cooper’s piercing gaze stares out from many a movie poster. He’s been nominated for four Academy Awards – three for acting and one for producing.

Burnt, a star vehicle meant to cash in on the actor’s heat, received a universal panning and a flurry of one-star reviews. But is it a complete turkey? Sometimes when the critics sharpen their knives, you find the movie isn’t half-bad, or is only as half-baked as everything else.

Cooper stars as Adam, a boozy, bad boy chef who got his beloved mentor’s Paris restaurant shut down. After a self-imposed exile shucking oysters, he’s in London, dodging his drug debts and planning a comeback. He rallies his resentful and sceptical old kitchen crew (plus some new recruits) like a crime boss back for One Last Job – swiping a Michelin star.

Cooper looks like he knows his way around a kitchen and every dish looks delectable, but the movie isn’t about food or doing the restaurant world justice. It’s ostensibly about a burnt out, unlikable man with a world class talent. It’s an intense lead performance, but Cooper never gets to really explore his character’s personal demons and raging perfectionism.

Sienna Miller is decent as a sweaty sous chef/single mother/love interest, while Alicia Vikander is glamorous as Adam’s old flame. But it’s a lukewarm romance yoked with a gritty drama about the need for redemption.

Sadly, Burnt has its fingers in too many pies. Besides, I never understood the rock star glamour of chefs.

Spectre

Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as Bond, and again it appears he outgrew the character after 2006’s Casino Royale. Reportedly sick of Bond, the actor has been ambivalent about reprising the role for a fifth time.

In Spectre, a taped tip-off from his dead boss Judi Dench has Bond chasing a shadowy international crime organisation. He’s taken himself off to Mexico on a terrorist-hunting vacation, where he causes mayhem in a fantastic opening sequence.

The trail leads first to the iconic Monica Bellucci, whose highly publicized appearance is pretty disappointing. Instead, sleepy-eyed French actress Léa Seydoux is our supposedly strong, savvy female character. She looks very young next to craggy Craig, and can’t compare to the memory of Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. Sob.

And while Bond is busy moping over the latest love of his life, Ralph Fiennes get to display why he would have been a better fit as Ian Fleming’s spy. As the new M, Fiennes has to deal with a snotty little upstart codenamed “C” (Andrew Scott), who is pushing to shut down the 00 programme and usher in a global surveillance network.

I preferred the Fiennes/Scott confrontations to the ones between Christophe Waltz’s villain and Craig’s 007, who I kept forgetting is a ruthless government assassin.

Ultimately, it’s a Bond movie (the most expensive one ever made), so it’s easy to be entertained by the scale and the stunts. It really isn’t as silly as Skyfall, with its much-mocked Home Alone-style final battle. But it isn’t the sequel Casino Royale – that one time Bond was good – deserved.

One thought on “Mini Reviews: Burnt, Paper Towns, Spectre

  1. Pingback: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets comes at you fast | lindsay acland

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