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New release movie reviews - October 10

Posted by: Jim Schembri | 10 October, 2013 - 11:43 AM

DIANA **1/2 (113 minutes) M

The ever-versatile, ever-daring Naomi Watts certainly looks and sounds the part of Diana, Princess of Wales in Oliver Hirschbiegel's sedate, telemovie-like account of the post-fairy tale phase of the doomed Diana's romantic life. 

Though Dodi Fayed is the beau everyone instantly associates with her, the focus here is squarely on her pre-Dodi relationship with Dr Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews). After meeting him in a hospital she carefully seduces him, a means of trying to get her life back on track after her messy separation from Prince Charles. He also has a humanitarian streak she finds reflects her own desire to do good.

Based on the Kate Snell book Diana: Her Last Love, the film certainly works as a thorny romantic drama, with Diana's attempts to keep her personal life private from a voracious media part of a growing list of problems she has holding on to her man. Also tossed into the mix are the reactions from Khan's Pakistani family and his feelings about the way Diana handles the press.

Where the film falls down is in the short shrift it gives her relationship with Fayed and her consequent death in that mythologised Paris tunnel car crash. (Note to the ghoulish: the accident is not depicted. Unfortunately.)

Having spent most of the film inside the details of her relationship with Khan, her follow-up love affair is portrayed as a flighty dalliance designed chiefly to get her own back at the world and at the media, which she happily manipulates through the staging of photo opps.

In an impressive performance, Watts hits home with those scenes where Diana tries getting traction for her charity work, knowingly reprocessing her celebrity into a spotlight on worthy causes. There are also some barbed moments where she rehearses quotable quotes for her famous TV interview.

A major issue the film raises but doesn't face down is just how media savvy Diana was. She alternately shies from it, harnesses its power to promote her private agendas, yet never fully uses it to promote her causes. It's a big gap that leaves one wondering just how much the "princess of people's hearts" had going on upstairs.

And though it might be a questionsble quibble taste-wise, it seems churlish to bookend such a film with security footage of Diana's final night alive and not pay any attention to the details of what happened in her final hours. That, of course, would have required going into more depth with Dodi, something the film is clearly reluctant to do.   

Given how so many films these days run way too long, Diana could actually have done with another half-hour putting more meat onto the bones of these underdeveloped chapters of her story.        

Fun fact: Whoa! What was that? The notion of having this film run even half a second longer would come as sheer torture to most reviewers. Diana has been subject to one of the most relentless cascades of critical bile in recent memory. The film hasn't just been panned, it's been positively hated. Of all the reviews, perhaps the harshest (and funniest) quote comes courtesy of Donald Clarke of the Irish Times who opined it was "too stupefyingly dull to compete with Mommie Dearest on the midnight movie circuit." Ouch.

2 GUNS * (109 minutes) MA

In the worst-directed action film since Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play double-dealing, mis-matched partners in crime in a south-of-the-border blur of drug running, muzzle flash and colliding, confusing plotlines.

Edited with a jittery artlessness, the film undercuts its drive and peppering of (presumably improvised) one liners by offering up a mess of a story and an array of characters whose fate is not of the slightest concern. Really, it's yet another serving of action mulch featuring noisy scenes of people firing automatic weapons at each other where you simply do not care where the bullets land. (Sigh. Where's Steven Seagal when you need him?)

The result is an oxymoronic marvel: a fast-paced action film that is almost completely boring (Bill Paxton spices things up briefly). The direction by Iceland's Baltasar Kormakur (101 Reykjavik) is so atonal it suggests he either directed the film while he was on Facebook or actually directed the film via Facebook. The film's screenplay is credited to Blake Masters, who was behind Law & Order: LA.

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER *** (88 minutes) R

Very good documentary about the brazen all-female anti-Putin punk collective Pussy Riot, members of which were hastily thrown in jail and subjected to a show trial after they crashed a church service to perform a political song. The interviews with relatives detailing the chequered backgrounds of these young women serve to sharply highlight the dilemma post-Soviet Russia faces today regarding tolerance of views that go against the orthodoxy. By the end you really do feel like calling Russia and saying "come on, grow up."

Caution: the film's R-rating is due to archival footage of Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova having actual sex as part of a protest.

Movies with Jim Schembri

Jimmy S Jim Schembri is one of Australia's most respected film critics. Click here for all your Jim Schembri film reviews, top ten lists, interviews with Australian and Hollywood talent and much much more.


Blog comments Your Say

  • Naomi Watts didn't sound or act or even look like Diana, sadly. The movie is awful. This review should be removed from Rotten Tomatoes.

    Ian Monday 28 October, 2013 - 4:42 AM
  • Hi MRWAJ. Totally Agree. Can you believe that idiot gave Smurfs 2 3.5 stars? Go figure.

    Jim Schembri Thursday 10 October, 2013 - 7:45 PM
  • Hi Mylene. It wasn't me! I pretty much see all new releases and have reviews online by Thursday/Friday. Best - Jim S

    Jim Schembri Thursday 10 October, 2013 - 7:42 PM
  • There was a guy on the late night program on 3AW who reviewed 3 films 2 of which he hadn't seen.

    mylene Thursday 10 October, 2013 - 1:28 PM
  • Someone needs to critic Jim. Absolutely no idea what a good film is.

    Most respected WHAT A JOKE! Thursday 10 October, 2013 - 1:00 PM

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