Playing Away From Home

Blog by Ray Philp | 25 Mar 2009

It’s usually rappers that venture into the world of Hollywood on a hiding to nothing. Two Lovers, Joaquin Phoenix’s alleged cinematic swansong, perhaps doesn’t deserve its decidedly inglorious PR. Phoenix stars alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw as deeply depressed bachelor Leonard. After an abortive attempt at suicide, Leonard meets finds himself in the midst of two potential romances; one with his new neighbour Michelle (Paltrow), and the other with Sandra (Shaw), a girl whom Leonard’s parents know through a potential business partner. The way that he balances these delicate relationships with his own fragility forms the crux of the film. There are a good handful of hip hop artists that have tainted the big screen with some risibly amateurish offerings, but Phoenix’s pseudo-meltdown looks not so much an act of sincere musical ambition as it is a quasi-satire of inept rapper-movie crossovers, or else he’s just taking the term 'smart-casual' to the extreme.

Much like Phoenix’s questionable juxtaposition of wild hair and tailoring, there’s something similarly amiss with Nicolas Cage and his recent taste in roles. Knowing, on general release from today, posits itself as a thriller in a similar mould to Mercury Rising, in that a child’s seemingly random scribbling of numbers foretells of major natural disasters with inexplicable accuracy. It would be fairly easy to surmise that Alex Proyas’ suspenseful disaster flick is an effects laden affair (the admittedly nifty feature poster is probably the obvious giveaway), but judging by the decidedly mixed critical reception the film has thus far received, there might not be much else to look forward to.

If Cage has been somewhat one-dimensional of late, then Michael Sheen is not one to be tarred with the same brush. On the back of high praise from his efforts in Frost/Nixon, Sheen presents a light-hearted portrayal of managerial legend Brian Clough in Tom Hooper’s The Damned United, a film adapted from a decidedly more claustrophobic and tortured profile that David Peace presents in the book on which the film is based, The Damned Utd. Timothy Spall and Jim Broadbent also showcase their fine acting chops in what promises to be a fine tribute to Old Big ‘Ead.

Elsewhere, The Haunting In Connecticut will also enjoy a nationwide release this Friday. Peter Cornwell’s supernatural horror is based on true events, as a family move into a new house to discover that they’ve only gone and bought a haunted one. Whilst it’s unlikely to be a morality tale rallying against unscrupulous estate agents, the trailer promises lots of shrieking and mutilated orifices. Over at the Glasgow Film Theatre, Jose Luis Guerin’s In the City Of Sylvia depicts a wandering tourist who takes a fancy to a passer by in Strasbourg, who promptly stalks her in order to learn more about her, and explore not just the city, but also his own desire for her. In The City Of Sylvia screens from the 28th to the 31st March.

Meanwhile, Christmas comes early at the Dundee Contemporary Arts as Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale screens from the 27th to the 29th March. It tells the story of a family who are reunited by their mother’s illness, borne from a genetic disorder which has also lay claim to Joseph, one of the children. The drama touches on a wide variety of topics that attempt to transcend its yuletide setting, but for those of you that are already dying to elbow fellow shoppers out of the way on Christmas Eve the temptation to catch this touching film might be too much to resist.