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LIFE IS BIUTIFUL (SOMETIMES)
I went to see Biutiful, the latest film by Alejandro Inarritu, starring Javier Bardem. Inarritu, along with Alphonse Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro, is one of the Mexican directors who has made such an impact over the last decade in Hollywood. He has made previous films like Babel and 21 Grams, movies that are cerebral with a lot to say. In Biutiful, he presents a Barcelona that is seamy, seedy and sleazy and yet vibrant and alive at the same time. Bardem plays Uxbal, a directionless man split from his crazy wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez), and he has custody of his two children, a son and a daughter. To make money, he visits local funeral parlours and ‘speaks’ to the recently departed relatives of its mourners. He continues his meanderings until he receives serious medical news and it forces him to change his outlook on life. In the hands of a lesser practitioner, his part would be mawkish or disconnected but Bardem is magnificent as Uxbal: magnetic on screen, totally dominating proceedings. Inarritu is a fantastic director and, while Biutiful won’t be to everybody’s taste, anyone interested in serious cinema will be blown away by the depth and breadth of this movie, which also debates the plight of immigrants forced to live in substandard accommodation and exploited by their employers and how people come to terms with their own mortality. It is an exquisite masterwork and a more than worthy addition to the director’s other movies…
I also went to see Killing Bono, a film that is only really notable because it contains the last screen performance of Pete Postlethwaite. Directed by Nick Hamm, the film looks at two Irish brothers, Neil and Ivan McCormick (played respectively by Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan), who went to school with Bono and the rest of U2 in Ireland and spend the rest of their lives trying to get out from under their shadow. The problem with the whole film is that the script is hackneyed, clumsy and unconvincing. The actors playing the two brothers make a decent fist of it but none of it rings true. Postlethwaite as gay photographer and landlord Karl shows why he was so well-regarded as an actor before his early passing this year but he’s totally wasted. Martin McCann who plays Bono isn’t bad but everything feels lightweight and artificial. Peter Serafinowicz as their manager, Hammond, is embarassingly awful on screen and the humour that runs through the film is cringeworthy. So not exactly a fitting epitaph for Postlethwaite, Killing Bono is the sort of British film that FilmFour used to make in the Eighties and will disappear almost as soon as it’s arrived…

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UNDERGROUND HIT?
I went to see Buried last week. A film made by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes and starring Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan in next year’s Green Lantern), it is truly a one-hander in the ultimate sense. Reynolds plays lorry driver Paul Conroy who was working in Iraq and has now been captured by an insurgent group. So Conroy is trapped in a wooden coffin somewhere in the country, waiting to be rescued with only a mobile phone for company. Buried isn’t a film that you could rewatch because it is rather harrowing but you have to give credit to Reynolds, who embodies the all-American here, a man who has been left to dry by the company that sent him there. He shows that he is actually a pretty decent actor as Buried stands or falls on his performance. The cinematography is suitably claustrophobic throughout and Cortes really does manage to give you enough to keep you watching for its 90 minute duration. Buried feels a little bit like a Seventies film as it doesn’t employ the gimmicks of something like a Blair Witch but its lo-fi feel does place the viewer in the box with Conroy. And you just know that it isn’t going to end well. From the start, you have this feeling. But the journey is engaging and unsettling at times and Reynolds is very good. Incredible to think that he’ll be flying around in a green CGI costume fighting space monsters next summer. Buried is an interesting curio and one that holds the viewer’s attention while he or she is watching it. So it’s definitely a smart choice for people interested in cinema…