Film Reviews – Nurse Betty, Cherry Falls, Scary Movie, Titus, The Luzhin Defence

Certificate Rubbish

(originally published 1/9/00 in TVS Magazine)

The recent decision to change the certificate system, allowing more sex, swearing and violence onto our screens, couldn’t have come at a better time for this reviewer. I mean, to review this latest lot of films, one only has to look at the certificates.

In Nurse Betty (18), Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock play a duo of hitmen. Once you’ve got over this piece of casting, there is much to enjoy in this unorthodox tale of a woman (Rene Zellwegger) who thinks she’s a character in a soap opera. Last time around I mentioned how Hollywood films have actually dared to be original lately, and Nurse Betty is the latest a long line of such examples. I mean, this is a film that’s best described as a cross between One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Pleasantville and Dumb and Dumber. That 18 certificate means it isn’t as fluffy as you might think and Zellwegger, in particular, refuses to play to any kind of mentally deficient type. And that’s before we get to the sheer unexpected joy of the dolefully violent Freeman/Rock partnership.

Cherry Falls (15), by contrast, is a completely derivative pile of excrement. A horror film with a 15 certificate doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, and this story of cross-dressing stalkers slashing their way through a merry bunch of students you’ve seen in a million similar films before fulfills those expectations. Without even the saving irony of Scream, this plays through its highly predictable motions (the killer is easily guessed, just because he’s the one you least expect) with as little imagination as possible. Avoid.

Something that does have saving irony is Scary Movie (18), although it mostly just plumps for very taste-free jokes. The fact that it’s got a higher certificate than Cherry Falls means that it succeeds in its chosen genre far more than a film which we’re supposed to take seriously. But that said, this is very much 18-rated comedy – long on belly laughs but short on anything with intelligence. Scary Movie is a family movie only in that director Keenan Ivory Wayans manages to get just about anyone remotely related to him in on the act. Kinda like The Spy Who Shagged Me, but without the good taste.

Shakespeare’s notoriously gory first play Titus Andronicus arrives on the big screen as if the world has been expectantly waiting for it. Called simply Titus (18), in the same way that First Blood II was called simply Rambo, it features Anthony Hopkins as the titular Titus, with Jessica Lange as his oppo, the gothic queen Tamora (sadly, she doesn’t dye her hair black or hang around outside Quiggins). Cheerfully slaughtering each other’s families, they wander around a typically CGIed version of Ancient Rome like a couplet-quoting couple of characters from Tekken. Shakespeare’s plots are always pretty convoluted and this one is practically jumping up and down screaming to be noticed. Two and a half hours of this can be somewhat much. Apparently it’s all supposed to be highly relevant to today’s society or some such. I’m sure it says reams about the petrol crisis. With its certificate the kids won’t be able to see this one – not that they’d want to anyway.

The Luzhin Defence (12) stars John Turturro as a nerdy chess player. Typecasting you say. Oh definitely, but he’s so appropriate it seems churlish to complain. 12s are the middle ground of certificates – not quite kid’s films and not quite under the counter stuff either. It’s 1929, and Turturro is a vaguely recognisable character from a Nabokov novel, making all the same moves as his literary equivalent but never quite capturing the viewer’s pieces. Director Marleen Gorris has taken some liberties with her source material, but the whole is as dull as all Nabokov films. Not quite reverential, but not quite interesting either.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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