It’s easy to laugh at ageing movie stars. Crumbs, when they make films like The Expendables they actively encourage us to make jokes about creaking joints and dicky hips. But let us pause for a moment and salute the longevity of one of the greatest movie stars there ever was, someone who was headlining box office smash hits when Arnold was still just pumping iron and Bruce was still at High School.
Robert Redford — the “Sundance Kid” — is 76 years old and in his new film, The Company You Keep, he does quite a bit of running around even though you can see he has the slightly uncertain gait of someone whose balance isn’t what it was. He rations out that million dollar smile pretty carefully too, as this is another of his serious politically-aware dramas — couched in the form of a thriller.
Wes Anderson may be the currently working director least suited to using 3D. His scenes are often flat tableaux with his characters spread out laterally across the screen. If he was telling the story of Moonrise Kingdom 1,000 years ago it would be a tapestry, like Bayeux, and I think he’d probably be OK with that.
That visual style suited the puppetry of the delightful Fantastic Mr Fox but this new film populates the flat, theatrical, planes with living, breathing human actors — not just actors, movie stars (including Bruce Willis and Ed Norton).
In Hope Springs, Meryl Streep proves once again that not only can she play any woman, she can also play everywoman. She’s Kay, an unfulfilled Nebraska housewife, married for 31 years to accountant Tommy Lee Jones and resigned to sleeping in separate bedrooms and cooking him his eggs every morning while he reads the paper. Except, she’s not resigned, she’s become determined. Determined to prove that marriage doesn’t just fizzle out after the kids leave home, that the past doesn’t have to equal the future.
So, she signs them both up for “intensive couples counselling” with friendly therapist Steve Carell, in picturesque seaside Maine. Jones is gruffly resistant, of course, and it’s his deadpan sarcasm that prompts nost of the early comedy (their fumbling attempts to spice up their life provides the rest). As a comedy, Hope Springs is extremely gentle — much more gentle than the trailer would have you believe — but that gentleness suits the delicate subject and the script (by Vanessa Taylor) actually burrows in pretty deeply to a subject that, I’m sure, is pretty close to home for lots of viewers.
Economically speaking, theatres are a complete waste of space. I mean, take a look at the St James or the Embassy and try and imagine how many cubicles and desks you could fit in to those huge pieces of prime real estate. Or even better, how many cars could you park inside them? (Car parks require lower ceilings therefore more floors for the same building height) What kind of fool thinks of constructing a big empty building simply to shine a light through the middle of it?
This kind of nonsense has been going on for centuries though as Anonymous, Roland Emmerich’s new piece of speculative fiction, demonstrates. Stretching credulity almost as far as Star Trek requiring us to believe in faster-than-light speed, Anonymous asks its audience to assume that barely-literate actor Will Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) was not the author of all those plays and sonnets but instead they were penned by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) and used as a tool to rile the populace and provoke political unrest.
As the great 80s action heroes passed their respective peaks and drifted down the other side towards irrelevancy (or ego-centric foolishness) those of us that cared about these things were on the lookout for the next generation. Who was going to replace Stallone, Willis and Schwarzenegger (not to mention the subs bench: Van Damme, Seagal and Norris)? For a while I thought that The Rock was going to be a worthy bearer of the chains of office but he changed his name back to Dwayne and started making (fun) films for kids instead.
Now we get out answer. Stallone has gathered all his action hero mates together for one last hurrah, anointed his successor and the result may surprise you. Yes, the torch has officially been passed to former Olympic diver and gruff voiced cockney oik Jason Statham who plays Stallone’s number two in The Expendables, a big noisy, old-fashioned, romp through explosions, wisecracks, Latin American dictators and bent CIA agents. No cliché is left out and The Expendables provokes more nostalgia than adrenaline.