Out in the UK This Week
Killer Joe (Entertainment One, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD)
French Connection/Exorcist director William Friedkin returns to form and hands a decent role to Matthew McConaughey, who plays a dead-eyed contract killer menacing a family who thought they’d hired him to kill the materfamilias for insurance gain. As with The Exorcist, Friedkin gives us an awful lot of set-up before he gets the nasty stuff out, by which time we’re emotionally invested and feeling every jab. Juno Temple stands out as the braless jailbait who catches McC’s eye, but it’s very hard to get really involved in this family as they’re so scarily dim. Unless the whole thing is meant to be a hellishly black comedy and not a thriller at all. At least that’s the way I started reading it.
Katy Perry: Part of Me (Paramount, cert PG, Blu-ray/DVD)
Lollipops aloft for a canny film that’s partly a spangly concert doc, partly a rags-to-riches biog but mostly a revealing essay on the personal cost of life on the road for the current queen of cartoon pop. Co-queen, sorry, along with Nicki Minaj. Perry come across as a very bright, sweet, enthusiastic, hard-working trouper – I suppose that was why directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz were hired, after all. But there are telltale moments, orchestrated or not, that shed light on the “life in the spotlight” phenomenon. As this film was being made Perry’s relationship with Russell Brand collapsed. We see her crying, slumped, then strapping on a smile to go on stage… to sing The One That Got Away. Only a heartless brute wouldn’t well up.
Katy Perry: Part of Me – at Amazon
King of Devil’s Island (Arrow, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD)
The Reform School Drama, Norwegian style, with Stellan Skarsgård lending international box-office clout and then standing back to let a cast of unknowns do their work, in particular Benjamin Helstad as the young, tough new arrival measuring himself against his ability to take the knocks the institution is handing out. The Magdalene Sisters meets Cool Hand Luke might be a slightly unhelpful way of describing what you’re getting, and as with both those film there’s a very well defined sense of place (ie it looks bloody cold). A tough, gripping tale of hardship with well drawn relationships, plenty of narrative tug and a climax that is worth hanging on for once the writers and director have exhausted the genre clichés.
King of Devil’s Island – at Amazon
Men in Black 3 (Sony, cert PG, Blu-ray/DVD)
Will Smith goes back to an old franchise (favours being called in by the studio?) and takes Josh Brolin back with him in a story that might be loosely described as “how Tommy Lee Jones became a Man in Black”. Brolin is standing in for Jones, you see, and in the few scenes with Jones in at the beginning, you’re glad of the fact, so waxy does the great man look. As for the film itself, it is a cheapjack cash-in that takes half an hour to get going, at which point it does manage to hit a few comic targets. And it has to be admitted that Brolin’s Tommy Lee Jones impression is amusing. Best thing of all is Jemaine Clement, eye-opening as a camp badass villain.
Swerve (High Fliers, cert 15, DVD)
Sometimes it’s the low-budget films that give off the best odour. Take this cheapie set out in the Australian desert, where an innocent man, a bad blonde, a suitcase full of hooky loot and a psychotic cop are cooked into something almost resembling a Hitchcock thriller. I’m not going to pretend that Swerve is genius stuff. It’s not. But it’s got an almost-there quality – the good stuff is very good, it’s got atmosphere to spare and a dangerous mule-kick of pheromones too. Let’s mark director Craig Lahiff down as a man to watch.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
How would you behave if you knew the world was about to end? In this drama playing like a riff on Lars Von Trier’s superior Melancholia we see the reaction of a suburban couple who hear the announcement while out in the car. She immediately gets out of the car and runs away. From him. He (it’s Steve Carell) goes to work. He sells insurance. Hollow laugh. The opening scenes of a drama that’s actually about a couple thrown together by this impending apocalypse – Carell going on to meet dizzy babe Keira Knightley. It starts brilliantly as Strangelove-ian satire, then handbrake-turns into unconvincing romance. We can see what’s in it for him; but what’s she getting out of it?
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2012