Out in the UK This Week
Trance (Fox, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Danny Boyle’s attempt to retake the crown as Britain’s most commercially savvy yet critically hailed director – current holder Christopher Nolan – sees him heading up Inception avenue with a crime thriller. Trance takes a basic heist plot, throws hypnosis and multiple levels of reality into the mix, then lays on the group dynamic of Shallow Grave. Which means that auction-house gopher James McAvoy, hypnotherapist Rosario Dawson and gangster Vincent Cassel are playing a threesome not exactly at ease in each other’s company. There’s much to enjoy here, particularly Boyle’s sense of pace, Cassel’s cool Mr Nasty turn and Dawson’s sheer sexiness, but as the film wanders towards its denouement, it makes less and less sense and loses its grip on the emotions. Oh well, 75% there isn’t too bad.
Good Vibrations (Universal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Here’s a nice little film about a real-life chancer, Terri Hooley, a Belfast man who in the 1970s used nous, charm and chat to help him open a record shop in a benighted part of a city living a zombie existence as the Troubles took their cultural toll. Hooley went on to release the Undertones’ most famous record, Teenage Kicks, and was pivotal in the local punk and new wave scene. Good Vibrations will mean most to those who remember when the 7” single was seen as having revolutionary power, but it’s an enjoyable and admirably spare entertainment which says what it has to say and then gets out. There are more famous names in the cast list – Jodie Whittaker, Dylan Moran, Liam Cunningham – but they’re only window dressing. It’s Richard Dormer, as Hooley, who is the focus, and he’s entirely believable as Hooley, last of the rock’n’roll dreamers.
The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (Metrodome, cert 12, DVD)
I turned this off after five minutes, then turned it back on again. I’m glad I did. Because what looked initially like a shaky piece of nothing turned out to be a remarkable film. Rodrigo Gudiño is its director and he’s taken the Spanish Haunted House genre and pared it back to its basics – a house, a man in it, a voiceover by Vanessa Redgrave as the house’s departed owner (my resistance to Redgrave being one of the reasons for the early rush to judgment) and a restless camera that keeps wrong-footing us – are they random slides and glides or the POV of something sinister? The squeaky, groany soundtrack is entirely in keeping with this atmospheric piece of work, a meditation on faith and possession with just a drop of Rosemary’s Baby in the mix somewhere.
Blancanieves (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
After the success of The Artist it was only a matter of time before someone else had a go at a silent film. This Spanish reworking of the Snow White story is it, with Maribel Verdú getting to pull all the best poses as the wicked stepmother who has stolen the bullfighting daddy away from his daughter. The cinematographic technique is all over the place in terms of period authenticity but there are undoubtedly some beautifully shot moments in a film that never looks less than sumptuous. Give it an hour – yes a whole 60 minutes – and the dwarfs arrive, at which point the story starts to focus more properly on Snow White and the whole thing comes to life.
Stolen (Lionsgate, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD)
Good title, Stolen. Since the whole idea has been stolen from the film Taken. Except this time it isn’t Liam Neeson playing the dad on the trail of his daughter, it’s Nicolas Cage. And he’s back under the directorial control (if that’s the word) of Simon West, his director in Con Air. So, you know what you’re getting then, more of Cage’s “mega-acting” (as outlawvern calls it). The never terrible Danny Huston works hard to prove his relevance to the whole affair as the cop on Cage’s case, even putting on a Popeye Doyle hat. Meanwhile Josh Lucas plays Cage’s nemesis, a former buddy who has lost a leg and now gets about on a tin version of a pirate’s pegleg. Which only encourages him to try some mega-acting of his own.
Dark Skies (E One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
A mix of the Exorcist, Paranormal Activity and Sixth Sense, stirred into life by Kerri Russell, who seems to be the go-to actress for a certain kind of almost-good movie. In this case it’s a haunted house thingie set in sub-Spielbergian picket-fence USA, where Russell and family are being monstered by persons or entities unknown. Paranoia is the mood that director Scott Stewart is after and he summons it well, showing he’s also a dab hand at dramatic pace. It’s familiar, too familiar if I’m being honest, but there are some good spooky moments.
Dark Skies – at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2013