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Daniel Cosgrove in They Crawl

They Crawl

    Yes, They Nest was a stupid film, but it did at least have a couple of very good squirmy moments – stuff we felt if not privileged to have seen, then at least slightly sickened by. They Crawl, I’m sad to report, doesn’t. Close reading of the credits reveals no connection in terms of cast and crew (not even SFX or stunts) between the two films, meaning there’s just a personal pronoun in common, just the They. And insects, of course. However, They Crawl does hit us with two recognisable names – Tone Loc and Mickey Rourke. But fans of the Funky Cold Medina star and the one-time contender who went … Read more
Peter Sarsgaard and Amanda Seyfried in Lovelace

Lovelace

    Amanda Seyfried has a spectacular rack and, gents, you get plenty of it in this biopic about Linda Lovelace the 1970s deep throat queen who unwittingly did more than most to make porn legit. Amanda Seyfried… rack… unwittingly. Those are the key words from that sentence and of this film, a well made, deeply period piece that would have us believe that it’s on the side of the unwitting, naïve Bronx Catholic girl born Linda Boreman – who went on to become the star of Deep Throat, the first porn film to screen in mainstream theatres – while all the time devoting 90 per cent of screen time, and 99 per cent … Read more
Former executioner Anwar Congo

The Act of Killing

  “For killing people trousers should be thick,” says Anwar, the “star” and chief exhibit in this bizarre documentary. He’s the retired head executioner of an Indonesian death squad reliving his glory days garrotting hundreds if not thousands of “communists” (ie anyone in the way) with a piece of thick wire in the mid 1960s. And though now knocking on a bit he shows us how he did it, in the place he did it, a cement yard out the back of what looks like a restaurant. Bizarre though this is, there is more to come, because what the makers of this film have done – not sure if it was their idea … Read more
Elijah Wood in Maniac

1 July 2013-07-01

Out in the UK This Week       Maniac (Metrodome, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur, the writers of Switchblade Romance, one of the most heart-pounding horror films of recent years, swing bloodily back to form with a remake of a 1980 slasher which takes lovely gentle Frodo (Elijah Wood), casts him as a Norman Bates-style homicidal mother’s boy and then sets director Franck Khalfoun to work filming his exploits as if from the killer’s point of view. Result: another brilliant horror film, touches of Silence of the Lambs, House of Wax, with an electropop sound that just makes it all the grimmer. Maniac – at Amazon   Cloud Atlas … Read more
Bruno Todeschini and Vincent Perez in Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train

Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train

    A bunch of reasonably familiar French faces (Charles Berling, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi among them) all get together in a talky French Big Chill sort of affair, concerned with the interaction of lots of individuals, as was director Patrice Chéreau’s recent Queen Margot. Though here we’re in the present day and Chéreau’s characters are  heading off to the funeral of one of their number, a bisexual painter (Trintignant, who also plays his own brother) who’s had them all, one way or another. And they’re on the train, as his will commanded – he’s controlling them in death as he did in life. En route they expose themselves and each other, to their … Read more
Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowsk in Stoker

24 June 2013-06-24

Out in the UK This Week   Stoker (Fox, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) Park Chan-Wook – of Oldboy fame – makes his English language debut with a visually, sonically, thematically accomplished film that seems to be trying to get as many varieties of gothic horror assembled in one place as possible. Mia Wasikowska delivers another of inscrutably cool Alice-like performance as a young girl whose lovely daddy has just died mysteriously. And before Daddy’s body is even cold he’s been replaced in the affections of her blowsy mother (Nicole Kidman, looking just a touch Wildensteinian these days) by her uncle (enter, eyes rolling, tongue lolling, Matthew Goode). Park references Night of the Hunter, Shadow … Read more
Ewan McGregor in The Serpent's Kiss

The Serpent’s Kiss

    A treatise on order and chaos, propriety and lust, hidden inside the convoluted, if a bit TV-ish, story of Meneer Chrome (Ewan McGregor), an 18th-century Dutch (or is he?) landscape gardener. Chrome has been employed to refashion and tame the herbaceous borders of bumptious self-made Thomas Smithers (Pete Postlethwaite) and in the process bankrupt him and seize his bride (Greta Scacchi), if the plans of dastardly fop James Fitzmaurice (Richard E. Grant) bear fruit. This lace-cuffed fol-de-rol of a Sunday afternoon movie is the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cameraman Philippe Rousselot and it doesn’t suffer from bad looks. It also has its odd sly, dry moment – though there are only so … Read more
Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps

Love and Basketball

  The sports movie meets the romance in a boy-meets-girl drama featuring two affluent black kids. Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan play the basketball-playing next-door neighbours as grown-ups, the film having followed them from before puberty, through it and out into the world of professional sport and beyond. On the romance side it’s a “will-they-won’t-they” plot, in the sports arena it’s unusually focused on the daily decision-making and strategising of operating as a sports professional, where a career could be measured in months. On both sides it packs in most of the positive role models a body could need, carefully avoiding stereotyping (except that he’s hung), because that’s a bad thing. This film … Read more
Erik Palladino, Matthew McConaughey, U-571

U-571

  The standard submarine drama – depth charges, beep-beep sonar, bursting bulkheads, “secure that hatch” dialogue – gets an efficient workthrough by director Jonathan Mostow, who did a lot with very little in 1997’s “who stole my wife” thriller Breakdown. He’s got a good cast here too – Matthew McConaughey putting in one of his brattish turns as the “I’m ready for command” lieutenant, Bill Paxton as his “No, you’re not” commander, an underused Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi, continuing his hopeful advance into movies – but it’s the presence of the Enigma coding machine that is the film’s USP. By which I mean it’s the presence of the Enigma machine that is … Read more
Karin Viard and Pierre-Loup Rajot

The New Eve

      You might be tempted re-translate a title like that (in its original French: La Nouvelle Eve) as “Women Today, Huh”, and watch the film as a portrait of, well, you follow my drift. Played by Karin Viard, our heroine Camille is a neurotic ball of angst, a woman on a quest for happiness, and hang the cost to others. The film opens with Camille at a party of almost comical anything-goesness, but even she pushes it too far – finally throwing up on her host’s bed after having done all the drugs and all the genders in a night of excess. After that, for Camille it’s a series of pffts … Read more
Stag

Stag

      So, anyway, the guys are having a surprise blow-up dolly, drinks, strip-o-gram sort of stag night for their best buddy (John Stockwell), when something goes horribly wrong and things start to unravel badly. That’s the first 25 mins or so, the “interesting” bit, of this otherwise predictable drama whose most notable feature is its cast – Ben Gazzara and Mario Van Peebles in the same film? Strange. Kevin Dillon, William McNamara? Plus a couple of people you might not know (John Henson, Taylor Dane). They certainly don’t feel like a “brothers to the death” stag group of old buddies. But that’s because the cast has been hired for its ability … Read more
Brenda Blethyn and Julie Walters in Girls' Night

Girls’ Night

    Brenda Blethyn and Julie Walters seem too often to be in women’s weepy territory and are in it again in this slice of gritty Northern life – The Full Monty by way of Shirley Valentine. It’s written by Kay Mellor, who’s almost cornered the market in female northern empowerment on British TV with scripts for Band of Gold and Just Us. The two ladies play factory girls Dawn and Jackie – Dawn (Blethyn) is the mopey victim-type, Jackie (Walters) is her spunky sister-in-law – who take a pause from fetching and carrying (Dawn) and shagging (Jackie) and head off to Las Vegas for a fling when they discover that Dawn has a … Read more

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