22 September 2014-09-22

Ingvar Eggert Sigur∂sson in Of Horses and Men

 

Out in the UK This Week

 

 

Of Horses and Men (Axiom, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD/digital)

The jacket photo of the DVD shows a man sitting on a mare that’s being mounted by a stallion. The look of passive acceptance on the mare’s face, randy enthusiasm on the stallion’s and stubborn resistance on the man’s says much of what you need to know about this instant classic, the debut by Benedikt Erlingsson. The mounting incident is the first of several discrete stories that eventually tie together, detailing life in rural Iceland, where a horse is still a valuable commodity and humans are seen, to a large extent, as at their best when they accept their animal natures. I guarantee something in this film will make your jaw drop. For me it was the big burly guy spurring his horse into the freezing sea, then forcing it to swim a good distance out to a passing trawler and shouting “Vodka?! Dollar!” as he gets near. The comedy is as bone-dry as the images are arresting, and under it all there’s a fabulously warm, humane spirit at work, with a spare aesthetic that calls to mind the offbeat work of the Swede Roy Andersson.

Of Horses and Men – at Amazon

 

 

 

Before the Winter Chill (Metrodome, cert 18, DVD)

Like his I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime), Philippe Claudel’s film is one sort of genre hiding within another. It looks like the story of a middle aged man having a fling with a younger woman, and of the spurned wife at home. In fact it’s a thriller, and I really can’t say any more than that without ruining it. Daniel Auteuil plays the brain surgeon whose achingly tasteful life with stay-at-home wife Kristin Scott Thomas is thrown into the blender when he hooks up with an ex patient (well, she says she is an ex patient), played by Leïla Bekhti, and starts an affair that’s initially tentative, then increasingly passionate. A beautifully made film of a very French sort that will disappear for good once Claudel, Auteuil and Scott Thomas’s generation have gone, it’s full of so many beautiful character touches (Auteuil’s fat fingers with his wedding band on so tight it would have to be cut off), gorgeous establishing shots (so many piles of autumnal leaves – symbolism alert) and acting of the “I speak; you pause” sort, that it’s easy enough to stay entertained until the movie’s real intentions declare themselves. Too elegant? Yeh, probably.

Before the Winter Chill – at Amazon

 

 

 

The Lost Patrol (Kaleidoscope, cert 15, DVD)

A Brazilian Second World War film. Rare enough. But it’s a good one with its own distinct tone, unlike almost any war film I’ve seen. Though the story is fairly routine – a Brazilian engineering corps lost in wintry Italy and worried that they’re going to be accused of desertion winds up de-mining a strategically important road (the Estrada 47 of its original title), with a photojournalist and a wounded Nazi along for the ride. No, that’s not your routine story either, is it? And its execution is even more out there – sober, deliberately quiet, intimate, spending a lot of time establishing its characters and so averse to big noises that even when a mine goes off it’s shown from way way back. And there’s even a nice, Martin Sheen-style Apocalypse Now voiceover delivered by its good-looking star Daniel de Oliveira, who can probably book himself a ticket to Hollywood, if he fancies it.

The Lost Patrol – at Amazon

 

 

 

The Short Game (Kaleidoscope, cert E, DVD/digital)

A documentary about young golfers which shows that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy didn’t just come from nowhere. In tried and tested manner director Josh Greenbaum introduces us to a number of seven- and eight-year-olds before we head into the tournament they’re all competing in. Among them are Zam Nxasana, the South African whose parents see him as a beacon for their post-apartheid country, Jed Dy, the Filipino whose extreme aversion to publicity of any sort gives the lie to the notion that these kids are all attention-seeking brats. And there’s Allan Kournikova, brother of Anna, who is the number one seven-year-old golfer in the world. This is a real film of two halves – in part one we meet these gifted boys and girls, in part two the film devolves into what looks and sounds like standard sports coverage of their tournament, complete with the usual inane “how did you feel about that” post-match interview (which the kids are already adept at handling) and it starts to drag. It’s 20 minutes too long and there’s little insight but it is a fascinating intro to a bizarre world. And my god they all have a great swing.

The Short Game – at Amazon

 

 

 

A Jester’s Tale (Second Run, cert U, DVD)

Here’s an example of the dreaded picaresque movie – no plot, just incident – Karel Zeman’s 1964 Polish comedy set during the Thirty Years War. Loosely, it’s a Good Soldier Schwejk affair following two guys, Petr (Petr Kostka) and Matej (Miroslav Holub), as they find themselves on one side or the other as the battle thrums and the winners become temporary losers and vice versa. Petr is your D’Artagnan figure, all virility, impetuosity, and with a comely face that wows the ladies (mostly in the shape of Audrey Hepburn-alike Emília Vásáryová), while Matej is Athos, Porthos and Aramis all rolled into one, all fists-on-hips laughter and cornball wisdom. And dreaded the film would be if you just watched it for its one-damn-thing-after-another plot. Which would be to miss the sheer technical brilliance of it, and why it’s been a key influence on film-makers at the fantastical end of the scale, Terry Gilliam and Wes Anderson to name but two. A mad assemblage of live action mixed with animation, cutouts, surreal comp shots, it builds to a majestic and fairly insane conclusion in its last 20 minutes, during which Zeman overlays image after image (pre-digital, this can only lead to severe degradation, though the remarkably crisp restoration really helps) which are as audaciously creative as they are beautifully composed.

A Jester’s Tale – at Amazon

 

 

 

A Touch of Sin (Arrow, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Jia Zhang Ke’s loose Altman-esque drama lifts the lid on modern China – showing us sweatshops, the corruption and the whorehouses, the whole such a portrait of negativity that it’s a mystery how it got to be made at all, given the Party’s stranglehold on cultural production. Beginning with the shooting of a trio of hammer-wielding thugs, moving on to the sight of a man beating his horse until it collapses, pausing to watch as a duck has its throat slit and its blood is run into a cup, it starts out as the story of a bitter hothead (Jiang Wu) who goes on a rampage of violence in an attempt to unseat the corrupt village chief. The level of splatter is high, which sits oddly with the pace of the thing, which seems to have Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia as some kind of structural and tonal reference, while its loosely connected (or not) various stories feature people at crunch moments – the man and woman discussing the end of their affair, the prostitute being taunted by a client, the garment worker causing a colleague to drive a cutting blade into his hand. However, it’s a tough watch, not because of the violence, but because the characters are held at arm’s length and we’re never quite sure who we’re meant to be rooting for.

A Touch of Sin – at Amazon

 

 

 

Miss and the Doctors (Drakes Avenue, cert 15, digital)

Two brothers, both of them doctors, fall for the same woman (Louise Bourgoin) after the brothers have been called out to deal with the absent mother’s diabetic daughter. Which one is she going to go for – is it going to be the nice smooth one (Laurent Stocker) or the gruff, offhand one (Cédric Kahn)? Hang on a second, both of them called out to a patient? This seems unlikely, and a wasteful use of a valuable resource, but the two brothers do indeed seem to work in tandem, just the first of many unlikelihoods that plague what should be a nice romantic drama with some sibling complications. One of the brothers, the nice one, is also an alcoholic, a fact we’re introduced to but which seems to have no bearing on anything that subsequently happens. In fact nothing has any real bearing on anything and there’s no real drama, but then, fittingly for a medically themed story, the characters are all x-rays and absolutely nothing in any area rings true. It looks great though, all plummy, woody shades, burnt oranges and ambers, as does Bourgoin, who you might have seen in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec but is entirely wasted here.

Miss and the Doctors – at Amazon

 

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

 

 

30 June 2014-06-30

Liam Neeson in Non-Stop

Out in the UK This Week

 

 

Non-Stop (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD/digital)

Though there are pretenders, Liam Neeson is the king of the geri-action stars, a modern Charles Bronson whose attitude to violence is, to paraphrase the mild-mannered Dr Banner, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” This time Neeson starts out angry and hungover, then becomes increasingly vexed at 35,000ft, playing an air marshal no one will listen to, in spite of the fact that there’s a crazy man on board who wants to blow up the plane unless a large amount of money… etc … etc. Other big names include Julianne Moore, Dowton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy and 12 Years a Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o, but none of them really make much of a dent in Neeson’s usual mega-intensity. It is all highly reminiscent of the Jody Foster film Flightplan, or the Rachel McAdams vehicle Red Eye. Both of those were effective pressure cooker thrillers and so is Non-Stop. And if it takes all the clichés we’ve come to expect in the 9/11 world – good air marshals, bad Muslims, brave fighting men – and subjects them to a rude inversion, then all the better.

Non-Stop – at Amazon

 

 

 

13 Sins (E One, cert 15, DVD)

13 Sins is a Twilight Zone tale done to feature length, a high-concept story with an improbability you have to swallow at the beginning or it just doesn’t work at all. The swallowing bit comes just after we’ve met the film’s “hero” (Mark Webber), a guy whose lack of cash has made him desperate enough to accept the challenge to complete 13 tasks, each one gnarlier than the one before. But, and get this, once he’s accepted the first challenge, he will be killed unless he completes all 13. Would you sign up for this? Would anyone? This gigantic bolus of unlikelihood consumed, we’re off on an enjoyable ride, following our guy as he first eats a fly (easy), makes a child cry (nasty), takes a corpse out for coffee (effective and amusing), and onwards and downwards they go. Meanwhile, dragging along about three blocks behind the action is a cop (Ron Perlman) trying to make head or tail of a series of increasingly unpleasant and mindless crimes. No more plot, I’ll just say that the film actually comes into its own as it enters the home straight, when director Daniel Stamm and co-writer David Birke really start to get busy with the twists. Which are well worth hanging on for.

13 Sins – at Amazon

 

 

 

Ride Along (Universal, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD)

I believe Kevin Hart is popular. If so, Ride Along doesn’t explain why. Sure he’s a lively and clearly intelligent man working a comedy shtick borrowed from Chris Tucker, a squeaky-voiced, eye-rolling, physical routine that goes back to the minstrel shows of old. And mark me down as a big fan of Ice Cube’s Hollywood career – his Friday films, the Barbershop movies, his “suck a dick” scene-stealing in 21 Jump Street. But I’m mystified by the success of Ride Along, an update of the Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin act, with Hart as the cowardly shrimp cop wannabe riding along for the day in badass detective Ice Cube’s car. Is disdain the flavour of part one? It is. Is grudging respect the flavour of part two? Yes, also. Is it funny? Sadly, it is not. Even with Laurence Fishburne playing a very bad Mr Big.

Ride Along – at Amazon

 

 

 

Mirage Men (Perception Management, cert E, DVD)

They came from outer space, the UFOs. Whereas the documentary Mirage Men often feels like it’s coming from several directions at the same time. At its best, which is for most of it, it’s telling the story of UFO-spotting in the USA, and it gives us a bit of historical background – in 1952 the government decided to “keep an eye” on these UFO nuts, not least because they were always snooping around airforce bases, inadvertently providing great cover for Russkie spies. And then it gives us the main course, in the shape of Richard Doty, a government wonk who has spent decades feeding any old shit into the UFOlogist machine. As Doty, who features heavily, admits, some of these ingredients, to make him plausible, are true, but most of what he’s been shovelling in is just nonsense. Which is which though? Here’s where the film slightly gets its pants in a tangle. We meet Linda Moulton Howe, a seriously aerated film-maker who claims that this misinformation is part of a double bluff, and that we have indeed been visited by aliens. It would have been nice if Mirage Men had been able to stand back a bit, get some facts in order, get a timeline established, and find a few talking heads who weren’t too close to the material. It doesn’t, and ultimately this weakens it, making it another billow in the misinformation smokescreen rather than the wind of reason blowing it away. Flawed though it is, it’s still fascinating, even though, god knows, it might have been funded by the CIA.

Mirage Men – at Amazon

 

 

 

The Unbelievers (Revelation, cert E, DVD)

So it comes to this: that Reason (capital R) is now under such pressure – from creationist Christians, fundamental Islamists, and the full panoply of ultra-conservative religious groupings everywhere – that two famous scientists, biologist Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence Krauss feel the need to tour the globe in the defence of the fruits of the Enlightenment (capital E). Gus Holwerda’s documentary follows them, as they preach to the converted and evangelise to the non-believers. Kicking off with an array of famous-name talking heads, who all testify to the importance of Dawkins and Krauss’s message – Cameron Diaz, Ricky Gervais, Werner Herzog and Woody Allen all step up, fairly pointlessly – the doc then settles down to a rhythm of following the men onto the stage, Krauss funkier in his purple Converses, Dawkins the more combative, prickly, less inclined to take prisoners, and into the wearying round of faceless hotel rooms, radio interviews, TV studios and so on. There are some lovely moments – Dawkins discovering that the Royal Society, an Enlightenment organisation par excellence, has a patron saint and that it’s Saint Andrew. “Why not Doubting Thomas,” he twinkles, hugely pleased with the speed of his own wit. Krauss is the emollient one of the two, the one you’d rather have a beer with, though he’s equally vehement that “the legacy of civilisation is under attack.” And that’s why, in spite of the “we’re not worthy” rock-fan approach that Holwerda takes, and the fact that there simply isn’t enough of the two men at full throttle in public debate, this documentary is worth watching.

The Unbelievers – at Amazon

 

 

 

The Guillotines (Metrodome, cert 18, DVD)

The Guillotines is a Robin Hood story from China, inhabiting that mythical sword-heavy past of 95 per cent of Chinese films these days, and focusing, bizarrely, on the bad guys. It actually takes quite a while for it to sink in, in fact, that The Guillotines, a crack squad of assassins with neat circular flying blades that decapitate a foe with ease, are the bad guys. Until Wolf enters, dressed in white, fair of face, Huang Xiaoming surely heading for Hollywood at some point. Like Huang, the film is handsomely made, it’s also beautifully lit, features an abundance of fine period detail and fiendish pre-gunpowder bits of steampunk weaponry. But this undoubtedly good story is entirely ruined by a director who simply can’t get his geography straight, turns every scene, every movement in fact, into a chaotic jumble of indistinguishable cause and effect. Even allowing for the Chinese style – faster in the edit, less concerned with hand-holding us from one scene to the next – The Guillotines simply doesn’t make the cut. Ha!

The Guillotines – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

 

 

25 March 2013-03-25

Writers/stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram in Sightseers. © studiocanal

DVD and Blu-ray out in the UK this week

 

Sightseers (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Serial killing never looked so deliberately dowdy as it does in Ben Wheatley’s excellently funny and very British comedy about a couple (Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who also wrote) whose tour of pencil museums and the like is interspersed with grim, impassive slaughter. Think Natural Born Killers, towing a caravan in the rain.

The Hunt (Arrow, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Thomas Vinterberg’s powerful 1998 drama Festen, the first of the pared-back Dogme films, examined the skeletons that rattle around in bourgeois closets and he’s at it again in this drama about a teaching assistant (Mads Mikkelsen, a long way from Bond villainy here) accused of sexual misbehaviour by a five year old. What follows is a witch hunt in grand The Crucible tradition, though Vinterberg’s real concern is the way the middle classes use certain forms of language – think “inappropriate behaviour” – to close down rather than open up understanding.

Great Expectations (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

David Lean’s great 1946 adaptation can rest easy, this version of Dickens’s great novel about a young oik turned into a gentleman thanks to a mysterious financial endowment joins the long list of forgettables. David Nicholls did the rewrite, turning it in the process into something similar to his novel One Day – the story of a horrible young man who has it all, discovering along the way that there’s more to life than simply being a cock. Except, in the shape of Jeremy Irvine, our hero Pip remains a cock to the end. There is good stuff in Mike Newell’s film and the further down the cast list you go the better it gets, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Robbie Coltrane, Ewen Bremner and Olly Alexander all standing out. But the top end of this Great Expectations is a classic of miscasting and misdirection. Irvine I’ve already mentioned, then there’s Helena Bonham Carter’s Miss Havisham, simply horrible rather than deranged and as for Holliday Grainger’s Estella (remember Jean Simmons’s Estella in Lean’s version – cold as hell and consequently hot as hell?), the expression “vinegar tits” jumps to mind.

Boxing Day (Independent, cert 15, DVD)

The latest collaboration on adaptations of Tolstoy stories by director Bernard Rose and actor Danny Huston sees them tackling Master and Man, Huston playing a property speculator spending Christmas being driven from one empty house to the next by an uppity British loser (Matthew Jacobs). If it’s not as great as a previous Tolstoy adaptation by Rose/Huston, Ivansxtc, the central relationship between the two men, which swings between resentment and shut-the-fuck-up, is really something to behold.

Starbuck (Signature, cert 15, DVD)

A warm, funny, engaged and clever French Canadian comedy about a sperm donor being tracked down by the hundreds of offspring he sired single-handedly (obligatory masturbation joke). Starbuck is like a good Richard Curtis film – it’s well cast, has strong incidental characters funnier than the lead (think Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill), which leaves a nicely shambolic Patrick Huard to do the dramatic heavy lifting.

Turn Me On, Goddamit (Element, cert 15, DVD)

It’s the girls who want to get laid, not the boys, in this refreshing Norwegian comedy about a teenage girl in a nowhere town whose life consists almost entirely of school, boozing in the bus shelter and masturbating to phone sex. Made with a wide-eyed innocence that heads complaint off at the pass, this is a surprisingly gentle, very charming comedy. 

The Princess Bride (Lionsgate, cert PG, Blu-ray)

It’s 25 years since William Goldman’s fairytale comedy starring elfin Robin Wright, handsome Cary Elwes and hilarious Mandy Patinkin came out and halfway through rewatching this restoration on Blu-ray I suddenly realised that it more or less supplies the plot template and most of the characters for Shrek. I’m sure the lawyers were there before me.

Thale (Metrodome, cert 15, DVD)

This tense fantasy thriller about a Norwegian police clean-up team finding a mythical creature in a hidden cellar is this year’s Troll Hunter. Unexpected, refreshing, atmospheric and tightly plotted, it’s beautifully shot with vivid colours and unusual deep-focus photography, oh the wonders of digital. Even if you hate this sort of thing, it’s worth watching, and if you do hate this sort of thing you’ll be happy to hear it’s only a short 75 minutes or so. I found some comments from its director, Aleksander Nordaas, over on Pirate Bay underneath the magnet and torrent links to Thale, pointing out to the freebooters who are downloading his movie that he poured his heart, soul and all his money into this film. Not chiding them, not busting their balls, just asking nicely if they would also consider spending a bit of coin through the legal channels. How amazingly even-tempered he is, as well as talented. I hope some of them did – in spite of Thale’s unfathomably low IMDB rating, Nordaas really deserves to make another film.

Thale – at Amazon

 

The review for Thale first ran in the DVD/Blu-ray reviews for 4 March. The film is in fact out on 25 March. I got my dates wrong. And it is such a good film it’s worth repeating. SM

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

Now Is Good

Jeremy Irvine and Dakota Fanning in Now Is Good

 

 

In Love Story, the 1970 weepie in which boy meets girl and girl dies – sorry, that’s it – it is, let me reiterrate, the girl who dies. It always is, sickness being part of the female condition, in Hollywood anyway. Different decade same idea in Now Is Good, a boy-meets-girl-and-girl-dies weepie with Dakota Fanning as the pale, interesting girl, Jeremy Irvine as the boy she falls for and leaves behind.

To go into further plot detail is pointless – the publicity material points out that she has a bucket list and that losing her virginity is at the top of it. But that’s little more than a tease, because the film is really all about the dying – anyone remember any actual plot detail from Love Story? So let’s talk about Fanning’s British accent, which is terrible. For some reason if you’re blonde and an American actress then it’s just a matter of time before you’re required to lube up and insert that British stick up your ass – Witherspoon, Johansson, Zellweger, Paltrow and Williams (Michelle) have all done it. Now it’s Fanning’s turn and what a cacking mess this accomplished actress makes of it. And it’s not for lack of trying. This girl is putting so much effort into getting the vowel sounds right – “I don’t caaah” she tells someone at some point – that she completely loses touch with the rhythms of the language, leaves dangerous pauses where there shouldn’t be any, jumps onto the ends of other people’s sentences when she can’t logically yet know quite what they’re saying. So bad is it in fact that it throws everyone else off too – including the excellent Kaya Scodelario, who plays her naughty best friend, her astonishing beauty knocked back a fair bit by the make-up department (mustn’t upstage the star).

Now Is Good is a Mills and Boon or Harlequin story for girls who like horses. Enter Jeremy Irvine – still glowing from War Horse – playing the boy next door (literally) whose backstory about a dead dad is touched on just enough to let us know that he is damaged. And he makes a pretty good stab at being the lead, lovely hair, lovely jawline, though he’s going to have to get himself to the gym if he’s going to make the transition to proper masculine acting.

So I hated it? Not entirely. Too fragrant when dealing with the shitty decline that leukaemia brings with it, and buggeringly awful though the acting was for the most part, the film managed to pull the odd weepie moment out of the bag, in true ta-daaah style. These came mostly from the interaction between Paddy Considine, playing Fanning’s tough, devastated dad and Olivia Williams, playing her flighty, drinky me-me-me mum. But there was the big one, where Fanning and Irvine first kiss, after he’s run a mile from her when he realises he’s falling for a girl who’s not going to be around for very long. “What’s the worst that can happen?” she says to him, attempting to get him to kiss her. “It’ll hurt,” he replies – meaning when she’s gone. “It already hurts,” she says in a little choked voice, clinching the deal. And a little tear sprang into my eye unbidden.

© Steve Morrissey 2012

 

Now Is Good – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

3 December 2012-12-03

All distribution, certification, DVD/Blu-ray info applies to UK only

 

 

The Dark Knight Rises (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download)

The series has been overpumped but Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film is definitely the best of the bunch, a luxuriously long, character-packed comicbook adventure all the better for featuring Christian Bale’s caped crusader very little.

The Dark Knight Rises – at Amazon

 

The Bourne Legacy (Universal, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download)

It’s the Bourne Leftovers, with Jeremy Renner taking over from Matt Damon, the taciturn amnesiac superspy now having a memory, a loose tongue and little raison d’etre. S’OK. Just.

The Bourne Leftovers – at Amazon

 

New Year’s Eve (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download)

A Love, Actually idea – a parade of largely unlovely people finding their inner human – gilded with a cast of Famous Actors (De Niro, Efron, Pfeiffer, Biel, Heigl and on and on). The end-credit blooper reel is worth waking up for.

New Year’s Eve – at Amazon

 

Ninja Scroll (Manga, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD)

One of the most classic animes ever, looking razor sharp in Blu-ray, full of action, incident, sex and blood and a forceful reminder that even Scooby Doo animation technology can produce something of expressionistic loveliness.

Ninja Scroll – at Amazon

 

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview (Revolver, cert E, DVD)

A 1995 interview with the Apple founder recorded a year after he’d been fired from his own company. Covering his past (a geek at 12), the current scene (“Microsoft is McDonalds”) and the future (“the web, it’s going to be huge”) it’s honest, relaxed, fascinating.

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview – at Amazon

 

A Trip to the Moon (Park Circus, cert U, DVD)

A restoration of one of the most famous films ever made, Georges Méliès’s 110-year-old 16-minute sci-fi and special effects motherlode – in colour too, every frame hand painted. The soundtrack by Air, is as impish as the film itself, and there’s a well researched accompanying doc.

A Trip to the Moon – at Amazon

 

Sound of My Voice (Fox, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

A woman from the future becomes a cult leader in the present – or is it all hogwash? Two investigative reporters go undercover to find out in a genre-confounding drama, low key and surprisingly tasty.

Sound of My Voice – at Amazon

 

© Steve Morrissey 2012

 

 

 

9 March 2009-03-09

Walt Disney's Pinocchio

Ratings on the UK system (ie U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=excempt)

Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Disney, cert U)

From the days when the voice cast went uncredited, Walt Disney’s 1940 follow-up to Snow White gave us the Oscar-winning song When You Wish Upon a Star, a wooden boy with a Freudian nose and one of the studio’s darkest and finest animations.

Pinocchio – at Amazon

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Disney, cert 12)

The Holocaust through the eyes of a nice German lad (Asa Butterfield) whose dad just happens to be a death camp commandant. The everyday normality of the death camps and the mix of the sentimental, the melodramatic and the brutally direct often jars for the wrong and the right reasons.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – at Amazon

Quarantine (sony, cert 18)

A fluffy TV reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) lucks into the biggest story of her career by accident as a TV news crew is trapped inside a zombie house. Aficionados will recognise this as a scene for scene, stroke for stroke English language remake of Spanish horror [REC]. How wise not to change a thing.

Quarantine – at Amazon

Generation Kill (HBO, cert 15)

Into the bafflingly busy Iraq War with an embedded Rolling Stone reporter in this multi-stranded, vibrant 7-part TV series adapted from journalist Evan Wright’s book and brought to the screen by the team behind The Wire. Another triumph.

Generation Kill – at Amazon

LA Confidential Special Edition (Warner, cert 18)

One of director Curtis Hanson’s sweet run of great films in the 1990s and one of the must-watch movies of 1997. Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey play cops up to the oxters in celebrity sleaze – hello Kim Basinger in Veronica Lake pose – in this lush, noirish evocation of the tawdry 1950s.

LA Confidential – at Amazon

The Rocker (Fox, cert 12)

Full Monty director Peter Cattaneo keeps it feelgood in this harmless comedy about an old and rubbish rock drummer 20 past his sell-by joining a young band. Yes, it’s a School of Rock knock-off, and yes Rainn Wilson is working his way through Jack Black’s list of buffoonery and goofery.

The Rocker – at Amazon


Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Momentum, cert PG)

Frances McDormand joins a crack team of British thespians (Stephanie Cole, Shirley Henderson, Mark Strong) to demonstrate how to strangle the English accent in a flimsy wannabe screwball comedy set between the wars and stolen comprehensively by Amy Adams.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – at Amazon


3-Day Weekend (TLA, cert 15)

Following on from last year’s Back Soon, Rob Williams’s state-of-the-gay-nation outing sees eight men hopping beds and baring souls for a weekend in a drama avoiding waspish stereotypes as it follows its central relationship into meltdown. Warning: may contain nuts.

3-Day Weekend – at Amazon

The Gene Generation (High Fliers, cert 15)

Chaotic throwback to cyberpunk 1980s – 2000AD comic, Brazil and Blade Runner – with a physically impressive if wooden Bai Ling as a ninja she-assassin. Quite what Faye Dunaway is doing here is a mystery.

The Gene Generation – at Amazon

Saw V (Lionsgate, cert 18)

Directed by Saw 1-4’s set dresser – a franchise this established will eventually direct itself – the gorno franchise finally runs out of wit, though the early DIY tracheotomy scene catches the breath and proves there’s still some ingenuity left in the tank, unpleasant though it is.

Saw V – at Amazon

Repo! The Genetic Opera (Lions Gate, cert 18)

Talking of which, here’s what Saw II, III and IV director Darren Lynn Bousman’s been up to, a tin-eared Rocky Horror-ish trash-glam musical on nitrous. Motley crew Alexa Vega, Paris Hilton, Sarah Brightman, Anthony Stewart Head and Paul Sorvino make it oddity of the week.

Repo! The Genetic Opera – at Amazon

The Lodger (Sony, cert 15)

Based on the same novel Hitchcock made into his 1927 silent classic, a lumpen Ripper tale set in LA, starring a wasted Alfred Molina as detective and Hope Davis as lonely housewife who let out a room to a mystery man (Simon West) who might be a killer.

The Lodger – at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2009