Out in the UK This Week
The Hunter (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
There’s a totally immersive sense of place in this engrossing thriller starring Willem Dafoe as the titular hunter in kill-or-be-killed Australia. He’s some sort of badass eco-transgressor working for a rapacious global megacorp and he’s after the mythical and possibly mystical Tasmanian Tiger. Or is that a metaphor? Or is he actually not the hunter at all but instead the hunted? No spoilers. I will just say it’s a thriller and it’s structured like Apocalypse Now – one man, a quest, lots of delicious jeopardy.
Your Sister’s Sister (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Grown-up mumblecore, a briskly paced love-triangle drama set out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, where indie darling Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, and the stratospherically excellent Rosemarie DeWitt indulge in some high-octane improv. The pace is brisk, it doesn’t wallow in the moments of emotionality where it could and it has the kind of folksy/indie soundtrack you’d kind of expect. Quietly excellent.
London: The Modern Babylon (BFI, cert 15, DVD)
Michael Gambon narrates – and that’s reason enough to pick up this DVD – Julien Temple’s collage of archive newsreel, voiceover, feature film footage and interview going back to the dawn of cinematography. It’s part of a current fashion for mythologising London and it sits comfortably in what you’d call the modern orthodox view – London as melting pot, London as a welcome port for “the world and his wife” as one Cockney geezer puts it. Though a lot of the footage is familiar, Temple’s editing skills are formidable, and he has an ear for a song, old music hall favourites like “A Bit of What You Fancy Does You Good” sitting snugly alongside Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Hong Kong Garden”.
Cockneys Vs Zombies (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Much more than just a title in search of a film, this British zom-com is an admirable addition to the genre and a right old laugh. It’s not going to rival Shaun of the Dead but there are a couple of good jokes (rival football-fan zombies choosing to have a go at each other rather than the available humans). And you get to hear Honor Blackman – now in her 80s but still able to stir a memory of Pussy Galore – use the F word. And there’s Richard Briers using an Uzi 9mm. And the gore is pretty funny too – as long as you don’t plan on eating a kebab anytime soon.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (StudioCanal, cert PG, DVD)
“I rode a lot with Buffalo Bill. He was very sweet.” It’s lines like that, uttered by Diana Vreeland, which get you immediately hooked into this documentary about her life. Who? The hard act that every fashion editor since has had to follow, Vreeland edited Harper’s Bazaar from 1937-62, then Vogue 1962-71. This access-most-areas documentary captures her glamour, pizzazz and quixotic progressive spirit. The name, incidentally, is pronounced “Dee-ahna”. Of course it is. And if you arrive at this homage clueless and faintly sniffy about fashion people, you might well leave better informed and extremely impressed, as I did.
A Royal Affair (Metrodome, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Mads Mikkelsen plays the doctor introducing Enlightenment ideas into the court of the 18th century Danish king, and himself into the queen, in this well cast, sumptuously appointed period drama with a tendency to replay history from the point of view of the winner, presenting the baddie as a silly old silly, the goodie (the winner, our man, ie us) as the repository of all wisdom. “You could be an amazing king,” says Mikkelsen’s earnest, noble, do-gooding doctor to the fey, possibly gay king who doesn’t know what to do with his queen and her fancy progressive ideas. On the one hand magic and monarchy, on the other democracy and rationalism. We’re in no doubt which is superior. Plus points include all of the cast, Mikkelsen especially, who are so much better than the script, also the cinematography, which is a thing of beauty, and Nikolaj Arcel’s direction, which, particularly towards the end of the film turns some of the exchanges into a tragic partita.
The Five Year Engagement (Universal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
A Judd Apatow production that makes you wonder if he’s losing enthusiasm for comedy. Ostensibly a romcom, it stars Emily Blunt and Jason Segel as a couple who for one reason or another just can’t seem to make it to the altar. The stars mug gamely in what looks at first like an experimental rehash of When Harry Met Sally but on closer inspection is more like Forgetting Sarah Marshall but minus Russell Brand. And no, that’s not a good thing.
The Five Year Engagement – at Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2012