2 September 2013-09-02

Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson in Gimme the Loot




Gimme the Loot (Soda, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

A debut movie by writer/director Adam Leon, someone with something to say, Gimme the Loot is appropriately about two black kids (skin colour is an issue) who do a lot of talking as they wander around a present-day New York like Belmondo and Seberg once wandered through Paris in A Bout de Souffle. Do not be put off by reference to the French New Wave, I’m just trying to say Gimme the Loot is energetic, fresh, nervy, in love with the idea of youth, full of lip and very hip. Reinforcing the idea is the soundtrack – cool 60s R&B, soul, jazz. And it’s about the have-nots making up for what they don’t have with what they do have – sass, style, sex. Starring Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson, the plot has something to say too – he meets a moneyed white girl (Zoë Lescaze, excellent) and comes away short-changed, she has similar low-scale adventures, until they both meet up for what looks like an extended flirt, a tease, an introduction to the idea that they might be in love but have spent their lives so trying to verbally outgun each other that they don’t quite know how to broach the subject. What a refreshing and lovely film.


Gimme the Loot – at Amazon



Star Trek Into Darkness (Paramount, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/VOD)

I loved the first of the Star Trek reboots – Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto and the whole damn crew doing their best Shatner/Nimoy etc while JJ Abrams sculpted a throbbing space adventure from the DNA of an exhausted franchise. This time, for reasons I don’t understand, Abrams is playing to the geek gallery, not realising that geeks don’t need playing to – they’ll make phasers from chicken bones. And worse than that he’s remade The Wrath of Khan, a seriously dull film not made any better this time round by the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan – that’s more Sherlockian nodding towards the geeks. Things to love include Pine’s continuing mad Shatner impersonation, Karl Urban’s even better Bones “Are you out of your cornfed mind?” McCoy and some big money special effects sequences out in space. Much as I love Simon Pegg I don’t love the way his Mr Scott wanders off accent – he cannae take it, it seems – nor am I particularly aroused by Abrams handing out a storyline to every single one of the familiar crew members, like a movie that cost this much money was some elementary school prizegiving. Looks like this franchise is going the way of the last one.


Star Trek Into Darkness – at Amazon


Blackfish (Dogwoof, cert E, DVD)

What happens when you take an “amazingly friendly” killer whale and lock it up in an oceanarium, confine it by night, force it to do stupid tricks for fish? In the case of Tilikum, the orca in Blackfish, it becomes a killer whale, literally. The brilliance of this documentary lies in the measured way that director Gabriela Cowperthwaite goes about assembling her evidence – she talks to guys who first caught orcas off the coast of California about 40 years ago, she talks to previous owners of Tilikum, who knew he was a killer, she talks a good number of ex-trainers at Seaworld Orlando, which is where Tilikum finally lost the plot and set about eating his bright, committed trainer, Dawn Brancheau. And Cowperthwaite knows how to structure drama – from 911 phone call replayed over the opening scene, when the operator is told that an orca has eaten a trainer and is simply stunned into silence, we are gripped. Moral: the animals don’t like being there, they’re not engaged in valuable scientific research – let them go.


Blackfish – at Amazon


Love Is All You Need (Arrow, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

The ageing populations of Western Europe need their own romantic comedies, ones that reflect the pantechnicons of baggage that come with any midlife relationship. Enter Pierce Brosnan, still in ladykilling form as a wealthy grieving widower. And from the other side the delightful (and unknown to me until now) Trine Dyrholm as a love-damaged hairdresser who has no hair, thanks to recent chemotherapy. Nice. The original title in Danish translates as The Bald Hairdresser and tells us two things – first, that the Scandinavians have a much less mimsy way with words, and second, that the film is in Danish. Even Pierce Brosnan utters the odd word in “foreign”, as the action transfers from the cool north to sun-drenched Italy, where the romantic, comedic action plays out against the prospective wedding of his son and her daughter. Subtitle-phobes needn’t worry, the film switches frequently into English and the busy action, charming performances and great support acting means you’ll hardly notice. Susanne Bier’s film is much like a wedding, in fact – not necessarily everyone’s idea of a great day out but a lot of messy chaotic fun once you’re there.


Love Is All You Need – at Amazon


Mud (E One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Time to see Matthew McConaughey being acted off the screen by a pair of kids. Everyone, in fact, is outdone by the two young stars of Mud (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland – stars of the future), a kind of Huckleberry Finn meets Beasts of the Southern Wild drama set in Arkansas and revolving around a pair of lads and their relationship with some weird, though charming hobo (McConaughey), who may or may not be dangerous. Reese Witherspoon turns up, playing the charmer’s cockteasing lost love, lending the production the patina of class. And also suggesting that Mud is a movie for adults. It isn’t really, it’s for kids, the 12 certificate in the UK (PG-13 in the US) just about right for what is basically a primer in the ugly stuff that adults get up to. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols, whose “storm’s coming” psychodrama Take Shelter is highly rated in some quarters, this is a flavoursome, folksy coming of age entertainment but at 130 minutes it’s a good 20 minutes too long.


Mud – at Amazon


What Doesn’t Kill You (Signature, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

A movie that’s been sitting on the shelf since 2008, presumably because there were just too many Goodfella wannabe movies lining up for release. Which is what this is, being about two guys from Boston who become very small cogs in a low-rent local gangster operation – extortion, mostly – and what happens to them. So, in plot terms, nothing to see here. The acting is worth a watch though, since it’s Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo, each goading the other to be better (and succeeding) and the MO is interesting too, since what we’re mostly doing is following these two dim bulbs as they walk and talk (mumble, in fact, subtitles useful) around the neighbourhood, edging further and further into Palookaville.


What Doesn’t Kill You – at Amazon


The Little Mermaid (Disney, cert U, Blu-ray)

1989’s The Little Mermaid is seen as marking the beginning of Disney’s renaissance, though there have been a few of those. To my aged eyes it has all the hallmarks of everything that’s wrong with Disney – the interchangeable bland handsome prince, the whining heroine who wants, how she wants, something (legs, in this case), the comedy sidekick animals, which, in The Little Mermaid, every single main character is equipped with. And Alan Menken’s songs (this was his first Disney), which might work on Broadway, where singing to the back of the room is a necessity, but just seem a bit declamatory and box-tickingly diverse in their musical styles. All that apart, there are some lovely visual sequences in here, which mostly happen when the story is shunted into the background and the animation teams are issued with a “vamp moodily” instruction, at which point the Disney of old – of the forest in Snow White, the flying elephants of Dumbo – comes to the fore. The good stuff. I can’t say much about the restoration, it looks fine, bright and crisp – does old-fashioned 2D animation really need that much restoration? Will the target audience, under 10s, really care?


The Little Mermaid – at Amazon




© Steve Morrissey 2013




Love Is All You Need

Trine Dyrholm and Pierce Brosnan in Love Is All You Need. Photo: Doane Gregory



Wedding films can be a bit like wedding cake – lots of layers, too sweet, just enough is already a bit too much, not everyone is a fan. Given those caveats, and with the realisation that for every joyous wedding-themed movie like Bridesmaids there’s a steaming pile such as 27 Dresses, let’s wander up the aisle with director Susanne Bier and her two stars, Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm.

Brosnan plays Philip, the father of the groom, Dyrholm plays Ida, mother of the bride, people who have never met until, at the airport, she manages to reverse her car into his. Ida is a hairdresser recovering from cancer and from the fact that she’s just found her husband shagging his secretary. Philip is a rich widower who’s been living an emotionally detached existence since his wife died.

Meet cute established, they head off to sun-drenched Italy, where his villa has been taken out of mothballs to stage the wedding. It is an ideal space for the movie’s many many characters, and a metaphor for Philip’s dusty, untended heart – this is where he and his wife lived when they first married.

If the plot is strictly romantic pulp fiction – storm-tossed experienced male and smiling innocent female – the leads never let on. Though Brosnan was the most emotional of the 007s, this is still a fair remove from his career of serial suavity. Playing a man negotiating loss, grief, the rebirth of love, insecurity and so on, Brosnan is on unsure ground and does occasionally show it. Dyrholm, new to me, is far more assured, playing a middle-aged woman whose husband has violated her trust just as the cancer surgeon has violated her breasts. Director Susanne Bier even throws in a parody of Venus on a shell at one point, during which the clearly scarred Ida arises majestically from the waves, Dyrholm managing to make her look both scarred and sexy, timid yet defiant. It also helps that Dyrholm has a joyous quick smile that forces the viewer to smile right back at the screen and a gift for light comedy.

Around the story of these two are stacked those of the guests at the wedding party – the bride worried that her future husband has gone off her; the groom wondering if he’s made a mistake; the sister-in-law with the hots for Philip; Ida’s oafish husband, who has broken every rule in the book by bringing his new sexual conquest to the event; the twittery kitchen staff. It’s a nicely rounded ensemble but Paprika Steen (the brassy Benedikte with Philip in her sights) and Kim Bodnia (as the dim libidinous husband, hilarious with almost no material) get the best of it.

The Italy it is set in is the Italy of the movies of busy, jabbering locals, beautiful old villas, sunshine streaming everywhere, warm nights, cicadas. For Susanne Bier, whose line is Nordic films of a certain dourness of cast, it’s a departure. But then again it isn’t. She’s interested in people – with films such as Brothers and Things We Lost in the Fire she has shown an ability to deal with difficult relationships. Here though she’s spiritually in Hollywood and there is the distinct sound of gears being changed as she runs Brosnan and Dyrholm through the moods and the genres – comedy, romance, melodrama. At one point, as Philip and Ida sit in a taxi taking them from the airport to the villa for the first time, Bier even tries a bit of screwball comedy. Thankfully she doesn’t try it for long, neither of her leads seem happy in Bringing Up Baby’s shadow.

A word about the language. Apart from odd moments in Italian, the film is basically in Danish when the Danes are speaking and in English when Brosnan speaks. It takes roughly five seconds to get over this stylistic quirk. At another level, this emotionally satisfying romance aimed at people who know where the film’s title comes from marks another clever step for Brosnan, after the political drama of The Ghost, the action heroics of Seraphim Falls and his wounded bellowing in the musical Mama Mia!, he’s still moving the ball around the park. Who’d have thought the showroom dummy who used to be Remington Steele would be having such an interesting late career?

© Steve Morrissey 2013


Love Is All You Need – at Amazon