21 January 2013-01-21

 Out in the UK this week




American Mary (Universal, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD)

On their way to crafting a true horror classic the rather weird Soska twins (of Dead Hooker in a Trunk fame) come up with a cracking revenger almost as surgically nasty as The Human Centipede, as gleefully over the top as Dario Argento in his pomp, with hints of 1940s noir and even a bit of Dr Phibes (or was I imagining that?). Front and centre is a great performance by Katharine Isabelle as a sexy-as-hell, cool-as-death med student out for payback. Trash hounds and body modders (they feature in the plot too) will watch this till it wears out.

American Mary – at Amazon


From the Sea to the Land Beyond (BFI, cert 12, DVD)

The much undervalued Penny Woolcock (we won’t mention “black yout” disaster 1 Day) has raided the BFI archives and collaged together a portrait of Britain as it works, rests and plays by the seaside from earliest existing footage up to today. And how optimistic, hard-working, technologically advanced, outward looking and happy she makes the Britain of the past look. This rather clever holding-up of the historical mirror does suggest that Woolcock has a less than flattering opinion of the country today, that’s if you want to see this film as a “state of the nation” address. If not, this is still a great example of a current trend for documentary exhumation of the past in collage form (Julien Temple’s London: The Modern Babylon springs to mind). The jaunty soundtrack is by (of course) British Sea Power.

From the Sea to the Land Beyond – at Amazon


The Sweeney (Entertainment One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Brit director Nick Love courts Hollywood with lots of Michael Mann-style overheads of London’s Docklands in this filmic reworking of the gritty 1970s TV series about serious crime unit the Flying Squad (the title being rhyming slang). Homage is paid to the salty script of the original – “Put your trousers on, you’re nicked” – but the plot hasn’t got past the back-of-a-fag-packet stage and there are all sorts of loose ends flapping in the breeze. And wasn’t the original about a gruff, tough but supremely honest copper and his relationship with his laddish sidekick? This is more about Ray Winstone (fun) and his sexy bit on the side Hayley Atwell (excellent), leaving poor Ben Drew with little to do.

The Sweeney – at Amazon


Now Is Good (Warner, cert 12, DVD)

A 21st century Love Story, with Dakota Fanning as a London girl (London now being magically situated next to the sea) with leukaemia striking up a shivering romance with hunk-next-door Jeremy Irvine (War Horse). And like Love Story, terminal illness is ever so fragrant and part of the female condition. But never mind that, there’s Fanning’s attempt to get the Brit accent right, her concentration so intense that she gets just about everything else wrong. Some lump in throat moments though, largely courtesy of Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams.

Now Is Good – at Amazon


The Campaign (Warner, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)

Will Ferrell does his George W thing in this toothless comedy about a bumptious Republican (Ferrell) being challenged for high office by a camp dimwit big-business placeman (Zach Galifianakis). Not sure whether it’s a satire or a series of knockabout goof-offs, The Campaign does land a few comedic punches before its – wouldn’t you know it – redemptive finish.

The Campaign – at Amazon


Keyhole (Soda, cert 18, DVD)

Oddity of the week has all the hallmarks of an artschool project, a wilfully wacky mash-up of Key Largo, Eraserhead and the Odyssey (as in Homer), with Jason Patric (actually rather good here, Speed 2 was a long time ago) playing a gangster character called Ulysses waiting for a police raid in a house filled with odd shit. Only tangentially appearing in this beautifully shot monochrome madhouse are Isabella Rossellini, director Guy Maddin’s muse, and Udo Kier. And where Kier goes, odd cannot be far behind, hence penises protruding from walls, amputees, an old man tethered to a chain like a dog and so on. Guy Maddin is 56.

Keyhole – at Amazon


Django (Argent, cert 15, Blu-ray)

The 1966 film that inspired Tarantino’s Django Unchained (and the ear-slicing scene from Reservoir Dogs, it would seem) is more than just a Fistful of Sergio Leone knock-off, it’s got a gnarly plot, down and dirty looks, a top notch cast headed by Clint lookalike Franco Nero and the sort of twangy spaghetti western soundtrack that should come with meatballs.

Django – at Amazon


© 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 reiterate, the girl who dies. It always is, sickness being part of the female condition, in mainstream Hollywood of the era 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 Tessa (Fanning) 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. It’s so bad, in fact, that it throws everyone else off too – including the excellent Kaya Scodelario, who plays Tessa’s naughty best friend, her coltlike 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 after realising he’s falling for a girl who’s not going to be around for very long. “What’s the worst that can happen?” she asks 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.

Now Is Good – at Amazon

I am an Amazon affiliate

© Steve Morrissey 2012