Saturday, 30 June 2012

Haven't they seen "Double Indemnity"? (Out this week - 29/06/12)

It's an Italy vs Spain final on Sunday that promises great football, even if it's narratively unadventurous and Andy Murray is still performing well at Wimbledon so the studios can be forgiven to going slightly easy this weekend on the big ticket releases. So much so that the largest roll-out is only 265 cinemas, over 100 less than Men In Black 3 in it's sixth weekend. Not that I'm motivated by size when it comes to my film choices, but distributor confidence can be a factor. Nevertheless there are some exciting options this week, Todd Solondz returns to cinemas with another bleak mirror on American society and Lynn Shelton's highly praised follow-on to Humpday is also getting a minor release but for me it's Southern Fried gothic all the way with the runs like a gay film of the week Killer Joe.

There are lies, damned lies and box office statistics. A truism made all the more relevant with the UK top ten from last weekend. Theoretically my prediction last week was correct, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was the highest grossing new entry and took the top spot. I should be suitably smug and walk away. However closer analysis of the figures shows that Lincoln's victory is attributable to two days of previews. So Men in Black 3 actually took the most with The Five-Year engagement close behind. Feeling considerably less smug now. This weekend I think the extraordinary trend of MIB holding onto audiences will keep it at the top and the likeable Friends with Kids as the highest new entry.

Killer Joe

Given that murder for the insurance money never seems to play well in cinematic lore you have to wonder why characters still keep doing it. Saying that I doubt the trailer trash protagonsists of William Friedkin's second Tracy Lett's adaptation (following the claustrophobic Bug) will have caught many black and white classics on TV. This might be a case of style over substance, but I'm hooked.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●○○○○

Read on for adult adolescents, competing choirs and Scandinavian borstals, as well as all of this weeks releases and trailers.

There doesn't appear to be much subtlety in Freidkin's trailer, but McConaughey purrs his way through it quite nicely.

Dark Horse

Todd Solondz's black comedies aren't to everyone's taste and whilst his latest looks considerably less perverse than say, Happiness, I imagine a lot of people will still be turned off by the central character, a thirty something still living with his parents (Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow) and the first tentative steps towards what might be love or might be stalking.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○

The Fairy

Well, that was weird. For audiences not used to seeing such physical comedy it's slightly shocking to see such obvious clowning on screen. Nevertheless reviews have positively compared this magical fable to Jacques Tati so it might be worth a look.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

King of Devil's Island

Swedish release which has largely appeared from no-where starring Stellen Skarsgaard as the governor of a boys prison, with shades of classic borstal pic Scum and a touch of historic tragedy about it. Nicely cut trailer that certainly makes me want to see more.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Your Sister's Sister

The title may sound like the opening phrase of a riddle and there's is no way on earth Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt are sisters but this semi-improvised relationship drama has much to recommend it. Director Lynn Shelton has comfortably eased out of her mumblecore roots and looks to be one of the most consistent and talented indie directors working today.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Friends with Kids

Jennifer Westfeldt's parenthood comedy boasts a great cast of stars on the rise including husband Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Adam Scott and the premise of a pair of best friends who have a child together but don't have the relationship with it sounds cute enough. It certainly deserves to find an audience out there.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Jatt and Juliet

Last weekend Bollywood release Teri Meri Kahani broke the top ten with a substantial per screen average. This Punjabi comedy looks unlikely to do the same but I have to admit I found the trailer more amusing and the stars chemistry seemed more apparent.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Joyful Noise

I don't know whether this Church choir pic will find an audience here in the UK, especially after it under-performed in the States. Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton are the warring diva's trying to improve their local singers into an award winning combo. Unsurprisingly it takes some bland new talent to mount their Glee like revival.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Last Flight to Abuja

We don't get the opportunity to see many African made films in the UK so I really want to recommend Nigeria's true-life disaster movie. Sure it's all been parodied to death by Airplane but there's still something about soap in the skies that we can all appreciate. As the tagline says "Fasten your seatbelts".

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Lovely Molly

Have you been wondering what happened to Eduardo Sanchez, the revolutionary mind behind The Blair Witch project? Apart from just disappearing in the woods 15 years ago he has been cranking out horror flicks largely direct to DVD but this one has a small chance of finding some fans with a limited release. Shame several of the shots seem a little too derivative though.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Storage 24

The ubiquitous and hard-working Noel Clarke is back again with his first (post Doctor Who) excursion into sci-fi with this strangers trapped with an alien set-up. I hear the creature design is original and spectacular even if the rest of the characters are thinly drawn.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis

Based on his best-selling book, which was in turn inspired by an insane pub bet, comedian Tony Hawks, played her by himself, travels to the former Soviet republic of Moldovia where he challenges each of the Moldovan football team (played presumably by actors here) who lost to England 4-0 to a game of tennis. I really don't know what the point of the movie is but I expect the book is quite funny.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Lay the Favourite

2012. Dir: Stephen Frears. Starring: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn and Joshua Jackson. ●○○○○

We've had a couple of bad movies this year, there was the coy and cowardly J. Edgar and the babbling and barmy Dark Shadows, but both of those had some redeemable factors, sure they were failures but you could see the intention of the film-making and in both cases there was a stand-out performance or design element. Lay the Favourite has nothing, limp and irrelevant it has all the dramatic tension and artistry of a made for TV piece about a stripper made good. Except we see supporting character tits and there are a couple of actors who should know better.

Rebecca Hall is Beth Raymer, the stripper-cum-bookie-cum-Columbia graduated writer, on whose autobiography this is based. After a pre-credits encounter with a gun-toting client she's hot-footing it to Las Vegas to get into a safer line, cocktail waitressing in a casino. Not that the audience care - there was no threat in the gun scene and no ambition in the move. Oh well, maybe it will pick up when after a couple of unrelated conversations she walks into the office of Dink, Inc looking for a job. Bruce Willis is Dink, the professional gambler with an opening for a um, well a er, no I don't know why he hired her. To carry money and remember messages apparently. Essentially Dink works the margins in spread betting, employing the algorithms that will pay out regardless of the result. Only that's not interesting so mainly we see large bets on winners and basketball games outcomes because they're easier for an audience to comprehend.

Beth quickly shows Dink she is gifted in understanding the odds by repeating him exactly and being able to sort letters alphabetically in her head. Amazingly we're supposed to believe she's bright too, but we never see any sign of it, especially given the screeching and ditzy performance that suggests you'd tip her as a Waitress but only to get her to leave you alone. After half the movie spent in Vegas where Willis gets in a good mood than loses his temper, rinse and repeat, because of bad results. Not that there's any feeling of risk. Nothing changes; a run of good luck is followed by a run of bad luck and back again. If Dink wins he goes back to his lovely house and demanding wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones in a thankless role) and if he loses he goes back to his lovely house and demanding wife.

Even the romantic elements have no depth to them. Beth and Dink nearly have an affair, but there's no chemistry there. Dink returns to his wife because he really loves her. I guess he does because that's what he says. Not sure why, mind. Maybe because she needs him more than he needs her, or some such rubbish. Beth runs to New York with Pacey from Dawson's Creek. They find happiness. We know this because when she arrives Pacey kisses her on the stairs saying we'll have a wonderful time, and next time they're on screen she's about to go to the Caribbean (to work for a bit with Vince Vaughn) and Pacey asks why she's going when they've had such a wonderful time. Must be the kissing on stairs that's so wonderful.

Talking about Pacey (I know Joshua Jackson wasn't playing Pacey but for all anyone seemed to care about the character he may as well have been) he's filled out a bit and is looking exceptionally cute. So at least I have a new crush as a result of seeing this dire piece of crud.

Where was I? Oh yes, the plot... If you've lost track of what's going on it doesn't matter, there's nothing to miss because there are no stakes. There's a suggestion of the FBI and people going to gaol but nobody was taking it seriously apart from Pacey so it clearly didn't really matter. Finally they all watch a high-stakes basketball game and dance in a New Jersey bar. And it ends.

The performances are either forgettable or irritating, when Vince Vaughn as a loud mouth bookie is best in show you know you have problems. Furthermore there are no technical achievements worth a second glance, maybe a nice line in cheap clothes from Christopher Peterson and Laura Prepon had a striking handbag but that's not enough.

It's dreadful, badly paced, slow-witted and dull. Stephen Frears has hit a new career low and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves. Avoid avoid avoid.


Saturday, 23 June 2012

Keeping the old traditions Alive (Out this week - 22/06/12)

At the time of writing England are still clinging on in the Euros, although we'll see how they fare against Italy tomorrow evening. So therefore in this nation addicted to the Beautiful game it's natural for studios to release high volumes of uninspiring counter programming to entice the odd soccer-phobe. This week is no exception with romantic comedies and sub-standard horror vying for our attention. Personally I'm punting on a sports related medium sized release, however if I had to choose a film to recommend - and naturally I do - the film of the week is Russian art-house project Silent Souls.

Last week I was right to trust Prometheus would hang on as Box Office champion for another week and whilst Rock of Ages struggled to find a substantial it did have the highest take for a new release. This weekend my crystal ball is a more murky. With four wide releases you'd think one of them might stand a chance with Scott's terraforming blockbuster now in it's fourth week. However each of those four has big problems. I'm going to be brave though and guess the critically derided Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will sneak into the lead thanks to it's genre trappings and mid week release strategy.

Silent Souls

You'd be forgiven for having missed the buzz on Aleksei Fedorchenko's third feature because there has hardly been any. It's only major festival showing was 2010's Venice where it was passed over for Sofia Coppola's Somewhere for the Golden Lion but won the FIPRESCI proze as a consolation. But that being awarded by international critics should have been a clue that this is more art than movie and critics have fallen in love with it everywhere else. Following a Merjan funeral on the border or Russia and Finland it looks like an elegant and emotive meditation on life, death and sex.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○

Read on for much delayed weddings, spread betting and obscure history as well as all of this weeks releases and trailers.

There's some gorgeous cinematography in the Silent Souls trailer - but also some explicit shots too, so probably nsfw.

Five Year Engagement

Billed as the romantic comedy it's OK to love it's slightly surprising that the winning combination of Emily Blunt and Jason Segal didn't do better in the States than it did (sitting at a disappointing $29m). That said they do look like a lovely couple, even if you know from the title exactly how the plot will develop. Jacki Weaver and David Paymer are among the supporting cast (Emily's mother and Jason's father).

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○

Lay the Favourite

I've already seen Stephen Frears latest, and I'm in a charitable mood right now so all I'll say is the combination of the cast and director, based on the memoirs by Beth Rayner seemed like a good enough bet. I was wrong. Should have believed the reviews out of sundance. Well gloves of on Wednesday - come back for my smackdown.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○

Think like a Man

It's unlikely that the tongue in cheek adaptation of Steve Harley's "Act like a Lady, Think like a Man" self help book will do as well over here as it did in the US, where it led the charts two weeks in a row, partly because the African American cast aren't household names (even rap star Chris Brown, Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson and likeable character actor Michael Ealy), but it's getting some the best reviews in it's irrelevant sub-genre.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Where do we Go Now

Surprising everyone by winning the audience prize at Toronto last year this Lebanese musical from Nadine Labaki (Caramel) will probably suffer in comparison with the recent similar Source which also mixed song, desire and weighty themes. But where that looked at the rise of gender equality here the women aim to prevent the Muslim and Christian men of the village turning on each other.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○


Jeremie Renier has been on the fringe of breaking out internationally for years(he himself is Belgian) in spite of a highly satisfying working relationship with the Dardennes. Hopefully this biopic of Claude Francois, the writer of cabaret standard "My Way", will illuminate a few more casual film goers of his talent.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Grand Master

Extremely limited release - hello Birmingham - for this Mayamalan entry about a ruthless serial killer and the chess-obsessed detective out to stop him.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Teri Meri Kahani

Hard to get hold of a synopsis for this Bollywood release but looking at the trailer it appears to be three loves stories set in 1910, 1960 and 2012 all starring the same two actors. Whether that's a comment on their being always in love and finding each other in every reincarnation (I hope so) or just an excuse to wear hsitorical costumes and fill the 2 hour running time is difficult to assess.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

With Every Heartbeat

Does the thought of a Swedish Lesbian drama instantly want to make you head to the local multiplex? If so, I'm truly sorry as this broken family feature - a newly engaged girl falls for her step-sister - has already skipped town having had a couple of brief showings in the week. Not to worry perverts, it's available to order here.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

More likely to bore history fanatacists than enrage them this presidential mash-up seems to be committing the cardinals sin of plodding plot and unengaging CGI. That said I still feel it will do surprisingly well as audiences flock to see any derivative rubbish with the undead attached.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Chernobyl Diaries

Suspiciously long trailer for this shaky cam holiday horror from Oren Peli - producer of Paranormal Activity. It failed to get the following of his earlier success in the States and I expect it's fate here will be similarly uninspiring. Still it should last longer than most of the disposable characters.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan

The British fans heading to Ukraine for the football have acquitted themselves incredibly with the only violent outbursts seeming to come from the local extremists, however back in cinemas the lure of hard-nut supporters never wanes. There's a couple of I know you TV faces but in the main this tired story has the exposure it deserves.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○


Look out for the poor sound quality in this Tamil trailer - for which I can only apologise and grovel it's not my fault - concerning a village boy caught up in politics when he moves to the big city.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○


Coming so soon after Ill Manors seems like a poor release strategy for this more conventional gangsters from the estates, urban crime drama. Ashley Chin is the hero looking to go straight but can't kick the life of crime he's become addicted to.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○


Thursday, 21 June 2012


2012. Dir: David Cronenberg. Starring: Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, Kevin Durand, Emily Hampshire and Paul Giamatti. ●●●●○

In interviews David Cronenberg has repeatedly admitted that Robert Pattinson (or R.Pattz if you're down with the YA lingo) was not his first choice for the role of Eric Packer, investment banking billionaire and master of the universe. If memory serves me correctly Colin Farrell was originally linked to the role before the Twilight alumni got the role. It's an unlikely casting choice Cronenberg passes off as being for the investment Pattinson brings or for the right age and yet the baggage that he brings, the undead persona serve him well reminding us that Pattinson has significant promise as an actor as well as a star. Perhaps I'm being unfair starting a review of Cosmopolis adapted from Don DeLillo's 2003 novel on the merits of casting Pattinson, but on the other hand the 108 minute film comprises of duologue's with Pattinson usually in the confined space of the back of his stretch limousine so if the central casting had failed the whole film would have failed with it.

Normally I would now make a stab at summarising the plot, but this opaque curiosity barely has one, the limo crawls across New York to where Packer wants to have a haircut and as this odyssey progresses acquaintances, employees and lovers all provide prospective to the journey and what the future holds for our mysterious hero. All the while the Yuan is collapsing, Packer's marriage is disintegrating and society itself seems to be imploding. We see few of the supporting players arrive in Packer's bubble and none of them leave and only a tiny minority even consider the existence of each other, yet they all have a unique perspective on Packer's future and his character.

So if Cosmopolis (universal city Greek fans) isn't about the plot what is driving it? It's about mood, a foreboding atmospheric intensity that clings to Pattinson and it's about intellectual ideas some characters talk but many more pronounce - Samantha Morton especially spews out a collection of statements rather - and it's about the cult of money, the nameless celebrities who criss-cross Manhattan and London in their Prousted vehicles - isolating themselves from the populace around them, but when invited into their gleaming cars we see individuals as emotionless and vapid as the imposing exteriors.

Packer has lost the ability to feel. His vast portfolio, incomprehensible to the audience, has eaten away at his soul so sex, art, politics, family and even violence no longer elicit a response. And so Pattinson is perfect for the role, there's an emptiness in the eyes, so exploited in his casting as Edward Cullen, that invites us to believe this playboy desperate for any high. Finally his alt-Twilight career is paying off and I very much hope to see him stretch himself, working for other auteurs that play with his image.

The rest of the cast do a great job, however many of them are simple ciphers, they appear for single conversations and almost represent emotional states. Morton is detached, Juliet Binoche slutty, Jay Baruchel nervy, Paul Giamatti angry. Only Emily Hampshire as his assistant, called in on her day off and clearly in awe of his talents and sexuality (even during a prostate exam), gets the chance to show any range, something she grabs with both hands becoming a beacon of characterisation in the centre of the movie.

Cronenberg does a fantastic job of boiling down DeLillo's novel and capturing the relevance of the anti-capitalist sentiment. Whilst this is another film that fits in his later canon of movies that shoot for the audience's intellectual reactions rather than their physical ones - there's a gunshot wound at one point that stays remarkably un-Cronenbergian - there is a glimmer of his earlier work in the otherworldliness of it's leading character and the acceptance that society is balanced on a knife-edge and one slight tilt either way will inevitable lead to anarchy.

Overall Cosmopolis is divisive and dense, but although many viewers will want to escape from it's bleak ramblings a few will find it's black heart is worth the ticket price.


Saturday, 16 June 2012

All that way for a Haircut (Out this week - 15/06/12)

We're breaking new ground this weekend with unprecedented levels of choice in cinemas - in London at any rate - with 16 new releases vying for audiences. Of course many of them have extremely limited openings and won't be making much impact with audiences regardless of the critical response. Don't be deterred by that as there's lots of goodies around if you're prepared to go the extra mile for them. From intrigues in the Danish court to child protection there's some significant foreign language releases as well as the crowdpleasers which could be worth the ticket price. I'm going somewhere in the middle, avoiding the sure-fire hits and the single venue openings and plumping for the strange looking collaboration between one of cinemas biggest heartthrobs and the king of venereal horror. The Runs like a Gay film of the week is Cosmopolis.

Last weekend I was correct in assuming the top three box office titles would remain the same and, although Snow White slipped behind the Men in Black, Prometheus clung to the top spot like a acid-blooded penis-snake to a lost biologist's arm. I made a fatal flaw in over-estimating Plan B's cross-over appeal and the concept Ill Manors struggled, only just making it into the top ten, instead date friendly horror flick The Pact took an average takings three times higher, although I suspect only one of those films will be remembered in 6 months time. This weekend Ridley Scott will probably be just about hang on to the lead and whilst I'd like to cheer on plucky British sporting heroes in Fast Girls I think the karaoke sounds of 80's that is Rock of Ages will get the lions share of the newbies.


It's been barely four months since David Cronenberg last film was released - the staid but solid Dangerous Mind - so it's a little surprising to see his follow-up in cinemas so soon. Until you learn it's filmed almost exclusively in a limo as R. Pattz off Twilight crosses town for a haircut. I'll let you know whether it's as absurd as that synopsis sounds later in the week.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●●●○○

Read on for strutting stars, mad kings and blind mediums as well as all of this weeks trailers after the jump.

Or as bonkers as the trailer suggests. Warning - there are flashes in this trailer.

Rock of Ages

I'm a big fan of Adam Shankman's film adaptation of Hairspray so in theory I should be queuing round the block for his second big screen musical, and yet... There's something about the self-referential format that seemed charming in the popping colours of the 60's but appears to be awfully self-important here. The terrific cast which includes Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx is impressive though so maybe I'm missing the point.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●○○○○

Royal Affair

Danish historical romp which surprised everyone at the Berlin festival by winning best screenplay and best actor for Mikkel Boe Folsgaard as the crazy monarch whose wife carries on with progressive Machiavellian - in that isn't a contradiction in terms - Mads Mikkelsen.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●○○○○○


One of my ex-partner's was a Social worker in a children's team and I'm sure some of things he used to share with me might be reflected in this procedural semi-documentary from France about the Police team sent in to protect children in danger. Both the lows and the highs and the occasional moments of office politics. Should be worth catching.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Red Lights

Rodrigo Cortes came to everyone's attention when he placed Ryan Reynolds in a box for Buried and whilst his parapsychology thriller follow-up might not have as high a concept he's drawn a trio of heavyweight performers (Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver and Robert De Niro as a blind spoon bender) but whilst everyone agrees the low key, fraud debunking first half is great the telekinesis filled final act is splitting audiences.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Desi Romeos

I apologise for the dreadful sound recording for this Punjab trailer. Honestly, you might think they didn't want an audience. I think it's about a band coming to melt the hearts of female audiences everywhere, but I can't be sure.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Fast Girls

It's surprising that the only film to capitalise on London's forthcoming turn as the Olympic host comes from multi-hyphenate Noel Clarke, although maybe not given his drive and ambition. The story may be predictable - four girls must overcome their difficulties to win the women's 4x400 relay - but even the trailer has the necessary feelgood, triumph over adversity vibe.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Ferrari ki Sawaari

Now admit it, there's no way on reading the title of this Bollowood release that you thought it was about a young boy searching for a cricketting hero and finding himself in the batting order at Lords. Don't worry there is a sup-plot about a missing iconic red motor.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○


Turkish psychodrama in which a mysterious tramp arrives in a village, immediately saves a boy from drowning and is then treated alternately as a saint and a demon. Then the world starts to go mad. Ambitious, certainly.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Late September

No trailer for this British curio, unsurprising given the nature of the piece. Using improvisation, natural light and long wide takes Jon Sanders' movies explores the cracks in a 40 year old marriage over one long painful weekend.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

[Rec]3 Genesis

I'm not sure if this Spanish horror threequel counts as a new release as I understand it was only showing in one obscure cinema for two days in the week. Still it'll be out on DVD in September so maybe they'll be some more showings in the meantime. You can tell how little I care about the plot that takes the zombies from the last two out of the block and into a wedding party.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Requiem for a Killer

It wouldn't be a packed week without a French thriller, and so Melanie Laurent is here to icily dispatch all her opponents in this game of cat, mouse and hired assassin. Not sure where the opera bits come in - are we meant to believe she sings packed out concerts by day and then murders by night?

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

The Squad

Nine Columbian soldiers head up a mountain to fight guerillas. Only nothing could prepare them for what they's find up there. I'm guessing it's devil worshipping ghouls and most of them won't get out alive - but then I have just watched the trailer.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○


Please make it stop! Cheap digimation and Barry Manilow soundtrack aside there's a reason why this extended commercial break with Charlie Sheen and Hilary Duff hasn't been released in the States. Because it's rubbish. Miss it the UK on one day only. Vue cinema chain - I am ashamed of you.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Murattu Kalai

It's saying something about a kollywood release when not only is there no imdb page but the closest I can find to a trailer is five minutes of two camera monologues. Please don't feel you have to watch it - I didn't. I hope something actually happens in the 2 hour long full version.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Thousand Kisses Deep

Ham fisted looking thriller that seems to have an exciting cast (it's good to see Emilia Fox stretching anyway) but once you watch the trailer the whole plot seems to fall into place and it's tough to keep an interest.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Spooky Hotel, again (Out this week - 08/06/12)

You'd be forgiven for thinking there's nothing new coming out this weekend, even though that is patently ludicrous as there are 8 new films hitting some cinemas. However on Friday 454 cinemas are showing Prometheus - the most prolific at cinemas - Men In Black III is at 431 cinemas, Snow White and the Huntsman at 416, followed by Top Cat and Avengers Assemble. Only then, the sixth biggest release in just 270 cinemas do we reach this weekends biggest opening. And whilst I'm not slavishly devoted to the big ticket movies it's hard to get excited about anything when no-one's trying hard to sell you anything. It's the first (only) week this year where the film of the week needed 4 blobs to get the accolade, and it's a rare foray into pure horror, so if you see anything go see The Innkeepers.

Prometheus did indeed own the box office charts last weekends, but it was generally a fantastic few days - thank you Your Majesty - which meant none of the bigger releases disappointed. It goes without saying that nothing out this week is going to threaten the Space Jockey's grip on audiences. That said it's a big scrap for the films that are coming out. I'm going to predict Plan B's eviscerating dissection of modern life on the working class estates iLL Manors, not least because it has the advantage of a parallel album release.


Ti West's House of the Devil shocked both seasoned horror fans and sniffy critics when it shocked the bejesus out of everyone in 2009 so its' great to see him back in this creepy lo-fi horror set in the closing weekend of a haunted hotel, with two ambivalent employees more concerned with ghost-hunting (probably a mistake).

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Read on for hero flyboys, autobiographical flights of fantasy and a rapper shouting "Oi", as well as all of this weeks trailers.

I had forgotten Kelly McGillis was in this until I rewatched the trailer - I don't believe she communes with the dead, though.


In 2008, after a near fatal accident on one of his movies, South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk suffered from a nervous breakdown. This return is either a re-enactment of his emotional state at the time or a documentary on his therapy helping him come to terms with it depending on your point of view, either way it seems utterly compelling.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Red Tails

George Lucas has promised his take on the pioneer African-American squadron of World War II pilots - The Tuskagee Airmen - for over 20 years and it's a shame that he eventually farmed it out to renowned TV director Anthony Hemingway to take the helm. Guaranteed to have superb, relalistic dogfights, the worry has always been that the subtlety of the racial discrimination they faced would be watered down or overdone, and the early buzz pretty much substantiates that possibility. The cast includes Cuba Gooding Jnr and Terrence Howard.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Casa de mi Padre

I know that all the good jokes are probably in the trailer but there is something oddly endearing about Will Ferrell's willingness to try new things, and to make a spoof of Mexican soap operas with two of the worlds most famous latino actors completely in Spanish. Is hope it's a success here, but even if not props to Will for trying.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Fantastic Fear of Everything

Inspired by a short story from Withnail & I creator Bruce Robinson it's inevitable that Chrispian "Kula Shaker" Mills' directorial debut would be heavy on the weird and grotesque. Grubby underpants and terrifying hedgehogs abound in this tale of one paranoiac's attempt to visit to laundrette. Features a tour de force performance from Simon Pegg.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Harsh Light of Day

It's difficult to know, but I think the trailer for this British horror gives more away than it probably should. We know that our wheelchair bound hero's wife is brutally murdered and we know he contracts someone to dispose of the killers. Or is that some thing?

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Ill Manors

I could just have easily posted the latest music video from Plan B (otherwise known as Ben Drew) as the entire movie is the closest Hip hop has come to a concept album in years with each track, performed by Plan B as narration, provides a succinct personal history of each of the story strands. This makes the film come across as a angry mix of Loachian miserablism and musical fantasy. It's worried the right wing press with it's bleak picture of society deserving the underclass established in the UK and sets out Drew as a talent to watch in cinema too.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

The Pact

The last of this weeks releases is the one that's showing in most cinemas, but short of a few TV spots and a half-hearted bus campaign there's not been too much fuss about this so-so looking cut and paste horror. Lots of pasty looking people getting dragged about the house by unseen forces. Well if that's your sort of thing, it's probably your sort of thing.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○


Wednesday, 6 June 2012


2012. Dir: Ridley Scott. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Logan Marshall-Green. ●●●○○

The levels of anticipation for Ridley Scott's Prometheus have been extraordinary, which does make it very difficult to review. I suppose I should start by saying that if want to see Ridley returning the "Alien" universe, albeit with a film that isn't a sequel or a direct prequel, then you should do so without reading any reviews and without - if at all possible - watching the trailers. That is not to say you should be wary of spoilers (I'm always wary of people who over concern themselves with spoilers, it's an Alien movie people will go to space and most of them will die is the basic plot). I say it because I feel you as an audience member need to have the opportunity to make your own mind up about the film and about the points it's trying to make.

Prometheus itself, named after the mythological anti-hero who stole fire from the Gods, is the exploratory space ship looking for life forms on planet LV-223. Headed by archaeology professors Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green their aim is to identify whether a collection of cave drawings and hieroglyphs that indicate ancient civilisations worshipping at the feet of intergalactic beings point to the creators, the engineers who created mankind. Meanwhile corporate bigwig Charlize Theron is there to keep the expedition under control on behalf of the Weyland Corporation with the able yet sinister support of android Michael Fassbender and oddly laid back ships captain Idris Alba. There's even an extended cameo from Weyland himself, a holographic Guy Pearce with shit on his face (apparently the 80+ actors like Kirk Douglas or Max von Sydow we'd have love to see in this weren't available) pulling strings from the other side of the universe.

There are other crew members - the on-screen exposition tells us of a crew of 17 - but only 6 others have names and not all of those have any sort of character depth. It's like over half of the crew have been plucked from the Star Trek list of doomed minor characters. Not that cannon fodder is a bad thing but it's indicative of the change of tone between Scott initial explorations into space and the much larger canvas he utilises here. In 1979 the major topic of conversation - even after the star beast started to chew on the crew - was the rate of pay and the improvised devices used to stop it. In spite of the occasional nods to it's origins here we have more concern over the bigger picture, and the number of philosophical questions thrown at us is astounding:

If we were created by aliens can there be a God?
Who, then, created them?
What is it to be human?
Do genetics or shared ideas matter more to creating family?
Why do we die?

et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

I like a good philosophical point to a film as much as anyone, long term readers will know how I like to think deeply about certain mattters, but here the reeling off of questions dulled the senses, preventing me from choosing one to fix on and actually engage with. (For the record if anyone wants to discuss those points in the comments I would be delighted to do so)

The intrepid scientists head off to a possible settlement to search for further clues and stumble upon the chamber with the giant head and collection of egg like cylinders as seen in the poster above. In exposing the chamber to the atmosphere a chain reaction is set off and one by one our crew begin to meet their makers either singularly or in larger numbers where expedient for the plot. We get a glimpse of Alien like creatures, parasitic worms and sapphic organisms as well as discovering the identity of the macguffin space jockey from the initial movie.

Noomi Rapace does an excellent job in the lead role, proving there's more to her than a dragon tattoo, with her character's faith and emotional well-being tested through ecstatic pleasure, grief, betrayal and panic. There is one scene in particular where where has to deal with the death of another character then perform an medical procedure on herself to prevent her own death which is both grotesque and a surprisingly well performed set-piece.

Elsewhere the performances are fine, if a little one note, Theron is a bitch with daddy issues, Elba is salty and pragmatic. Many reviewers have praised Fassbender's performance as the android David and whilst technically virtuoso with it's influences of Peter O'Toole as T.E. Lawrence, elements of fey valets and a keen physicality, but personally I was shocked by his emotion which felt inappropriate. There are moments where other characters discuss whether David is more than machine and you can tell he is taking on board what they think and responding to it - taking it on board to use it later. Unlike Ian Holm's malevolent programming Fassbender appears to be choosing his own destiny - he is capable of decision making in a way none of his android counterparts in the franchise were able to do.

Ridley is in his element here, planet building on a massive scale. It was filmed predominantly in Iceland and sound-stages but you buy LV-226's geographical set-up and the organic superstructures that house the chambers. He does a fine job of wringing the tension out of the screenplay, deftly allowing the grand themes to carry us along, although it's worth noting this has none of the sense of impending doom we felt in the original Alien movie. Although I would point out my theory that Scott is only as good a director as the script he's given is not challenged here.

Damon Lindehof is probably responsible for the weakest element with much of the dialogue feeling false and unnecessarily expositionary, far from the naturalism of Dan O'Bannon.

The design of Premtheus is fascinating, more sleek and apparently hi-tech than the Nostromo it shows the importance Weyland industries places on the mission's success.

I really don't trust the biology of the film. I struggle with understanding how certain creatures can grow at such incredible rates without taking in any food (this always struck me as the weak link in the Alien life cycle) and if we are created from the DNA of alien lifeforms how come our DNA strands is so similar to other creatures on Earth, evolution is given a brief mention but batted aside by the faithful. There are also many more questions than answers in this episode, what is the effect of the infection on the brain, how does the space jockey breath, what is David motivation and whilst I agree a good film leaves you with questions there seem to be too many here. I am also reminded of the old joke about a man ran over by a train who was asked why he didn't run up the embankment to escape and replied "If I couldn't outrun it on the flat how could I outrun it going uphill?" You will have to watch until the end to get that.

Overall I can recommend the spectacle of Prometheus and would even go as far as saying it should be seen in cinemas, but I won't pretend it's a great film and I expect they're be much better sci-fi's and blockbusters in the coming months.


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Daytrip to LV-223 (Out this week - 01/06/12)

I have probably said this before (many many times before) but I have a complex relationship with blockbuster movies. On the one hand I do like to see the odd crowd-pleaser - last year I saw Thor, Pirates and Twilight at cinemas - I'm always more of a sucker for dramas. So the background of those blockbuster, female friendly franchises and one directed by a known Shakespearean is telling. More often I don't watch them and when I do it's only half heartedly, you have to go back to The Hunger Games in mid March before I last choose a top grossing movie as my pick of the week (and note I stayed at home that weekend). This weekend though I'm going to change my usual tack and sail into the wind of box office champions. There are two hugely anticipated cinematic treats over the Jubilee both looking for very different audiences, but my clear favourite (the sci-fi geek within me is jumping for joy), the RLAG film of the week, is Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

MIB3 did indeed squeeze it's way to the top of the UK box office last weekend, but it's performance was notably bad, falling well short of expectations partly due to the scathing reviews but also because of the lovely weather. Naturally it won't stay at the top as the Alien prequel of sorts battles it out with Snow White version 2 so which of the newbies will take the crown. On the one hand Prometheus has more screens, however we're at the beginning of half term, Jubilee weekend and Snow White skews younger with a much more marketable cast. I'm biased though so I'm plumping for Prometheus as the box office champion next weekend.


Well, here we are. Nearly 35 years after Ridley Scott kicked off the Alien franchise he is finally returning to the sci-fi cash cow that both made his name and changed the way we look at outer space. It's been high on the list if anticipated titles for 2012 so audiences will be flocking to see whether Scott can once again produce the intensity and naturalism in extraordinary circumstances that he was able to achieve before.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●●●○○○○

Read on for whisky tasting, manga inspired fantasies and a wicked, wicked queen as well as all of this weeks trailers.

No doubt you've seen nearly all of the trailers released so far, but if you haven't I wouldn't recommend starting now as the sense of incoming spoilerish is overpowering.

Angels' Share

Ken Loach has just received the Jury prize from Cannes from his eleventh appearance competing for the Palme D'Or, known for his realist portrayal of working class Britain this time he reunites with Sweet Sixteen writer Paul Laverty for another look at young Glaswegians teetering on the edge of society. Although the rare whisky plot brings some much needed humanity to the proceedings.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○


Shion Sono's latest feature made a big splash at Venice last year partly because of the films backstory. When the making of this Manga adaptation was interrupted by the tsunami instead of putting production on hold Sono decided to use the devastated landscapes to underscore the protagonists drift towards psychosis. Worth making the journey to catch it.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Snow White and the Huntsman

Charlize Theron is simply having a ball at Rowena the wicked queen at the poisonous core of this latest fairy tale adaptation. With nods to 21st century concerns of body image and chaste love triangles I expect audiences will flock to see Kristen Stewart trying out a new franchise started and with the dwarves including Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost and Ray Winstone there's pretty much something for everyone.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●●○○○○○○

Turin Horse

Billed as Bela Tarr's final movie (I'm not completely sure why given the Hungarian auteur is only 57) this deeply philosophical apocalyptic piece inspired by Nietsche's mental breakdown astounded and confounded audiences at last years Berlin film festival. I did want to give it a better blob rating but it's best surprisingly under-reviewed and will only be shown at one cinema.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Mallu Singh

Bollywood fans have three options this weekend, although two of them (including this effort) have extremely limited releases so won't build up huge returns. The plot involves two friends from the same village the first of whom needs to persuade the other to return.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

On the Sly

For a long time I thought this French movie starred everyone's favourite shoplifting tomboyish actress. But it turns out it's Wynona Ringer, the daughter of the films director, who plays a young girl who runs away and builds her own life in the woods. Visually interesting I wonder if there's enough plot to keep the adults entertained?

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

Rowdy Rathore

Bollywood superstar Akshay Kumar headlines this action comedy - complete with ridiculous moustache - about a small town con-man, the girl he falls for, a mafia boss who's out to kill him and a strange child convinced Akshay's her father. Akshay has his fans so it could pick up an audience.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○

22 Female Kottayam

Strange looking Mayamalan feature which starts off looking like a low key romance, but then's then a fight in a urinal and the visuals veer into something close to Funny Games lite. What do you think?

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●●○○○○○○○


Why do I feel Miley Cyrus is older than she actually is? At 20 she certainly isn't too old to play a high-schooler churning through boyfriends in this family friendly pic. Whether she can command an audience here in the UK remains to be seen.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○

Top Cat - The Movie

I used to love Top Cat as a kid and no doubt I wasn't alone, especially in Mexico where it was such a huge hit Warners lent the property rights to Anima Estudios to make a big screen version. It's taken an amazing $8m there but remains to be seen if it will travel, especially with a slightly convoluted plot and over stretched jokes we see in this trailer.

Runs like a Gay Excitometer: ●●○○○○○○○○