Filth  (2013)    73/100

Rating :   73/100                                                                       97 Min        18

Great film. James McAvoy gives a commanding turn, arguably his finest performance to date, as Bruce Robertson the Edinburgh copper with ‘issues’ in Jon S. Baird’s interpretation of Irvine Welsh’s novel. Filmed in Scotland’s capital this is replete with all the drugs, violence, corruption and black humour/foul language one expects from Welsh’s writing, as we become engaged in Bruce’s struggle to obtain, by any means possible, the promotion at work against his rival colleagues, amongst them Jamie Bell and Imogen Poots, whilst also wondering exactly what is going on regarding his relationship with his wife (Shauna Macdonald). Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent, Kate Dickie and Martin Compston round out the more familiar faces in the cast, and everyone is good in this throughout as the story keeps us guessing, and often laughing, from start to finish. Oscar nod for McAvoy? For The Red Dragon, he and Michael Douglas, in ‘Behind the Candelabra‘, have given the two most memorable male performances of the year so far …

The Great Beauty / La Grande Bellezza  (2013)    65/100

Rating :   65/100                                                                     142 Min        15

From writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (‘The Consequences of Love’ 04, ‘This Must be the Place’ 11) and seemingly owing a lot to Fellini’s seminal ‘La Dolce Vita’ (60), with a similar raft of the well to do social intelligentsia going through existential crises, this Italian film follows main character Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a writer and one time novelist living in Rome (with a flat overlooking the Colosseum, incidentally) whom we learn never penned a second book as he was searching for ‘The Great Beauty’ of existence. A strong vein of comedy permeates this semi-surrealist consideration of the human experience, but it’s never really, to use a bit of a juxtaposition, LOL worthy despite the good intent. The undeniable sophistication of the conceptual artwork of the film is grand, but I can’t help but feel there exists a depressing smugness to not just the movie, but also many of the characters – garish in their almost nihilistic narcissism.

The avant-garde direction is at its most successful when capturing the frenetic and hedonistic atmosphere of the several florid and somewhat debauched parties that the main characters like to throw for one another, like a sort of extended cerebral series of art house Carlsberg ads (although here the product placement is very obviously for Peroni, whose ads have of course also alluded to ‘La Dolce Vita’ and Anita Ekberg’s classic scene in the Trevi Fountain). Someone I spoke to after the screening concluded that they had no idea what this film was about, but they were certain they liked it, and would probably go and see it again. I’m not sure it merits a second viewing (says I, going to see the not quite so high brow R.I.P.D again), but giving it the once over is certainly justified, and there are some nice touches – like the end credits playing over the top of footage of the Tiber in Rome, for example.

‘Baby, it’s You’ by The Shirelles, a version of which featured in the Peroni ad, followed by the original fountain scene from ‘La Dolce Vita’

The Call  (2013)    67/100

Rating :   67/100                                                                       94 Min        15

Haley Berry stars as an emergency call centre operator who one day makes a mistake that results in the brutal execution of a young teenage girl at the hands of a sadistic serial killer (Michael Eklund). As she has questions of faith about herself the killer remains at large, just waiting to strike again….Of course, casually chatting with people on the phones and just as casually taking self appointed breaks in the beginning never really boded well for her career. Brad Anderson of ‘The Machinist’ (04) fame directs, and despite an iffy start this becomes an engaging thriller with moments of both genuine excitement and revulsion. I’m not convinced by the ending, but Eklund and Abigail Breslin as a young victim in particular give very good performances.

R.I.P.D.  (2013)    63/100

Rating :   63/100                                                                       96 Min        12A

It’s never really a good sign when one of your principal leads, in this case Jeff Bridges, comes out and publicly puts their own film down – here saying the final cut left him feeling ‘underwhelmed’. Going by its critical drubbing, that was putting it mildly for most people, and although it is true the whole movie constantly has an air of ‘this could have been much better’ and there’s a definite feeling of flatness throughout, especially in the first half, I’ll throw the gauntlet down and say it’s actually still quite fun.

Bridges buddies up with Ryan Reynolds to play two dead cops, in the case of Reynolds one very recently deceased, who have been unwittingly selected by the celestial forces of heaven to join the R.I.P.D. (Rest In Peace Department) and hunt down the dead souls (or deados as they’re called, a word which I certainly hope enters into the common vernacular. It’s a hell of a lot better than recent lexical addition ‘double denim’, in fact maybe the two could be switched…) who have by hook or crook escaped judgement from the almighty and are currently hiding in human form on Earth. It is a pretty cool premise and it’s based on the graphic novel of the same name by Peter M. Lenkov, although it does come across as a little too similar to ‘Men in Black’ (97), especially in the beginning, but despite this one of the film’s biggest pluses is that it doesn’t waste any time – the story continues to unfold at a good pace, and so the similarities are quickly forgotten.

Gags feature prominently, and like everything else they usually work to at least some degree. Used time and again is the fact that the two main characters are given disguises, or ‘avatars’, once they’re returned to the land of the living – for Reynolds, an old Chinese man (James Hong), and Bridges, a tall hot blonde (Marisa Miller). It’s a nice touch. Kevin Bacon has another good turn as the bad guy (see 2010’s ‘Super’) but one of the film’s strengths is the commitment of Bridges, who was murdered way back in the old west and sports a pretty unique cowboy accent. It’s unique to the point of not being able to understand what he’s saying all the time (apparently the sound department had issues with this) but it still works well and adds a lot of flavour to both his character and the film. Mary-Louise Parker is also good in support.

Personally I hope they make another one – here’s a glimpse behind the scenes …

Rush  (2013)    80/100

Rating :   80/100                                                                     123 Min        15

Director Ron Howard kicks all memories of his lame duck ‘The Dilemma’ (11) into the dust with a fuel injected character study of the real life infamous formula one rivalry between straight laced and professional Austrian Nicki Lauder (Daniel Brühl) and playboy adrenaline junky Brit James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth). I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to this, partly because I don’t watch the sport (the only race I did watch was in the late nineties when one of the cars was engulfed in flames whilst in the pits, which certainly adds weight to the statement Lauder makes in the film that each time he steps into the car he accepts a twenty percent chance he will die) and partly due to an overload of marketing and exposure to the trailer at least thirteen times – and multiple different versions at that, in fact not only does each contain major spoilers and play with the narrative in a false way, but they combine to give the feeling of having already seen the film before it’s even started. Crazy.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take long before I was drawn into the story and the excitement of being thrust into the driver’s seat through multiple close fought, and sometimes catastrophic, races. The film charts the long standing antagonism between the drivers, and successfully plays around with demonstrating the pluses and minuses to each of their individual characters, constantly challenging our sympathies for each and having us second guessing which one we’d actually like to see win. It’s a very good film – one reminiscent of ‘Senna’, a fantastic documentary set in the eighties and early nineties {here it’s the seventies} and focusing on another powerhouse of the sport, Ayrton Senna. In both films, if you are not in the know about the events and drivers concerned then you are at an advantage, as it is far better to go in with no idea what the outcome will be and the two compliment each other nicely. Here, Rush sees both leads giving great, believable, contrasting performances, with equally good support from the likes of Olivia Wilde and Alexandra Maria Lara.

White House Down  (2013)    71/100

Rating :   71/100                                                                     131 Min        12A

Hitting cinemas not long after ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ this is essentially exactly the same story, as terrorists invade the White House and only Channing Tatum can stop them. Perhaps suffering slightly from being released second, it still manages to be quite fun, in fact various elements work slightly better – the child in peril scenario and some of the fight sequences for example. Similarly, it’s DNA closely mirrors that of Die Hard (88), in fact the character played here by Jason Clarke is very much a simulacrum of Karl in Die Hard, just as here the computer hacker Tyler (Jimmi Simpson) is essentially Theo, replete with one of his scenes being accompanied with classical music. There are also elevator scenes with the heroes listening to the terrorists below them, ‘rescue’ by helicopter plays a big role, and I think one of the lines used over the radio may almost be word for word the same as one issued forth by Bruce Willis all those years ago. But… who cares? Just as if you like one AC/DC song, you will probably like the majority of the rest (they stuck to a winning formula) if you enjoy Die Hard esque stories then they don’t ever really get old, so long as they’re done well. Roland Emmerich directs (‘Independence Day’ 96, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ 04, ‘Anonymous’ 11) but manages to limit at least some of the cheese factor (you can still expect a decent amount though) and Tatum along with Jamie Foxx as the president do a reasonable job overall. Don’t have high expectations, but it should still satisfy any sudden cravings for an action blockbuster.

Justin and the Knights of Valour  (2013)    70/100

Rating :   70/100                                                                       90 Min        PG

A fairytale adventure story aimed at a young audience, but one that should still be fun and likeable for adults too. Justin lives in a medieval village where valorous knights have been banished from the realm thanks to a draconian series of bureaucratic laws, largely instigated by his lawmaker father and aimed at creating a more civilised kingdom, but in reality ruining everyone’s lives. Rather like living in modern day Britain. As it turns out, heroism runs in Justin’s veins as his grandfather was one of the bravest knights of all, and despite his father’s wishes that he enter into the law profession himself, he instead sets out to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a knight and to perhaps win the affections of the local rich hottie in the process. On the way he will encounter villains and feisty barmaids, dour Scottish sword masters and war game playing monks and ultimately his faith in fighting for what is right will be put to the test. It’s a Spanish film (in English), indeed it opens with ‘Antonio Banderas presents’, with a pretty sterling voice cast including Banderas himself, Freddie Highmore, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, James Cosmo, Alfred Molina and Julie Walters to name but a few. The animation is warm and has a unique feel to it, although the human faces look somewhat blood drained at times, and notwithstanding a few slightly irritating character moments, it’s a nice film. Should be fine for young children due to the lack of any real blood letting despite all the sword play. There’s also a nod to mechanical owl friend/pest Bubo in ‘Clash of the Titans’ (81) – but why just a nod? They should have recreated the entire character – who doesn’t want to go adventuring with a fully functioning owl automaton?

Insidious : Chapter 2  (2013)    63/100

Rating :   63/100                                                                     106 Min        15

Blumhouse productions rolls out the sequel to one of their most successful horror films to date, 2010’s smash hit ‘Insidious’, with the story continuing immediately after the events of the first film and with the return of director James Wan and the principal cast members, including leads Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. If you are a fan of horror films and haven’t seen the original, then you absolutely must get hold of a copy of it before you watch this one, otherwise it’ll be ruined for you and, to be succinct, this isn’t anywhere near as good or as scary. To sum up the story without introducing spoilers, it’s essentially the classic setup of a normal family with children being pestered by ghosts, but the original was one of the best horror films of the last several years. Here, it is still fun to see what happens to the characters, and to indulge in the continuation of the story, but there’s no doubt it has lost a lot of its bite this time around.

About Time  (2013)    10/100

Rating :   10/100                                                                     123 Min        12A

Garbage. Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers he can travel back in time to any point that he has previously experienced thanks to the time travelling gene he has inherited from his father (Bill Nighy), and so he decides to spend the majority of the film, and indeed his life, using it to get laid with Mary (Rachel McAdams – continuing her sexual perversion for time travelling lovers, after 2009’s ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’). Actually Mary turns out to be quite easy, so it isn’t especially difficult for him and most of the film is padded out with very obvious time travelling gags as it meanders along with writer/director Richard Curtis’ upper middle class spoiled London centric characters who scarcely have any real problems to deal with, other than worrying about how to fall in love in the politest way possible and which swanky restaurant to go to. According to Curtis, the law profession that Tim chooses is entirely dominated by men – which century is he living in? And of course Tim never seems to think about using his powers to help out the people he defends in court, or indeed for doing anything especially interesting whatsoever.

Meanwhile Mary, being gainfully employed as an editor reading books for a living, which she loves, for some reason hates theatre, which makes absolutely no sense, but she is passionate about her idol Kate Moss. Kate Moss? What exactly has she ever done except stand around in her underwear posing and snorting mountains of cocaine, unless it’s dating a ‘rockstar’ so repugnant that even the press eventually got bored of him? Of course she’s in the script because Curtis has admitted his own salivary predilection for Moss. Then he gives McAdams an audience silencer of a line – whilst she’s stripping off her clothes to get information from Tim about the wedding and, upon reaching the threshold of her knickers, she asks where the honeymoon is to be, to which he suggests Scotland, her response is “I’m not taking my pants off for Scotland!”. No problem – come up north and we’ll take them off for you lass. I can only assume this references some kind of Jungian archetypal fear of the sexual prowess of the Scots. In response I think it should henceforth be every red blooded Scotsman’s duty to try and get into Rachel McAdams’ pants, although really we’d prefer Curtis had put the line in Notting Hill and we could chase Julia Roberts. Still, not sure I’d kick Rachel McAdams out of bed. Give her a good kick her up the arse, maybe…

Toward the end of the film we find motifs of death and loss and whiffs of emotional essence begin to drift into the story, and here it is more successful, but it is beyond redemption by this point. Tim’s airhead but easy to love sister (played by Lydia Wilson) is at one point taken back in time to demonstrate the man she had entered into a destructive relationship with was in fact no good, as thus now not meeting her at a party he instead simply hits on a different girl. What?! So he’s a ‘bad guy’ because he hits on girls at parties when he’s single? As if members of both sexes don’t attend parties all over the world precisely because they hope they will meet someone there, plus the girl he talks to doesn’t exactly seem upset at the attention he gives her. Is the assumption that this man is some sort of unstoppable demonic sexual force that all girls have no choice about submitting to?

This also completely ignores the enormity of the double standards that are applied throughout the story – Tim changes something which means he misses what would have been his first meeting with Mary, who instead shacks up with someone she meets AT A PARTY – someone she doesn’t know before hand and is quite clearly shown to be a creepy idiot. Tim, realising his mistake, then finds out exactly the right thing to say to Mary to impress her by repeating history again and again and again. This is somehow not intensely wrong on every level. Eventually, his lies should be unravelled and the fact their relationship is based on nothing at all unearthed, but of course it never is as he can alter everything, spending many lifetimes over perfecting his space time continuum rape of Mary, purely because he finds her hot, not really based on her personality in any meaningful way. Given the speed Mary also jumps into the sack with him, I guess she wasn’t really that fussy anyway.

Then there’s the babies – Tim cannot travel once he has created a child without altering the precise sperm and egg that met (if he goes back beyond conception that is), thus creating a different child. Somehow he corrects this error the first time he makes it and gets his young daughter back (she briefly becomes a young boy), also a little absent minded of his father not to mention this drawback, but later on when his third child is about to be born he decides to go back once again because clearly annihilating that unborn but fully formed child is fine so long as he hasn’t actually seen its face – who’ll know the difference, right?


Ain’t Them Bodies Saints  (2013)    59/100

Rating :   59/100                                                                       96 Min        15

A film that has its moments, but overall feels largely pointless, not to mention derivative of the work of Terrence Malick. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play Bob and Ruth respectively – young lovers involved in a gang of thieves that we don’t really learn too much about, as very early on the police put an end to their career of choice by sending Bob to jail and leaving a now pregnant Ruth in the care of their adopted father Skerritt (Keith Carradine). Years further on, one of the local sheriffs, played by Ben Foster (who normally plays a total creep, and here looks completely out of his element, and frankly unbelievable, trying to be the ‘nice guy’), decides he rather fancies his chances of looking after Ruth and her young girl, which just so happens to coincide with the jail break of a certain ardent and desperate young father …

Overall the entire film feels like it’s trying too hard to be ‘arty’ and heavy with ‘depth’, and it reminds The Red Dragon a lot of ‘To The Wonder’ – there we seen Olga Kurylenko frolic in the fields with the sun low in the sky behind her, here we see Rooney Mara frolic in the fields with the sun low in the sky behind her. The music and the way it’s used feels similar, and although there is a lot more dialogue here, it still retains attempts at wanky poetry – especially issuing forth from Bob, and Affleck rarely convinces in any scene here. Indeed, one in particular is downright annoying as he delivers some vain rambling monologue in front of the mirror whilst chewing on something, slurring his words and talking in an unnatural affected way, ironically perhaps an attempt at ‘realism’. Given Casey’s brother, Ben Affleck, also starred in ‘To The Wonder’, these things do not seem like coincidence at all. Mara and Carradine are good, but with the pretentious title heralding a particularly hollow drama, it was wishful thinking indeed for director David Lowery if he thought this would touch base with such outlaw classics as ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (67) and ‘Badlands’ (73) – the latter of which was also directed by Malick. Coincidence?