Saturday 27 August 2016

1,001 Films: "Super Fly" (1972)

For several reasons, we might consider Super Fly Son of Shaft. In 1971, Gordon Parks made the keynote blaxploitation feature about the private dick who reportedly gets all the chicks; the following year, Gordon Parks Jr. directed a film clearly indebted to his father's work (and, no doubt, Shaft's box-office success) yet possessed of the somewhat brattish desire to shock and never compromise in the way Shaft had. The latter film, released by MGM, was very careful to point out its lead character stood firmly on the right side of law and order. As an independent production, Super Fly seems altogether readier to prickle delicate sensibilities, introducing Ron O'Neal's eponymous dealer hero Youngblood Priest snorting coke off a crucifix while in bed with - zut alors! - a naked and willing white chick. Richard Roundtree's Shaft kept his cool, but O'Neal's Priest - a karate nut getting high on his own supply, in possession of a handlebar moustache so vast he could probably smack his enemies upside the head with it - is furious; in his righteous ire, he could be a black brother to the Angry Young Men who'd emerged in the previous decade's British working-class drama - or American cinema's first real attempt at putting something of the growing Black Panther roar on screen.

More interesting today as an artefact than as a movie per se, Super Fly is a far rougher proposition than Shaft, attempting a gritty realism that gets scuppered whenever a character sporting a silly hat or facial hair stumbles into view. Parks fils is more at home watching life pass by on Harlem street corners or through the windows of Priest's thoroughly pimped-out ride than he is having to record any of the dialogue that clues us in on his protagonist's big score (namely to import "the best shit in town... rocks and lumps as big as marble") or making dramatically involving those tryingly long scenes in which the gathered pimps, hustlers and junkies strike the requisite poses. Even approached as a character study, it's still variable, with a few grace notes scattered here and there, chiefly Curtis Mayfield's timelessly funky score - knowing and playing to its strengths, the film stops the action altogether at one point to accommodate a live performance of "Pusher Man" - and a strange, erotic encounter in a bubble bath that provides some brief, temporary relief from the surrounding one-note snapshots of a resolutely grimy, wholly unromantic New York. 

Super Fly is currently unavailable on DVD.

Friday 26 August 2016

For what it's worth...

Top Ten Films at the UK Box Office   
for the weekend of August 19-21, 2016:
1 (2) Finding Dory (U) ***
2 (1) Suicide Squad (15)
3 (new) David Brent: Life on the Road (15)
4 (3) Jason Bourne (12A) ***
5 (4) The BFG (PG)
6 (new) Lights Out (15)
7 (6) Pete's Dragon (PG)
8 (new) Swallows and Amazons (PG)
9 (new) Nine Lives (PG)
10 (9) Star Trek: Beyond (12A) ***


My top five:   
1 (new) The Jungle Book (PG) **
2 (1) Zootropolis (PG) ****
3 (5) Eye in the Sky (15) ***
4 (2) Eddie the Eagle (PG) ***
5 (3) Deadpool (15)
6 (4) London Has Fallen (15)
7 (6) Allegiant (12)
8 (7) The Revenant (15) ***
9 (8) Grimsby (15)
10 (9) The Big Short (15) ***

My top five:  
1. The Pearl Button
2. Weiner
3. Knight of Cups
4. Midnight Special
5. The Hard Stop

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:   
1. Schindler's List (Monday, five, 10.05pm)
2. The Bourne Ultimatum (Saturday, ITV1, 9.30pm)
3. Shine (Thursday, BBC1, 11.30pm)
4. Hot Tub Time Machine (Saturday, C4, 11.05pm)
5. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Saturday, BBC1, 11.50pm)  

"Kids in Love" (Guardian 26/08/16)

Kids in Love ***
Dir: Chris Foggin. With: Will Poulter, Alma Jodorowsky, Sebastian De Souza, Cara Delevingne. 87 mins. Cert: 15 

As the kids in question emerge from the trust-funded Gabriels and Violas of West London, some might take this handsome YA romance as further evidence of creative-industry elitism. Chris Foggin’s first feature nevertheless retains two highly favourable elements. Will Poulter is typically no-nonsense as the Portobello Road set’s own Ben Braddock, drifting from his straight-edge lifepath under the influence of worldly Parisian Evelyn (Alma Jodorowsky); Foggin’s fondly satirical eye, meanwhile, permits these characters their moment among the Notting Hill carnival crowds, while spotting how frivolous, lost and isolated they are elsewhere. (Money here affords mobility, not happiness.) Despite the credible evocation of this milieu – including a sparky Cara Delevingne as the most prominent sofa-surfer – it needed a touch more narrative oomph to hasten it past its final-reel moping. Yet it remains a sincere, sweet-minded venture: one of those debuts where characters and filmmakers alike appear to be finding themselves before your very eyes.

Kids in Love opens in selected cinemas today, ahead of its DVD release on Monday.

"Mechanic: Resurrection" (Guardian 26/08/16)

Mechanic: Resurrection **
Dir: Dennis Gansel. With: Jason Statham, Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Yeoh. 99 mins. Cert: 15
2011’s The Mechanic, a carefully calibrated remake of the Charles Bronson hitman thriller, presented as a notable development in Jason Statham’s transition from hired muscle to self-made leading man. This humdrum spot of repeat business ditches the definite article, and with it much of the precision and gravity. Formerly a meticulous one-off, Statham’s Bishop now looks more like another cut-price Bond, obliged to assemble his own lethal weapons while drifting through exotic Pacific locales in a dreary opening travelogue. Matters pick up with the three hits Bishop undertakes to rescue bikini-clad aid worker Jessica Alba: there’s an ingenious kill involving a rooftop pool, and it’s amusing watching Tommy Lee Jones’ return to Under Siege styling as an eccentric arms dealer. We’re stuck with a nondescript Mr. Big, however, and the perfunctory action climaxes with a submarine-base shootout that screams “direct-to-DVD”. The Stath, alas, is following orders throughout: given his revelatory comic turn in last year’s Spy, he may yet return to material that allows him to raise smiles and smash heads, but this shrugging afterthought isn’t it. 

Mechanic: Resurrection is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

"Bad Moms" (Guardian 26/08/16)

Bad Moms **
Dirs: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore. With: Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate. 100 mins. Cert: 15
The assumption here may be that Hangover scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have lazily passed their signature middling-to-lojinks through screenwriting software that switches gendered pronouns. Actually, Bad Moms risks occasioning a different kind of insult, timidly redacting the raucousness lest it scare anybody off. Mila Kunis’s PTA refuseniks thus gain self-knowledge within a soft-focus Mommiverse reminiscent of the average Hallmark movie: a hoodie-clad Kristen Bell’s penis impersonation is as off-the-leash as it gets. (Network TV’s Mom is filthier.) Reduced expectations will help – the leads wring odd snickers from second-rate material – but with its bland blasts of chart pop, it’s less riot-grrrl provocation than sporadically rowdy coffee morning.

Bad Moms is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

Thursday 25 August 2016

Chameleon: "Gary Numan: Android in La-La Land"

As befits its subject, everything about Steve Read and Rob Alexander's documentary Gary Numan: Android in La-La Land is slightly off. Numan himself freely admits to camera he wasn't the first serious young man to turn his hand to alienated synth pop, nor the best - Kraftwerk might well lay claim to both of those titles - nor, really, the sexiest; fame, he confesses, left him even more baffled and panicked than he already was, obliging him to retreat to a bedsit where an inflatable dinghy served as the sofa and he could subsist chiefly on a diet of oven chips. Numan's current domestic life, as presented here, appears scarcely less off-the-wall. If there's one thing Smash Hits' plethora of Numan Facts taught us - other than the singer's standing alongside Bruce Dickinson among the licensed pilots of rock - it's that our Gary married superfan Gemma, who told her school careers advisor she didn't need a job, because she was going to marry Gary Numan. Reader, she did, and - rather wonderfully - the pair are still together, despite her tendency to mock him as a scaredy-cat for ducking the Paranormal Activity series of films. A further level of insider commentary comes care of the pair's adorable young daughters, who tease daddy for dying his hair Goth-black. Very quickly, you sense this is not going to be another of those musical vanity projects.

From a career perspective, the Numan who Read and Alexander joined in late 2012 is entering into a transitional phase: with the fresh ideas he nudged into the charts 35 years ago having long since been absorbed into the mainstream (hey there, Two-Thirds-Good Sugababes!), he's faced with a stark choice: go round and round on the emergent 1980s nostalgia circuit, or - building on the kudos being dispatched his way by such electronica trailblazers as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails - to strike out into fresh new territory. The latter would be a challenge for most musicians approaching their mid-fifties, doubly so for one who admits to being somewhere on the autistic spectrum, and clearly relishes the comforts of home. It is, nevertheless, a challenge Numan and family embrace, in relocating from leafy Virginia Water, Surrey - the clan's base for the past few decades - to sun-blanched California. One wonders whether this will become a familiar sight in post-Brexit documentary cinema: creatives packing up and moving elsewhere.

What we get here, then, is a Numan overview: not technically a retrospective - an approach that might well have been overruled by the film's forward-looking subject - but a snapshot of the artist as a newly middle-aged man. Read and Alexander's wry approach to this portrait means some of what follows can't help but remind viewers of TV's The Osbournes: here is Gemma on her hands and knees, bleaching the cat piss off the curtains in her mansion, here is Gary making a fumbling attempt to solder the motherboard of a malfunctioning hard drive. The pair's bantering affection - "Have you got an A-to-Z on how to put me down?" - is very Ozzy and Sharon, certainly, yet it's obvious that the grounded Gemma is the rock that allows her husband to attempt this giant leap; while he's away operating on another musical planet eight-to-ten hours a day, she can rightly lay claim to being the singer's terra firma. Numan himself is disarmingly candid: there's a sensitivity and a directness about him that makes him a compelling interview subject, particularly when discussing his family's financial fluctuations, and his own struggles with antidepressants. 

This willingness to lay bare his own workings allows Android to better address the question of what makes a musician tick - especially one for whom every step of the recording process exists as a potential source of anxiety. The detailed chapter on how Numan puts a track together chimes very favourably with those resonant in-studio scenes in the recent Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy in demonstrating to those clothears among us how even the strangest and most otherworldly of tunes needs to be assembled, one note at a time, by some presiding creative intelligence, the way you or I might fix a sandwich for lunch. With the emphasis placed firmly on Numan's 2013 comeback album "Splinter", Read and Alexander can make an editorial point of the fact we barely hear a thing of the one-two ("Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars") which made the singer a star: the implication is that there's more to Numan than his past, and that he's a more interesting and innovative figure than those hits - standards as they've become - might imply. If the documentarists joined Numan at a point of transition, they leave him in a far happier, creatively fruitful place - and what's in between does much to establish a safe space for its subject in the contemporary repertoire.

Gary Numan: Android in La-La Land opens in selected cinemas from tomorrow.    

Wednesday 24 August 2016

From the archive: "The Mechanic"

The Mechanic (15) ***
Directed by: Simon West
Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Donald Sutherland


Jason Statham’s reliably furrowed brow gets a thorough workout in this generally efficient remake of a 1972 Charles Bronson vehicle; one suspects he won’t be the only onlooker baffled by the multiple-crosses playing out here. For starters, there’s no plausible reason for Statham’s hired assassin Bishop to off his own wheelchair-bound go-between (Sutherland) in the opening moments, save to get the plot off with a bang. Out of guilt, Bishop adopts his former employer’s unruly offspring (Foster) as a partner – and while the lad’s aim improves rapidly, his ultimate target remains whoever killed his pa.

There’s not much humour, and little place for women, either, save to pop their heads up (and tops off) every now and again to prove the deadly bromance goes only so far. Yet Brit director West, formerly a blow-it-all-to-hell merchant (Con Air), devotes himself to the intricacies of the hit, sketching neat thumbnails of Bishop’s victims, and ratcheting up the tension when Foster fumbles a bolt at the scene of one assignment. It’s nuts-and-bolts action cinema, indeed, of the kind that does a job come Saturday night: on the Stath-o-meter, nothing so delirious as Crank, but a marked improvement on the Transporters.

(January 2011)

The Mechanic is available on DVD through Momentum Pictures; a sequel, The Mechanic: Resurrection, opens in cinemas nationwide from Friday.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

From the archive: "The Purge: Anarchy"

The Purge: Anarchy ***
Dir: James DeMonaco. With: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zack Gilford. 103 mins. Cert: 15

Last year’s hit The Purge ventured an superficially eye-catching premise – what if the US Government granted its citizens an annual mischief night, to get any crime out of their system? – before retreating indoors into indifferently staged runaround. The sequel, again overseen by James DeMonaco, finally thinks the idea through, following those left outside as the Purge kicks in. Flickers of dread creep in – care of those one-percenters co-opting the event for sicko entertainment – though again we’re mostly in second gear: if the first movie was a lacklustre Assault on Precinct 13 (the remake of which DeMonaco penned), this one’s a modest Escape from New York, with growly lone wolf Frank Grillo steering representative survivors between Gothy bikers and lip-smacking private armies. For Universal, the franchise is clearly a low-cost, low-risk work-in-progress, but DeMonaco is improving as a shotmaker: this entry just about plays, albeit on the level of a straight-to-DVD item or tentative TV pilot. 
(July 2014)
The Purge: Anarchy is available on DVD through Universal Pictures; a further sequel, The Purge: Election Year, opens in cinemas nationwide from Friday.

From the archive: "The Purge"

The Purge (15) 85 mins **

A case of nice pitch, shame about the execution. In the America of 2022, citizens are allowed one night a year to rob or kill whomsoever they want – the State’s way of keeping crime down elsewhere. A promising first act establishes the vulnerable perimeters of one-percenter Ethan Hawke’s gated estate; when the power’s cut, however, routine home-invasion jolts ensue. Hawke gamely rolls up his sleeves to play action hero, but the film doesn’t develop its one good idea so much as stumble around in the dark with it for 85 minutes, crashing noisily into the furniture. 

(June 2013)

The Purge is available on DVD through Universal Pictures.

Saturday 20 August 2016

For what it's worth...

Top Ten Films at the UK Box Office   
for the weekend of August 12-14, 2016:
1 (1) Suicide Squad (15)
2 (2) Finding Dory (U) ***
3 (3) Jason Bourne (12A) ***
4 (4) The BFG (PG)
5 (new) Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (15)
6 (new) Pete's Dragon (PG)
7 (new) Nerve (15)
8 (new) The Shallows (15)
9 (5) Star Trek: Beyond (12A) ***
10 (6) The Secret Life of Pets (U)


My top five:   
5. Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods

Top Ten DVD rentals:  
1 (1) Zootropolis (PG) ****
2 (4) Eddie the Eagle (PG) ***
3 (3) Deadpool (15)
4 (2London Has Fallen (15)
5 (new) Eye in the Sky (15) ***
6 (5) Allegiant (12)
7 (6) The Revenant (15) ***
8 (7) Grimsby (15)
9 (9) The Big Short (15) ***
10 (10) How to be Single (15)

My top five:  
1. The Pearl Button
2. Weiner
3. Knight of Cups
4. Midnight Special
5. The Hard Stop

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:   
1. Oslo, August 31st [above] (Saturday, BBC2, 2.05am)
2. The Bourne Supremacy (Saturday, ITV1, 9pm)
3. The Grey (Sunday, C4, 11pm)
4. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Sunday, BBC2, 11pm)
5. Short Term 12 (Friday, BBC2, 11.05pm) 

Friday 19 August 2016

"Behemoth" (Guardian 19/08/16)

Behemoth **** 
Dir: Zhao Liang. Documentary. 95 mins. No cert.  

Zhao Liang’s haunting documentary tessellates with Jia Zhang-ke’s recent films in studying the effects of China’s rapid industrialisation upon the landscape. Words sourced from Dante float over images of everyday activity at one Inner Mongolian coalmine; as the camera descends into its depths, it becomes apparent we’re several fathoms beyond conventional health-and-safety regulation. Zhao’s close-ups of faces – bathed in sweat, caked with carbons – are as expressive and dynamic as his longshots of fiery smelting yards and mountains being blasted into oblivion: here is a labour that cannot possibly be rebranded. Sporadic digital manipulations, sculpting this region’s exteriors into jagged Cubist mosaics, might be interpreted as cheats, striking though they are. There is, however, no retouching the poverty inhabited by the mine’s employees, their blisters and varicose veins, their unblinking effort. What this exceptionally lucid film-survey reveals is what has to go on at ground level, and beneath the surface, in order to power a powerhouse.

Behemoth is now playing in selected cinemas.

"Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods" (Guardian 19/08/16)

Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods ***
Dirs: Alexandre Astier, Louis Clichy. Animation with the voices of: Jack Whitehall, Nick Frost, Greg Davies, Matt Berry. 85 mins. Cert: PG
The French rework Goscinny and Uderzo at the same rate we do Dickens and Shakespeare. This here’s not one of those Depardieu-as-Obelix live-action pantos, rather a distinctive, energised 3D animation, redubbed by a smattering of British comic talent. The Gauls’ resistance against a looming Roman housing development allows writer-director Alexandre Astier to mock the processes of gentrification, while razzing all those recent Euro toons trying so desperately to be American; where others have plumped for generic action, Astier’s preference is for bathetic pauses and funny-eccentric jokes of scale. Even this version’s vocal ensemble (Matt Berry, Dick and Dom, Jim Broadbent) proves a small triumph of out-of-the-box thinking, the sole quibble being with the casting of Jack Whitehall as the title character: apparently even Asterix now has to sound like an Eton alumnus. Still, there are gags enough for this not to matter unduly: youthful newcomers and devotees alike will be chuckling early and often. 

Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

"Cosmos" (Guardian 19/08/16)

Cosmos **
Dir: Andrzej Zulawski. With: Sabine Azéma, Jean-François Balmer, Jonathan Genet, Victória Guerra. 103 mins. Cert: 15
The final film of the director Andrzej Zulawski – who passed in February, best remembered for 1981’s Isabelle Adjani freakout Possession – proves a characteristically eccentric undertaking, adapted from Witold Gombrowicz’s novel set within a mildewing B&B. One half-funny gag: that our harelip-worshipping writer hero (Jonathan Genet, resistible) is only as dotty as his fellow guests. Yet with all the actors operating some distance off the leash, even the sharper scenes soon clot into an impenetrable toplayer of gibberish tics. Cultists can claim it as proof Zulawski was doing his own thing until the end, but the film didn’t need releasing so much as sectioning for public safety. 

Cosmos is now showing in selected cinemas.

Monday 15 August 2016

What just happened?: "The Childhood of a Leader"

You will likely know the actor Brady Corbet's face, if not his name. He was one of those two blank young Americans wreaking havoc on the household of Tim Roth and Naomi Watts in Michael Haneke's English-language remake of Funny Games, and has popped up in some unlikely places over the subsequent decade: as another sociopath, this time on the loose in Paris, in Antonio Campos's Simon Killer, lending support to a pregnant Greta Gerwig among the what-might-have-beens of Mia Hansen-Løve's Eden. Clearly, Corbet has been watching and waiting, making contacts and taking notes; now, with his ambitious and brooding directorial debut The Childhood of a Leader, he strikes.

We're here transported back to darkest Europe in that brief respite between World Wars One and Two; more specifically, to the country home of a diplomat in the Wilson administration (Liam Cunningham) and his German wife (Bérénice Bejo). While this stern patriarch is out dividing up the continent in his role among those writing the Treaty of Versailles, mama's energies are devoted to curbing the excesses of the couple's tearaway offspring Prescott (Tom Sweet), a ringlet-haired brat first seen lobbing rocks at the crowd emerging from a nativity, and thereafter making himself the centre of the universe in a series of chaptered tantrums: staring down the local priest, groping his tutor (Stacy Martin), interrupting dad's work by marching into the study naked, and eventually far worse besides.

It's soon clear that Prescott isn't just a bad seed, but a deeply symbolic presence. Just as Oskar, the manchild protagonist of Günter Grass's (and Volker Schlöndorff's) The Tin Drum stood for the arrested development that led to the Nazification of Germany, so this lad is a demon child, an embodiment of all those forces (and lapses of parenting) that led to the ghettos and the camps, more likely to wage war than make peace if he feels he's not getting his own way. Corbett and co-writer Mona Fastvold set out plenty of reasons for the boy to feel slighted. Forced to apologise for his rock-throwing, Prescott is mistaken for a girl by one parishioner; his tutor, dutifully imposing a foreign language on him, slaps him after he puts his hand on her breast. 

That privilege, as far as we can tell, is reserved for the boy's straying father, so it's no surprise the kid should grow up so agitated and confused - if not a Hitler-in-waiting, then a Hitler voter-in-waiting. (And history suggests we shouldn't underestimate how much of that demagogue's rise to power was related to a deep-seated need for a father figure.) I'm sure Sweet was an absolute cherub offscreen, and that he remains a credit to his family, but part of the film's grip can be attributed to the way Corbet's camera bears down on him: with his perpetually pursed lips and sunken, sullen eyes, he is the very model of a young man being indulged to the point of insolence, growing altogether too fond of being handed everything to him on a silver platter - the kind of mollycoddling that invariably breeds monsters.

What's around him is historically and psychologically acute, and possessed of a seriousness we don't often see in young actors' directorial debuts; it's also technically audacious. Working within a tightly controlled frame - a choice that immediately distinguishes Childhood from the sweeping majority of period dramas - cinematographer Lol Crawley conjures austerely beautiful tableaux, shadowy images within which some malevolent force or future tragedy seems to lurk; Scott Walker - yes, that Scott Walker - contributes a thundering musique concrète score that rants and raves and suggests what it might be like to be inside the very thrashing guts of history.

Downton lovers - those who prefer their period drama served up like cream tea, on the finest crockery and with a nice plate of biscuits on the side - should obviously approach with considerable caution: Corbet's working not on the front lawns, but deep within the backrooms and backchannels of history, where relations can get fraught and missteps are made, and it's not always so clear how things are going to pan out. (No spoilers, but you should set aside at least ten minutes for post-film what-the-fuck-just-happened? discussion.) This is history that doesn't seek to pat us on the back so much as poke us in the eye - but it's at least as unexpected, and as compelling, as any film you could reasonably pitch as Simon Schama does The Omen.

The Childhood of a Leader opens in selected cinemas from Friday. 

Saturday 13 August 2016

1,001 Films: "Pink Flamingos" (1972)

No-one - perhaps not even the director himself - would go as far as to describe Pink Flamingos as a good movie, but it stands as a key work in the John Waters filmography. After a couple of minor cinematic infractions, Waters had broken through by 1972, starting to reach a public that divided along the lines of the wider America into those freaks and longhairs who dug him, and those squares and stick-in-the-muds who didn't. His typically mischievous response was to pit one faction against the other in a fight to the death, while also addressing the burgeoning stardom of monster-in-chief Divine, by asking her to play herself (or a version thereof), hiding out from her nascent celebrity in a trailer full of outcasts. This loving family unit comes under threat from the Marbles (Mink Stole and David Lochary), sociopathic snobs deploying a veneer of suburban respectability to conceal all manner of heinous sins and crimes.

There follows a battle to secure the title of Filthiest Person in America, in which Waters sets out what might be understood as a career philosophy: that your most uptight haters are only jealous of the dirty pleasures being enjoyed everywhere else, envious that the grass is considerably muckier on the other side of the fence. In Pink Flamingos, these pleasures notoriously involve - and it might be best if you imagine the following being read off a scroll call after the sounding of some ceremonial trumpet - chicken fucking, unusual use of a frankfurter, one singing anus and actual coprophagia. Hide behind the cushions if you must, but it remains one of the few Waters films to boast not just a plot but a subplot: watching the Marbles burning down that trailer, one's mind can't help but go out to all those robber barons who've turfed the underprivileged and vulnerable out of their homes over the centuries.

Of course, there's equally much you and your conscience will just have to wrestle with: a glorified home video aesthetic, spotty narrative continuity, grungily repellent sex scenes (replete with larky Seventies attitude to sexual abuse), some rather bathetic setpieces. (Rather than light up in flames, the trailer just slumps to the floor.) What holds it together are Waters' showman instincts, there from the word go. He writes very funny lines for performers who barely have a clue how to deliver them ("Mama, no-one sends you a turd and expects to live!") and plays a succession of old-timey rock 'n' roll tunes that keep even the more rancid material buoyant; the coda, which remains wince-inducing even after decades of committed gross-out humour, is the Waters equivalent of having his leading lady declare "you ain't seen nothing yet!" - although he gets her to do it through shit-smeared teeth. (We had to wait for the Internet to come along for anything that might top it.) For best consumption, see it with the most refreshed and open-minded people you know.  

Pink Flamingos is currently unavailable on DVD.

Friday 12 August 2016

For what it's worth...

Top Ten Films at the UK Box Office   
for the weekend of August 5-7, 2016:
1 (new) Suicide Squad (15)
2 (1) Finding Dory (U) ***
3 (2) Jason Bourne (12A) ***
4 (3) The BFG (PG)
5 (4) Star Trek: Beyond (12A) ***
6 (5) The Secret Life of Pets (U)
7 (6) Ghostbusters (12A)
8 (8) Ice Age: Collision Course (U)
9 (9) Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (15)
10 (7) The Legend of Tarzan (12A)


My top five:   
1. The Confession
2. Sid and Nancy 
3. Rustom
4. Sweet Bean
5. Up for Love

Top Ten DVD rentals:  
1 (1) Zootropolis (PG) ****
2 (2London Has Fallen (15)
3 (new) Deadpool (15)
4 (new) Eddie the Eagle (PG) ***
5 (3) Allegiant (12)
6 (4) The Revenant (15) ***
7 (5) Grimsby (15)
8 (7) Creed (12) ****
9 (6) The Big Short (15) ***
10 (new) How to be Single (15)

My top five:  
1. Midnight Special
2. The Hard Stop
3. These Final Hours
4. Tale of Tales
5. Sing Street

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:   
1. Pulp Fiction [above] (Sunday, five, 10pm)
2. The 39 Steps (Saturday, BBC2, 7.50am)
3. Gladiator (Saturday, C4, 10pm)
4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Saturday, C4, 8pm)
5. Megamind (Sunday, BBC2, 6.30pm)

"The Confession" (Guardian 12/08/16)

The Confession ****
Dir: Ashish Ghadiali. With: Moazzam Begg. 96 mins. Cert: 15

The simple framing indicates documentarist Ashish Ghadiali knows he’s hit upon an inherently resonant modern story: for 96 minutes, here is Moazzam Begg, sat in a mock-up interview room, describing how a lad from Birmingham wound up in Guantanamo Bay. Personal and political quickly interweave. Begg’s close-miked words, often battling against the sounds of the war machine, allow us to hear the hurt he felt in being persecuted by intelligence agencies and seeing his adopted home of Afghanistan obliterated after 9/11. Ghadiali is careful to clarify key points – he delicately negotiates Begg’s attempts to reclaim the term “jihad” – while suggesting that relentless interrogation, and the suspicion powering it, might in itself be a call to arms. For his part, Begg appears to have gained an exceptional grasp of nuance from his time in captivity: in this post-Chilcot moment, this principled, consistent testimony, coming as it does from deep within Islam, assumes a rare gravity and a profound moral force.

The Confession opens today in selected cinemas.

"Rustom" (Guardian 12/08/16)

Rustom ***
Dir: Dharmendra Suresh Desai. With: Akshay Kumar, Ileana D’Cruz, Esha Gupta, Arjan Bajwa. 148 mins. Cert: 12A

Shamelessly tarting up a true-life society scandal, this period melodrama suggests director Dharmendra Suresh Desai has swallowed recent Todd Haynes projects whole. Akshay Kumar is the eponymous Navy man who enters a police station in old Bombay (as it was in 1958) and confesses to shooting the industrialist who cuckolded him – a simple crime of passion, complicated by gutter press stirring, institutional corruption, and the accused’s officer-grade tactical nous. Screaming excess threatens to stifle the emotion and tragedy; Kumar has only to hit the same note of dogged honour and wait for the storm to pass. As an exercise in medium-high style, however, it retains the attention. Desai stages a month of interrogations in a single camera movement, the screen pops with candied pinks and peppermints, and among a characterful supporting cast, Esha Gupta – as the deceased’s sister – delivers just about the best vampish glowering witnessed this side of the Crawford/Davis era. Sign her up for everything. 

Rustom is now showing in cinemas nationwide.