Home entertainment releases this week in the UK
The Inbetweeners 2 (4DVD, cert 15)
Four go mad Down Under in the “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” follow-up to the British box office hit of 2011. The initial idea behind writer/director Damon Beesley and Iain Morris’s TV series was that the four misfits were the kind of nerdy guys who aren’t cool enough to be cool, not dumb enough to be losers – they’re just inbetween. Normal. But Beesley and Morris’s great skill, as well as jokes involving sex and bodily functions, is in locating these lads socially. So when we first meet them this time around, striving Will (Simon Bird) is at Bristol University, nice Simon (Joe Thomas) is at Sheffield University, borderline-retard Neil (Blake Harrison) is “earning” (ie not at Uni) and sexually aberrant Jay (James Buckley) is in Australia on a gap year, getting a “blowie” off a different bird every day. Or so he says. Perfect. Later, after the script has reunited the guys in Oz with admirable speed, it subjects them to ordeal by social belittlement, on the beach, at a water theme park, in the Outback, as they’re outcooled by “travellers” (our four are clearly “tourists”) – a buff guy with white man’s dreads, a clearly socially superior girl (Emily Berrington) who’s hot as hell. Somewhere just after the point where Will is trying to woo said hottie in one of the film’s standout scenes – singing Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face in a trembling falsetto – the film hits a 15-minute lull, and there’s a sense of time being filled. But things picks up at the end, though it’s clear the Beesley and Morris have run out of places to take these characters. And the guys, now wandering towards 30, can’t really get away with the “we’re teenagers” act any more.
A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (Soda, cert 15)
Ben Rivers collaborates with fellow Ben, Ben Russell, who also shares his interest in experimenta and edge-dwellers, in a structured-reality drama that moves slowly in three acts. Act 1 plays out at a modern day commune, in Estonia (I think), where many of the conversations seem to hint that the collaborative ideal is under strain. Act 2 takes one of these communards, who rows out into the middle of a lake, in a segment strongly reminiscent of the silent watchfulness of Rivers’s Two Years at Sea, and sits in the boat fishing. In Act 3 the same guy is now a member of a death metal band. The camera floats about among them as they play in a club, not in the slightest interested in the rhythms of the music, and it becomes clear, sort of, that Rivers and Russell are interested in the group, the individual and how the two relate, how the identity of one is forged to some extent by the loss of identity of the other. It is intensely meditative – there’s no voiceover and long periods of silence – but is it more a documentary or a drama? That seems to be something else that the two Bens are exploring. Fascinating.
Hercules (Paramount, cert 12)
Somewhere around halfway through Hercules, I suddenly remembered that its director, Brett Ratner, made those Rush Hour films starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. The tone is pretty much the same here – a jokey pantomime full of action, with Dwayne Johnson absolutely perfect, if possibly a bit old, as Hercules, a very strong man with a stout chivalric code and saddled with the burden of being considered a demi-god (touches of Life of Brian here). It’s a well crafted sword-and-sandal caper, with well choreographed battle sequences and well drawn supporting characters, some of whom are the usual suspects – Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Peter Mullan (doing Anthony Hopkins), though the much of the heavy dramatic lifting is done by Reece Ritchie, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal and Aksel Hennie (all great). And John Hurt gets to shout “unleash the wolves” at one point. Does that not sound appealing?
Patema Inverted (Anime, cert PG)
Now that Hayao Miyazaki has retired, you might expect a rush by Japanese animators to take his place. Yasuhiro Yoshiura is a likely contender, and this anime ticks many of the Miyazaki boxes. The animation is simple but delicate, the central character is a young person cast adrift from his/her parents – in this case a girl with the trad saucer eyes who discovers another world where gravity is reversed and a young man in that world whose father has gone missing in a flying machine – and there’s a sense of revelling in the simple things in life, the beauty of a blue sky, for example. Yoshiura’s style is more expressionistic than Miyazaki’s – backgrounds frequently bursting with the emotion the main character feels – and he’s keener on little camera-aping effects, such as drops of rain on, or light flare in, the non-existent lens. Most notably of all, Yoshiura is happy to drop animation entirely at key moments, relying instead on stills to do the storytelling. So, confident as well as talented, a gentle soul whose film will probably appeal to similar.
The Possibilities Are Endless (Pulse, cert E)
I once saw Edwyn Collins get up in a curry house and quickly deal with some belligerent guy who was making trouble for the waiters by punching him, quick and hard. Then he sat down again and got on with his meal. He’s a long way from that now, as this documentary about his brain haemorrhage and subsequent faltering recovery makes clear. Fascinating at one level is the story of a man going through a terrible personal ordeal, and how he starts to come back from that – though Collins is not what he used to be, he’s clearly a thousand times better than when we first meet him, mumbling incoherently with little idea that he was once in a band called Orange Juice, or that he wrote an infectious song called Never Met a Girl Like You Before. At another level, and in some ways like Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days on Earth, The Possibilities Are Endless reflects a shift in the zeitgeist – straight docs about rock stars just won’t sell any more. We need a “story”. At 90 minutes this story is a good 30 minutes too long, but it is worth watching, partly to see a man struggling to overcome a setback. But mostly to see a vindication of marriage (Collins’s wife, Grace, is a rock) and friendship, and Collins’s sheer doggedness.
A Hard Day (StudioCanal, cert 15)
A blackly comic South Korean thriller about a bad cop who has a very bad day – first he kills a man in a drunk hit-and-run, then we learn that his mother’s just died, the internal affairs guys are onto him, his wife’s divorcing him, his sister seems terribly annoyed with him, and all this in the film’s first 15 minutes. What plays out from this point is an ingeniously plotted cat-and-mouser kicked off by the revelation that the man Detective Ko (or Go, as the imdb are calling him) has killed was up to his neck in dodginess, and that there’s an even badder cop in the precinct who is determined to make Ko/Go’s life even worse than it already is. Remarkably, there is no US remake in the works for this potentially great film reminiscent in parts of Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder. Only potentially, because though it’s got the plot, great set pieces and the dialogue, Lee Seon-Gyun’s decision to play Ko as a salute to Jackie Chan is a mistake, though Cho Jin-Woong as the badder cop gets it just right. The pacing is a bit off too. Overlook those two irritants and there’s tons to enjoy – why not get busy with a Hollywood treatment?
© Steve Morrissey 2014