Out in the UK This Week
Margin Call (Paramount, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
JC Chandor’s debut, and what a film, is about a Lehman Brothers’ (ish) bank that hits the skids. It’s the definitive Hollywood entertainment about the financial crash, a cool, glossy, edge-of-seat procedural that spends a night in the company of two low-level bank employees (Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley) as a gigantic accounting error comes to light and the problem is batted further and further up the heirarchy, until it reaches the top (a particularly dry and corrupt Jeremy Irons). The performances are in the ionosphere – Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci and Paul Bettany all working hard to justify the huge salaries (of the actors, not the bankers). And if the message – that moving money around electronically is not as noble as making, you know, stuff – is hammered home a bit too forcefully, I for one was prepared to give a first-timer a pass. Which brings us to – how did Chandor get the cast? And what’s he going to do next?
The Giants (Artificial Eye, cert 15, DVD)
Beautifully shot and acted, this gem of the deadly pastoral genre is a River’s Edge-flavoured tale following three teenage lads through a long summer of thievery, joyriding and cannabis-farming among the inbreeds of rural Belgium. The plot is full of genuine novelty and in Paul Bartel, oldest of the kids oscillating madly between child and almost-adult, it has a star of the future.
Undefeated (Dogwoof, cert E, DVD)
“Young men of character, discipline and commitment end up winning in life and they end up winning in football.” The words of Memphis coach Bill Courtney, who tries to turn a nowheresville side into winners – and more importantly, men – in the Hoop Dreams-inflected documentary which won an Oscar earlier this year. Whether you like American football or not, you will like this film. It paints the picture of America that the world is still mad for – a country full of people with heart, who speak their mind, who are respectful, god-fearing. As for the film – it’s brilliant.
Cosmopolis (Entertainment One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Just when you thought existential drama was dead, back comes David Cronenberg with a supercool, absurdist adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel which follows a Keanu-like billionaire (Robert Pattinson) on a long limo ride round a city falling apart, besieged by anti-globalisation protesters. Pattinson might or might not be much of an actor but he probably does know a thing or two about being found entirely attractive by women, so having sex with a succession of hot babes is probably no stretch for him. The sex also helps fill in the gaps between the non-sequitur dialogue and punctuates a film that is meant to be dull, blank, horizonless. It’s a hard film to get into, but it’s strangely rewarding once you do. Camus in a limo.
Trouble in Paradise (Eureka, cert PG, DVD)
Now restored and a defining example of “the Lubitsch touch”, the 1932 romantic comedy that helped found a Hollywood genre is a curiously timely tale of a grifter preying on the super-rich in the aftermath of the 1929 market crash. It’s considered Lubitsch’s best film and, considering it’s now 80 years old, it stands up remarkably well. The side players include Edward Everett Norton and C Aubrey Smith and they are proof of a tradition that continues to this day – that the support players are often far more interesting than the stars.
56 Up (Network, cert E, DVD)
Surely one of the most important TV programmes ever made, this unique documentary series has been checking in on its subjects every seven years since they were seven-year-olds in 1964. It proves the old Jesuit dictum – “give me a child for his first seven years and I will give you the man” – memorably in the case of the wide-eyed Paul Kligerman, who in 1964 asked “what does university mean?” He didn’t go. Michael Apted has been involved since its inception – he was a 23-year-old researcher on the first one and has directed all the others since, fitting his other job as a successful international movie director (Coal Miner’s Daughter and The World Is Not Enough, to name but two) round about. The participants are now 56 and Apsted finds himself asking them the question “Are you scared of getting old?”
Friends with Kids (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
A woman with ticking-timebomb ovaries has a kid with her best male friend. Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott play the convenience couple in this toxic rom-com sold on all the posters under the falsest of pretences. Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd all feature heavily in the publicity but are barely in the film. The fact that Hamm is Westfeldt’s real life partner suggests Westfeldt called in a few favours when it came to casting. Ironically Hamm’s favour doesn’t do her any – the film is overbalanced by these bigger names. But not as much as it is by the sour chemistry between Westfeldt and Scott. And to think she was part-responsible for Kissing Jessica Stein – the refreshing cult oddball romance from 2001.
© Steve Morrissey 2012