Out in the UK this week
American Mary (Universal, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD)
On their way to crafting a true horror classic the rather weird Soska twins (of Dead Hooker in a Trunk fame) come up with a cracking revenger almost as surgically nasty as The Human Centipede, as gleefully over the top as Dario Argento in his pomp, with hints of 1940s noir and even a bit of Dr Phibes (or was I imagining that?). Front and centre is a great performance by Katharine Isabelle as a sexy-as-hell, cool-as-death med student out for payback. Trash hounds and body modders (they feature in the plot too) will watch this till it wears out.
From the Sea to the Land Beyond (BFI, cert 12, DVD)
The much undervalued Penny Woolcock (we won’t mention “black yout” disaster 1 Day) has raided the BFI archives and collaged together a portrait of Britain as it works, rests and plays by the seaside from earliest existing footage up to today. And how optimistic, hard-working, technologically advanced, outward looking and happy she makes the Britain of the past look. This rather clever holding-up of the historical mirror does suggest that Woolcock has a less than flattering opinion of the country today, that’s if you want to see this film as a “state of the nation” address. If not, this is still a great example of a current trend for documentary exhumation of the past in collage form (Julien Temple’s London: The Modern Babylon springs to mind). The jaunty soundtrack is by (of course) British Sea Power.
The Sweeney (Entertainment One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Brit director Nick Love courts Hollywood with lots of Michael Mann-style overheads of London’s Docklands in this filmic reworking of the gritty 1970s TV series about serious crime unit the Flying Squad (the title being rhyming slang). Homage is paid to the salty script of the original – “Put your trousers on, you’re nicked” – but the plot hasn’t got past the back-of-a-fag-packet stage and there are all sorts of loose ends flapping in the breeze. And wasn’t the original about a gruff, tough but supremely honest copper and his relationship with his laddish sidekick? This is more about Ray Winstone (fun) and his sexy bit on the side Hayley Atwell (excellent), leaving poor Ben Drew with little to do.
Now Is Good (Warner, cert 12, DVD)
A 21st century Love Story, with Dakota Fanning as a London girl (London now being magically situated next to the sea) with leukaemia striking up a shivering romance with hunk-next-door Jeremy Irvine (War Horse). And like Love Story, terminal illness is ever so fragrant and part of the female condition. But never mind that, there’s Fanning’s attempt to get the Brit accent right, her concentration so intense that she gets just about everything else wrong. Some lump in throat moments though, largely courtesy of Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams.
The Campaign (Warner, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD)
Will Ferrell does his George W thing in this toothless comedy about a bumptious Republican (Ferrell) being challenged for high office by a camp dimwit big-business placeman (Zach Galifianakis). Not sure whether it’s a satire or a series of knockabout goof-offs, The Campaign does land a few comedic punches before its – wouldn’t you know it – redemptive finish.
Keyhole (Soda, cert 18, DVD)
Oddity of the week has all the hallmarks of an artschool project, a wilfully wacky mash-up of Key Largo, Eraserhead and the Odyssey (as in Homer), with Jason Patric (actually rather good here, Speed 2 was a long time ago) playing a gangster character called Ulysses waiting for a police raid in a house filled with odd shit. Only tangentially appearing in this beautifully shot monochrome madhouse are Isabella Rossellini, director Guy Maddin’s muse, and Udo Kier. And where Kier goes, odd cannot be far behind, hence penises protruding from walls, amputees, an old man tethered to a chain like a dog and so on. Guy Maddin is 56.
Django (Argent, cert 15, Blu-ray)
The 1966 film that inspired Tarantino’s Django Unchained (and the ear-slicing scene from Reservoir Dogs, it would seem) is more than just a Fistful of Sergio Leone knock-off, it’s got a gnarly plot, down and dirty looks, a top notch cast headed by Clint lookalike Franco Nero and the sort of twangy spaghetti western soundtrack that should come with meatballs.
© Steve Morrissey 2013