Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan’s (The Sweet Hereafter) latest compelling excursion into the dark side of the human condition is based on a true story.
In 1991, three young boys were found murdered and mutilated in a West Memphis small town. Three teens – antisocial heavy metal freaks with an unhealthy interest in the occult – were quickly rounded up and charged. With bad hair and an even worse attitude, they didn’t do themselves any favours – one by confessing. Soon, aided by a witchhunt, a prejudiced judge and lazy police investigation, the teens faced the death penalty. Only a few had doubts.
One was the victim’s mother (Reese Witherspoon), and as it turned out, she had reason to. Another is legal investigator Ron Lax (an almost unrecognisable Colin Firth). His dogged pursuit of the truth leads us into some murky places – seen before in Dennis Lehane’s Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, as well as last year’s Prisoners.
But chillingly, this story is not fiction.
M from July 24.
• Thanks to Icon Films we have we have five double in-season passes to give away.
The Keeper of Lost Causes
Fresh from the Scandinavian Film Festival and soon on general release, Mikkel Nørgaard’s (Borgen) slick adaption of a bestselling novel is another well-acted, great-looking drama that can only add to that region’s fast developing rep for very twisted behaviour.
Nikolaj Lie Kaas plays the gruff homicide detective Carl Mørck, relegated to a department investigating cold cases. It consists only of himself and an assistant, Assad (Fares Fares) but out of sight of the brass, they quickly get involved in a five-year-old mystery of a high-profile female politician’s disappearance. She vanished from a ferry, a supposed suicide.
Before long they are on a journey that will take them deep into the undercurrent of abuse and malice that lurks beneath the polished surface of Scandinavia.
A huge hit in Denmark, the film was no.1 at their box office for seven weeks. Clearly the Danes like their cinema tough, taut and very dark.
CTC from July 31.
• Thanks to Madmen Entertianment we have we have 5 double in-season passes to give away.
True, some critics labelled Stuart Beattie’s fantasy “unrealistic”. It’s based on Kevin Grevioux’s (Underworld) graphic novel – and well, doh, it’s a comic. Really, how could a story of one of our most enduring fictional monsters incredibly still alive 200 years after being stitched together and now caught up in a war between an immortal clan of gargoyles and winged demons be taken seriously?
Production design gets a big tick – Melbourne looks fantastic as a dark steam-punk-style city.
Bill Nighy hams it up as a corporate creep, Miranda Otto plays the gargoyle Queen and Aaron Eckhart looks as if he was born for the role of Dr Frankenstein’s creature. Even a bit hunky – at least the blondie scientist (Yvonne Strahovski) thinks so.
In one scary scene it looks like we’re being set up for a Son of… sequel. Lovers of B-grade sci-fi and gleefully unrealistic Gothic action-fantasies won’t mind that a bit.
CTC. On Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and Digital HD from July 23.
• Thanks to eOne Home Entertainment we have we have 5 DVDs to give away. Details below.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Most of mankind has been wiped out by Simian flu, so you wouldn’t think there was much room for hippy-ish sentiments. But this is Northern California, and Malcolm (Jason Clarke), one of the survivors, is still dedicated to “peace, love and understanding”.
He has an equally peace-loving partner (Kerri Russell) and gentle son (Kobi Smit-McPhee), and all three look perpetually bamboozled. Why didn’t medical marijuana, gay marriage and renewable energy save the planet? Who knows, but at least the forest dwelling chimps are lead by the benevolent Caesar (Andy Serkis).In the last episode he was raised by James Franco, so he’s a decent sort of ape. He’s taught other apes to talk, raised a family, and unlike normal Bonobos, (and most humans) he’s monogamous, chaste and peaceful too. But Mal’s expedition into their territory looking for hydro power leads to “No dam!” resistance amongst the apes, and then all out war.
We all know who wins.
M on now.
Is climate change too serious to satirize? Cult Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host) doesn’t think so, and in his English language debut he has a fantastic poke at “the greatest challenge of our times.”
Here scientists have fixed global warming by freezing the planet, wiping out most of mankind in the process. The only survivors are all on board a self-propelled train, the “snowpiercer” of the title, which speeds endlessly, round the now frozen planet scooping up its own energy source. On board, a violent version of our capitalist status quo keeps things “sustainable” – the proles live in squalor at the rear while things get progressively nicer towards the front. In the engine the train’s entrepreneurial inventor Wilford (Ed Harris) lives in luxury.
Now this state of affairs can’t last (Marx told us that), and Chris Evans plays the leader of the revolution. No doubt Hollywood thought they’d get a multiplex money-spinner like Avatar from Bong by giving him lots of money and creative freedom. Boy did they make a mistake!
The result is way too nutty and much too thoughtful for that. It’s fabulous subversive fun. Do see it.
CTC from July 24.
Venus in Fur
Roman Polanski’s vengeful detractors may be happy to see an actor (Mathieu Amalric) – who looks a lot like a younger version of this film’s controversial director – humiliated and (literally) tied up. That this happens at the hands of Polanski’s real-life wife (Emmanuelle Seigner) may be doubly satisfying.
But few of those people are cinephiles, most of whom revere the veteran director. And it’s all a joke of course – one that Polanski may be directing against himself and his long problematic exile.
Amalric plays the theatre director Thomas, who is casting and rehearsing a play about gender roles and sadomasochism; Seigner plays Vanda, an actress who unexpectedly turns up for a reading and stays to mess with Thomas’s head.
There are many ways to interpret this sly and intelligent two-hander – filmed totally within the confines of the theatre. Like his last film (Carnage) it’s also adapted from a play (by David Ives), and it contains some savage and fruity dialogue. But as amusing as their battle-of-the-sexes banter is – it still feels like an exercise rather than a major movie. MA15+ at Palace Norton St from July 17.
MA15+ at Palace Norton St from July 17.
Sample dialogue – Girl: “I love f–king you,” Guy: “I f–king love you.”
In other words, it’s a Hollywood rom-com, and this time the girl and guy are Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel. Who for inexplicable reasons – decided to reprise the abominable Bad Teacher with an even worse script.
This time the set-up features Apple product placement so heavily that it’s really a 95-minute ad. However it is so bereft of logic, humour or any possible resemblance to any world we know, that even Steve Jobs would be turning in his grave. Besides, would the billionaire Buddhist even approve of his brilliant devices being used for the production and dissemination of pornography? (Or was that his brilliance?).
We first meet the pair as horny students or maybe Bonobos in heat. All we see in the first 20 minutes is them either screwing or talking about screwing. A bit later, when (sigh) parenthood and adult responsibilities (she’s a mummy blogger!) interfere with the 24-hour bonking, they decide to make a porno starring themselves. Then the dirty vid gets accidently shared via iCloud, and look, we all know iPads are brilliant. But is one really able to film multiple angles of all the “Joy of Sex” positions with all with the naughty bits discreetly hidden?
How would I know? Ask Steve Jobs. MA15+ on now.