Gia Coppola came to moviemaking with impeccable cred; she’s the grandchild of Francis Ford and niece of Sofia. That’s quite a lot to live up to, and something she masterfully pulls off with this moody and keenly observed portrait of adolescence.
Palo Alto is an adaptation of a series of short stories by James Franco – and its linked storylines focus on a group of teens living in what must be the most dangerous places for young people on the planet – affluent LA. Naturally enough she stacked her film with relatives of Hollywood royalty.
Shy and sensitive April (Emma Roberts – Julia Robert’s niece) falls prey to the charms of her soccer coach (Franco). Teddy (Jack Kilmer, Val’s son) tires of his asshole best friend Fred (Nat Wolff), meanwhile, disturbed and promiscuous Emily (Zoe Levins) looks for validation in casual but lonely sex.
Beautifully shot by Autumn Durald and featuring a fantastic soundtrack by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), Palo Alto is a very assured debut that packs powerful emotional punch.
MA15+ from Aug 14.
★ Thanks to Vendetta Films we have we have 10 double in-season passes to give away. See our Giveaways page for details on how to enter.
And So It Goes
Imagine Gordon Gekko 30 years on and still played by Michael Douglas. Here’s he’s Oren, a self-obsessed realtor – still greedy, bitter about the past and an obnoxious grump who owns a swank suburban property somehow worth 8 mill. He wants a cash sale (who does he expect as a buyer, Walter White?) so he can move on.
Now imagine Annie Hall 40 years on but with the same mannerisms (Diane Keaton, and at 67, still a fine looking woman). She’s Leah, a singer who makes a modest living crooning at local restaurants. She’s also his neighbour, and we know right from their first scene together (they bicker) how these two senior singles will end up.
No matter, veteran director Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally) handles the story, which involves Oren unexpectedly having custody of his estranged son’s gorgeous daughter (Sterling Jerins) with deft aplomb. Meanwhile the inevitable setbacks, sight gags and acerbic barbs (all Oren’s) provide plenty of generous laughs.
M from August 7.
★ Thanks to StudioCanal we have we have 10 double in-season passes to give away. See our Giveaways page for details on how to enter.
A Most Wanted Man
A toss up between this and Lucy for our top pick this week – but Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s tummy tipped the scale. And we do see a lot of it in Anton Corbijn’s edgy spy drama.
Set in Hamburg, this was the great actor’s last film and truth be told – he does not look well. Surprisingly, we also see him run and even get into a pub brawl, but this is a John Le Carre, so action is hardly the point.
Naturally there’s plenty of cynicism, intrigue and duplicity in the dense plot involving Muslim refugees, terrorism and inter agency rivalry in a post 9-11 world. Rachel McAdams plays a rich girl refugee advocate whose naïvity lands her (and some innocent immigrants) in deep shit (why do I think Sarah-Hanson Young would hate this movie?). Robin Wright stands in for the treacherous CIA and Willem Dafoe looks menacing just by turning up.
It’s fantastic stuff, easily the best thing on right now.
M from July 31.
Keira Knightley does have detractors – many of them Brits inexplicably compelled to take snide pot shots at her Home County looks. I don’t get it, and she’s totally charming here as Gretta, a singer-songwriter in John Carney’s follow-up to his much-loved 2006 indie musical, Once.
This is a similar story – only set in NY and with a much bigger budget – plus Mark Ruffalo (rumpled, scruffy and drunk – again!) as a washed-up music biz exec who discovers Gretta one sodden night. Inevitably it’s slicker, but still funny, offbeat and ramshackle enough for its integrity to shine through. And it really sparkles!
M from Aug 7.
Luc Besson’s Lucy is based on the (dubious) premise that we only use 10% of our brain. Most Hollywood movies require much less (1% in the case of Sex Tape), but super-woman Scarlett Johansson is our hero here, a partying English student in Taiwan who accidently consumes a vast quantity of a super drug that unlocks that other 90%.
It’s a blue powder called CPH4 (got that, all you chemistry students?) and as someone says, “It’s a drug the kids in Europe are gonna enjoy.” Maybe not… What happens next is either the scariest anti-drug polemic ever, or the most profound trip movie since Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.But who cares, wow, oh wow… this girl can do no wrong.
Already this year Ms Johansson been an operating system, an alien from outer space who consumes men, and now… well what? I’ve always suspected she was a Goddess. Now I’m 100% totally convinced.
MA15+ from July 31
These Final Hours
Most of us have wondered what would happen if the end came and all social restraints vanished. In Zac Hilditch’s auspicious debut feature, a meteor has hit the earth somewhere up north. Us lucky inhabitants of the southern hemisphere have just 12 hours or so to ahmm… get our affairs in order.
For James (Nathan Phillips), that means leaving his newly pregnant girlfriend (Jessica De Gouw) and heading out for a drug-fuelled bacchanalia to be with his ex. But much of the population of suburban Perth are behaving like bogan brutes – raping and pillaging at random (not much point in looting a new widescreen) and along the way he reluctantly rescues 11 year-old Rose (Angourie Rice). There are plenty of side adventures but finally, this touchingly naïve girl gives James a reason to find a redemptive way to meet his end.
If some of this doesn’t quite gell, that’s hardly surprising. Who the hell knows what would happen, or how we would react? And where the hell is Tom Cruise when we need him?
Judging by the last amazing few frames of this haunting, edgy and infuriatingly misanthropic film, I’d head to the tallest building in the city. And watch the show.
MA15+ from July 31
Reviews – Russell Edwards