Alistair Harkness reviews the latest film releases
GI Joe: Retaliation (12A)
Directed by: Jon Chu
Starring: Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, Byung-hun Lee, Jonathan Pryce
Worse than any of the Transformers films, worse than Battleship, worse even than its own barrel-scraping predecessor, GI Joe: Retaliation has the distinction of being the worst blockbuster ever made. Delayed for almost a year to retrofit it with 3D – and apparently beef up Channing Tatum’s part (even though he’s only in it for ten minutes) – it’s a film that makes so little sense on a scene-to-scene basis that even attempting to decipher the story proves an exercise in futility. With memories of the original fading the moment it ended, the most notable thing about the new film then (aside from being directed by the guy who made Justin Bieber: Never Say Never!), is that Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis have joined the franchise; the former playing a betrayed member of the titular elite fighting unit and the latter turning up as a sort of final act substitute to shoot some guns and repeatedly make a joke with no punchline. There’s also a ninja who may or may not be a villain (the filmmakers don’t seem to know). Oh, and London gets nuked without anybody commenting on it. Then some other stuff happens. Then it ends.
In the House (15)
Directed by: Francois Ozon
Starring: Farbrice Luchini, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ernst Umhauer
Francois Ozon tends to jump between films that are frivolous and campy and films that are weighty and serious, with the latter often more enjoyable than the former. With In the House, however, he’s managed to do what Woody Allen and Pedro Almodóvar have frequently done in their best work: blend comedy and drama in a playful, ideas-driven and thoroughly entertaining way. The premise itself is very Woody Allen, exploring as it does the nature of creativity. Revolving around Germain (Fabrice Luchini), a jaded high-school teacher who becomes increasingly obsessed with a promising writing student called Claude (newcomer Ernst Umhauer), the film delights in blurring the line between fact and fiction as Claude’s stories – detailing his efforts to insinuate himself into the comfortable life of his best friend – begin to affect both Germain’s bourgeois life with his art-dealer wife (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), and Claude’s perceptions of his own place in the world. The master-pupil dynamic drives the film to some interesting places, with both Germain and Claude having an increasingly toxic effect on one another and Germain’s critiques of Claude’s work allowing Ozon to expertly fudge our perceptions of what type of film we’re actually watching. Great stuff.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (15)
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Finally making its way to Scottish screens – just in time for Easter – Alex Gibney’s indignant, level-headed investigation into paeodophilia in the priesthood may have recently been overtaken by world events, but its damning account of Pope Benedict’s failure to address the rampant child molestation atrocities within the church provides useful context for his recent resignation. That’s just one strand of this sickening story, though. The main focus is on the victims of Father Lawrence Murphy, a serial abuser of deaf children at a care home in Milwaukee in the 1960s and 70s. Having targeted boys whose parents couldn’t sign so they wouldn’t be able to tell on him, it’s estimated he abused somewhere in the region of 200 victims, justifying his actions by claiming he was absolving them of their sins. As adults, however, these victims wouldn’t be silenced and with tenacity and tremendous courage they began a campaign to expose their abusers and hold the church to account. The film approaches their case with the forcefulness of a brilliant piece of detective work, weaving in the wider implications and leaving no stone unturned in its determination to piece together a devastating criminal cover-up in a cogent and compelling way.
Good Vibrations (15)
Directed by: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Starring: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whitaker, MichaeL Colgan
Music fans of a certain vintage will know Terri Hooley as the bloke from Belfast who signed The Undertones and put Teenage Kicks out on his fledgling Good Vibrations label, supplying the late John Peel with his favourite record of all time in the process. Both these cultural milestones (the recording of the single and Peel’s decision to debut it on his show by playing it twice in a row) are among the big flashpoint moments in this biopic tracing Hooley’s ongoing efforts to use his independent record shop and club nights to bring a little cultural harmony to a city torn apart by the Troubles. Given such fertile material, though, it’s a bit of a shame that directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn don’t deliver any surprises: this is meat-and-potatoes filmmaking, a world away from the brilliance of producer Michael Winterbottom’s 24-Hour Party People. On the plus side, as Hooley, Richard Dormer does a good job of bringing some shading to the man despite the film’s determination to treat him as little more than a lovable reprobate who dared to dream big.
Beyond the Hills (12A)
Directed by: Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Cristina Flutur, Cosmina Stratan, Valerie Andriuta
Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s first full length feature since his startling breakthrough with the 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a much more esoteric work than his Palme d’Or winner. Loosely based on a true story about a real life exorcism, it homes in on the relationship between two young women we’re told grew up together in an orphanage. Returning after working in Germany for several years, Alina (Cristina Flutur) is distressed to find her best friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) has devoted her life to living a hardscrabble existence as part of an Orthodox convent run by a patriarchal figure whose power over the women suggests something more sinister is perhaps afoot. Alina, however, is the one who is most in danger as her potentially disruptive presence and increasingly erratic behaviour result in severe treatments being administered to her. What’s fascinating about Mungiu’s approach is his how matter-of-fact it is: he doesn’t amp up the potential genre components or demonise anyone, or offer any answers. His camera is just there, like an indifferent observer, something that makes this film about faith and love a long and challenging watch, but not an unrewarding one.