Alistair Harkness reviews the latest cinema releases.
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, James Ransome
WHO knew demons were such retro-fetishists? In Sinister, a whisky-tanning true crime writer called Ellison (Ethan Hawke) stumbles upon a possibly supernatural serial killer by way of a box of super-8 snuff films he finds lying in the attic of his new house.
Depicting – among other things – the relatively recent backyard mass hanging that Ellison has moved his idiotically unsuspecting family into the house to investigate, these home movies suggest a killer with a nonsensical interest in old film stock given that several of the crimes they show have happened since the dawn of video, never mind digital.
Ellison, however, doesn’t think to begin his investigation by asking why a killer would continue to record murders on a format that needs to be sent out to a commercial lab for processing (clearly he hasn’t seen Manhunter), though perhaps that’s also an unintentional clue as to why his once profitable literary notoriety has diminished: he’s not too bright. Either way, as Ellison delves into the mystery of the films, co-writer/director Scott Derrickson makes an unconvincing attempt to add depth by focusing on Ellison’s marital problems. Alas, he makes an even less convincing attempt to add scares by recycling the best bits of The Ring, Poltergeist and The Exorcist.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (12A)
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd
THIS terribly titled coming-of-age movie attempts to inure itself against criticism with a declaration from its titular shrinking violet (Logan Lerman) that people always forget what it feels like to be 16. He says this in voiceover as he prepares to stand on the back of a pick-up truck and scream into the night while his openly gay best friend (Ezra Miller) and the 18-year-old girl with the style-icon looks that he’s in love with (Emma Watson) drive him through a tunnel blasting out David Bowie’s Heroes on the stereo.
Now, maybe I really have forgotten what it’s like to be 16, but I’m pretty sure that no kid outside of a teen movie has ever behaved or been in a situation like this – and if they have, it’s probably because they saw it on an equally phoney teen movie and thought that’s how they’re supposed behave. Cliché perpetuates cliché in other words and, adapting his own young adult novel, writer/director Stephen Chbosky’s attempt to pass off the raft of outsider stereotypes he collects here as something honest and true is pretty dispiriting – although perhaps not quite as dispiriting as the hackneyed child abuse subplot he tacks on to imbue an already melodramatic storyline with some undeserved gravitas.
Liberal Arts (12A)
Directed by: Josh Radnor
Starring: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney
* * *
“WHY do I like this guy?” asks a spaced-out student (played by Zac Efron) of Josh Radnor’s pining-for-his youth New Yorker in Liberal Arts. “Because he’s likeable,” replies Elizabeth Olsen’s clearly smitten undergraduate. Leaving aside the ego-massaging fact that Radnor (star of US sitcom How I Met Your Mother) also wrote and directed it, this exchange gets to the root of why the film succeeds in transcending more insufferable moments (like the multiple book reading and letter writing montages): Radnor really is a likeable guy on screen.
It helps that in crafting a film about a recently dumped, overly sensitive book lover called Jesse whose return to his beloved alma mater results in a life-enriching new friendship with a 19-year-old college student called – sheesh – Zibby (the aforementioned Olsen), he’s self-aware enough to avoid some – though not all (see above) – of the pitfalls that would justify pillorying Liberal Arts as another Garden State clone. The relationship between Jesse and Zibby – it feels wrong even typing that name – is key to this and doesn’t go in the expected direction. But there are some sly comic touches, too, that further offset the life metaphor overload. In the end, like Radnor himself, Liberal Arts is simply likeable.
Directed by: Christian Petzold
Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Rainer Bock, Jasna Fritzi Bauer
* * * *
A TAUT and terrible tale of state oppression and personal sacrifice is given a wonderfully human dimension in Barbara, a Cold War drama from Christian Petzold, the German auteur who caused a minor ripple on the festival circuit a few years back with his strange, metaphysical corporate thriller Yella.
Like that film, it’s built around another sterling performance by Petzold regular Nina Hoss, whose brittle, statuesque figure makes her an enigmatic but engaging screen presence – and thus perfect for playing a Berlin doctor banished to the provinces of the GDR for requesting a visa to the West.
Set in 1980, the film takes its time outlining the sinister ways in which the government seeks to control people, with Petzold diligently building up tension by showing Barbara (Hoss) letting down her guard as she becomes caught up in the lives of her patients at the very moment her partner – who lives in the West – is arranging her escape. Complicating matters is her burgeoning relationship with idealistic colleague André (Ronald Zehrfeld), who may or may not be working for the Stasi. Petzold lets the ensuing drama unfolds elegantly, building to a quietly powerful emotional pay off that feels both well earned and honest.
The Knot (15)
Directed by: Jesse Lawrence
Starring Noel Clarke, Mena Suvari, Talulah Riley, Matthew McNulty
THIS feels like it was written, shot and edited the weekend Bridesmaids became a smash hit, such is the slapdash nature of the script, the shoddy production values (would it have killed them to turn off the camera’s blur-inducing autofocus?) and the blatant attempt to appeal to both men and women’s baser instincts with gross-out gags that sadly aren’t funny.
Co-starring and co-written by Noel Clarke (clearly spreading himself too thin: this is his third produced screenplay this year), it’s a naff, insight-free wedding comedy in which the nuptials of bland couple Alexandra (Talulah Riley) and Jeremy (Matthew McNulty) are an excuse to cut between the trying-too-hard-to-be-outrageous big day shenanigans of the bridal party and the groomsmen.
This being a mirthless Britcom aimed at a mythical mainstream audience that apparently laps this stuff up, that means arses are sliced by misplaced glassware, rings are dropped down toilets and fecal matter ends up on people’s faces. It also means the excruciatingly unfunny jokes are delivered by a cast who appear to have been directed to talk and behave in a way that bears no relation to even the drunkest human behaviour.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
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Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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