THE Scotsman’s film critic Alistair Harkness casts his eye over the latest films.
Casa de mi Padre (15)
Directed by: Matt Piedmont
Starring: Will Ferrell, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna
CASA de mi Padre is a one-joke movie and that one joke is this: Will Ferrell does the entire film in Spanish. Not dubbed Spanish. Actual, passable, high school-level Spanish. Alas, despite his admirable commitment to playing a Mexican rancher in this low-budget exploitation movie parody, all he really proves is that he can be unfunny in another language too.
There certainly aren’t too many genuine laughs to be had in the brief yet somehow still overlong 80-minute running time. Playing his noble but dim-witted character straight while all around him wink at and mug for the cameras, Ferrell’s character, Armando Alvarez, is another variant on the many idiot naïfs he’s played in his career.
In other words, he’s sweet but delusional, has a problematic relationship with his family, and a crush on a woman way, way, way out of his league. Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal respectively co-star as his younger untrustworthy brother and the local Scarface-style drug baron, but as Armando inevitably gets drawn into their dirty dealings, the film half-heartedly tries to muscle in on territory that’s already been exhaustively spoofed by Robert Rodriguez. Willfully bad effects, jump cuts and missing scenes duly follow, but the results put the grind in grindhouse.
Angèle and Tony (15)
Directed by: Alix Delaporte
Starring: Clotilde Hesme, Grégory Gadebois, Evelyn Didi
TOO slight to really satisfy as a feature, too long to work as a short, Angèle and Tony is yet another pleasantly presented, utterly perfunctory arthouse offering featuring disparate characters on the margins of life coming together in schematic ways to reveal very little of any consequence. Clotilde Hesme stars as the titular Angèle, a preposterously attractive and uber-stylish ex-con whose motive for arriving in a Normandy fishing village goes beyond answering a personal ad posted by chunky, balding fisherman Tony (Grégory Gadebois). Using sex to get what she wants – so no clichés there then – the fallen Angèle soon discovers the drearily normal and decent Tony isn’t like every other guy.
Rejecting her needy sexual advances, he instead offers her food, lodging and a crash course in fish mongering; in short the sort of stability she knows she needs if she’s to have any chance of seeing the estranged son whom she really came back to town to see. Setting this odd couple relationship drama against the backdrop of a dying fishing industry, debut director Alix Delaport flavours it with tokenistic social realist conventions that seem designed to pad out a story barely worth hearing.
The Pact (15)
Directed by: Nicholas McCarthy
Starring: Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, Haley Hudson, Agnes Bruckner
PART paranormal chiller, part serial killer thriller, The Pact is, unfortunately, all bad thanks to a poorly thought-out premise that fails to follow its own logic. Gillian Anderson doppelganger Caity Lotz stars as Annie, a tough, no-nonsense biker girl whose return to her childhood home to sort out the estate of her recently deceased mother coincides with the disappearance of her estranged, ex-junkie sister Nicole (Agnes Bruckner).
Believing she’s merely run away again, Annie’s lack of concern is soon challenged when ghostly goings-on in the family home result in her being assaulted and her cousin disappearing. The police aren’t sure if she’s crazy or telling the truth, and so, after discovering secret rooms in the house that fail to adequately explain the disappearance of the two women, they let her conduct her own Google investigation into a local serial killer while they fail to follow simple procedure by sealing off the crime scene. By the time Annie elicits the help of a local psychic to spell out what’s happening with a makeshift Ouija board, any deal The Pact has made with horror fans hoping for a tense movie-going experience has long since been broken.
Woody Allen: A Documentary (15)
Directed by: Robert Weide
THE self-explanatory title of Robert Weide’s film about Woody Allen is indicative of his no-nonsense approach to his subject. Though unashamed in its appreciation of the neurotic New Yorker’s extraordinary career, it’s exactly the sort of comprehensive, intelligent and well-made film anyone with even a passing interest in Allen can embrace.
Famously unwilling to celebrate his own work – in an extended interview on the BBC years ago he wouldn’t even watch the clips selected for discussion – Allen opens up quite extensively here about his creative process, his childhood and the highs and lows of his career.
It helps that Weide – who has made similar films on the Marx brothers but is perhaps best known for directing Curb Your Enthusiasm – has plenty of access. Having Allen give us a guided tour of his old Brooklyn neighbourhood is priceless and it’s fascinating to see how intimidated and nervous big name actors are on his sets.
Tracing his evolution from schoolboy jokesmith to club comic to celebrated (and not so celebrated) auteur, the film – which also boasts frank interviews with a number of key collaborators as well as a wealth of rare archival material – does a good job of justifying why Allen continues to matter without whitewashing his story.
Ill Manors (18)
Directed by: Ben Drew
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein, Natalie Press, Anouska Mond
IN ITS own way, the directorial debut of multi-tasking musician/actor/cider shill Ben Drew (aka Plan B) is as bad as Madonna’s W.E. Ludicrously overblown, stylised to within an inch of its life and loaded with every visual cliché in the book, it would be laugh-out-loud funny were it not so relentlessly and unpleasantly grim.
A sort of London gangster-flavoured hip-hop soap opera (it even features a baby in a burning building!), it cuts together multiple intersecting tales from “Cameron’s broken Britain” with the kind of nuance you’d expect to find on The Jeremy Kyle Show (something the characters smugly reference). All the men are all crack-smoking, hyper-violent bullyboys; the kids are all psycho-killers in waiting, and if the women aren’t beating each other up in shopping centres and on council estates, they’re being pimped out for kebabs or beaten to within an inch of their lives by Russian gangsters.
A fine assemblage of young actors – led by the ever brilliant Riz Ahmed – are wasted trying to give life to the paper-thin characters Drew has conceived, and they’re not helped by Drew’s decision to fill in the characters’ back-stories with musical montages featuring tracks from Plan B’s current concept album of the same name.