I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG * * * * *
Cert 15 110 mins - Subtitled
Fluent in French, Paris-based Kristin Scott Thomas has carved an impressive career in two languages. She’s yet to receive a nomination for the Cesars, but that should change with a career defining performance that’s also generating a strong buzz for a second Oscar nod.
Her slight English accent accounted for in the exposition, she plays Juliette, a dowdy former doctor who’s come to live with younger sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) and her family after spending the last 15 years in prison.
They’ve had no contact in that time and she’s never met Lea’s husband Luc or their two adopted Vietnamese daughters. Unsurprisingly, there’s an air of awkwardness and hesitancy around the house.
Through conversations with Lea, the police officer to whom she reports, and her sister’s friends, director Philippe Claudel slowly teases out the back story.
At first, all we know of Juliette’s crime is that it caused her parents to disown her and raise Lea as an only child. Then, confronted by a prospective employer demanding to know more, she reveals why she was imprisoned.
The emotional undercurrents of Scott Thomas’ subtle performance ensure you refrain from judgement until the full story is told. And Juliette’s not the only character with unspoken agonies weighing on their lives.
An austere tale of guilt, grief, reconciliation and redemption that steers clear of melodrama, it’s veined with deep psychological insights as Juliette slowly reassimilates and the unspoken love between the sisters gradually finds release.
Expressing thoughts, fears and feelings with the subtlest of facial expressions and body language, Scott Thomas delivers a masterclass in nuance, leavening Juliette’s melancholy with flashes of humour and a smile that points to a still beating heart.
By the time the cathartic confessional between the sisters arrives, you’ll be a sobbing wreck.
MIRRORS * *
Cert 15 110 mins
Another month, another Asian horror remake. At least this has the benefit of few people having seen the South Korean original, Into the Mirror; but you still somehow know that that had to be better.
Not bothering to shed his Jack Bauer clothes, Kiefer Sutherland’s a recovering alcoholic NYPD cop, suspended from duty after a traumatic accident and estranged from his medical examiner wife (Paula Patton). Looking to get his life back together, he takes the job of nightwatchman at a department store burned out five years earlier in an arson attack by his predecessor that cost dozens of lives.
Told the place gets a bit spooky at night, it’s not long before he’s hearing voices, hallucinating himself on fire and seeing things in the mirrors that have somehow survived the blaze.
Next thing you know, his sister’s ripped her own jaw off and he’s convinced there’s something evil living, not just in the mirrors, but any reflective surface.
Setting out to solve the mystery behind the fire and protect his family, he discovers the place was once a mental asylum experimenting with schizophrenia cures, and that not all the patients died in a tragic on-site incident.
Not that any of this makes the film any more coherent or interesting as it throws in some obligatory boo moments and child in peril suspense and an intense Sutherland. Opening with a man staring into a mirror as he slices open his own throat, it’s doesn’t stint on the gruesome but a little more narrative reflection wouldn’t have gone amiss.
NIGHTS IN RODANTHE * * *
Cert PG 95 Mins
Novels like Message In A Bottle and The Notebook have made Nicholas Sparks the king of middlebrow bittersweet romances about emotional healing.
The latest adaptation teams Diane Lane and Richard Gere for a third time, she looking to escape a resentful teen daughter and wayward husband asking to come home, he a divorced work-centred surgeon with an estranged doctor son (James Franco). They meet at her friend’s architecturally eccentric island beach hotel she’s minding for the weekend where he’s the only guest, there to meet the husband of a patient who died during routine procedure before flying off to reconcile with his son.
With bad weather setting in, cue soulful ocean-gazing, romantic walks on the beach, metaphorical storm, a lesson in compassion, and blossoming love with the promise of new lives. It’s well acted (Gere adding meaningful sigh to trademark sniff), old fashioned melodrama and the ending should ensure a good cry for the older chick flick audience.
THE FOOT FIST WAY * * *
Cert 15 82 mins
A champion in his own mind, loudmouth Fred Simmons (Danny McBride) runs a smalltown dojo teaching Tae Kwan Do (the title’s the literal translation) to kids, old women, and misfits with anger issues.
Discovering bimbo wife Suzie (Mary Jane Bostic) has been dispensing sexual favours to her new colleagues, Fred gets a little erratic, coming on to a sexy new client and taking his frustrations out on a seven-year-old student.
Life takes a turn for the better when Suzie asks for a reconciliation and he visits a martial arts convention and hangs out with his movie star idol, Chuck “The Truck” Wallace (Ben Best), completely oblivious to the fact he’s a drunken, drug-crazed prima donna. Better yet, Chuck agrees to give a display at the studio’s testing day. Unfortunately, Fred makes the mistake of leaving Suzie and Chuck home alone.
Overextended perhaps, but written and directed by co-star Jody Hill and with a cringingly hilarious deadpan turn from McBride as the unaware, self-deluding Fred, this is a very funny, Christopher Guest-style mockumentary with a generous dash of Napoleon Dynamite and Ricky Gervais.
THE HOUSE BUNNY * * *
Cert 12A 97 mins
“Kindness is love with its work boots on”, offers Shelley (Ana Faris), an airhead Playboy Bunny apparently evicted from the mansion because she’s too old at 27. Stumbling across a college campus, her testosterone-magnet charms land her the job of house mother to the socially-challenged residents of the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority.
Walking examples of low self-esteem, they’ve been told that unless they get 30 pledges, they’ll be closed down. But that means being popular enough for girls to want to sign up. Which is where Shelley comes in, her “skimpifying” makeover giving them the looks and the self-confidence they need for boys to notice and girls to hang out.
However, her tricks don’t work for her when it comes to dating Oliver (Colin Hanks), who works at the old folks’ home. So, now its the girls turn to help boost her brain just as she boosted their bras.
A teen chick comedy that staples Legally Blonde to Mean Girls, it may not ask why anyone would want to be popular with guys so shallow they only respond to surface appearances, but, a welcome relief from the recent spate of Judd Apatow groin humour, its fuzzily sweet and engaging funny sisterhood fable about being true to yourself is hard to resist.
Now officially the new Goldie Hawn, Faris is tremendous in her first starring role (her habit of saying people’s names in an Exorcist voice is a hoot) while, as unofficial Zeta leader Natalie, Emma Stone conjures reminder of Lindsay Lohan in happier days. Great fun, and remember, “the eyes are the nipples of the face”.
JAR CITY * * *
Cert 15 95 mins - Subtitled
A man’s bludgeoned to death in his Reykjavik apartment. It is, as world weary cop Erlendur (Ingvar Sigurdsson) observes, a “typical Icelandic murder; messy and pointless.”
However, there’s intriguing aspects. The lowlife was once involved in an unproven rape case and the prime suspect is one of his two former accomplices, a hulking sociopath currently banged up in solitary. Also, taped to a drawer, is a photo of a grave marker; that of a four-year-old girl who died of a rare brain disorder 30 years earlier and whose mother committed suicide.
As Erlendur digs deeper, connections lead to the corrupt cop who handled the rape case and the discovery that the girl’s pickled brain is stored at a genetics research project where the young daughter of one of its employees has just died of the same disorder. On top of which Erlunder’s trying to repair his fractured relationship with his drug addict teenage daughter.
Shot in cold greys and blues, it’s a compellingly sombre procedural about loss, loneliness and the past’s hold on the present. Chain-smoking and snacking on sheep’s heads, Sigurdsson’s terrific as the depressed but no-nonsense Erlendur and, while the killer’s revealed early on, there’s more than enough knotted twists and black humour to keep mystery devotees glued to the screen.
GOMORRAH * * *
Cert 15 137 mins - Subtitled
You know about the Mafia, but, despite some 4,000 murders in the past 30 years and their dealings in everything from drugs to waste dumping to high fashion knock-offs, chances are you’re unfamiliar with the Camorra, the organised crime families of Naples.
Based on Roberto Saviano’s bestselling expose, this sprawling documentary style epic goes out of it way not to glamorise gangsterism and, in its tangled multiple narrative of rival family turf wars, shifting allegiances, youthful ambitions and world weary resignation, to focus on the foot soldiers rather than the top of the crime ladder.
Thus, there’s a couple of young Scarface wannabes, a middle aged accountant who wants out, an elderly tailor selling his expertise to the opposition and a naive graduate hired by the guy running the toxic waste dumping.
Reflecting the nature of the Camorra, there’s almost no female characters, other than a woman a young boy sets up for execution to earn his stripes.
It’s not easy to keep track of who’s who or the reason for the power struggles, especially not when characters are bumped off just as you’ve got a handle on them, which makes it all a rather confusing. However, between the violence, striking images, the air of helplessness that hovers around the housing projects, and the fatalistic inevitably that haunts the characters, it’s certainly never dull.
THE MUTANT CHRONICLES * * *
Cert 15 111 mins
It may open with what looks like WWI trench warfare, but this steam-punk thriller is firmly set in a post-apocalyptic 2707 when Earth’s resources are all but exhausted and the world’s divided into four warring corporations.
During the latest conflict, an ancient seal’s breached, reactivating a long buried alien machine that turns the dead into blade-handed mutants. Faced with annihilation, those with money are getting off planet, those without are left behind to die.
However, persuaded ancient manuscripts hold the key to destroying the machine, monastic order leader Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman) has put together a Dirty Dozen style crew of fighters from the rival corporations, guilt-ridden atheist Mitch Hunter (Thomas Jane) among them, to undertake a suicide mission.
Brit director Simon Hunter’s follow up to slasher pic Lighthouse, this is undeniably a mess with dreadful dialogue, bad CGI, comic book acting, clumsily staged action and an incoherent derivative plot. Yet, for all that, it’s actually rather entertaining in a disengage brain way if you’ve nothing better to do on a Friday night.