* * * *
Cert 15, 101 minutes
The British Board of Film Classification’s ‘consumer advice’ posting for Danny Boyle’s new film say it ‘contains strong bloody violence, gore, sex, nudity and strong language’.
In other words, it’s packed with all the little extras he couldn’t put into the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony.
Now 56, the Trainspotting director has never been shy when it comes to exploring new sensations on the silver screen and there are moments in Trance which are unforgettable.
One head shot will blow your mind.
A naked body scene will make you blush if you’ve foolishly decided to take your granny.
And then there’s the Y-front sequence that, for men at least, will put the ‘ouch’ into pouch. As the script says: ‘Maybe there are some things it’s better not to remember’. Like its title, Trance aims to hold you spellbound.
And it comes very close to doing just that, with some clear directorial sleights of hand.
There are large periods of this film when you will be glued to the screen by its energy, dynamism, boldness and colour – only to lose concentration when your brain wakes up from the director’s spell to ask: ‘What on earth’s going on now?’
Having recently watched Boyle waxing lyrical about the benefits of new technology in Keanu Reeves’ brilliant celluloid-to-digital documentary Side By Side, you can see here how the Radcliffe-born director really enjoys the creativity and flexibility of a medium that’s still in its relative infancy.
A fellow Oscar winner for Slumdog Millionaire, pioneering digital cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle has steered Boyle down this path with their other collaborations including 28 Days Later..., Millions and 127 Hours.
Here the haziness of certain scenes might be designed to fudge reality, but some might find the effect to be overdone.
Trance is a bold statement that after dabbling in the theatre and sport, Boyle is still a confident force to be reckoned with.
With any luck, his best is still to come.
One Mile Away
* * *
Cert 15, 91 minutes
Having used real life as the inspiration for her scarcely-released gang movie 1 Day (2009), Penny Woolcock returned to Birmingham ready to film two warring parties in search of a truce.
Early scenes in this documentary illustrate how the postcode turf war between the Johnson Crew and the Burger Bar Boys has led to suspicion and fatalities.
In the summer of 2010, Johnson member Matthias Thompson made an out-of-the-blue phonecall to Woolcock asking her if she would be a neutral go-between for the two sides to explore a truce.
Having initiated their own peace process, two rival members meet in a Birmingham hotel with Woolcock filming them.
And Jonathan Powell, the former Downing Street Chief of Staff who helped to broker peace in Northern Ireland, also offers advice during a visit.
While 1 Day was well intentioned, it felt out of place as an American-style film shot here.
One Mile Away is much better suited to the documentary format, though it leaves many questions unanswered about current lifestyles and, inevitably, future prospects.
Cinematically, the key meeting here is never dressed up like the meeting of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Michael Mann’s 1995 thriller, Heat.
But then there’s clearly been more than enough real-life posturing over the years.
Birmingham, as a city, is all about finding your inner self and living in harmony – whatever your background and wherever you’ve come from.
If One Mile Away can foster a sense of whole-city community within certain factions, a 7 Up style sequel would be a good thing for everyone to aim for.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Cert 12A, 110 minutes
There should be a preservation order on ex-wrestler Dwayne Johnson.
He’s got the smile of Tom Cruise, the comedic warmth of Bruce Willis, the muscles of Stallone and the potential no-nonsense attitude of Schwarzenegger’s Terminator cyborg.
And still Hollywood won’t give him a franchise.
After serving his apprenticeship in poor family films like The Game Plan (2007) and The Tooth Fairy (2010), it beggars belief that Johnson was then cast in this sequel to the second-rate original 2009 G.I. Joe film, The Rise of Cobra.
Here, the terrorist organisation has wiped out most of the G.I.s, leaving Roadblock (Johnson), Flint (DJ Cotrona) and Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) to lead a fightback which unconvincingly pads out most of the film.
As his early banter with the briefly returning Channing Tatum (Duke) proves, Johnson deserves far better material than a non-stop confusing orgy of violence, somehow directed by Jon M Chu on the back of two Step Up dance movies.
Now 40, ‘The Rock’ is just three years older than Schwarzenegger when he broke through with The Terminator, so it’s not too late for him yet.
But, on the strength of this delayed release, Johnson’s career is in need of a real life rescue mission.
Cert 15, 111 minutes
There’s a really good idea at the heart of this ‘comedy’ thriller but the message is quickly lost amid an excess of vindictive nastiness – a form of cinematic bile which Hollywood has produced far too frequently in recent years.
Identity Thief features the kind of ‘humour’ which says you don’t just hit a person once, you should do it repeatedly to make it funnier.
The director is Seth Gordon (the lamentable Horrible Bosses), now recasting Jason Bateman as family man Sandy Bigelow Patterson.
Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy steals the unisex name to create her own ID. That she is a nasty person with no redeeming features is probably true of many crooks but her spiteful behaviour leads the script down too many different paths.
The opening scene in which Patterson has his identity cloned will send a chill down your spine.
Trying to stretch it into a domestic drama, corporate crisis study, road trip thriller and bounty hunter nonsense feels like a pathetic exercise from studio bosses headlocked by their own tick-box mentality.
In The House (Dans la maison)
* * * *
Cert 15, 105 minutes
This classy French education drama makes Identity Thief seem like the work of rank amateurs.
Newcomer Ernst Umhauer plays a 16-year-old boy called Claude who befriends a classmate and starts to write stories about his family.
Fabrice Luchini is teacher Germain, whose tired demeanour is lifted by Claude’s enthusiasm.
Soon, though, Claude is creating scenarios which could lead everyone into dangerous territory, including Germain’s wife Jeanne (another wonderful French performance by that most English of actresses, Kristin Scott Thomas).
A coming of age story which blends sexual awakening with learning how to write, In The House is an ambitious, beautiful looking movie with the underlying theme that if you want to get on in life soon or later you have to start to experience it for good or bad.
Showing at Cineworld Broad St.
Finding Nemo 3D
* * * * *
Cert U, 96 minutes
It is a sobering thought that few people under the age of 15 will be able to remember ever watching this 2003 film on the silver screen.
Re-releasing it in 3D gives a whole new generation the chance to enjoy it in cinemas for the first time – as well as adding extra depth to the wonderful scenes from the ocean deep.
Nemo still lives up to the brilliance of its tagline: ‘There are 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean, they’re looking for one’.
That the voices are relatively anonymous makes them timeless and characterful, too, with Albert Brooks (Marlin) alongside Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), Nemo (Alexander Gould), Willem Dafoe (Gill), Geoffrey Rush (Nigel) and Barry Humphries as Bruce, the Great White.
Even Bambi didn’t begin with the central character losing all of his siblings and his mother at the same time. But this film is a rescue mission comedy thriller with single parent clownfish father Marlin trying to find his son.
Finding Nemo is now preceded by a brand Toy Story Toons short called Partysaurus Rex which leads to a rave in a bubble bath.
Caesar Must Die (Cesare deve morire)
* * * *
Cert PG, 76 minutes
Beautifully directed by octogenarian Italian brothers Paola Taviani and Vittorio Taviani, this shortish film won the Golden Bear at the (Mike Leigh led) 62nd Berlin International Film Festival.
Personally, I generally prefer my Shakespeare to be like Ian McKellen’s Richard III or Di Caprio’s Romeo & Juliet – and foreign prison movies to have the flair of French thriller Mesrine. But if you’re in the mood for a more theatrical / Dogme style version, cast using inmates at Rome’s high-security Rebibbia Prison, then don’t wait to find out you are not immortal.
Aside from the colour bookends, the film is shot with actors who look believably real in hardened black and white.
As they find issues and themes they can relate to, the action is never remotely static despite the frequent nature of the close-ups and the plastic sword.
Caesar Must Die is at the MAC from April 1-4.