FILM: Brixton Blog’s Thursday round-up

London: The Modern Babylon

By Ashley Clark

It’s documentary central at the south London’s best cinema this week (plus talking teddy bears…) 

At a time when London seems to be feeling conspicuously good about itself, we can further celebrate its history with Julien Temple’s London: The Modern Babylon; easily the most interesting new film opening at the Ritzy this week. Making great use of film and music archival material from the past 100 years, Temple’s film attempts, ambitiously and largely successfully, to tell the story of the capital’s epic journey through a century of cultural change and development. It’s compelling, frequently moving stuff.

Also new is Undefeated, a schematic and cliched – but always watchable – documentary about the travails of a North Memphis high-school American football team (comprised entirely of black kids) and their long-suffering, inspirational white coach. It’s occasionally moving, but, despite its real-life credentials, predictable, and saddled with a tiresome “white saviour” narrative construct redolent of the likes of The Blind Side and The Help. It won the award for Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars, proof that the establishment likes a film that makes it feel good about itself.

A much more satisfying and complex doc continuing at the Ritzy this week is Malik Bedjelloul’s excellent Searching for Sugarman. It tells the amazing story of Rodriguez; a 1970s Detroit musician who was virtually unknown in his own country, but became a counter-cultural icon in South Africa. It’s a constantly surprising, moving must-see. Meanwhile, for those of an architectural bent, there’s a handful of screenings of Eames: The Architect & The Painter, a nice doc on influential American designer Charles Eames.

Kinda new this weekend (it opened on Wednesday) is pseudo-bestial bromance Ted, the debut feature film from Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. It stars Marky Mark Wahlberg as John, a thirtysomething bloke saddled with a loutish talking teddy bear (voiced by McFarlane) for a best friend – the result of a childhood wish that came true. When John decides to settle down with his longtime love (Mila Kunis), Ted has other ideas. It’s nearly identical in taste and tone to Family Guy, so if you like that, you’ll be happy enough.

Films continuing their runs this week include Christopher Nolan’s portentous Batman trilogy closer The Dark Knight Rises; Steven Soderbergh’s excellent stripper-themed comedy/drama Magic Mike (not just for hens!); Ice-T’s enjoyable doc The Art of Rap; original Mormon coming-of-ager Electrick Children; standard kiddie fare Ice Age: Continental Drift; and dodgy Dr. Seuss adaptation The Lorax, featuring the gruff tones of Danny DeVito.

In terms of repertory, the Ritzy delivers again. On Friday and Saturday night, there’s a chance to get re-acquainted with the most terrifyingly hilarious haircut in modern cinema with the Coen brothers’ tense thriller No Country for Old Men, while Saturday afternoon sees a screening of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’ classic satire All About Eve.

All films showing at the Ritzy Cinema, Brixton Oval. Book tickets here.

Ashley Clark runs the film blog Permanent Plastic Helmet. You can follow it on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and/or him @_ash_clark.