By Robert Makin
If you’re middle-aged, middle-class, sexually repressed and trapped in a loveless marriage then it’s great week for cinema. Director David Frankel’s Hope Springs stars Meryl Streep going from Prada to nada (sorry) as a sexually frustrated wife who forces her husband, cranky Tommy Lee Jones, into relationship counselling from 40 Year Old Virgin Steve Carell. A process which involves Meryl simulating oral sex with a banana and reading Sex Tips For Straight Women From A Gay Man.
Meanwhile To Rome With Love features Woody Allan once again stepping out of his comfort zone to play an aging neurotic in chinos and glasses with relationship issues, amongst an ensemble cast of smug actors with flappy hands running around an exotic Mediterranean location quoting Freud in a film that isn’t Annie Hall.
Ever wondered what would happen if Walt Disney suddenly hired the producer of The Rock, Top Gun, Con Air, Beverly Hill’s Cop and Armageddon to make a children’s film? Well wonder no more as The Ritzy’s Kids Cub are showing Jerry Bruckheimer’s G-Force, which involves an armed and dangerous elite squad of super spy guinea pigs saving the world from Bill Nighy.
And if that doesn’t appeal to your little monsters try the new 3D stop frame animation comedy horror kids flick Paranorman, with a bullied child who speaks to the dead trying to save his town from a witches curse and some zombies. Personally I think that sounds great.
Of course when I was growing up we didn’t have clever 3D movies about wacky kids with psychic powers or crime busting pets, we had deeply traumatising video nasties such as Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981), which gets a late night re-run this week at The Ritzy. A classic cult horror that still has the power to be deeply disturbing it’s also a master class in low budget filmmaking.
And if you fancy supporting new directors I highly advise popping along to The Emperor’s New Shorts, with Michael O’Kelly hosting a night showcasing the best in recent short films. It’s only £3 entry and if you’re filmmaker yourself you can make submissions on the night.
Vertigo (1958) is this week’s Hitchcock offering and was recently voted by Sight & Sound magazine as the best film ever made. James Stewart stars in this extremely stylish psychological thriller. It’s worth the ticket price alone just to see that celebrated Saul Bass designed opening credit sequence up on the big screen.
Holy Motors is very long, directed by the extremely pretentious Leos Carax and has Kylie Minogue in it. There’s also a satellite link Q&A with Kylie and Carax which I’m sure will be riveting.
Flying the flag for understated and symbolic art house gems are A Simple Life and The Spirit Of The Beehive (1973). Ann Hui’s A Simple Life is a low-key study of human relationships following an aging housemaid and her adult charge finding their roles reversed after she suffers a stroke. The Spirit Of The Beehive is one of Spanish cinema’s most influential films. Living under the post-war dictatorship of Franco’s regime, a young village girl called Anna becomes obsessed with Frankenstein having seeing the film in a mobile cinema. Soon her fascination with the monster and his treatment begins to affect her life at home and school. Not much actually happens in The Spirit Of The Beehive, but it happens in a very sedate, endearing and fascinating way.
Ritzy film round-up
PARANOIA: Scoot Mcnairy in the Blair Witch-esque Night in the Woods
By Robert Makin
As the after effects of this year’s Fright Fest begin to ripple through cinemas, it’s certainly an eventful week for British horror at The Ritzy. A Night In The Woods is another shaky camcorder “found footage” chiller involving a group of friends losing their minds on a camping trip to Dartmoor. Along with the terrifying ordeal of putting up a tent in the rain these young ramblers are faced with sexual tension, strained relationship issues, collective paranoia, and strange dark forces in what looks like a cross between The Blair Witch Project (1999) and an episode of Casualty.
Berberian Sound Studio is splitting audiences straight down the middle as one of those arthouse movies cunningly disguised as a horror film. A stylish homage to seventies “Giallo” cinema it follows the psychological meltdown of a timid English sound engineer sent abroad to work on a gruesome Italian horror film. It does look particularly unsettling, and if it really is inspired by seventies Italian cinema I imagine the score should be amazing.
Despite being yet another Shaun Of The Dead (2004) comedy/horror clone, Cockneys Vs Zombies, with a plot involving a bungled bank robbery, the unearthing of a cursed tomb, and the fight to save an old folks home, does feel like it has the potential for being perfect Friday night entertainment. Plus anything that has a class act like Alan Ford as one of the main characters is almost guaranteed to have some great moments.
But if you’d like to see British horror at its most creepiest and bizarre then don’t miss a rare screening of the 1973 cult classic Death Line, which is being shown as part of the brilliant and epic Scala Beyond season. Released in America as Raw Meat it stars Donald Pleasance as a police inspector pursuing a family of cannibals on the London Underground, who are feeding off commuters between Russell Square and Holborn. Highly influential and very spooky, the only aspect that suspends disbelief is that the trains are constantly running.
Of course my idea of something truly horrific would be having to sit through a 130 minute costume drama depicting the self serving lives of aristocracy, based on a crusty Russian novel by Tolstoy, directed by the bloke that made Atonement, scripted by dusty Tom Stoppard and starring Jude Law and Keira Knightley’s quivering chin. But for those who like their movies to look like ornate biscuit tins Anna Kerenina should be an absolute treat.
A healthy antidote could be prohibition era crime drama Lawless, scripted by Nick Cave, directed by John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) and starring Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman. Based on a true story it follows the exploits of a family of bootleggers whose success brings them into conflict with a crooked police force and rival gangs, as tension builds and escalating violence begins to match their rising profits.
On the documentary front there are some pretty interesting screenings. The Queen Of Versailles is another critique of the “American Dream” observing two years in the life of a billionaire couple whose aspirations of building the biggest house in America comes to halt due to the economic crisis, general ignorance and a little thing called reality.
If the film Fatboy Slim Live On Brighton Beach left you with a sudden urge to watch even more middle-aged men jumping about on stage then Shut Up And Play The Hits, capturing LCD Sound System’s last gig, could be the thing for you. Eames: The Architect & The Painter with its playful use of weird stock footage and narration by James Franco could well become the new Helvetica (2007), in endearing viewers outside of its intended audience of designer types. Where as Samsara is the new breathtaking 70mm, visually arresting cinematic piñata from the makers of Baraka (1992).
Last but not least there’s also a showing of groundbreaking Hitchcock classic Notorious (1946), a must for all film students and thrill seekers alike, and the recently unearthed Woman In A Dressing Gown (1957), a landmark British kitchen sink drama that takes an unflinching and gritty look at a slowly disintegrating marriage.
Robert Makin writes about movies, books, music and more at internationalreview.co.uk. You can follow him on Twitter at @intreview.
Ashley Clark is away.