FILM: Brixton Blog’s Thursday round-up

Rob Lowe in Behind The Candelabra. Yes, it really is Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe in Behind The Candelabra. Yes, it really is Rob Lowe

By Ashley Clark

At South London’s best cinema this week, Michael Douglas impresses in a sterling biopic of a tragic figure, Michael Shannon continues to intimidate the hell out of us, and The Stone Roses continue to inspire a major nostalgia trip.

The best new film at the Ritzy this week is one that didn’t even make it to cinemas in the US. Behind The Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh’s terrific film of the strained, nine-year relationship between Liberace (Michael Douglas) and his significantly younger lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), was deemed “too gay” by Hollywood studios, and thus wound up premiering on TV channel HBO. Beautifully performed by its two leads, it’s a compelling tale of love going sour, and an honest account of the pitfalls that accompany living a lie (the affair was secret, and the glamorous Liberace always denied to his legion of fans that that he was gay.) Keep an eye out too for a genuinely frightening cameo from Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon who’s taken so much of his own medicine that he can barely move his face.

In Ariel Vroman’s thriller The Iceman, the colossal Michael Shannon gets, in the words of Tobias Fünke, some meaty leading man parts to sink his teeth into. He plays freelance killer Richard Kuklinski, who winds up in a bit of a pickle with New Jersey hood Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta, playing the 5,479th low-rent villain of his career.) It’s a pretty stylish affair, and well-acted, but never quite rises above average. That said, it’s worth catching for an eclectic cast featuring Winona Ryder fresh from the ‘Where Are They Now?’ holding pen, and Friends goon David Schwimmer as a velour-tracksuited crim.

Enjoying its opening weekend of release is Shane Meadows’ love letter to Madchester baggy legends The Stone Roses, Made of Stone, which draws upon a host of previously unseen archive footage, and paints an acute portrait and their impact in the lead up to their huge reunion concerts in 2012. It’s an absolute ‘must’ for fans of the band and/or Shane Meadows, and an absolute ‘probably’ for fans of solid documentary filmmaking. Also on a musical note (there’s me repeating last week’s jokes again), Benjamin Britten: Peace and Conflict, a part-doc, part-narrative biography eulogy to the legendary late composer, continues its run.

Other films still playing include; veteran Irish director Neil Jordan’s enjoyable seaside-set fem vamp romp Byzantium; JJ Abrams’ expansive, enjoyable Star Trek Into Darkness; Derek Cianfrance’s appalling maudlin macho-fest The Place Beyond The Pines; Baz Luhrmann’s divisive – and characteristically gaudy – The Great Gatsby, featuring an ace eponymous turn from a rejuvenated Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role; Jeff Nichols’ terrific Mud, which extends Matthew McConaughey’s wholly unexpected purple patch; and for the kids, there’s fun, animated ecological adventure Epic (playing in both 2D and 3D).

Other highlights include Kenji Kamiyama’s ace animation 009 Re: Cyborg (which has a pair of weekend late screenings), and an MGM Classic showing of Ridley Scott’s feminist thriller Thelma and Louise. Finally, the Picturehouses’ ongoing Discover Tuesdays strand showcasing arthouse and indie fare continues with Joachim Lafosse’s genuinely harrowing, infanticide-themed drama Our Children, which boasts amazing turns from Emilie Dequenne, Tahar Rahim, and Niels Arestrup, but is more downbeat than the American jazz magazine of the same name, or the NATO Reporting Name of the main surface search radar carried by the Russian/Soviet Tupolev Tu-22M ‘Backfire’ Bomber .*

*jokes sponsored by Wikipedia’s search engine.

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.