FILM: Brixton Blog’s Thursday round-up

Frances Ha
Frances Ha

By Ashley Clark

Late 20s angst, killer whales, and a man with big claws going ape in Tokyo. It could only be another cracking week at South London’s best cinema.

The best new film at the Ritzy this week comes hot, fresh and monochrome out of Manhattan: Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. It stars Greta Gerwig as a 27-year-old dancer facing all sorts of social life and career-related anguishes, including an increasingly strained friendship with BFF Sophie (Mickey Sumner aka Sting’s daughter!). Sure, you could complain that it’s just another sausage in the long production line of drama about privileged white solipsists (c.f. the horrible Damsels In Distress, the much better TV show Girls), but you’d be missing its self-effacing humour, not to mention its innate warmth and wisdom. Redolent of Woody Allen at his perceptive best, this episodic treat is a breezy, wryly amusing and wholly enjoyable character study. (Complementing Frances Ha is a Friday late screening of Lena Dunham’s comparably excellent debut feature Tiny Furniture).

Less enjoyable – for more than one reason – is Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s doc Blackfish, which focuses on the tragic case of killer whale Tilikum, who was kept in captivity at Seaworld, and lived up to his name by chowing down on some humans. The film’s key ecological points (the chief one: it’s bad to keep wild animals in captivity) ring clear as a bell, and there’s plenty of upsetting, effective footage. However, it’s often simplistic in its case-making, awkwardly structured, and crassly unsuccessful in its attempts to integrate thriller elements.

Also new this week is James Mangold’s thoroughly decent stab at comic book epic-ness, The Wolverine, starring the reliably charismatic Hugh Jackman in the lead role. Shooting mostly in Tokyo, Mangold makes strong use of a host of eye-catching locations, while a Japanese supporting cast acquit themselves well, particularly in the copious Samurai-influenced combat scenes. Tone-wise, it’s fairly moody, but there are a handful of chuckles to be had; mercifully it’s nowhere near Nolan levels of lugubriousness. Starts better than it ends, though.

Films continuing their runs include excellent Saudi coming-of-ager Wadjda; Ben Wheatley’s mesmeric, monochrome Civil War-set headscratcher A Field in England; CGI n’ magic extravaganza Now You See Me; monster mash Pacific Rim; and ace animation Monsters University. Also still playing is Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, which is easily the weakest of the so-called ‘Blood and Ice Cream’ trilogy; luckily on Saturday night, you have the chance to remind yourself of better times with screenings of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Finally, don’t miss the latest instalment of Picturehouse’s Discover Tuesdays strand: Sarah Polley’s extraordinary meta-doc Stories We Tell, in which the Canadian filmmaker turns the camera upon her own family with startling results.

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.