Dir: Jonathan Levine
With: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anna Kendrick, Seth Rogen
COMEDY producer Will Reiser entered decidedly unfunny territory when persistent backache turned out to be a cancerous tumour growing on his spine. With doctors giving him the survival odds of the title, everything was in the balance.
It’s balance where Reiser’s comedy drama, partly based on his own experiences, succeeds best. That, plus when this picture is funny it’s very, very funny, and when it’s sad prepare to swallow hard.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Adam, a fitness freak who doesn’t smoke or drink but is suddenly told he could be dying. Helping him come to terms with this in his own sweet but crass way is Seth Rogen (in real life Reiser’s pal), with Anjelica Huston being her delightfully scary self as Adam’s mother and Anna Kendrick his nicely kooky, kindly therapist.
As the comedy segues into drama the film could have gone horribly wrong, becoming either trite or mawkish to compensate for the earlier, lighter tone. Director Jonathan Levine, who made the equally oddball and uplifting The Wackness, gets the balance between light and shade just right.
A sharp script by Weiser, engaging performances all round, with Gordon Levitt the standout, Levin’s picture is an odds-on audience pleaser.
Dir: Fernando Meirelles
With: Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz
BASED on Arthur Schnitzler’s play La Ronde, Fernando Meirelles’ 360 is, as you might expect, a giddy, globe-trotting tale of love good and bad, love running into trouble, and love attempting to conquer all. Written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon, The Last King of Scotland) it tries hard to be everything to all men and women, but through a lack of focus it only succeeds in being something of a plod, a beautifully shot, well-intentioned but rather boring travelogue.
At times, the 360 title seemed to refer to the running time as we hopped from Vienna to Paris to London to various other destinations, dipping in and out of stories from a Slovakian woman starting out in the escort business to a Russian gangster yearning for a quieter life.
A strong but relatively unknown international cast is joined by such big names as Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz and Jude Law. Of the cast of many, Hopkins, playing a dad searching for his missing daughter, is the finest of the bunch and has the most interesting story to tell. If only the tale had stayed with him, or cut back on the number of other yarns, Meirelles’s film wouldn’t have wandered all over the shop like a stranded traveller at an airport.
Dir: Steve McQueen
With: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan
STEVE McQueen follows his remarkable debut feature, Hunger, with another astonishing picture. Once again, the hero of the hour is Michael Fassbender, an actor who can steal a scene just with the arching of an eyebrow.
The subject here is sex addiction, that curious problem from which only the handsome and well-off seem to suffer. Brandon (Fassbender) is a New Yorker much given to consuming porn and picking up women for casual sex. His only commitment, it seems, is to the collection of vinyl records, mostly 1980s disco, he keeps in his fashionably sparse bachelor flat. When his troubled sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) turns up, Brandon finds his privacy invaded and his carefully compartmentalised life being all shaken up.
Though he’s dealing with one of the most filmed cities in the world, McQueen puts his own visual stamp on the place. This is the New York of subway travel and office workers, of couple-filled restaurants and after midnight jogs. Fassbender rips the bones from the part, playing Brandon as part-predator, part-damaged goods, while Mulligan is on haunting form as the sister who longs for love in her own way. McQueen doesn’t hold back when exploring Brandon’s shame, and some scenes run uncomfortably long. Already the winner of the best film and best actor prizes at Venice, McQueen’s provocative, stylish picture is sure to be one of the talking points of the cinema season.
Dir: Morten Tyldum
With: Aksel Hennie, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
JO Nesbo is the hottest thriller writer to come out of the Scandinavian north since Stieg Larsson. Just as Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy made it from books to Swedish films to an American remake by David Fincher, so Nesbo’s Norwegian novels look like going the same, successful way.
Director Morten Tyldum tackles the tale of recruitment consultant Roger Brown, a short man with a towering appetite for money. Living beyond his means to support his beautiful, gallery-owning wife, Roger has taken up some extra, out-of-hours work. Just as his double life appears to be working a treat, along comes an intriguing new client to give him no end of trouble.
Tyldum keeps the action rattling along from the first scene to the last, sweetening the mix with some wonderfully bleak Nordic humour and just the right amount of helter-skelter craziness. Central to the film’s success is Aksel Hennie, a Norwegian Vincent Cassel-type who can switch from action to comedy to drama with the kind of consummate ease that should see him carve a career in Hollywood on the back of this picture. A hit on the festival circuit, Headhunters has already been snapped up for an American remake. Buy shares in Nesbo now.
Dir: Drake Doremus
With: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin
FIRST love. Will cinema ever tire of its ways? Not if they carry on making films like this small but perfectly-crafted drama.
Felicity Jones, frequently the best thing in any movie she is in (Chalet Girl, Albatross, etc) finds her match in many ways in Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Charlie Bartlett). Anna (Jones) is a London girl studying in Los Angeles. Falling hard for fellow student Jacob (Yelchin) the pair hope to make a life together after graduation. What they haven’t counted on as she overstays her visa are the attentions of the immigration authorities, a branch of the government not known for its mushy-hearted ways.
Can true love survive transatlantic travel, time differences, and the strain of getting to know each other again on every visit? Director Drake Doremus has two terrific leads in Jones and Yelchin and wisely lets them get on with it.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Dir: Goran Olsson
A PORTRAIT of the black power movement by Swedish filmmakers isn’t as odd as it might at first sound. Socially-liberal Sweden was gripped by the upheavals going on in America in the 1960s, and the civil rights struggle in particular. What seems like battalions of Swedish reporters went over to report on what was happening, resulting in a wealth of largely unseen footage and rare interviews with the likes of Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis.
Director Goran Olsson expertly assembles the material into a documentary, adding contemporary observations from the likes of actor-singer Erykah Badu and hip hop’s Talib Kweli. An enthralling study of how a movement inspired many other causes, including feminism and gay rights.