Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Critical Week: Backstage antics

The most enjoyable film I watched this past week was Stage Fright, the musical-comedy horror drama set in a performing arts camp. It's actually a skilfully made film that works on most of those levels while poking straight-faced fun at each genre. (That's Minnie Driver above in the film's witty Phantom-pastiche opening.) By contrast, the comedy Bad Johnson was painfully under-developed, wasting the charisma of leading man Cam Gigandet as a womaniser whose penis leaves him to live as a lowlife jerk (Nick Thune) until he learns his lesson. More of a moralising sermon than the promised gross-out comedy.

Further afield, the clever but slow-burning Norwegian thriller In Order of Disappearance has a bone-dry blackly comical tone as the always terrific Stellan Skarsgard inadvertently sparks a violent drugs war. A multi-national present-day adaptation of Joseph Conrad's shipboard story, Secret Sharer starts very nicely and builds a strong sense of characters and the setting, but struggles to come together in the final act. Truth is a gay romance that slips into a quietly unnerving thriller as both men lie to each other about their pasts, which adds an unnecessarily moralising tone. And Patema Inverted is a gorgeously animated and surprisingly involving Japanese adventure about teens from two societies with opposite gravitational pulls.

Things are generally slow for critics in May unless you go to Cannes (which I don't), but I have a few filsm to see over the coming week. There's Belle, the British period drama starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, based on true events that took place just up the road from where I live. Devil's Knot is the true crime/courthouse drama starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon. In Secret is a retelling of Therese Raquin with Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac. Don Peyote is a comedy with Josh Duhamel and Jay Baruchel.  Top Dog is a British crime thriller directed by Martin Kemp. A Touch of Sin is the latest from Chinese maestro Jia Zhangke. And then there's a little blockbuster called Godzilla...

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