Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Critical Week: Inappropriate touching

At press screenings in London this week, one of the most anticipated films was In Secret, a new version of Emile Zola's 19th century romance novel Therese Raquin starring Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac. It's lavishly produced but almost overpoweringly bleak. Both actors have other films coming out in Britain on Friday: Isaac costars in The Two Faces of January, which we saw a few months ago, while Olsen is in the new Godzilla movie, which first screened on Monday. Gareth Edwards (Monsters) has managed to create a fresh spin on the genre: more character based, more moral complexity, grittier use of effects. It'll be a monster hit.

Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon lead the strikingly detailed true-crime drama Devil's Knot, Atom Egoyan's slightly too-meticulous dramatisation of the story already documented in West of Memphis and the Paradise Lost trilogy. John Turturro and Woody Allen lead the cast of the extremely gentle comedy Fading Gigolo, which is spiced up by Sharon Stone, Vanessa Paradis and Sofia Vergara. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is terrific as Belle, the true story of a mixed-race woman in 18th century London, with solid support from the extraordinary Tom Wilkinson.

A bit further afield, Leo Gregory headlines the underwhelming East End crime thriller Top Dog. Dinosaur 13 is a massively involving narrative documentary about the nasty seven-year battle for the most complete T-rex fossil ever found. And I caught up with two reissued films: Wet Hot American Summer is a hilarious summer-camp spoof starring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler and others who went on to more accomplished comedies. And the horror-comedy Theater of Blood is a classic, unmissable romp starring Vincent Price at the peak of his powers. He's a hammy actor who takes Shakespearean-style grisly revenge against dismissive critics. Genius!

This coming week kicks off with Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and pretty much everyone else in X-men: Days of Future Past, Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunited for Blended, Jon Favreau's food-based comedy Chef, and more...

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