Thursday, 4 October 2018

Critical Week: Up against the wall

It's been another busy week in the screening rooms as I prepare to travel over the next couple of weeks. One of the bigger titles wasn't screened for most of the press, so I had to buy a ticket to see Venom, Tom Hardy's Marvel movie, a spin-off that has is again marred by that glut of murky grey digital animation. Otherwise, Hardy is charming and makes up for a rather dull plot. Life Itself was also a disappointment. From the creator of This Is Us, it's an over-ambitious multi-generational schmaltz-fest, but the acting is excellent (Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas) and there are strong moments here and there. Much more fun, Johnny English Strikes Again returns Rowan Atkinson to the goofy James Bond spoof character. The film is very silly, but it's also genuinely funny.

Moving into art-film territory, Suspiria is Luca Guadagnino's remake of the Dario Argento classic, a bonkers satanic dance freak-out with Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton (both superb). White Boy Rick gives Matthew McConaughey another strong role as the dad to the title character (the excellent Richie Merritt), a teen caught between the FBI and 1980s Detroit drug kingpins. Joaquin Phoenix is solid as cartoonish Jim Callahan in the biopic Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot. As directed by Gus Van Sant, it's wonderfully experiential. And Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Steward are terrific in Lizzie, an offbeat period piece spinning the story of notorious murder suspect Lizzie Borden.

Even further afield, An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn is a thoroughly nutty and oddly loveable comedy-drama with Aubrey Plaza and Jemaine Clement. Papi Chulo is an involving drama about an odd friendship between Matt Bomer and a hired workman (Alejandro Patino). Cruise is a nostalgic teen romance set in late-80s Queen. There were also two gems from Scandinavia: Border is an indescribably brilliant fairy tale from Sweden, while Heavy Trip is a hilariously engaging road movie about a scruffy death metal band from Finland. Made in Germany because it could never be made in Iran, Tehran Taboo is a beautifully animated story of young people fighting an oppressive culture. And Testosterone: Volume One is a collection of four shorts, three of which are about very mopey gay men, while the other is a black comedy about murdering a friend.

I have no plans to see any films at all over the next 10 or 11 days, as I will be travelling halfway around the world on a charity trip. I'll blog about that afterwards! I return to London in time for the last four days of the London Film Festival, so will be playing catch-up then.

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