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Monday, 19 September 2016

Everybody Wants Some!!, Green Room and The Hurt Locker: Your Week In Film (September 19-25)

Motor mouths: Jocks go wild in Everybody Wants Some!!

Films to look out for in the coming seven days on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD and TV...

Everybody Wants Some!! (out now on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) WWW is Richard Linklater's spiritual sequel to his 1993 coming-of-age classic, Dazed And Confused. This time the Boyhood director focuses on the members of a 1980 Texas college baseball team. Beer is downed, weed is smoked, trash is talked, and occasionally these likeable jocks get around to hitting a ball or two. 

There is little in the way of plot  this is very much a character piece. Jake (Glee's Blake Jenner) is a freshman at a fictional Texas university on a baseball scholarship. His team is put up not in dorms like the other students, but in a ramshackle old house. They are unsupervised by the college authorities and, despite warnings not to consume alcohol on the premises or permit female guests upstairs, their domicile very quickly becomes party central. In the brief period before the start of the new college year, Jake grows closer to his new team-mates (male bonding and the urge to compete are the film's main themes), while striking up a relationship with performing arts student Beverly (Zoey Deutch).

Occasionally, you think the plot is going to move in a more dramatic direction but Linklater is keen never to make confrontation a focus of his story. He wants you to like his characters and you do, especially pipe-smoking gadabout Finn (Glen Powell), cologne-drenched uber-competitor McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin) and stoner-with-a-secret Willoughby (Wyatt Russell). It's all good clean fun, albeit bathed in enough rose-tinted nostalgia to float a battleship. (You can read my original review of the film here).

Blast from the past: Linklater waxes nostalgic

There is nothing 'rose-tinted' about Jeremy Saulnier's brutal horror/thriller Green Room (out now on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) WW½, in which a US rock band – The Ain't Rights – finish up an unsuccessful tour with a gig at a backwoods club whose clientele Dead Kennedys once wrote a song about - 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off'. 

The group – which includes Arrested Development's Alia Shawcat and the late Anton Yelchin – stumble in on a murder scene and the rest of the film sees them desperately trying to escape before the club's nasty-bastard owner (Patrick Stewart, clearly relishing a turn for the villainous) and his mob of sieg-heilers can silence them. It's tense, intermittently thrilling, and vicious enough to make you flinch, but somehow feels a bit lightweight and straightforward when set against the perceptive exploration of revenge the director offered in Blue Ruin, his far better previous film.

Chronic (from Monday, Amazon Prime Video) WWW sees Tim Roth consign the likes of United Passions and Grace Of Monaco to the dustbin of history as he turns in his finest performance for many years. In Michel Franco's powerful but off-kilter character study, the Reservoir Dogs actor plays a palliative care nurse working with patients in Los Angeles. He's an odd, and clearly disturbed man, who gets altogether too close to those he looks after, whilst struggling to forge meaningful relationships in his personal life. It's this dislocation that Roth and writer/director Franco are keen to poke about in and they do so very effectively.
 
Gérard Depardieu is another veteran actor who has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent times and he is simply immense (in so many ways!) in Welcome To New York (from Wednesday, 22:05, Sky Cinema Premiere) WWWW. Depardieu plays Devereaux, a thinly-disguised version of disgraced former head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in what is a horrible, unflinching, forensic examination of a powerful sociopath whose every act is steeped in misogyny and selfishness. Abel Ferrera's underrated movie is hard going at times but well worth sticking with.

A monster calls: Depardieu in Welcome To New York

The Big Short (from Friday, Netflix UK) WWW also has the behaviour of the one per cent firmly in its sights. Adam McKay's dramedy is a breathlessly entertaining dissection of 2008's global financial meltdown, seen through the eyes of the men who knew it was coming and got filthy rich as a result. Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling are all great and McKay must be applauded for the inventive, fun ways in which he explains some pretty tricky concepts. Smug? A bit. Smart? Most definitely.

Wading into the pit of vipers that was the Iraq War rarely ends well for American filmmakers and so it proves for director Kathryn Bigelow in The Hurt Locker (Sunday, 23:05, Channel 4) WW. Jeremy Renner is Sergeant First Class William James, a member of an elite bomb disposal unit based in Baghdad after the US invasion. And guess what? Yes, he's a bit of a maverick, happy to put himself and his comrades at risk as he goes into battle against IEDs, snipers and other evil Johnny Foreigner tricks designed to drive him and his brave comrades out of the country.

Clichés abound but there is still much to admire here: the 'man v bomb' scenes are powerfully shot and every bit as intense as you'd hope, while Bigelow's decision to eschew going big on plot to focus on these men's extraordinary day-to-day lives pays dividends. James and Co are, quite literally, one mistake away from being blown to pieces and Bigelow sells that fear-cum-thrill with real aplomb. It served her well, as The Hurt Locker won six Oscars and she became the first woman to emerge victorious in the Best Director category.

Unfortunately, the film really comes a cropper in its treatment of the Iraqi people themselves. Almost to a man, they are depicted as little more than terrorists, idiots or aliens in their own country. Gee willikers, don't these ungrateful wretches appreciate the freedom Uncle Sam has handed them, even though Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and sod all to do with 9/11? Invasion of a sovereign nation without proper UN authorisation, you say? Shut up and accept your 'liberation' or you'll end up in Abu Ghraib.

Blow-up: Stakes are high in The Hurt Locker

Bigelow apologists might argue the Iraqis are being depicted precisely as they appear to the US soldiers themselves and there is certainly evidence for such a view contained within the film. However, when you characterise victims as little more than bystanders or aggressors in what should be THEIR OWN STORY you are doing them  not to mention reality and history  a huge disservice. 

As Frankie Boyle had it, "Not only will America go into your country and kill all your people. But what's worse, I think, is they'll come back and make a movie about how killing your people made their soldiers feel sad." That's The Hurt Locker all over, I'm afraid.

Ratings
WWWW - Wonderful
WWW - Worthwhile
WW - Watchable
W - Woeful 

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