Friday 21 August 2015

5 for Friday (August 21): Trailers, new releases and box office

Re-jigging this section to make it a little more ‘newsy’ and informative, I’ve realised just how few films get a proper nationwide cinema release in the UK. Of the 19 movies the Launching Films website lists as ‘on release’ this week, only two of them are afforded ‘saturation’ coverage in theatres (Vacation and The Bad Education Movie) while two more (Gemma Bovery and Sinister 2) are granted a ‘wide’ release. That leaves 15 films with only a ‘limited’ release, or which have been only released into ‘key cities’ such London, Birmingham and Manchester. 

Films are finding their way onto DVD, Blu-ray and particularly View on Demand quicker than ever but it remains a nonsense that you can read about the likes of The President and The Wolfpack in your morning newspaper but have little chance of seeing either if, like me, you live in a town out in the sticks. One of those remaining 15 titles – Good People – has been made available on VOD at the same time as its cinema release and this is a trend I sincerely hope continues to pick up steam. Ideally, I’d love to see all films available in all formats (including in cinemas) simultaneously but I realise that’s just crazy talk…

UPDATE: A few hours after posting this week's 5 for Friday column I discovered that VOD service Curzon Home Cinema is showing both The President and The Dance of Reality from today. It means film fans, including me, will be able to see both movies at the same time as they hit cinemas in 'key cities'. Great news!  

1. The Wolfpack
What is it? Documentary telling the extraordinary true story of the Angulos, six brothers raised in a small apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and only very rarely allowed to venture into the outside world by their insanely overprotective parents. Isolated from society, the boys seek refuge in movies, building elaborate props and costumes as they re-enact favourite scenes from the likes of Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight. But what happens when they’re all grown up and no longer need follow their parents’ diktats?
Critical consensus? 83 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes makes it a big, fat hit.
Where can I see it in the UK? In ‘key cities’ only. Hopefully, there will be a DVD/Blu-ray along before the end of the year.
My take: Director Crystal Moselle’s film looks set to take its place amongst the very best documentaries of 2015 but there is a caveat. Some reports have suggested it plays fast and loose with the facts and that the Angulos’ story isn’t quite as cut and dried as The Wolfpack implies. 

2. The Dance of Reality

What is it? Acclaimed filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first movie in 23 years – he is now 86 years old – is an autobiographical work based on his unhappy childhood growing up in Tocopilla, a Chilean coastal town, in the 1930s. The first half focuses on the young Jodorowsky himself – indulged by his mother, bullied by his Stalinist father – while the second half follows his dad (actually played by the director’s son, Brontis) as he leaves the family home and attempts to assassinate Chilean dictator Carlos Ibáñez del Campo. This leads to one of the most uncomfortable torture scenes you’ll see in this or any year. Like the director’s best work – El Topo and The Holy Mountain – it is spiritual, hallucinatory, surreal and infuriating.
Critical consensus? A barnstorming 95 per cent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Where can I see it in the UK? Key cities only again. Look out for it on DVD from September 14 though.
My take: For those who might not recognise the name, Jodorowsky is the director who tried and failed to make a movie based on Frank Herbert's Dune novel in the mid-70s (a full decade before David Lynch made his own version of the book). A 2013 documentary – Jodorowsky's Dune – tells the whole fascinating story. Anyway, after 23 years away from the camera, this is a very welcome return for the director of wonderful psychedelic western El Topo.

3. The Treatment
What is it? Powerful but emotionally draining Belgian noir (based on a best-selling novel by UK crime author Mo Hayder) about police inspector Nick Cafmeyer's desperate search for a missing nine-year-old boy. The investigation contains uncomfortable echoes from the cop's past - he is himself haunted by the disappearance of his younger brother when they were children, a case that remains unsolved. As he journeys further into the new investigation's heart of darkness, Cafmeyer realises the two abductions may well be connected.
Critical consensus? It currently boasts a very healthy 86 per cent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Where can I see it in the UK? Cinema-wise, only in key cities again... but it is getting a DVD and Blu-ray release on September 14.
My take: Themes of child abuse and paedophilia make it a tough watch but The Treatment proves yet again that edge-of-your-seat thrillers aren't the sole preserve of the Hollywood studios. If you like the original The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo films or Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners, this should be right up your street.

4. The President
What is it? Satirical drama about the fallen dictator of an unnamed country. Following a coup, ‘his majesty’ is forced to live among the very people he once brutally subjugated even while formulating an escape. The rest of his family fled the country by plane and the former despot and his young grandson must journey to the coast where a ship waits to take them to safety. Only problem is, the President is a wanted fugitive with an ever-increasing bounty on his head who risks discovery at every turn. 
Critical consensus? The film is at 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes so it’s as Fresh as it can possibly get.
Where can I see it in the UK? ‘Key cities’ only again, I’m afraid. 
My take: The President immediately brings to mind the flawed but funny Larry Charles/Sacha Baron Cohen collaboration The Dictator but, despite its satiric intent, is an altogether more serious work. Director Mohsen Makhmalbaf – an exiled Iranian based in London who has led an extraordinary life – is well known for making ‘difficult’ arthouse fare such as Kandahar but this promises to be far more accessible. 

5. The Bad Education Movie
What is it? Big screen version of the British TV sitcom starring ‘comedian’ Jack Whitehall as hopeless high-school teacher Alfie Wickers. Following their GSCE exams, Wickers takes his unruly class on a final school trip to Cornwall. Inbetweeners-style ‘hilarity’ ensues…
Critical consensus? It doesn’t seem to have been screened for critics, which should tell you everything you need to know.
Where can I see it in the UK? Every-bloody-where.
My take: To be honest, I’m only mentioning this at all because it’s one of the few movies out this week that is easy to see – it’ll be all over your local multiplex like white on rice. It seems sophisticated ‘key cities’ folk with their fancy book learning and opposable thumbs get the movies for grown-ups, the rest of us get low-rent comedies like this and Vacation (also out this week). Sheesh.

Also in cinemas this week
A Dozen Summers
All Is Well
Escobar: Paradise Lost
The Forgotten Kingdom
Gemma Bovery 
Good People 
Looking For Love 
Munde Kamaal De
Sinister 2
Strange Magic
Trisha Illana Nayanthara

UK box office

1. Pixels 
2. Inside Out
3. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
4. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
5. Trainwreck
6. Fantastic Four
7. Southpaw
8. Minions
9. Absolutely Anything
10. The Gift

US box office
1. Straight Outta Compton
2. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
3. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
4. Fantastic Four
5. The Gift
6. Ant-Man
7. Vacation
8. Minions
9. Ricki and the Flash
10. Trainwreck

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