Monday 27 February 2017

Your Week In Film: Train To Busan, I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore, and It's Only The End Of The World (Feb 27-Mar 5)

Terror Train: South Korean zombies on the rampage

Film picks for the next seven days on DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, TV, and in cinemas...

Before we begin, I feel the need to address that big Oscars controversy. Yes, you heard it right... David Ayer's super-villain omnishambles Suicide Squad won an Academy Award. It romped home in the Best Makeup & Hairstyling category, ahead of Star Trek Beyond and Swedish movie, A Man Called Ove. From now on, Ayer's folly will be known as the 'Oscar-winning Suicide Squad' rather than 'that terrible, terrible movie in which Cara Delvingne battles the good guys by doing a funny dance'. While we all allow that gut-wrenching news to sink in, let's get on with the good stuff...   

Train To Busan (DVD, Blu-ray and VOD) WWWW is aptly named because, at times, it moves at such a dizzying clip you wonder how on earth it stays on the rails. Writer/director Sang-ho Yeon's film is fast, furious, ferocious entertainment and the finest zombie movie I've seen in years, if not decades. 

Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) is a high-flying businessman with little time for his young daughter Soo-an (the adorable Soo-an Kim). As a birthday treat, he is browbeaten into taking her to visit her mum - from whom he is divorced - in Busan, a city about an hour's ride away on the train. However, as father and daughter set off, it quickly becomes clear all is not well. There has been an industrial accident which has released a virus into the air, causing anyone coming into contact with it to turn into a ravenous, murderous zombie. One of the infected is loose on the train and it isn't long before she starts attacking people, spreading the infection, and generally causing absolute mayhem for everyone on board.

Scary movie: Train To Busan is genuinely frightening

Up until now, I've always preferred the old-fashioned, shambling George Romero undead to the new, fangled, fast-moving variety you see in 28 Days Later and The Girl With All The Gifts. However, Train To Busan's creatures are so hellishly terrifying that I think I've changed my mind. These utterly unsettling abominations fling and thrust themselves head-long forwards like they, themselves, are being chased by some unearthly monstrosity. Even broken limbs don't slow them down - their relentless need to attack, devour and rend apart spurring them on faster, faster, faster. Every time they appear on screen, it should be soundtracked by Napalm Death. With their rolling eyes and twisted, gurning faces, Yeon's creations are genuinely the most frightening zombies I've ever seen - true monsters that would have The Walking Dead's shambling dullards for breakfast.

The film - from South Korea - is perhaps strongest early on, as the first trickle of unease soon becomes a tsunami of terror with zombies rampaging up and down the train, grabbing and eating anyone they can get hold of. Yeon proves highly effective at injecting that feeling of blind panic directly into your very soul and provides so many seat-of-your-pants set-pieces you barely have time to catch your breath between them. Unfortunately, I was unable to confirm that a British remake, called Replacement Bus Service To Bolton, was currently in production.

End game: Dolan's latest is a frustrating piece of work

And now for something completely different... It's Only The End Of The World (in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema) WW is the sixth film by French-Canadian auteur Xavier Dolan and has proved somewhat divisive. The critics haven't liked it too much but that hasn't stopped the film from scooping prizes at both last year's Cannes (where it won the prestigious Grand Prix) and this year's French César Awards (taking three, including Best Director for Dolan).

I can understand the lack of unanimity because it's an odd film that sees terminally ill playwright Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) visiting his family - older brother, younger sister, and mother - for the first time in 12 years to inform them of his diagnosis. Louis's lengthy absence and lack of contact has left them an angry, fractious and bitter bunch who spend most of the film's 97-minute running time arguing with each other. At times it's like an episode of Mrs Brown's Boys in which the 'jokes' have been replaced by bitter accusations and barbed insults. Like the much-derided sitcom, it's also rather clumsy.

A five-hander, It's Only The End Of The World frequently betrays its origins as a stage play, with the action barely moving out of the family home. And, whilst it isn't quite as operatically overwrought as Dolan's previous film Mommy, it isn't nearly as good either. The cast, which includes Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Nathalie Baye, and Léa Seydoux, is as strong as it gets but they are let down by a one-note script and characters of similar complexity.

Cassel comes off worst, his Antoine is a boorish bully and remains that way the entire time, without a hint of light or shade. We get that he's unhappy in his marriage (to Cotillard's nervous Catherine) and deeply conflicted at his younger brother's return. Unfortunately, we're not offered any more than that - he screams, strops, shouts and insults, a brash ball of sound and fury signifying nothing. Much the same can be said of a film that only really comes to life in Louis's scenes with his mother (Baye) and Catherine.

Home alone: Depressed Ruth is at the end of her tether

Rather more fun is I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore (Netflix) WWW, which recently took the Grand Jury prize at Sundance. You'll remember enjoying Macon Blair as an actor in Jeremy Saulnier's Blue Ruin and Green Room, but this is his first movie in the director's seat.

Melanie Lynskey is Ruth, a lonely nurse struggling with depression as she navigates a world in which selfish, awful strangers routinely cut in line at the supermarket, let their dogs crap on her front lawn and reveal massive spoilers about the fantasy book she is only halfway through reading. When some malcontent breaks into her home and steals Ruth's laptop and silver cutlery belonging to her late grandma, she decides she's had enough and sets about tracking down the perpetrators, accompanied only by Elijah Wood's local oddball, Tony.

But what starts off as an offbeat romantic-comedy-cum-crime-caper quickly transforms into something altogether darker. Trying to find her stolen stuff places Ruth on the radar of some seriously nasty individuals and it isn't long before Mr Tarantino-esque Violence esq comes a knocking at the door. Despite the blood and brutality, the film never loses its sense of humour and the final half-hour is a blast as, horribly out of their depth, Ruth and Tony battle to survive the shit-storm they have inadvertently brought down onto their heads.

Streets of ire: Scorsese's big breakthrough

Finally, your best bet TV-wise this week is Martin Scorsese: True Confessions (BBC2, 10pm, Saturday) which sees Sight & Sound editor Nick James in conversation with the great director (it was recorded live in front of an audience at the British Film Institute a couple of weeks ago). Mean Streets WWWW, Scorsese's critical and commercial breakthrough, from 1973, starring Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, follows at 10.30pm.

What I shall be watching this week: I'm heading into London for screenwriter/director Kelly Reichardt's Q&A at the BFI on Friday, along with a screening of her new film, Certain Women. Ooh, get me!

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

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