Welcome to this week's At The Flix. There is a lot to plough through this week, so let's get the spade out and start digging.
Is this the long-awaited true return to form for Luc Besson? It seems like I've posed this question on At The Flix a couple of times now. Finally, I'm hoping it is. His latest film, Lucy, sees him team up with Scarlett Johansson, a highly intriguing proposition if ever there was one.
There's much to please Besson enthusiasts. First, note that many of his stalwart crew are on board (such as Eric Serra providing music and Thierry Arbogast as DoP). Secondly, many of his previous films like Nikita, Leon, The Fifth Element and The Messenger demonstrate his capability to portray strong leading action women.
So, here, Lucy is a woman who becomes accidentally caught in a dark deal who turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior with Matrix meets Jedi type abilities.
Besson has a child-like enthusiasm in much of his film making, and when on fire, he has the ability to make every scene seem like a set piece.
So, even if it doesn't all hang together, Besson can draw on this and get the most out of Johansson's cinematic presence. It's a combination that frankly should ooze masses of style, so frankly who cares about substance? I am though hoping there's a bit of the latter this time.
As film critic Ali Grey says of Besson, "if this represents just 10% of Luc Besson's creative potency, the mind boggles at what he could achieve at full capacity."
Into The Storm (12A)
Previewed a couple of weeks ago on here and finally on release this week, this is a leading film for British actor Richard Armitage, on an upwards trajectory post Spooks, especially given his major part in The Hobbit trilogy as well. As mentioned previously, the trailer for this film packed in a lot of popular references of 'fear' right through to the site of numerous crashing airplanes subsumed by the power of weather. Being a Hollywood effects fest, protaganists don't just go and seek shelter like normal human beings but instead venture for the vortex in acts of storm chasing lunacy that gleefully serve the needs of special effects teams. Reviews have not been strong. The trailer hints that the film is pretty much all about 'bang' for your buck, so if plotting and characterisation is found wanting, then pin your hopes on your local cineplex having the volume turned right up and that you've either got some caffeine and/or some neurofen in with you too.
What If (15)
So, the question is "what if ...." we need another quirky rom com?! Remember a few summers ago, quirky rom coms were all the rage, typified by stuff like 500 Days of Summer. Actually if you saw Zooey Deschanel in the cast list, that was a sure fire guarantee of the kooky, quirky rom com.
I liked some of these films. There's such a fine line between really liking these films and wanting to punch the characters for their ability to be 'normal' and yet completely annoying at the same time. The promotion for this film has been all about reminding us of this glorious rom com past, and in What If, we have two highly likeable leads, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan (who was excellent in the 2012 film Ruby Sparks, a much darker take on the rom-com) continuing the tradition. The setup will be very familiar, the well tried old friend vs. lover story line, but as with many of these films, all will depend on the chemistry of the leads and the fizzing dialogue. In Radcliffe and Kazan, you have two dependable actors who can bring a joyful few hours cinema.
Deliver Us From Evil (15)
According to the film poster, Deliver Us From Evil is "inspired by the actual accounts of an NYPD sergeant". So inspiring or not, the film's title alone is suspiciously cheesy and you have to immediately wonder what kind of experience you are in for, or how much of it is a by-numbers retread of horror conventions we know a;; too well.
This is also an issue more indicative of a malaise in mainstream horror and this film's ability to sustain tension through storyline, good characterisation and acting, and not just through the technical aspects of set piece, sound and camera trickery.
It should be noted Jerry Bruckheimer is producing, so expect everything to be turned up to 11 anyhow!
Elsewhere this week....
At the mac, we have a couple of limited release offerings. Firstly, Joe (15) (showing Fri 22 to Tues 26) stars Nicolas Cage in a welcome return to his indie roots, in the title role as an ex-con, who is just trying to dodge his instincts for trouble - until he meets a hard-luck kid played by Tye Sheridan who awakens in him a fierce and tender-hearted protector. Second, we have A Promise (12A) (showing Fri 22 – Tue 26 Aug) which stars Rebecca Hall and Alan Rickman in a Stefan Zweig-inspired film which stands in stark contrast to the other Stefan Zweig-inspired film of this year Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Sadly, reviews have not generally been particular strong.
At the Electric, you'll find quite a few things happening over the next week.
It is fantastic to see the Dardenne brothers return with their latest film Two Days, One Night, starring Marion Cotillard as Sandra who returns to work after suffering from depression to find out that her colleagues have chosen to take a bonus at the expense of her job. She has just one weekend to change their minds. The Dardennes make stark, simple social commentaries and are two of European cinema's leading lights. This looks like being no different. A definite must-watch this week.
Marking the centenary of the start of World War I, don't miss A Night At The Cinema, described as "a glorious miscellany of comedies, adventure films, travelogues and newsreels to recreate a typical night out at the cinema in 1914, much of which would have played right here at The Electric Cinema." ,
Be sure to get your fix of Batman films at The Electric too this weekend including showings of Tim Burton's fantastic Batman and Batman Returns, Chris Nolan's equally excellent The Dark Night, by contrast the awful Batman and Robin (as part of Trash Night Presents) and some quirkier offerings including Batman: The Movie from 1966 and the 1993 animation Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.
Finally, watch out for numerous previews of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For from Sunday ahead of its mainstream release next week (more on this next week!)
So that's it from me! A large range of releases this week and, as always, I warmly welcome your feedback on any of the comments above or indeed your thoughts on the films themselves. Please drop me a tweet @timmy666.
Until next week, "holy cinemascope Batman!"