The familiar story of the Kray brothers gets a retelling in Brian Helgeland’s cinematic take on London’s underworld of the 1960s. All the build up to the release has been about Tom Hardy - and frankly, this is a great achievement - to take on both Kray brothers with the same actor. Hardy applies himself to every role and this is a clearly a different beast from when the Kemp brothers played the Krays.
Much has been mooted about the tenor of the film - indeed words such as “pantomime” and “cartoonish” have been used to describe the film’s portrayal of the Krays and of the London of the time.
Brian Helgeland knows how to craft a mainstream cinematic thriller. Whether the ‘legend’ itself glorifies the Krays or if it is done appropriately, I’ll leave it up to decide.
Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, The (3D) (12A)
The hugely successful Maze Runner is now a franchise it seems! This is a very crowded genre right now blending the trappings of YA with sci-fi B movie quirks. I have faith though. With Wes Ball at the helm, you know you’ve got someone who is more than dependable at delivering a crowd-pleasing and knowing slice of nonsense.
The key thing is in the substance - this is being publicised as a darker, more violent beast than the original - I think this could be the films ticket to delivering something that makes it stand out from the crowd.
Well, here’s to hoping anyway. I’ll expect a third film will already be in the works.
Irrational Man (12A)
You have to hand it to Woody Allen. He keeps churning out film after film! Blue Jasmine restored my faith in his ability to still deliver great quality cinema! He still continues to bring fantastic casts to all his films who all no doubt revel in Allen’s creative process.
In Irrational Man, Joaquin Phoenix plays a burned-out, brilliant professor who takes a job at a small college and becomes involved with a teacher and a precocious student. It takes an existential act to turn his life around and see the world in a more positive light. All the familiar Allen tropes and topics are there - secrecy, murder, personal conflict - more than a whiff of familiarity to Crimes and Misdemeanours.
Sadly, critics are not acknowledging this as one of his best works. Indeed, much has been made of the film’s sketchy nature rather than something that can follow through the fruits of its labours for the length of a film.
My argument is always that even ‘bad’ Allen is to be lapped up. He surely won’t be able to keep making films forever.
The Visit (15)
Welcome to M. Night Shyamalan’s latest spooky venture. This follows brother and sister sent to their grandparents' remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. The children discover that they are involved in something deeply disturbing - as a result, their chances of getting back home grow smaller every day.
It’s fair to say Shyamalan hasn’t really hit full gear since Unbroken. That was quite a while ago! He’s a clever director - he understands the mainstream horror genre. He also has a knowing sense of the toying nature of cinema akin to Spielberg. I have returned to his movies occasionally in the partial, and it seems diminishing hope that he’ll deliver something of his early potential all those years ago with his first few movies.
There’s a knowing slice of comedy in this venture, and much will depend on the ‘fun’ factor here I suspect.
The President (15)
Showing at the mac (11-17 September), check out this jewel from Georgia, Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s film about a dictator who comes face to face with the people he previously subjugated. The film’s Georgian roots are clearly marked throughout with a nod towards the politics and conspiracies of the Soviet Union, an explorative and unforgiving portrayal of power, or rather how power corrupts. Despite the uncompromising nature of the film, it attempts to ask why!
Cartel Land (15)
Winner of a number of documentary awards at Sundance, be sure to check out Cartel Land (showing at the mac 14-15 September), director Matthew Heineman’s powerful look at vigilante groups and the Mexican drug cartels they oppose. The film is both raw and brutal, a close-up look at methamphetamine manufacture and the struggle to fight it and bring it under control.