SPREE

Cert 15 Stars 4

Smart, snappy and bloody, this US satirical comedy thriller is a 21st century morality tale about the perils of chasing attention, popularity and celebrity by posting extreme videos online.

Joe Keery stars as Kurt, a twenty-something emotionally stunted Los Angeles taxi driver who’s frustrated by having spent over 10 years posting videos of himself on Youtube but never having an audience whose numbers reach double figures. His deluded motto ‘if you’re not documenting yourself, you don’t exist’ is horrifying but worse is yet to come.

He creates ‘the lesson’, an instruction video built on the idea of growing an online audience by piggy-backing on other people’s popularity, but it’s really a cover for Kurt’s desire to go viral, and his plan is to livestream a killing spree with his passengers as the victims.

However as they’re initially racist far right activists, estate agents, and Hollywood narcissists with anger management issues, we don’t mind too much, and Kurt’s breezy open-faced personality and conspiratorial delivery encourage us to sympathise with him.

Yet Kurt is soon sliding into increasingly obsessive and outrageous behaviour, as if he were the impoverished grandchild of American Psycho’s violent lunatic Patrick Bateman.

Plus Kurt’s plan takes a detour when he picks up a popular and attractive stand-up comic who has all the talent Kurt lacks, and is played with increasing disbelief by the impressive Sasheer Zamata.

The script is a damning critique on the dubious attitudes of 21st American men and is knowingly pumped full of worthless marketing and brand buzzwords.

It’s happy to take highlight the prevalence of social media-fuelled insecurities, and take gleeful potshots at violent video games, gun ownership, and the financial benefits of murder.

Writer and director Eugene Kotlyarenko delivers a very assured, inventive and energetic and relevant ride, and one that’s remarkably exciting and fresh for a movie mostly set in the confines of a reasonably priced car.

AN AMERICAN PICKLE

Cert 12A Stars 4

Seth Rogen doubles up in this smart and satirical generational culture clash comedy drama, and the star of comedies such as Long Shot and Bad Neighbours puts his wide range to great use playing opposite himself as a violent yet dignified ditch-digger Herschel, and his great-grandson, an ineffectual and conniving computer programmer called Ben.

In 1920’s New York immigrant Herschel falls into a vat of pickle and is perfectly preserved for 100 years, not ageing a day.

Emerging in present-day Brooklyn, the success of the entrepreneurial Herschel’s market stall is threatened when his old fashioned values are aired on social media.

Simon Rich’s script satirises hipsters and their quest for authentic experiences, mocks the exploitative and contradictory notion of ethical online apps, and has pops at corporate food waste, the US treatment of immigrants and the lack of faith and family in modern life.

It’s the sort of quirky, inventive and heartfelt movie the Coen Brothers used to make before they won the Best film and directing Oscars for No Country For Old Men, and promptly forgot for a decade how to be funny.

WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE!

Cert 18 Stars 4

Head bashingly brutal and tense from the off and a blood bath of carnage and corruption, this nasty and funny comedy thriller is a vicious commentary on modern Russia and definitely not for the squeamish or easily offended.

After a stand-off in an apartment between a detective cop and a young man who claims to be his daughter’s boyfriend, we flashback to see how the characters arrived there with murder in mind.

It involves shotguns, drills and hammers, and if the kitchen sink isn’t thrown into the mix, it’s only because they’re too busy throwing TV’s at each other.

 

THE HUNT

Cert 15 Stars 4

Riding high with their inventive remake of The Invisible Man, this gleefully violent satirical thriller from the Blumhouse Studio sits closer to their violent ‘Purge’ franchise as a box of gory and provocative popcorn fun.

Based on the 1924 short story by Richard Connell but still horribly topical, a cabal of the global liberal elite have kidnapped a dozen working class ‘deplorables’ to hunt for sport.

Emma Roberts, Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank are terrific in different ways as the action throws in grenades and bullets, and gives a new meaning to owning a pair of killer heels.

Intended for release last year, it was postponed in the wake of mass shootings in the US, and after taking flak for it’s anti-conservative standpoint – including some from President Trump – although of course, hadn’t seen it at the time of his tweeting.

However the film’s viewpoint is far more interesting, as the blood splattered script mixes George Orwell with online conspiracy theorists and climate change deniers while taking wild pot shots at gun ownership and celebrity charity posturing.

Watch your 3 minute box office countdown here

 

 

THE DEAD DON’T DIE

Cert 15 105mins Stars 3

This offbeat black comedy zombie apocalypse shuffles to the unique, intriguing and pessimistic rhythm tapped out by writer, director and all-round indie maestro, Jim Jarmusch.

A man-made eco-disaster has enabled the dead to rise and feast on the intestines of the living, kickstarting a very bad day for small town cops, Bill Murray and Adam Driver.

Seemingly engaged in a private competition as to whom can deliver their lines in the most deadpan and downbeat way, they’re among several Jarmusch regulars who appear, such as singer Tom Waits as a gravel voiced narrator, and Tilda Swinton’s samurai sword wielding Scottish undertaker.

Full of nods, winks and direct references to other movies, the self-aware script and knowing performances play on the audiences’ familiarity with the actors and situations, confounding expectations and adding layers of meaning to the most deliberately banal dialogue.

A lament for cinema as well as humanity, it suggests we’re all dead men walking and it’s what we deserve.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Stars 2

Here’s a Hollywood movie that celebrates the endearing, warm, funny and romantic side of mental illness.

The Hangover star Bradley Cooper, plays Pat Solitano, a bipolar sufferer released into the bosom of his loving family, headed by the OCD afflicted Pat Snr, Robert De Niro.

While trying to woo back his straying wife, Pat meets Jennifer Lawrence’s beautiful but equally troubled Tiffany, and as the two bond over medication, law breaking and ball-room dancing, a complicated situation soon develops.

This emotionally dishonest disaster wants to be a sympathetic portrayal of the mentally ill while simultaneously using their wacky behaviour as a springboard for humour.

The humour is weak, the violence misplaced,  the romance cliched and the the Dirty Dancing Over the Cuckoo’s Nest finale is such a badly judged mash-up of low comedy and cringing sentimentality that I was generating my own anger issues.

THOROUGHBREDS

Cert 15 Stars 4

Take a punt on this immaculately poised and nihilistic black comedy thriller which carries its chilly premise across the finish line with tremendous composure and style.

Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy give deliciously dead-pan performances as a pair of teenagers born to a world of wealth and privilege and bred to be social show ponies.

With the former saddled with a creepy and controlling stepfather, a plot is hatched to dispatch him. The film is dedicated to the late Anton Yeltsin who plays the local drug dealer whom they rope in to help.

PIN CUSHION

Cert 15 81mins Stars 3

This brisk low budget British coming of age drama is a nightmarish revenge tragedy which is at times as darkly uncomfortable to watch as the name suggests.

Young Lily Newmark gives a well judged performance full of awkward angles as a teenage girl at at a school trying to fit in with the local mean girls.

Her clumsy attempts are hampered by her shyness and sexual innocence, plus the social inadequacies of her mother, a terrific Joanna Scanlan.

She’s weighed down with a club foot and a hunchback which emphasise the collision of reality and fantasy which lie at the heart of the script, by debut director, Deborah Haywood.

Putting her characters through a wringer of social media betrayal, self harm, alcohol abuse, she maintains our sympathy as the mother and daughter seek refuge in self created fantasies, one of which involves a glamorous air stewardess, played with toothy splendour by former Girls Aloud singer, Nadine Coyle.

 

SWIMMING WITH MEN

Cert 12A 97mins Stars 3

Dip a big toe into the feel good waters of this very British comedy.

Rob Brydon plays an accountant whose midlife crisis sees him leave his wife and teenage son, and seek refuge in the arms of a synchronised swimming team comprised of middle aged men.

Brought together by the pointlessness of existence, they find themselves unexpectedly competing in the unofficial World championship in Milan.

It’s kept afloat on bubbles of charm by the likeable and familiar cast, which includes Jane Horrocks, Downton’s garrulous Jim Carter, and This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose.

Best in show is Charlotte Riley as the team’s instructor, whose drill sergeant manner is all the more ferocious for using her native Teesside accent.

Oliver Parker’s direction keeps everything fluid, and it’s played in the same tone as his previous work such Dad’s Army and Johnny English Reborn.

So it’s heart is always in the right place, even if the chaps’ arms and legs frequently aren’t.

 

THE FIRST PURGE

Cert 15 97mins Stars 3

This brisk and effective prequel to the hugely successful horror action trilogy is a typically blood splatting mix of carnage and satire.

It shows how a far right government uses a mass psychological experiment named the ‘purge’, to exploit the anger of social deprivation to cull the poor and so consolidate political power.

When New York’s Staten Island is quarantined and for twelve hours all crime, including murder, is legal, some turn to prayer and others to party.

However it soon becomes a warzone, with violence inflamed by social media, and a drug dealer must run the gauntlet of violence to rescue his former lover. Y’Lan Noel has a muscular charisma as Dmitri, and Lex Scott Davis is dainty but deadly as Nya.

The costume department has great fun creating nightmarish masks and outfits as booby trapped teddy bears and needle gloves are macabre additions to machine pistols and drone warfare.

I doubt this first Purge is the last one.