Kill Your Friends

Director: Owen Harris  (2015)

Grab a backstage pass to the ’90’s music biz with this scathing satirical thriller.

It revolves around a London record company riddled with backstabbing office politics, extortion, blackmail and murder.

But this parade of sex and drugs and rock and roll is criminally ploddingly paced.

Nicholas Hoult plays Steven Stelfox, a cynical, talent spotting A&R man.

The company where Steven works is full of idiotic chancers and he’ll stop at nothing to secure a promotion.

But Steven’s career implodes when Tom Riley’s smooth talking rival competes to sign hot Swedish indie band The Lazies.

So Steven hatches a violent master plan to get himself back on top.

As the Simon Cowell of Unigram Records, Steven’s an equally unlikeable character, if not as irritatingly smug.

Based on biographical book by scriptwriter John Niven, the intervening years have dulled the sharp edge of the writing.

Due to TV shows such as X Factor, we all have far more knowledge of how the music industry works than we did back then.

It’s not much of a shock there’s drug use in the music industry or that bands are manufactured, packaged and sold to us.

Plus the script mistakes profanity for wit and the recurring diatribes aren’t nearly as funny as they’re imagined to be.

However the performances are sound.

Glamorous Georgia King is game as an ruthlessly ambitious PA while Ed Hogg shambles through his scenes as a Columbo-like copper with musical ambition.

James Corden appears as a hard drinking shaggy haired colleague.

Hoult delivers a calmly confident performance but fails to suggest rampant self loathing or devilish delight at his own behaviour.

As we neither sympathise with him or love to hate him, all we’re left with is a passing interest in whether his scheming will succeed.

And the moment when Steven hits rock bottom on an extended booze and drugs bender is not markedly different to the rest of his life.

He hates the music he sells to the public and isn’t interested in making art or political statements.

Though he repeatedly claims he’s driven by money, with his expenses fuelled lifestyle we never see him earning it, spending it or even enjoying it.

Despite a soundtrack of Oasis, Blur and Radiohead mixed with euro dance tracks, Kill Your Friends fails to create a sense of place or time.

Plus it lacks the chaotic zip and visual dynamism which characterised Michael Winterbottom’s Manchester based music drama 24 Hour Party People (2002).

Hopefully this film finally flags up the end of the Britpop party.

Into The Woods

Director: Rob Marshall (2014)

Disney embraces the dark side in this dazzling big budget live-action adaption of the award-winning magical musical fairytale.

Based on the stories of the Brothers Grimm, the wicked lyrics of songwriting maestro Stephen Sondheim are performed by an all-star cast on top form.

Plus as great sets and costumes boost the sometimes uninspired direction, it all makes for a spooky and frequently funny fantasy.

Once upon a time, a baby-stealing witch (Meryl Streep) has cursed the house of a poor baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) so they cannot conceive a baby.

Corden and Blunt share a bickering chemistry and play commendably straight which allows the more fantastical characters to showboat.

Streep indulges herself with may a shriek and cackle as the witch who is also under a spell, forcing the couple to help her before she will lift their curse.

They must go into the woods to find a white cow, a golden slipper, a red cape and some yellow hair before the full moon in three days’ time.

On the way, they meet familiar characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, played by an astonishingly confident and scene-stealing teenage Lilla Crawford.

She is of course preyed upon by the big bad wolf, an excellent Johnny Depp in an extended cameo.

There’s also Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), Jack of the beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone) giants, ghosts and some golden eggs, Anna Kendrick is pitch perfect as Cinderella.

She is pursued by a a philandering Prince (Chris Pine). He’s wonderfully vain, self-centred and thoroughly enjoys himself delivering the funniest song and the best line.

Proving you should be careful what you wish for there are betrayals, mutilations and deaths as well as some unpardonably poor parenting.

As greed is punished and bravery and honesty win out, you won’t fail to be charmed by this wonderful tale’s dark magic.

★★★★☆