It goes without saying that the temperatures here never reach TX heat index levels, and yet I still cannot adapt to the extreme humidity of it all. It’s a perfect excuse to grab a cold one and set your bum down in an AC-pumping cinema. Let me give you a run-down of what’s on in the cinemas this week.
First up comes the interestingly enticing re-release of Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter). Released for only a couple of weeks late last year and now again in select cinemas, this film tells the story of Ignatius Perrish, a man accused of raping and murdering his longtime girlfriend. Even his parents believe he is guilty. What makes the issue more complex is when Ig starts growing tiny horns which compel people to start spilling their most-hidden secrets. Step by step, Ignatius starts piecing together the events that led up to his love’s death. The story and its telling is wickedly clever and the acting is superb, but the script is lacking in its ability to convey both depth of the characters and the film’s message…know truth, know peace…no truth, no peace. ###
Moving along in the vein of the macabre comes the next chapter in the Insidious franchise, Chapter 3. And as any smart series knows, when ideas get scarce, RUN to the prequel idea. Hence, we get a new chapter in the saga; whether it was necessary is another question. James Wan, Oren Peli (yes, apparently that is his name!) and writer now director of the latest film, Leigh Wannell, started a gripping saga with the first two films, but this one, which dives headfirst into the story of young Quinn Brenner in search of contact for her dead mother’s spirit, is a right throwaway. Take the narrative steps of any by-the-book ghost/spirit thriller and add in the conjuring of evil presences (alas without ANY real scares) and repeat with double doses of paranormal occurrences and we have the trappings of a crossover Paranormal Activity/Insidious franchise. Not even an ageing Dermot Mulroney could save this non-scary disappointment. Sigh. Pass. #-1/2
There was a time when I really thought that Vince Vaughn was so money. I was a young lad in high school and thought Swingers was the bomb dot.com. Following his career, there have been so many hits and plenty of misses, but he’s managed to keep it afloat with honest choices that stayed close to his comedic abilities. His latest is Unfinished Business, a definite try in continuum with director Ken Scott, who parlayed his indie hit Starbuck to slight box office success with its Vince Vaughn, big budget remake Delivery Man released here in Spain early last year. Business takes a slightly Jerry Maguire-ish riff and skews it left and right with sometimes funny, oft-times dumb jokes. These come supplied more often than not through the other Franco, David and Mr. Tom Wilkinson, who supply the supporting roles to Vaughn’s Dan. These characters’ surnames are Trunkman, McWinters and Pancake…all real and slightly played with in the movie. The film follows Trunkman’s (Vaughn) battle butting heads with his sharp-as-nails ex-boss Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller) after leaving her company. It follows the three acquaintances from home to Portland to Europe as they try to make a deal with competing companies…and every cliche is hit without fail. That last line sums up the movie perfectly. This goes to the laughable but later pile, I’m afraid. ##
Finally today, we have the superb if slow German production of Phoenix. Serving post-WWII fact with fiction, it’s easy to become enthralled with the plot of the film, following the story of actress/singer and concentration camp survivor, Nelly Lenz. After her torture and subsequent healing from a surgery to repair her disfigured face, her dear friend Lene Winter has taken her back to the ruins of Berlin where all Nelly can concentrate on is finding her long lost husband Johnny. When she finally does find him working in a club called Phoenix, her surgery which left her unrecognisable, prompts his request for her to impersonate his deceased wife Nelly at an attempt to claim her inheritance, as he assumes everyone in her family had died. The question then is begged…did he sell her family out to the Nazis in the first place? Phoenix marks a solid spot as an acclaimed actress for stalwart German beauty Nina Hoss. The poignancy she gives to her character Nelly coupled with the mysterious charm of Ronald Zehrfeld’s Johnny takes a post-war drama and imbues it with human interest and thrills. Brilliant piece of cinema that keeps you wanting more until the end. ####