Much varied stuff this week as I go to Raindance and also check out the end of the world.

Monday 26th September

KILLER ELITE (Gary McKendry, 2011, USA/AUS) – 2.5/5 

Taking in my 3rd Stath injection at the cinema this year, Killer Elite sees the great man himself with one of the better casts of his filmography so far as he’s joined by Clive Owen and Robert De Niro for an apparently “based on real events” story which comes across as the usual kinds of bobbins to be found in Statham’s films as he is pulled out of retirement to kill a bunch of ex-SAS men in order to get his mentor out of a dire situation.

The main problem with Killer Elite for me is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, a knockabout action flick with Statham and friends doing all sorts of mad driving and kick-ass stunts, or a rather self-serious drama about a secret organisation which protects SAS men who maybe aren’t worth protecting. In the end it comes off as a bit of a mishmash which never fully commits to either way of working and so fails at both.

It certainly has its moments though, seeing Statham and De Niro on screen together is a bit of a treat and their apparently warm relationship off-screen informs this one and perks proceedings up and Clive Owen’s ambiguous character is also a fair bit of fun, especially when he and Statham get into fights. The action is impressively handled throughout also and even a week on, much of it remains in the memory.

It’s just too bloody silly to be what it wants to be in all.

Tuesday 27th September

JANE EYRE (Cary Fukunaga, 2011, UK/USA) – 4/5 

Finally got round to checking out an unlikely follow up to Sin Nombre for Fukunaga with this classically styled version of Jane Eyre.

The classic tale is told in a reserved and unfussy manner by Fukunaga who tells the story cleanly and with some jumps in the narrative which work well cinematically. The cast are all pretty brilliant with Fassbender and Wasikowska doing sterling work in their roles, Wasikowska dressing plainly and keeping even her larger outbursts in a calm but very much impassioned nature and Fassbender’s mysterious, constantly changing in emotion character is presented as monstrous but with his performance also empathetic.

My only real problem with the film is one of the problems with having to adapt literary work and here the cutting of material most seems to effect the 3rd act where Jamie Bell’s character really comes to the fore but has little effect on the film’s narrative. His character feels less important than he actually is to the material and aside from one scene where he shows his slightly darker side, Bell is maybe a tad too wet in the role to really become even a slight obstacle to Jane’s wants towards the back end of the runtime.

A highly enjoyable adaptation of a classic and a solid entry on the resumes of all involved.

Wednesday 28th September

MELANCHOLIA (Lars Von Trier, 2011, DEN/SWE/FRA/GER) – 4/5

Lars Von Trier makes a film and for once, the controversy surrounding it has nothing to do with the film itself instead it being with Von Trier’s new “hug a Nazi” policy.

Instead, this film is relatively tame for him, if it were from anyone else there’d be quite the fuss, but instead the mere end of the world told in the context of a wedding which feels doomed from the beginning plays out in an unfussy but pretty damn gorgeous way.

Playing out more as a series of vignettes, themselves divided by the film into two parts, I don’t think the film comes together truly as a whole but there’s some cracking stuff in it and Von Trier still shots slow motion better than virtually anyone else in the business with a marvellous opening 10-minutes which may be the standout section of the entire film.

Kirsten Dunst is very good as the depressed but never too showy lead and is nicely contrasted by Charlotte Gainsbourg who becomes more and more stressed as the film goes on, just as Dunst seems to come out of her funk because she knows she’s going to die soon and seems pretty happy about it.

Not many others of the ensemble cast get much of a look in but Kiefer Sutherland nicely alternates between being funny and being a douche, Brady Corbet does a good rabbit in headlights when dealing with Dunst and Charlotte Rampling spits acid very entertainingly in her brief moments.

For me not as straight up genius as Antichrist but still a welcome effort from Von Trier which won’t rank among my years best but remained a very satisfying couple of hours.

MIMIC – DIRECTOR’S CUT (Guillermo del Toro, 1997, USA) – 3.5/5

Mimic has always been a bit of a black mark in del Toro’s copybook but he’s hoped to re-establish the film as something he could be proud of with this Director’s Cut which may not be the full vision he had originally but having not seen the theatrical edit, this certainly does feel like a del Toro film, at least in the first half, which has to give way to being a fairly generic monster movie by the time we get to the climax.

Insect men, little kids who are more aware of the adults around, the casual violence directed towards children, this is del Toro for sure and his mark was very clear even at this relatively early stage in his career, working from a story which feels like something he would have been attracted to easily as Mira Sorvino unleashes a load of genetically engineered bugs to wipe out a disease but through doing so becomes the creator of a species which can take on the form of its predator, man himself.

A random bunch of characters come together to fight the menace in the second half of the film and this is when it becomes more Hollywood, and less interesting. The first half is dripping with dread and has an anything goes approach which surprised me on a few counts but this gives way and is a shame.

All the cast are fine, all fairly standard issue for a mid-90′s studio horror, atmosphere is decent but it’s an early example of del Toro working in the studio system which didn’t quite work out.

Thursday 29th September

THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (Ti West, 2009, USA) – 5/5

Check out my Halloween Horror Countdown article on this here.

Friday 30th September

PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, 2006, USA) – 5/5

A documentary I’ve heard much about over the years and I finally watched the thing. Wow.

3 children are killed in a small town in West Memphis and the investigation by police sees 3 teens arrested and subsequently charged with being responsible. They are accused of being Satanists who used the children in some sort of ceremony but the defence insist that the evidence linking the boys to the crime is weak and try to fight what could lead to potential death penalties.

Looking at both the hard facts of the case and also the associations people attached to those who happen to look different, this combines talking head footage at the time with courtroom footage which shows just what a sham the trial in the film is. Evidence goes missing, confessions have massive question marks surrounding them and the parents of the boys murdered don’t look too clean themselves.

At over 2 and a half hours this is quite the effort to take up but its entirely gripping, upsetting and certainly anger worthy stuff which should be watched by pretty much everyone of an adult age.

DARK HORSE (Todd Solondz, 2011, USA) – 3/5

My review for this will be up just before its first showing at London Film Festival.

Friday 30th/Sat 1st October – Raindance Film Festival

BODY TEMPERATURE – 0.5/5

SKINNING – 3.5/5

HOLLOW – 1/5

GREEN – 4/5

Full reviews for all these films are on the site.

IF THE SEED DOESN’T DIE (Sinsa Dragin, 2010, SER/AUST/ROM) – 2/5

The only film I saw at Raindance which I didn’t do a review for just because I don’t have much to say. A man going to claim his son’s body and another man looking for his daughter intersect on the River Danube and go their separate ways resulting in a schizophrenic tale which starts off charming, takes a massive left-turn into dark territory and ends on a note which smacks of pretension. Not great, not terrible but at very nearly 2 hours, pretty long.

Sunday 2nd September

PARADISE LOST 2: REVELATIONS (Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, 2000, USA) – 4.5/5 

This follow up to the documentary takes on the fight kick-started by members of the public who protest the convictions of the West Memphis Three while also taking a much more direct view on someone who a lot of people think was responsible for the crime in the first place.

Leading to some pretty staggering footage of one man play-acting for his life, this isn’t quite as incisive as the first film and doesn’t quite have the same gut punching feeling as a result but as a document of how harsh the American justice system can be, it’s still quite amazing stuff. I’m looking forward to the next part, complete with the newly re-shot ending…

More next week!