School’s Out

Kids are the worst. French kids are even worse. Environmentalist, precocious, arrogant French kids are worse still.

Laurent Lafitte plays an insufferably stupid supply teacher, drafted in to cover for the previous guy who’s autodefenestration has left the elite class without a teacher.

Turns out the elite class are a bunch of creepy, weird, unpleasant nerds who think they’re on top of the school. From there things ramp up in familiar fashion – cue midnight telephone calls, weird rituals, secrecy and outright defiance.

I’m still sort of processing what the film really want to say but there’s no denying it was an enthralling, unsettling journey from start to finish. Its definitely got some real problems – some of the characters’ actions were just not really credible – but it’s a joy to watch.

Classics round up

12 Angry Men

Does it pass the Bechdel test? Does it hell. There’s only one female character even mentioned in this film. But… perhaps I should cut it some slack for being utterly fabulous.

A breathtaking tour de force of dialogue, this is full of emotional punches and prejudiced opinions that remain all too relevant today. I’m an absolute sucker for fast paced dialogue heavy films that take place in a small set and this is a perfect example of this kind of film at its finest.

Blackmail

Hitchcock’s final silent film and what a film it is! I absolutely love a silent with live accompaniment in the town hall and this was quite possibly the best I’ve seen.

It has all the Hitchcock hallmarks – murder! Suspense! Famous landmarks! And some truly stunning performances form the lead actors. There’s a version recorded with sound but I struggle to imagine Anny Ondra needing any help to be more expressive. She dances from mischief to murder to fear and shame across the film and is captivating throughout.

Plot-wise its not hard to criticise – the main villain is hardly the sharpest tool in the box – but it’s such an enjoyable watch that this is mere quibbling. From the endless smoking to the dawn views of Leicester Square, this is a treat from start to finish.

Inuyashiki

I think it’s fair to confess that I’m not particularly knowledgeable about manga at all. That said, a good film is a good film – however good the source from which it’s adapted, you still need to turn out a good film.

Inuyashiki is a live action film made from a manga original. I have no idea if the manga is good or not. But I do know the film definitely fell short of its potential.

The premise is about as good as it gets. An old-ish guy and a teenager are both reconstructed by aliens and have to adjust to life with their new technologically advanced bodies (gun arms! Jet packs!). One chooses good. The other evil. Cue fight scenes.

How good does that sound?

And to its credit it does start pretty well. The whole superhero self discovery bit is fantastic. After that though it all sort of tails off. Its far too long for its own good. The middle 45 minutes or so just drag. There’s no real exciting story developments between the beginning and the inevitable show down at the end. It’s a real shame because if it had been cut a bit more tightly it would have been a lot of fun. As it was, I was getting bored by the end.

A missed opportunity.

Ana and the Apocalypse

Zombie films can be divided broadly into the camps of classic (think timeless, staggering, flesh hungry ghouls who can only be killed by blows to the head), re-imagined (think 28 Days Later rage, and other wanderings from the classic formula) and… Post Shaun of the Dead.

Shaun did a lot for the zombie film. It er… breathed fresh life into what was becoming a tired genre and brought some proper laughs into horror. More than that, it was a zombie film that poked fun at zombie films that was made by people who loved zombie films. And the enthusiasm showed.

Post Shaun, there have been a lot of ‘funny’ zombie films. Some have been really truly funny. Many have been tired cash ins riding the blood splattered coat tails of what came before. Ana and the Apocalypse is firmly in the former camp. This is a funny film.

A Scottish zombie comedy Christmas musical, no less. And oh so much more than the sum of its parts. The character formula is tried and tested – nerds and jocks alike navigate a path to survival together, discovering something about themselves and each other along the way. We have the missing parent, romantic tensions, loneliness and all the ingredients for a journey of self discovery.

And zombies. And music.

There’s no doubt that these filmmakers love their zombie films. The many excruciating and inventive deaths dished out attest to that. They certainly don’t hold back on the splatter! More surprising is how well they’ve managed to incorporate the songs. I’m by no means a fan of a musical but, far from coping with the musical numbers here, I actually enjoyed them! They managed to play the whole utterly absurd film with such a straight face that you couldn’t help but smile as another song struck up and more zombies were violently dispatched.

Easily one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in a very long time. Top marks.

Possum

Matthew Holness may be best known for the Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace but what he’s offering here is a long way from comedy.

Possum‘s story revolves around a disgraced puppeteer’s return to his hometown, and the emotional (and physical!) baggage he brings with him. It’s not really a story as such, more of a tense psychological episode, as we’re invited to wallow in the fear, guilt and regret of Phillip upon his return.

In many ways it’s low budget horror by the book here – there are no real surprises or breaking with genre here – but that’s no problem: this is a wholehearted deep-dive into horror conventions and comes with all the shocks, suspense and shadows you could hope for.

The actors are superb throughout. Alum Armstrong is spot on in his role as chain smoking, cackling ‘Uncle’ Morris and Sean Harris is a perfect cast. Better still is the sound: the BBC Radiophonic Workshop have really gone to town on the sound effects here and it ramps up the tension dramatically.

Scary stuff.

The Guilty

Is it still a film if nothing happens on film? The Guilty is tense and exciting but there’s not an awful lot to watch.

The entire film takes place inside an emergency call centre, following Asger – the only named character we ever see – over the course of his evening’s shift. As the evening progresses, one caller’s problem grows to drag Asger – and us – into its details. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s more to this problem than there first appears. This is essentially a thriller told over the phone, whilst simultaneously a character study of the man on the end of the line.

It’s certainly clever. The film makes effective use of what must have been a tiny budget. You really do get gripped by the emotional punch of the crimes unfolding, even though its entirely told by off screen voices. For all that, though, there’s no escaping that not a lot happens. And without giving away any of the twists or turns the plot takes, my main problem was that I wasn’t more surprised by any of it. If you’re going to have quite such a paired back approach to story telling I really do expect the story to take me to somewhere thoroughly unexpected. But it never quite did.

Tense and interesting. But not quite everything it could have been.

Sorry to Bother You

Sorry to Bother You was fantastic. What starts as a gently funny story of an Oakland couple just barely scratching out a living in an uncle’s garage steadily escalates in weirdness until it hits full blown insanity.

It certainly has a lot to say about capitalism but never veers into lecturing – it’s way too busy being absurdly funny for that. Instead, we follow Cashes Green up through the ranks of telemarketing – using his finest “white voice” – as he pursues a growing paycheck at the expense of friends and family.

Sadly, I can’t really say anything about the weird bits without giving far too much away. Suffice to say all is not as it seems at the utopian/dystopian world of WorryFree Corp.

I definitely wasn’t prepared for this to be as funny as it was – toe curlingly so in some excruciating scenes – but it really hits its mark, balancing between laughter and wincing and still having something serious to say for all of it. No idea what genre it is, but it’s great. Highly recommended.