This Week on Demand: 09/06/2013

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Courtesy of illness, This Week on Demand for once has a legitimate reason to be late, but readers needn’t worry: the delay’s not withheld much. Though, of course, that’s a matter of opinion as to whether it’s quality or quantity that most matters: the below selection offers a measly two films of any notable quality, though one stands among the finest films ever to be covered under this column. But then haven’t we grown used to such disparities by now? That, in a way, is the natural order of Netflix membership: we must trawl through the trash to find the goodness buried within.


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Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home

Earnest in intention, unintentionally amusing in its director’s dodging of the selflessness of his own idea, Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home concocts the fine concept of a family keeping hold of their waste for three months to see just how much the average household produces and promptly passes it along to someone else. Andrew Nisker’s film might be more effective if he performed this experiment upon his own family; as it stands, filming others and relating the findings back to his own life, the documentary comes off as oddly self-centred. That’s fortunate, in some ways, as it creates a much-needed tension that at least partially enlivens the movie beyond its dully formulaic structure, proceeding along a checklist of environmental impacts. There’s not much here that hasn’t been covered more concisely and comprehensively in other, better documentaries; mean well though he may, Nisker does little more with Garbage! than subject a poor innocent family to some nasty smells. SO-SO.


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Horrid Henry: The Movie (Read our full review)

Summoning a star-studded cast from both the big and small screens, Horrid Henry: The Movie adapts the literary legacy of the eponymous troublemaker with faces as familiar as Anjelica Huston and Richard E. Grant, Noel Fielding and Rebecca Front. It’s Theo Stevenson who quite rightly earns most attention as Henry himself, however, imbuing the loveable rogue’s cheeky antics with charismatic wit. Adapted to live-action feature format by the team who made the books an animated TV success, this incarnation of the character feels only semi-successful, its few moments of madcap enjoyment long-forgotten by the time its protracted, unfunny third act comes to a close. Clocking in at the wrong side of ninety minutes, it’s a film that just doesn’t have enough material to support itself, leaving what should be a light and breezy movie bloated and tiresome. Still, there’s enough in the silliness of certain gags to make it a passable viewing experience, for all its later drawbacks. SO-SO.


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Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy

Desperately trying to evoke the spirit of Trainspotting, whose author’s name evidently holds enough cultural caché to be unceremoniously inserted into the title of this imitative adaptation, Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy is a ghastly mess of a movie, slightly less entertaining than watching an intoxicated imbecile perform a very bad celebrity impression for almost two hours. That is, after all, largely what Rob Heydon’s feature debut is, aping Danny Boyle’s 1996 classic at every step and reminding us precisely what was so good, so striking, so original about that film. Ecstasy isn’t as much derivative of Trainspotting as it is derivative of the films derived from those that were derivative of it; there’s absolutely nothing here that hasn’t been done a good deal better before, which is problem enough in itself without the stylistic excess Heydon heaps atop it, making his film every bit as detestable as the deplorable characters to whom it endeavours to endear us. AVOID IT.


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Kaboom

His first self-penned film since 2004’s Mysterious Skin, which saw him break through to a far larger audience than before, Gregg Araki’s Kaboom seems more the work of a debut screenwriter than a seasoned one, its messy generic mishmash and woefully indulgent, irritating characters rendering it a film with none of the grace or depth of that earlier offering. Well enough cast, with a likeable lead in Thomas Dekker, it’s the film’s endlessly adolescent obsession with sexuality that—divorced from any meaningful narrative or thematic purpose—makes it such a chore to get through, overlong even at less than ninety minutes. The apocalypse-centric narrative is brimming with potential, yet never is Araki able to mine it for anything more than childish, churlish humour. This is dreadfully misguided filmmaking, a worrying case of a director all too convinced of his own skills, all too unable to provide any actual evidence thereof. AVOID IT.


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Mere Dad Ki Maruti

Relatively lean by Bollywood standards at just 101 minutes, Mere Dad Ki Maruti offers an enjoyably ludicrous comic adventure as the reliably unreliable younger brother of a bride-to-be loses her wedding gift car after taking it out to impress a girl. Saqib Saleem is a fine lead for the film, but it’s Prabal Panjabi as his perpetually put-upon best friend who steals the show, his reactionary presence the one consistent delight in a movie that wavers from wonderful to wearisome. The wedding celebration around which the plot revolves offers the production ample opportunity to gloss it up, and debut director Ashima Chibber does well to handle the glamorous scope the story demands. The song and dance routines are an engaging distraction from a narrative that veers off in far too many directions, though the lyrics have a tendency to draw the palm to the face with their easy-way-out approach to rhyme and rhythm. WORTH WATCHING.


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No Rest for the Wicked

Winner of an impressive six trophies at the 2012 Goya Awards, Spain’s answer to the Oscars, No Rest for the Wicked is already on course for the inevitable Hollywood remake, purportedly to star Sylvester Stallone. In a way, it’s a fitting casting choice; the protagonist of the original, an aloof cop whose rage-induced triple homicide kicks off the story, might find appropriate (lack of) expression in Sly’s inimitable visage. He, played here by José Coronado, is in face the film’s greatest problem, never explored in anywhere near as much depth as required. Co-writer/director Enrique Urbizu, fortunately, has enough of an interesting ensuing story to salvage the film, the eventual directions it takes admirable in their ambitious real-world implications. Equally adept in surprisingly gory sequences and subtle construction of screen space, Urbizu directs better than he writes; No Rest for the Wicked is disappointingly flawed, but undeniably enjoyable. WORTH WATCHING.


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The Big Bad

It’s always kind of a film to conveniently summate itself for the sake of critics; The Big Bad has the sense to conclude with the utterance “oh crap”, a fitting farewell to 78 minutes of just that. Star Jessi Gotta, who also wrote and produced the film, cannot act, and her inability to make convincing her own abysmal material makes itself evident within the film’s very first moments. It’s a tragically and terrifyingly ill-judged movie, telling an absurd story of family trauma within the shell of indie horror, as poor in its monster effects as it is in its sanity-threatening dialogue. Director Bryan Enk does his all to make the experience as unpleasant on the eyes as it is on the ears, a constant foggy haze hanging over the frame, almost like a veil trying to hide the sheer shoddiness of the production. Move along, nothing to see here. UNWATCHABLE.


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The Giants

There’s an admirable deftness of tone to Bouli Lanners’ The Giants that allows the coming-of-age tale to handily sidestep the many drawbacks of its familiar story structure. Capably moving from dark realism to light comedy, Lanners and his terrific young cast tell an engaging story of youthful reverie and the imposing shadow of adulthood, focusing on all-but-abandoned brothers Seth and Zak, and their impromptu decision to rent out their grandfather’s home to a drug dealer. It’s not a movie that manages to do much new with its concept, but there’s enough earnest charm—not to mention directorial prowess—in Lanners’ approach to make it a highly affable experience throughout. Much of that, credit where due, is down to Martin Nissen and Zacharie Chasseriaud, whose portrayal of these brothers soars on their impressive, endearing chemistry. It takes a lot of skill behind and before the camera to make fresh a story as oft-told as this. RECOMMENDED.


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Upstream Color (Read our full review)

The singular control of Shane Carruth contributes enormously to the peculiarity of vision which characterises his sophomore feature Upstream Color, a film that sees the unbridled ambition of his 2004 debut Primer and raises it a masterful execution. Rightly compared to Malick, it’s perhaps Charlie Kaufman and Synecdoche, New York with which Carruth and his film feel most of a piece, each man struggling to reconcile the baffling absurdity of existence with the redemptive potentiality of art. Like Kaufman, Carruth refuses to be beholden to recognisable reality as he incisively comments upon it, the apparent obliqueness of his storytelling—brilliantly brought to fruition with a quick-cutting aesthetic—nothing more than a convenient conduit to consideration of the senseless mindfuckery, to use the technical term, of being. This is the kind of thing that film is for, wholly unique efforts to understand the world; Carruth has made a masterpiece, and 2013 will do well to top it. MUST SEE.

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.