This Week on Demand: 18/05/2014

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Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy

Too often films about films offer only feeble fan service: an uninspired interview with an icon or two amidst a sprinkling of clips and a critical insight so miniscule it’s microscopic. Not Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, a terrifically thorough documentary that takes its time across a marathon four hours to investigate every inch of the series with a scrutiny that makes it essential. From the infamous undertones of the second instalment to the sharp-jumping silliness of the Friday the 13th crossover, co-directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch cover it all with a comprehension and comic tone that’s immensely enjoyable. With narration from Heather Langenkamp and invaluable commentaries from Wes Craven on the series’ subsequent direction, Never Sleep Again is a film fans of Freddy Krueger frankly must see. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. ~RD


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Ready 2 Die

You ought to be by the end of this interminable offal, the week’s second serving from The Asylum, and one—somehow—conducted with even less craft than Alpha House. It has, at least, a little more class; following a group of gangsters as they’re chased in the wake of a heist by cops and rivals alike, Ready 2 Die is less the “World War 3 in the streets of LA” as offered by its tagline than an awful lot of hanging about in hideouts, dropping dismal dialogue made even worse by the awfulness of the actors who spout it. But if they and the senseless story they strive to serve make the movie a mess, it’s the erratic direction and editorial style that elevate it to atrocity. It is a film that seems set on agonising the eyes, its cutting so illiterate in the language of cinema it ought to be excused from class. UNWATCHABLE. ~RD


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Spinning Plates

Spinning Plates documents the highs and lows of three restaurants, including their own personal struggles with finances, health, and fires. Each employee and owner gives their own heartfelt story, but there are only so many emotions you can feel before you start to question the point of the documentary. The three restaurants have no relation to one another (tangentially or otherwise) and the film comes off as another VOD documentary that didn’t have much of a chance at success in theaters. This isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have its merits, but it would be a better film if it could figure out what it was trying to do. SO-SO. ~JG
 


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Star Trek Into Darkness

What a curious blend of blockbuster tendencies is Star Trek Into Darkness, JJ Abrams’ messily massive follow-up to a well-regarded reboot that for some reason sees fit to abandon this new incarnation’s independence and instead draw on the past so dutifully it’s sure to either alienate or annoy in droves. It’s home to all the interesting aspects of contemporary Hollywood output, from interrogations of military ideology to investigations of international relations, yet so too is it victim to the excesses and indulgences that plague the most prominent studio productions: endless, arbitrary, empty action, and a far greater deal of time spent on digital destruction than that old art of writing a script. Peppy performances from the usual suspects alleviate things a tad, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s bad guy feasting on all surrounding scenery. It’s fleeting fun, in their company; if only there were more of it, before they had to run off and fight. SO-SO.~RD


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Stranger by the Lake

What curious creatures we humans are, with the intelligence to understand our animalistic urges yet not the inhibitions to overcome them. Fatty food, we understand, tastes good to trick us into eating it aplenty. So it is with sex, procreation and pleasure inherently intertwined, evolutionary urges linking lust and love under the auspices of attraction. Stranger by the Lake is a microcosmic masterpiece, its streamlined screenplay and sole setting condensing these concerns into a thriller that’s staggering in how simple it seems. But such ease is an effect almost impossible to accomplish, and the visual composition of this film is astonishing. Alain Guiraudie’s direction is brilliant, curating a cinematic grammar so precise that every cut excites, so perfectly is it placed, and the cumulative weight prompts an ever-elusive climax that teases such pleasure you almost fall from your seat. As it is in great sex, so it is in great cinema. MUST SEE. ~RD


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The Frozen Ground

It seems apt for Con-Air co-stars Cage and Cusack to reunite in a movie as utterly unremarkable as The Frozen Ground. Both were brilliant at their peak, deeply different performers, but ones comparable in the quality of their craft. The last decade-plus, alas, has been kind to neither, and their increasingly alarming choices in the last number of years explain, if not excuse, the feebleness of this film. Cusack is the killer to Cage’s cop, both turning in the kind of pay-check-pickup performances all too common in their recent work. Indeed everything all too common in their recent work makes a repeat appearance here, from a squandered supporting cast to a script stuffed with ideas more at-home in TV procedurals that star-driven cinema. It’s not just for 50 Cent’s pop-up appearances that the movie might seem the Cage-Cusack answer to Righteous Kill. AVOID IT. ~RD


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The Story of Luke

Luke (Lou Taylor Pucci) is an autistic man searching for independence after the death of his grandmother. His job in a mailroom leads to his interactions with Zack (Seth Green), a coworker who helps him (somewhat) improve his interactions with others. The shining star of the film is Lou Taylor Pucci, whose mannerisms and emotions are not only accurate, but also heartfelt. He elevates the lackluster script by creating a nuanced character who deals with both his limitations and aspirations. RECOMMENDED. ~JG

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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.