Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde - Dir: Ron Howard
A couple of disclaimers: firstly, I have absolutely no interest in motor racing. In a town and country filled with petrol heads I almost hesitate to ‘fess up but, sorry, that's just the way I roll (or don't); secondly, I have a deep dislike for almost all Ron Howard's films, slipping as they so often do into the sort of sentimentality that the American box office so thrives on.
That said, I thought Rush was absolutely captivating and quite brilliant.
Oddly, the only previous Howard film that I liked unreservedly was Frost/Nixon written, like Rush, by Peter Morgan. Here he takes the extraordinary true story of two race drivers - polar opposites in terms of approach, lifestyle and attitude - and uses it to examine the sort of character and motivation that is required to perform at an elite level in a very dangerous sport.
The racing recreations are fantastically done, choreographed with all the skill Scorsese brought to the boxing matches in Raging Bull, while both main actors are superb, Hemsworth leaving behind his wooden Thor for the happy-go-lucky English playboy James Hunt and Bruhl (notable in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds) bringing real depth to locked-down perfectionist Niki Lauda.
The film itself zings along, never a dull moment, and whether you know the story of that fateful 1976 Formula One season or have no idea what happened it will still bring the same suspense and excitement to your ride. Highly recommended – much to my surprise.
So, I knuckled under and watched the two latest horror outings (I've been a bit off blood and guts recently) and, to my surprise, I enjoyed both of them very much. Perhaps an enforced rest from hacking, chopping and zombified intestine-eating has done me good.
Home invasion horror flick You're Next was made in 2011 but didn't really get released till last year. It shows why writer/director Adam Wingard was brought into the V/H/S and ABCs of Death films. In it the fractious Davidson family congregate for an anniversary only to be murdered by an anonymous gang (crossbows, axes, animal masks). Despite the hoary premise it's tense and bloody, mixing sudden shocks with slow burns and neatly twisting the genre. Even the low budget look works well, adding an odd “authenticity”, while a vein of deadpan humour is blackly entertaining.
V/H/S/2, meanwhile, follows the set-up of its predecessor. A couple of PIs find a stash of video tapes containing nasty stories told via “found footage”. After initially dissing the first film I've reassessed: it's a pretty decent and scary horror outing and so is this. Segment directors include the Blair Witch pair, Adam Wingard and Gareth Evans (of the fantastic Indonesian actioner The Raid). Stories range from a guy with an eye implant who sees dead people to a first person zombie rampage and a doomsday cult. I'm hooked again – bring me more blood!
Sri Lanka's A Common Man starts well enough, with Ben Kingsley doing his tough cockney geezer as the titular bloke who has planted bombs all over Columbo and is threatening to detonate unless four heavy duty terrorists are released. But it quickly deteriorates. Sir Ben appears to be acting in one quite good film while the remaining cast mug their way through an odd Indian cop melodrama complete with strangely overdubbed dialogue. As he gets increasingly serious the rest of it gets dumber and – unintentionally – increasingly funny.
Man of Ti Chi marks Keanu Reeves directorial debut and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. There's also little new in the story of a Tai Chi student who is tempted by Reeves ruthless gang lord to use his skills for brutal underground fighting (upsetting his pristine master). It plays out pretty much as you expect: our hero is tempted by the dark side but eventually gets it together, busts up the baddies and fights evil Keanu at the end. A fairly stylish retread, but drowning in a sea of clichés.