Following Tony Manero and Post Mortem, No forms the final chapter in Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s trilogy of films woven through Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year reign. Appropriately, it details the final moment of the dictatorship when the 1988 referendum yielded a victory for the opposition, and signalled the end of nearly two decades of oppression and violence. Telling the story from within the opposition, Larrain wryly addresses the fickle nature of politics via the hugely popular ‘No’ campaign, fought with slick advertising and broad appeal.
A thorough account of the infamous West Memphis Three murder case and its 18 year fallout, Amy Berg’s documentary combines forensic detail with righteous anger to compelling effect. There has been a lot of film dedicated to this particular story, but Berg’s is the first account to provide a complete overview of the murders that befell a rural American community in 1993. From the initial sentencing of three outcast teenagers through the years of legal wrangling and newly discovered evidence, West of Memphis paints a damning portrait of police misconduct in a society all too quick to punish those least able to defend themselves.
Having recently delivered middlebrow stodge like Invictus, Hereafter and J. Edgar from the director’s chair, it’s been a while since Clint Eastwood has had a chance to chew some scenery. With directing duties left to longtime collaborator Robert Lorenz, Eastwood steps in front of the camera once more, finding the same ardent growl that made Gran Torino such an enjoyable boilermaker of a film. Unfortunately, Trouble with the Curve is as toothless as the man himself, a catatonic baseball drama that suffers from the same mouldy traditionalism championed in Eastwood’s cranky talent scout.
Following the A5 as it winds eastward from Holyhead in Wales to London’s Marble Arch, Marc Isaacs’ The Road is an insight into immigrants who have adopted England’s capital as their home. Up close and personal, the picture that emerges is a bleak one. Its very nature defined by a state of flux, the road of Isaacs’ documentary seems to act as a point on the horizon as far from homes left behind as it is from those yet to be found.
Like a resounding fist-bump cementing a job well done, police drama End of Watch is a testosterone-fuelled ride-along through L.A.’s crime-ridden south central district. Proving that sometimes a film doesn’t need to be more than the sum of its parts, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña showcase an infectious chemistry that papers over some noticeable cracks, and confirm there’s life in the Academy yet.
Gathering dust in various stages of development hell since 1997, Gambit finally arrives on the big screen. From the off it’s clear Michael Hoffman’s remake of the 1966 caper is no spring chicken. A comic heist film so thoroughly undercooked and blushing with embarrassment, the only chicanery here is the evident self-deceit involved in slumming for a paycheck.
Following the pitch-black Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos draws back the curtain on some more theatre of the absurd with Alps. A group of people offer an unusual service, replacing deceased family and friends in an effort to ease the mourning process. When one of them takes her position too far, things start to get messy. Slow, deadpan and unflinchingly weird, Alps is cut from the same cloth as Dogtooth, but lacks any real bite.
Grassroots is the true story of Grant Cogswell’s 2001 campaign for a seat on Seattle’s City Council. Basing his campaign around a desire to expand the city’s monorail system, Cogswell became a serious challenger to incumbent Richard McIver by targeting an untapped zest for change that lay dormant amongst Seattle’s young adults. Grassroots is admirable in its purpose, but a little out of step in the wake of Barack Obama’s successive victories in the war for the White House.
The story of a pathological liar who discovers that he has a half-sister and a nephew, People Like Us shows off the gargantuan acting abilities of the entire cast. Charming, genuine and flawed, the sweet and the funny is offset with some odd choices at the start and a pedestrian ending. However sceptical, this heart-warmer will win you over.
Kevin James wafts back onto our screens as a listless biology teacher who just wants to chip in a few bucks and save his school when budget cuts loom. No bake sales here, as good-natured Mr. Voss enters the Octagon in a bid to literally fight for what he believes in. Take note, Here Comes the Boom is here to impart laughs and lessons in equal measure. Achieving neither, at least Kevin James gets a pummeling.