British thriller starring Steven Mackintosh as a man trying to buy a stolen gun from a crackhead (Ashley Walters).
This wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared but it wasn't particularly good either. It's directed by Gary Love and adapted by Dominic Leyton from his own play. Steven Mackintosh plays Tom (who for some reason turns out to actually be called Horatio), a middle-class businessman who is trying to buy an "item" from a twitchy crackhead named "D" (Ashley Walters). The item, naturally, turns out to be a gun but there's a slight problem. D has nicked the gun from local nutter Hoodwink (Andy Serkis) and he wants it back. Essentially the film is a non-stop mish-mash of secrets and lies, interspersed with violent beatings. There are a couple of twists, but neither of them are remotely surprising. Mackintosh is fine and you have to admire Walters' commitment - his crackhead make-up is very impressive - but Serkis' character is such a caricature of RAGE that he's never remotely scary and you just end up laughing at him. Given that the film revolves around a gun, it's not too much of a spoiler to say that the gun goes off at some point and that when it does, the accompanying effect is the best thing in the film. Watchable but nothing special. Two stars.
The New Man (Den Nya Manniskan
Swedish film about a young girl (Julia Hogberg) who is locked up in an institution to await enforced sterilisation by the state.
Film of the day, no contest. This is very much like Sweden's version of "The Magdalene Sisters", because as recently as 1976, young women who were either promiscuous or came from poor families or who were considered to be mentally or physically ill were taken from their families and put into institutions to await enforced sterilisation (via what the doctor refers to as "tubular occlusion") by the state. The film centres on a young girl named Gertrud (Julia Hogberg), who comes from a very large, very poor family and is taken away when she's just a teenager. (It wasn't too clear exactly when because a projectionist fuck-up meant that the second line of the subtitles wasn't visible for a full five minutes - seriously, what kind of retarded fucking projectionist doesn't ensure the subtitles are visible? I ask you.) Gertrud forms various relationships with the other girls at the school, including angry Jenny (Lo Kauppi), who agrees to stay in the institution because it's the only way to ever see her son; Astrid (Ellen Mattsson), who believes she has epilepsy; overweight, child-like Alba (Ann-Sofi Nurmi), who believes she's pregnant; and beautiful Lisa (Anna Littorin), who agrees to the operation because she dreams of promised job in a lawyer's house, without quite realising what that job might entail. In addition, Gertrud forms relationships with both the attractive young groundsman, Axel (Christoffer Svenson) and the kindly head nurse, Solbritt (Maria Lundqvist), whose character narrates the film. The performances are excellent (Hogberg looks a lot like someone I know, which was a bit weird), the characters are superbly drawn and the film is extremely moving in places. Like "The Magdalene Sisters" it'll also make you very angry indeed. Four stars.
Run, Granny, Run
Documentary about 94-year-old Doris "Granny D" Haddock, who ran for Senate opposite incumbent Republican candidate Judd Gregg in 2004.
Enjoyable documentary about the remarkable Doris "Granny D" Haddock, a 94-year-old woman who ran for Senate in New Hampshire in 2004. She'd previously garnered some media attention by walking across the country (aged 89) to raise awareness about the implications of special interest groups and corporations contributing to political campaigns. Then, in 2004, the Democratic candidate in New Hampshire unexpectedly dropped out of the race, creating a last-minute vacancy, so Granny D agreed to stand against the two-time incumbent Republican candidate Judd Gregg, despite having no money for a political campaign. The film basically follows her around the campaign trail as she -literally- walks around New Hampshire trying to raise money. Granny D herself comments on the film on occasions, which doesn't quite work as it comes across as a little disingenuous (e.g. "Oh no, how did I get myself into this?" etc) Better value are the interviews with her son, who tirelessly helps with her campaign and her equally patient campaign manager. (Their not-so-dedicated fundraising manager is fired about halfway through and you'll want to boo her). Granny D's story is compelling enough in itself but the film will also make you angry as hell at a) the sheer ignorance of the American voting public and b) the blatant hypocrisy of politicians - the Democrats in particular basically hang Granny D out to dry. There is, however, a wonderful sequence where she has to debate Judd Gregg on live television and the film is worth seeing for that alone. Hell, it's probably on YouTube. Three stars, but that's a high three rather than a low three.
A Casa de Alice (Alice's House)
Documentary-style Brazilian drama about the various secrets and lies that bubble to the surface in a middle-aged woman's family.
Engaging documentary-style film that moves slowly but gradually gets under your skin. Alice (Carla Ribas) is a middle-aged woman married to Lindomar. Alice works as a manicurist and they live in a house with their three teenaged sons and Alice's mother, who is slowly going blind. However, it's the grandmother who sees everything, such as explicit photographs of a young woman (one of Alice's friends) that fall out of the pockets of both the husband and one of the sons while she's doing the laundry and also one of the sons getting out of the car of an older man. Meanwhile, Alice discovers that the husband of one of her wealthy clients is actually her childhood sweetheart and as her marriage seems to be failing in the bedroom department, she contemplates an affair. Director Chico Teixeira comes from a documentary background and his fly-on-the-wall approach works beautifully, observing tiny details that really get to you (e.g. the grandmother, having just found out about the husband's affair, joins Alice on the balcony with a look in her eyes and...says nothing). The film is filled with great scenes and the Ribas is astonishing in the lead role. Terrific final shot too. Four stars.