Out on Friday 13 May
Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed and confused. A backstage battle between punk rockers and neo-Nazis.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Everybody Wants Some!!, Green Room, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Our Kind of Traitor, Mustang, Cabin Fever, Kill Command, The Seventh Fire, Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art, The Call Up, The Darkness, and Angry Birds.
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EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!!
After the intimacy of Before Midnight and Boyhood, writer/director Richard Linklater here returns to the kind of freewheeling dramedy with which he made his name in the early ’90s. Everybody Wants Some!! is, in fact, a “spiritual sequel” to his ’93 classic Dazed and Confused, with both movies disposing of plot to instead offer anthropological studies of teens in Texas – drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll.
But where Dazed was set in 1976 over a 24-hour period as high school let out for summer, Everybody takes place in 1980 during the first three days at a fictitious college.
More male-centric than Dazed, the film follows freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner of Glee, but don’t hold that against him) as he hooks up with his baseball buddies. These highly competitive jocks don’t take to the field until 80 minutes into the movie, and then not for long, but they play hard nonetheless: table football, ping pong, darts, pool, pinball, Space Invaders, and, of course, chasing ladies, with evenings dedicated to getting wasted and laid.
And that, pretty much, is it, though Jake is the most sensitive and thus gets a romantic subplot with fine arts major Beverly (Zoey Deutch). Here, the pleasure is all in the hanging out with these moustachioed males, listening to their merciless badinage and their “adaptive” chat-up lines as they trek from discos to country bars to punk gigs in search of a good time.
There is, of course, a thin line between banter and bullying, flirting and predatory behaviour, and some antics might rub modern viewers the wrong way. But kudos to Linklater for staying truthful – he attended college on a baseball scholarship himself, so he knows these guys, at this time.
Still, any Neanderthal behaviour is made not just palatable but laugh-out-loud funny by Linklater’s sly undercutting of all this ridiculous macho posturing, and by the sheer charismatic force of a fresh-faced ensemble who demonstrate sweet hearts under salty behaviour. The names Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Temple Baker, J. Quinton Johnson and Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt) might not mean anything now, but then nor did Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Joey Lauren Adams and Adam Goldberg when Dazed came out.
Everybody in Everybody smashes it out the park, playing dreamers who exhibit a voracious lust for life as they quest for identity. Well, these actors might have found theirs – the next generation of leading men.
THE VERDICT: Party on, dudes! With tracks from Blondie, Van Halen, Sugar Hill Gang, The Cars and more, Linklater’s frat-pack com is an absolute blast. Prepare to be amazed and amused.
Director: Richard Linklater; Starring: Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
The problem with most horror films is that you know you’re watching one, and the characters don’t. The settings are otherworldly, impossible, clearly not ours; stupid decisions are made and stuck to. Refreshingly, Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to excellent revenger Blue Ruin (2013) takes place in a recognisably real milieu – the scuzzy hand-to-mouth slog of touring us punk band the Ain’t Rights – and its characters make convincing choices when the (metaphorical) shit hits the (actual) fan.
Fresh (or should that be unfresh?) from performing to a bunch of neo-Nazis in a grim Oregon backwater, the band witness a murder backstage. Immediately, bassist Pat (Anton Yelchin) does exactly what anyone else would: he runs away, fast, while phoning the police. Not that it does any good, as the band end up locked in the eponymous locale with aptly named thug Big Justin (Eric Edelstein), innocent bystander Amber (Imogen Poots) and a dead body, while Darcy (Patrick Stewart) and his skinhead hordes arm themselves outside.
The Ain’t Rights (including Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner) feel like a genuine band, turning from bon mots (“they run a tight ship”/“except it’s a U-Boat”) to bust-ups, and Darcy’s twisted fiefdom is as depressingly mundane as it is dangerous (think True Detective sans sun).
Even when the two groups face off against each other with nasty homemade weapons, Saulnier’s script retains its smarts: attack dogs are vanquished with feedback squall from the venue’s speakers, and each character, however small, has an arc, however bloody (including those dogs).
Among a great cast (with Blue Ruin’s Macon Blair offering strong support), a few of the actors seem slightly too famous to shuffle off early, but that concern quickly dissipates when Stewart starts oozing mesmerising menace, and the claret – and the limbs – start flying. The result is tense, credible, and rare as hell: a horror film that doesn’t act like one.
THE VERDICT: For a film that repeatedly questions the legitimacy of its punk rocker heroes, Saulnier’s second salvo is the real deal: a ferocious siege movie that cuts straight to the bone.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier; Starring Patrick Stewart, Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT
Making a funny film about the war in Afghanistan is tricky. Headlining it with two female stars – and successfully passing the Bechdel Test – is even trickier. So you have to wonder WTF anyone was thinking when they cast white actors in the two key Afghan roles.
Based on Kim Barker’s The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey sees Kim Baker (Fey), a disgruntled copywriter on a mid-tier news network, plonked in Kabul in the hopes of raising ratings with frontline footage.
The inexperienced Baker is taken under various wings at the cruddy journalist digs: her stoic Afghan fixer, Fahim (Christopher Abbott) who protects her from ridicule and the Taliban with equal aplomb; rival reporter Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), who shows her the professional and sexual ropes of this screwed-up new world; and Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton), a sardonic general who gives Baker tough love.
Throw in a cartoony afghan official (Alfred Molina) plus Martin Freeman doing Scottish as a rumpled war photographer and Baker’s new life transforms from cock-ups (like losing cash in an Afghan wind) to a new normal and a hunger to get the next big story.
To the credit of a hugely appealing fey, Baker is a (mostly) gender-neutral hero rather than mere chick-flick protagonist, by turns spiky and sweet. But much goodwill is blasted by Molina’s oleaginous turn and Abbott’s spot-on but bemusing performance. Which is a shame as this Private Benjamin-in-the-Middle-East has the potential to be that rare beast, a feminist crowdpleaser.
THE VERDICT: Entertaining but problematic, WTF almost hits the target but is scuppered by friendly fire.
Directors: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra; Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina; Theatrical release: April 22, 2016
OUR KIND OF TRAITOR
On the slick heels of the BBC’s The Night Manager comes another adaptation of a post-Cold War John le Carré novel. Published in 2010, Our Kind of Traitor was written very much with eyes on Russian oligarchs sweeping into London – and this feature plugs into that notion. A globe-trotting story that takes in Paris and the Swiss Alps, it begins in Marrakech, with ordinary London couple Perry (Ewan McGregor) and Gail (Naomie Harris) enjoying dinner.
Nearby is a table of noisy men, led by the charismatic Dima (Stellan Skarsgård), who invites Perry to join them. Soon enough, he spirits this mild-mannered chap away to a glamorous party. But, as so often in Our Kind of Traitor, the outcome isn’t quite what you expect. Dima petitions Perry to take back to London some intel to give to the authorities; a skilled money launderer, he wants to offer details on his criminal paymasters in exchange for protection.
So begins an unusual journey, as Perry becomes embroiled in a matter of national security, led by Damian Lewis’ British intelligence officer, who has his own reasons for bringing Dima in. Directed by telly veteran Susanna White from a script by Hossein Amini (Drive), the film broaches themes of high-level government corruption and the sway of big business.
But the emotional hook is Perry and Gail’s relationship – one that feels like its run its course until the charismatic Dima comes into their lives. Skarsgård, with his hair slicked back, is the perfect choice as the garrulous money launderer, while McGregor and Harris play the ordinary Joes well. True, it’s more solid than spectacular, but it blindsides you on more than one occasion.
THE VERDICT: A respectable adap, with honest performances and unflashy direction. Not as glitzy as Night Manager, but le Carré fans will find much to enjoy.
Director: Susanna White; Starring Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Northam; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
Early echoes of The Virgin Suicides give way to richer pickings in Turkey’s entry for 2016’s Best Foreign Language Oscar. Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut focuses on five sisters held under virtual house arrest by their uncle over the summer hols.
The girls are ‘coached’ for womanhood, but acts of resistance and dashes of humour emerge. The tension between oppression and youth is so beautifully played (Günes Sensoy stands out) and poised – dodgy voiceover aside – the final glimmer of hope makes you want to punch the air.
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven; Starring: Günes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
Directed by Travis Z, this is a premature reboot of Eli Roth’s 2002 breakout horror about a flesh-eating virus that attacks college grads holidaying in a rural backwater. If you’ve never seen the original, it’s a pretty serviceable remake – the prosthetics are gruesome, the teens (including Matthew Daddario and Nadine Crocker) nubile and the locals Deliverance-esque.
But amid all the screaming adolescents and mangy dogs, there’s little sense why we needed a remake. Surely the target demographic is capable of tracking the original down?
Director: Travis Zariwny; Starring: Gage Golightly, Matthew Daddario, Samuel Davis; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
When an army unit is sent on a training mission, suspicions are aroused by the presence of cyborg observer Mills (Vanessa Kirby). That’s the least of their worries, though, when their robot targets turn sentient and fight back.
Steven Gomez’s sci-fi thriller comes on like the ultimate James Cameron homage and fortunately, the retro vibe extends to the storytelling, which is a brisk and well-judged balance. It’s a promising debut; the director’s background is in VFX and his low-budget creations outshine many blockbusters.
Director: Steven Gomez; Starring: Vanessa Kirby, Thure Lindhardt, David Ajala, Tom McKay; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
THE SEVENTH FIRE
Terrence Malick ‘’presents’ and Natalie Portman exec produces, but this illustrious duo are mere cheerleaders for Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s debut feature, a fly-on-the-wall doc that takes us into the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
Zeroing in on criminal Rob Brown and his teenage protégé-of-sorts Kevin Fineday, it’s a bleak tale of drug use, unplanned pregnancies and jail-hopping. Uplifting it isn’t, but there’s poetry to be found in these desperate lives, and Riccobono never judges or sensationalises his subjects. Sensitive, if slightly unfocused.
Director: Jack Pettibone Riccobono; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
TROUBLEMAKERS: THE STORY OF LAND ART
Size matters in James Crump’s visually gob-smacking art-doc. Earth was the medium for its posse of ’60s art-world mavericks; among them, Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt rejected galleries and inscribed audacious visions on the American Southwest’s landscapes.
Using archival interviews to show how enviro-concerns and oppositional thinking drove them, Crump sometimes moves too briskly, but the awe-inspiring imagery speaks volumes: this big-thinking art demands big-screen respect.
Director: James Crump; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
THE CALL UP
Filled with action, intrigue and snazzy visuals, writer/director Charles Barker’s first feature impresses, even if the concept is hard to swallow. Taking an obvious cue from Call of Duty, it sees top online gamers mysteriously called together to compete in a lifelike VR shoot-’em-up involving futuristic tech outfits.
Once the visors are down, a clinical environment transforms into a gritty battleground; but things get serious when it becomes apparent the deadly consequences of the game extend to real life too. If only it weren’t so easy to see so many logic glitches in Barker’s script.
Director: Charles Barker Starring: Max Deacon, Parker Sawyers, Morfydd Clark; Theatrical release: May 20, 2016
Though it feels about four years too late, the movie adap of the gaming app wisely loads up on gags and lets loose. Centred on Red (Jason Sudeikis) and co attending anger-management classes, the origin stuff drags, but things liven up with the arrival of a porcine peril. Pixar can sleep easy, but this is a fun flutter of madcap invention with little time for sappy messages.
Directors: Fergall Reilly, Clay Kaytis; Voices: Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Danny McBride, Bill Hader; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016
In this latest horror from Blumhouse Productions, Kevin Bacon and family come home from a trip bearing the load of a supernatural curse. A greater commitment to exploring how the domestic tension is exacerbated by the son’s autism and daughter’s bulimia might have made up for the limp scares, but Darkness favours generic mumbo-jumbo about inter-dimensional demons.
Director: Greg McLean; Starring: Kevin Bacon, Radha Mitchell, David Mazouz; Theatrical release: May 13, 2016