Movies to watch this week at the cinema: Mississippi Grind, more...

Out on Friday 23 October

Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn gamble on a new friendship and also some money. Russell Brand and Marlon Brando receive the documentary treatment. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of Mississippi Grind, The Last Witch Hunter, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, Brand: A Second Coming, Listen To Me Marlon, Paper Planes, Between Two Worlds, They Will Have To Kill Us First, Maya The Bee, Make More Noise! Suffragettes In Silent Film, The Big Knights, The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution and Animal Kingdom: Lets Go Ape. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.

MISSISSIPPI GRIND

Fancy running away with Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds? Frankly, us neither. No one plays seedy like Mendelsohn, whose human pollutants litter everything from Animal Kingdom to The Dark Knight Rises, and Reynolds tends towards the gobshite plus theyve never carried films on their own (Buried aside). The vehicle for both actors redemption is a 1970s-style road-movie-come-character-study that rambles through arse-end America at its own loping pace. Slouching like a kid who pissed his pants in the sandbox, Mendelsohn plays gambling addict Gerry, an in-it-for-life loser who cant give up, or get better. Reynolds is charismatic chancer Curtis, who joins Gerry for want of anything better to do, reasoning, When you come to a fork in the road, you take it. The pair meet at a poker table, tour the Deep Souths bars and backrooms, fall in with call girl Simone (Sienna Miller), all sass and cinnamon locks, and await a big score thats never going to come. The films seeming diffidence will frustrate some. There are few switchbacks or surprises, and the most dramatic moment is laughed off in the first 20 minutes. But directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (who previously wrote Half Nelson) know their characters dont have to be likeable to be compelling. Gerry is the sort of scumbag no A-lister would ever touch, but its a gift of a part for the brilliant Mendelsohn who, having lost the final traces of his Australian accent, can expect many more lead roles of this calibre. Despite Gerrys pathetic outlook, his burgeoning buddyship with Curtis is genuinely affecting because we and they know it represents his very last shot. Similarly, the gambling scenes are alternately funny, sad and tense, because you want them to win, even as you know, ultimately, they cant. Making authenticity feel this effortless is hard, but Boden and Flecks ramshackle approach pays dividends. If you can handle the unruly runtime, its well worth a punt. THE VERDICT: A Color Of Money update sketched in sludgy greys and browns, this is the sort of asymmetric outsider movie nobody seems to make anymore. Lets change that. Directors: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Matt Glasby

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER

Vin Diesel makes his first foray into fantasy filmmaking with The Last Witch Hunter, a film spawned from his love of Dungeons & Dragons. Given the end result, you rather wish Diesel had been into Monopoly, Cluedo or Snakes & Ladders surely any of these board game staples wouldve provided a better basis for a film. Directed by Breck Eisner, who last pitched up with the 2010 remake of George Romeros The Crazies, The Last Witch Hunter is a perfunctory scare-fest drowning in digital effects but entirely lacking in charisma. Co-scripted a trio of writers two of whom penned last years equally toothless Dracula Untold it toplines Diesel as Kaulder, a medieval warrior cursed with immortality just as he vanquishes the pestilence-spreading Witch Queen. One credit sequence and 800 years later, were in modern-day New York. Kaulder, who previously looked like he took his hair-care tips from Lord Of The Rings resident dwarf Gimli, is now bald, buff and spends his spare time seducing air hostesses. Hes also employed by a Witch Counsel to hunt down naughty necromancers who practise dark magic (to a seemingly oblivious public). When Kaulders priest advisor (Michael Caine) is left spell-stricken, he follows a trail that eventually suggests a ploy to resurrect the Witch Queen. Along for the ride is Caines well-meaning replacement (Elijah Wood) and a good witch named Chloe (Game Of Thrones Rose Leslie), who spends her days running a dark arts club that wouldnt look out of place at a Cure concert. As the story plods along, Eisner fills the screen with icky visuals, but they rarely get under the skin. Some ideas are promising, like a bakery feeding its patrons with maggot-riddled cakes, but never really developed. While the dialogue proves as wooden as a box of crucifixes, the performances, bar a lively turn from This Is Englands Joseph Gilgun, are largely moribund. Let us pray this is a one-off. THE VERDICT: A real Halloween howler, this pixel-afflicted horror-fantasy never gets near to fulfilling its potential. Even hardcore Diesel addicts will be hard-pressed to enjoy. Director: Breck Eisner Starring: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood Theatrical release: 21 October 2015 James Mottram

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION

After a couple of years of delays, the long-awaited/dreaded (depending on your tolerance for long-running, budget-horror saga) sixth entry in the trend-setting Paranormal Activity franchise has finally been released. Was it worth the wait? Categorically not, and even die-hard fans of the series are likely to be disappointed by this lazy rehash. This time we meet yet another new family moving home, comprising a bland father (Chris J. Murray), an even blander mother (Emily Fleege) and the inevitable creepy young daughter Leila (Ivy George). After a few hopeless early attempts at characterisation in which our protagonists make countless, distractingly illogical decisions it's time for spooky goings-on to unsettle the household. The family discover a dusty old box full of home videotapes of all the creepy kids weve come to know in the previous films. Soon enough, they're seeing a connection between the footage and Leila's strange behaviour. The dialogue is almost parodically exposition-driven, and the sluggish unfolding of the storys mysteries rids the film of any suspense. For casual cinemagoers looking for a decent horror to watch at Halloween this is all likely to be mind-numbingly dull, while for Paranormal Activity devotees there arent nearly enough answers to satisfy their desire to learn more about the mythology. Of course, none of this would matter so much if the film was at all scary. But depressingly it relies entirely on banal jump-scares that function only to startle you out of nodding off. A higher budget means more special effects most of which involve an unthreatening cloud of black dust floating around the house that feels like a laughable attempt to justify the films 3D release. THE VERDICT: The supposedly final bout of Activity finds the once-innovative and bloody scary franchise all out of ideas. Director: Gregory Plotkin Starring: Chris J Murray, Brit Shaw, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Dan Gill, Ivy George, Jessica Brown, Chloe Csengery, Don McManus, Hallie Foote, Cara Pifko Theatrical release: 21 October 2015 Stephen Puddicombe

BRAND: A SECOND COMING

When Russell Brand was a boy, he strolled into his mothers bedroom and announced he was the second Jesus. Most children grow out of this dressing-up stage; Brand, as we know, did not. Filmed during his 2013 Messiah Complex tour, this catches him in his most insufferable John Lennon-as-Christ mode. But while sharing Lennons conviction as some kind of trickster-revolutionary, he doesnt possess the same level of smarts. Director Ondi Timoner has previously charted the self-sabotaging of a deluded megalomaniac in Dig!, and this is nothing if not warts n all, chronicling Brands rise (and possible fall), from the days when he dressed like an Adam Ant video extra to his more recent forays into social activism and haranguing Paxman on Newsnight. Even his friends and collaborators suggest youd be nuts to follow him. As he proudly tells an admiring crowd, he may be a narcissist, but Im your narcissist. Still, at times, as on Americas Morning Joe show, gently ribbing the clueless presenters, he can be terrifically, naturally funny. Hes also very sound on the subject of drug addiction well, he ought to be, hes done the research. Yet for all the freneticism, theres a decidedly melancholy air hanging over this documentary: since it was made, real life and real politics has rather passed Brand by. The media is now preoccupied with another would-be revolutionary one who even bears the initials J.C. Far from being the Second Coming, was Brand merely a John the Baptist figure all along. THE VERDICT: A troubling portrait of a modern phenomenon, it wont convert the haters, but its a frequently watchable car-crash spectacle nonetheless. Director: Ondi Timoner Starring: Russell Brand, Simon Amstell, David Lynch, Stephen Merchant, Katy Perry Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Ali Catterall

LISTEN TO ME MARLON

Arriving shortly after Anton Corbijns Life, which dealt with the short-but-explosive career of James Dean, comes Stevan Rileys doc about that other towering Method actor of the era: Marlon Brando. Unique and utterly engaging, Listen To Me Marlon has a major ace up its sleeve; some 300-odd hours of private audio recordings made by Brando, unearthed from his personal archive. As the opening caption tells us, these have never been heard in public. As a result, Riley, who previously directed celebratory 2012 James Bond doc Everything Or Nothing and West Indian cricket team tale Fire In Babylon, sets out to tell Brandos story in his own words. Talk about a voice from beyond the grave. Hearing the distinct cadence of his tones, the effect is nothing less than eerie; more so when Riley cuts some of these ramblings to a digitised head of Brando (taken from a time he had his face scanned, when such technology was still in its infancy). Largely using archive footage to complement Brandos words, Riley doesnt set out to deliver a soft-soap Hollywood bio. Distressing moments in the actors life, from the arrest of his son Christian after a shooting at Brandos home, to the suicide of his daughter Cheyenne, are touched on, alongside the highs and lows of an undulating career that went from iconic performances like A Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront to disasters like Mutiny On The Bounty. Among the revelations are his private feelings towards Francis Ford Coppola when Brando followed his Oscar-winning performance in The Godfather with his turn as Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. While Coppola spread the story that Brando arrived on set overweight and unprepared, Brando contests this here. Sadly, riley overlooks the final act in Brandos career a nod to The Island Of Dr. Moreau wouldve been great. But, for the most part, this is an illuminating look at the man behind the myth. THE VERDICT: Putting a hugely fresh spin on the idea of a talking-head doc, Listen To Me Marlon makes you an offer you cant refuse: the chance to wallow in Brandos psyche. Fascinating. Director: Stevan Riley Starring: Rebecca Brando, Miko Brand Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 James Mottram

PAPER PLANES

Remember those halcyon days throwing paper planes? Australian director Robert Connollys sweet-natured kids movie takes this very specific form of aerial origami and runs or should that be flies? with it. Ed Oxenbould is Dylan, a 12-year-old from new South Wales still getting over the death of his mum. You can imagine the rest, as he finds solace in pinging those planes before a regional comp leads to the Sydney world finals. Yes, its corny and the CGI is dodgy, but solid adult support (Sam Worthington, David Wenham) and a genuinely warm script results in a pleasingly old-fashioned affair. Director: Robert Connolly Starring: Ed Oxenbould, Sam Worthington, David WenhamTheatrical release: 23 October 2015 James Mottram

BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Writers block, complicated relationships, money worries, partying with a moviestar mate... only some of the issues explored in this angst-ridden ode to twentysomething love are relatable, but the film gets by on naturalistic performances and a likeable lead in Chris Mason. He plays writer Ryan, struggling with a break-up and an impending deadline for his second novel, while trying to find his identity traversing the London high life with friends Connor (Lucien Laviscount) and John (rapper Example). Theres an air of literary pretension, but also a lot of heart at the centre of it all. Directors: Constant Herve, James Marquand Starring: Chris Mason, Hannah Britland, Lucien Laviscount, Elliot Gleave Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Matt Looker

THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST

A shriek of ear-piercing feedback accompanies a proclamation from the Islamic jihadists who invaded northern Mali in 2012: under Sharia law, even music is now banned (in arguably the birthplace of the blues) under pain of death. This rousing documentary follows exiled musicians who are nonetheless determined to have their music heard. As Khaira Arby, dubbed the Nightingale of Northern Mali, says, Music is like oxygen for human beings, and in the songs within we meet those for whom guitars, not guns, are equally powerful instruments of resistance. Director: Johanna Schwartz Starring: Songhoy Blues, Khaira Arby, Moussa Sidi, Fadimata 'Disco' Oumar Walet Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Ali Catterall

MAYA THE BEE

Very much a wanna-bee next to the likes of Aardman, DreamWorks and Pixar, this German-made, Aussie-dubbed toon tells the back story of a 100-year-old character whos apparently much beloved in Japan and mainland Europe. British audiences, though, might find it harder to warm to a perennially upbeat heroine whose determination to thwart a war between her brethren and the hornets who live on the other side of the meadow frankly makes her a bit of a buzz-kill. Jacki Weaver, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Noah Taylor lend honeyed tones to a film whose bright colours cant hide its essential ordinariness. Director: Alexs Stadermann Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jacki Weaver, Noah Taylor Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Neil Smith

MAKE MORE NOISE! SUFFRAGETTES IN SILENT FILM

Piggybacking in timely fashion on Suffragette, this nifty, well-restored bran tub of BFI silent shorts shows how Edwardian women were portrayed onscreen while they battled for the vote on the streets. The Path newsreels have some gems; watching Nottingham wartime munitionettes bombmaking is fascinating (and sad, since a 1918 factory explosion killed and injured many of them). But the comedies prove the making of the collection, especially the defiantly unladylike and ASBO-worthy Tilly Girls duo, hijacking fire engines and sailors for slapstick fun. Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Kate Stables

THE BIG KNIGHTS

Peppa Pig creators Neville Astley and Mark Baker made their names with this cult 1999 toon about enthusiastically hapless chevaliers Sir Boris (David Rintoul) and Sir Morris (unmistakably Brian Blessed). This reissue simply gathers together seven episodes hand- picked by the creators. A cynical half-term cash-in, or a welcome spotlight on the popular duos lesser-known work? Certainly, the series remains gleefully irreverent, silly and anachronistic. Be warned, however: the rudimentary CG animation scarcely justifies a big-screen makeover given that the (complete) box-set is available Directors: Neville Astley, Mark Baker Starring: Alexander Armstrong, Brian Blessed, David Rintoul Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Simon Kinnear

THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION

You can jail a revolutionary but you cant jail a revolution! the Black Panther Partys Fred Hampton tells a crowd of demonstrators, in this history of the incendiary 1960s Black Power movement. Archive footage and former members trace the movements rise and fall, from its origins as a pressure group able to carry loaded shotguns around (thanks to a loophole in California law), to its community-building programmes and violent implosion aggravated in no small way by a paranoid FBI and the furious egos of its leaders. A mesmerising, melancholy study, set to a righteous funk soundtrack. Director: Stanley Nelson Theatrical release: 23 October 2015 Ali Catterall

ANIMAL KINGDOM: LETS GO APE

Despite Lion King aspirations, this badly dubbed French animation about apes on the brink of human evolution sets eyes rolling the second hero Edward opens his mouth and out comes a chav accent. Foregoing all logic in a bid to be culturally relevant, the film presents Edward as an annoying forward-thinker who learns how to stand upright and control fire, but also references underfloor heating and David Beckham. The result is such a mess that, rather than tell the story of human evolution, it feels like it has put us back a few steps Director: Jamel DebbouzeTheatrical release: 23 October 2015 Matt Looker

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