Out on Friday 17 June
Lorraine and Ed face another paranormal test. Matteo Garrone constructs a sick fairytale. Apichatpong Weerasethakul examines a sleeping sickness.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of The Conjuring 2, Gods of Egypt, Tale of Tales, Cemetery of Splendour, The Violators, Barbershop: A Fresh Cut, The Keeping Room, Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story), The Girl King, Long Way North, Where You’re Meant to Be, and Down By Love.
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THE CONJURING 2: THE ENFIELD CASE
Having solved the Amityville Horror – before the opening credits – real-life paranormal investigators Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) face their most batshit challenge yet: “England's Amityville”, better known as the Enfield Poltergeist.
With barely a British accent among them, single mum Peggy Hodgson (Frances O'Connor) and her brood (including talented newcomer Madison Wolfe) face just about every form of supernatural manifestation imaginable, most notably a nasty old man haunting one of their armchairs (nobody suggests just throwing it out), but could it all be a hoax?
Well, no. With not one but two vengeful ghosts to fight, a promising (but ultimately pointless) CG “Crooked Man”, Lorraine's doomy premonitions and all manner of possessed children/dogs/toys to get to grips with, this is a lively little number and no mistake. But the disconnect between James Wan's whizzy camerawork and the grim suburban Britain of the 1970s doesn't help the unruly material bed down.
In 133 minutes, there's never a dull moment – nor strictly, a good one. By the time the narrative freezes so Ed can croon Elvis Presley's “I Can't Help Falling In Love With You” on acoustic guitar, you'll be pinching yourself in disbelief, and not for the first time.
THE VERDICT: This furiously bizarre follow-up deserves full marks for throw-everything-at-the-screen entertainment value, but none for execution.
Director: James Wan; Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Franka Potente, Maria Doyle Kennedy; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
GODS OF EGYPT
Staring at scuttling creatures in a tomb, Brenton Thwaites’ acrobatic thief Bek asks: “Where do you ever get that many scorpions?” Possible answer: from a computer. This year’s Jupiter Ascending, this tale of mortals and gods from Alex Proyas (Dark City) is a grand folly that fritters away a reported $140m budget on an eye-searing overload of CGI.
In an alternative Egypt, Man and God live together… though in the first of many ridiculous sights, the humans are several feet shorter. The story sees Bek desperate to bring his slain love Zaya (Courtney Eaton) back to life, with the help of Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a god who has been blinded by his king-slaying uncle Set (Gerard Butler, 300 lite).
Bek helps retrieve one of his eyes, under the belief Horus will resurrect Zeya, as they look to bring Set down. By the time we get to Horus’ grandfather Ra (Geoffrey Rush), up in the stratosphere peddling away on what can best be described as a space-tricycle, Gods of Egypt has truly lost it. It’s penned by the screenwriters behind the hopeless Dracula Untold and The Last Witch Hunter, who must be really good in pitch meetings because this is utter nonsense.
THE VERDICT: A calamitous adventure that, try as it might, doesn’t even fall in the so-bad-it’s-good category.
Director: Alex Proyas; Starring Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
TALE OF TALES
For his English-language debut, Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) splices together three yarns by 17th-Century Neapolitan writer Giambattista Basile who, like the Brothers Grimm, creatively reworked traditional folk tales. Characters from each strand show up in the others, but there’s no narrative intertwining à la Into the Woods; instead, Garrone cuts from one to the next.
The visuals are sumptuous and the whole cast (including Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly and Toby Jones) immerse themselves in this fantastical world. Dark, gory and gruesome, this isn’t kids’ stuff. As a work of gothic imagination, it’s a rare treat.
Director: Matteo Garone; Starring: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Hayley Carmichael, Bebe Cave, Stacy Martin, Christian Lees; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR
Set in a limbo between mundanity/mysticism and past/present, Uncle Boonmee director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest hybrid enigma is a thing of beauty, laced with heart, humour and hushed power. Jenjira Pongpas Widner plays a volunteer caring for soldiers with sleeping sickness; turns out their hospital sits on a burial ground for ancient warriors devouring their resting energies.
Slow as the pace is, Weerasethakul’s radiant images, magical digressions and surprise knob gags keep things fresh and alert, anchored by a sense of sighing sorrow for personal/political traumas.
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Starring: Jenjira Pongpas Widner, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
Set on and around a council estate in Cheshire, Helen Walsh’s debut is a decent kitchen sinker with a drip-feed of thriller twists. With mum gone and dad in prison, 16-year-old Shelly (Lauren McQueen) struggles to look after her two brothers, and finds herself gravitating towards a middle-aged pawn shop worker (Stephen Lord) and a well-off teen (Brogan Ellis), both of whom offer financial and emotional support.
But might they be harbouring ulterior motives? The Violators suffers from inevitable comparisons to Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, but is anchored by McQueen’s terrific performance in her feature debut.
Director: Helen Walsh; Starring: Lauren McQueen, Brogran Ellis, Stephen Lord, Liam Ainsworth, Derek Barr, Callum King Chadwick; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
BARBERSHOP: A FRESH CUT
Twelve years on from Barbershop 2, Ice Cube’s Calvin Palmer returns with familiar faces in tow. But it’s the new hairdressers who give Malcolm D. Lee’s film its spark, including Rashad (Common) and Draya (Nicki Minaj), whose flirtations threaten the former’s marriage.
The sitcom scenarios rub shoulders with more serious matters: Calvin and co. organise a 48-hour ceasefire in the ’hood, offering free haircuts to all. If it sounds lame, it plays well-judged on screen. The barbs are scissor-sharp, making this a threequel that delivers what you want while throwing in some surprises.
Director: Malcom D Lee; Starring: Ice Cube, Eve, Nicki Minaj, Sean Patrick Thomas, Cedric the Entertainer; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
THE KEEPING ROOM
Director Daniel Barber harks back to his Oscar-nommed short The Tonto Woman with this compelling western featuring three female leads. Set in 1865, it sees the members of one South Carolina homestead – Augusta (Brit Marling), sister Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) and their slave Mad (Muna Otaru) facing Yankee scouts (Sam Worthington, Kyle Soller) who think nothing of harming every Southerner who crosses their path.
The build-up to the inevitable shoot-out can feel trying, but Julia Hart’s script has perceptive things to say about race relations and women’s role in wartime.
Director: Daniel Barber; Starring: Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru, Sam Worthington, Kyle Soller; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY)
Pop-promo helmer Eva Husson issues a stylish calling card with this frisky feature debut. Like The Diary of a Teenage Girl in bed with Gaspar Noé’s Love, Husson’s Biarritz-set drama focuses on high-schoolers who form a summer shagging gang.
As the synth score shimmers over the sex binges, any risk of exploitation is offset by explorations of social media, a female POV and bold performances, notably from Marilyn Lima. The confused focus and over-easy climax prove more problematic, but Husson might still be one to watch.
Director: Eve Husson; Starring: Finnegan Oldfield, Marilyn Lima, Marilyn Lima, Daisy Broom, Fred Hotier, Manuel Husson; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
THE GIRL KING
Eighty years after Greta Garbo dazzled as a 17th-Century Swedish monarch in Queen Christina (1933), this considerably less glamorous retelling of the royal’s life suffers through creaky production values and even creakier storytelling.
Newcomer Malin Buska delivers a compellingly anguished turn as Queen Kristina, though, whose sexual ambiguity and bookish obsessions make her a riveting lead. Sadly, nothing else comes close: when Mika Kaurismäki’s film isn’t drifting into Blackadder territory, its religion vs science debates draw unflattering comparisons with superior Scandi drama A Royal Affair.
Director: Mika Kaurismäki; Starring: Sarah Gadon, Malin Buska; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
LONG WAY NORTH
Like a mixture of Mulan and Tintin, Rémi Chayé’s Victorian adventure propels its feisty Russian teen heroine on a quest for her missing explorer grandfather. If the storytelling and English-language voice work are a bit functional, the visuals dazzle. Lovely use of block colour gives the film a travel-poster look, and the North Pole sections are atmospheric, all tumbling ice-cliffs and turquoise glaciers.
Director: Rémi Chayé; Starring: Christa Théret, Féodor Atkine, Antony Hickling; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
WHERE YOU’RE MEANT TO BE
This affectionate doc sees ex-Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat touring Scotland with modernised folk songs, only to face opposition from traditionalists. Of particular note is his run-in with a woman whose dislike of Moffat’s re-interpretations spark a rumination on the passage of time, but the real highlight is Moffat’s on-stage banter: affable, fun, foul-mouthed.
Director: Paul Fegan; Starring: Aidan Moffat, Sheila Stewart; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016
DOWN BY LOVE
Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Colour) plays Anna, a prison inmate who attracts warden/family man Jean (Guillaume Gallienne). Blithely disregarding moral jitters and mounting rumours, they drift into an affair defined by humping rather than heart. Writer/director Pierre Godeau proves hotter on context than character. The result’s non-judgemental but emotionally parched.
Director: Pierre Godeau; Starring: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Guillaume Gallienne, Stéphanie Cléau; Theatrical release: June 17, 2016