Out on Friday September 1
Bill Nighy plays detective in a feminist, Giallo-esque horror. Rooney Mara confronts Ben Mendelsohn in an incendiary drama. Danielle Macdonald fronts a raps-to-riches story.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of The Limehouse Golem, Una, God’s Own Country, Patti Cake$, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Back to Burgundy, Eat Locals, The Farthest, Moon Dogs, Stratton, and London Symphony.
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The Limehouse Golem
A Victorian horror movie about murder, Karl Marx, female empowerment and the theatre of pain? It’s a miracle Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem ever made it to screens, let alone that it only took 23 years. Thank goodness it did, though, because this camp, shocking and surreal delicacy is one of the finest – if oddest – genre films of the year.
Blending myth and real-life historical figures (such as Marx, showman Dan Leno and novelist George Gissing), it sees a Jack the Ripper-type killer terrorising 1800s London. The action flits from the courtroom where Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) stands accused of poisoning her husband, to the cobbles of Tower Hamlets, where Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) hunts the ‘Limehouse Golem Killer’. But are they connected?
This strange brew of mystery and history is ably fermented by screenwriter Jane Goldman (The Woman in Black (opens in new tab)) and director Juan Carlos Medina (Painless), whose grip on the quirky characters is firmer than on the stuttering mystery. With Cooke a revelation, and Nighy an engaging inspector, this is a ripper of a yarn.
THE VERDICT: Weird, twisted and deliciously unique, Medina’s horror taps a dynamic vein in feminism and Giallo-esque gore.
Director: Juan Carlos Medina; Starring: Olivia Cooke, Bill Nighy, Douglas Booth; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
Despite Kubrick’s revered adaptation of literary classic Lolita, paedophilia remains a taboo subject onscreen. Una – an adaptation of David Harrower’s acclaimed play Blackbird – is a rare contender with something new to say.
Subversive in its depiction of what an abusive relationship looks like, it opens with Rooney Mara’s (28-year-old) Una confronting Ben Mendelsohn’s (much older) Ray at his place of work, 15 years after their ‘affair’ saw him imprisoned. But Una isn’t there for revenge.
Indeed, part of her believes they’re soulmates. It’s uncomfortable, complex material that humanises a monster and refuses to follow a familiar victim narrative. Mara and Mendelsohn rise to the challenge – their perturbing magnetism transcending verbal hostility. Only Mara’s wobbly British accent strikes a bum note.
As an adaptation, however, it’s only half successful. Director Benedict Andrews broadens horizons in his feature debut, adding skin-crawling flashbacks to Una’s grooming. But the film takes a questionable turn into bunny-boiling psycho-ex territory, and wastes an inordinate amount of time on a dull subplot about layoffs at Ray’s firm. Not without shortcomings then, but its treatment of a tough subject isn’t one of them.
THE VERDICT: Incendiary storytelling with nuanced performances, but the transition from stage to screen lacks focus.
Director: Benedict Andrews; Starring: Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Tara Fitzgerald; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
God’s Own Country
The award-winning debut feature of British writer-director Francis Lee, this gay love story has already drawn favourable comparisons to Brokeback Mountain (opens in new tab). Its setting is a remote farm in the Pennines, where taciturn twentysomething Johnny (Josh O’Connor) carries out most of the gruelling work on his own, since his brusque father (Ian Hart) suffered a stroke.
Enter Romanian worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), who’s been hired to help during the lambing season. Johnny’s initial hostility to the handsome newcomer, however, gives way to feelings of romantic attraction.
Like the recent The Levelling (opens in new tab), the impressively acted God’s Own Country presents a bracingly unsentimental vision of living and working in the British countryside. Former actor Lee and DoP Joshua James Richards keep the sweeping shots of the surrounding landscapes to a minimum, preferring to hone in on the body language of the men while they carry out the seemingly endless duties of caring for the livestock.
Early scenes reveal the extent to which Johnny numbs his emotions through binge drinking and casual sex, which makes the character’s gradual opening up to real intimacy all the more moving.
THE VERDICT: Newcomer Lee has crafted a timely romantic drama, rooted in a keenly observed rural environment.
Director: Francis Lee; Starring: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Ian Hart; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
A Sundance hit that led Fox Searchlight to shell out $9.5 million for the rights, writer-director Geremy Jasper’s debut feature is an intoxicating tale of big dreams, dirty rhymes and familial failings. A hip-hop tale in which the lead is a scrappy white girl, it gets its hooks into you from the very first scene.
Patricia (Danielle Macdonald, brilliant) – aka ‘Killa P’ or ‘Patti Cake$’ – is a bartender and aspiring rapper from New Jersey, whose mother Barb (Bridget Everett) is a frustrated, boozy singleton. Engaging in rap battles on the streets, Patti Cake$ has raw talent, but struggles to be taken seriously as she looks to pin-up rapper O-Z for inspiration.
With Patti teaming up with a friend (Siddharth Dhananjay), a near-mute musician (Mamoudou Athie) and even her ailing grandmother (Cathy Moriarty) to cut a track under the band moniker ‘PBNJ’, the emotional beats are just as timely as the musical ones, the overriding feeling being one of authenticity.
Never once pointing towards a safe Hollywood finale, however, Patti Cake$ is about far more than simply realising ambitions. What emerges is a mother-daughter tale perfectly fronted by Macdonald and Everett, whose heartrending, half-cut karaoke rendition of Heart’s ‘These Dreams’ says it all. It will leave you buzzing.
THE VERDICT: A heartfelt crowd-pleaser, driven by a towering turn from Macdonald, this indie gem rarely puts a foot wrong. Dope.
Director: Geremy Jasper; Starring: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D
Short of winding clocks back to 1997, James Cameron couldn’t have timed T2’s reissue any better. With 3D waning, he needs to re-assert stereoscopic cinema’s promise before returning to Pandora, and interest in future T-quels needs reviving too.
Jobs done. Lean and focused, Cameron’s 1991 ground-breaker still blasts later series entries off-screen. It’s a pure chase movie, the maxed-out mayhem marshalled to clipped perfection around the sharply defined struggles of good T-bot Arnold Schwarzenegger and tiger mum Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) to protect future saviour John Connor (Edward Furlong) from Robert Patrick’s morphing menace.
Within that framework, Cameron perfectly balances CGI extravagances with practical elements, humanising humour and heart. Patrick’s eyes pierce; Hamilton’s musculature is virtually weaponised; Brad Fiedel’s score booms with feeling.
As for the 3D, detail and depth dazzle, its impact so emphatic that even the nuclear-fire set-piece gains in impact. The franchise is creaking badly, but T2 3D makes you believe Cameron could be its salvation.
THE VERDICT: A benchmark sequel withstands judgement. Cameron’s spectacle and storytelling remain laser-sharp.
Director: James Cameron; Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
Back to Burgundy
With his father dying, prodigal son Jean (Pio Marmaï) returns to his family’s vineyard for an awkward reunion. Cédric Klapisch’s drama, co-written by a vintner, is an authentic love letter to the wine business, but as drama it lacks the subtlety of a vintage.
It’s more of a table wine – inoffensive, middlebrow and, like the scenes of grape harvesting here, hard work.
Director: Cédric Klapisch; Starring: Pio Marmaï, Ana Girardot, François Civil; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
Daredevil’s Charlie Cox is one of eight vampire overlords who gather at a farmhouse to squabble over inducting a new member, then find themselves besieged by special forces.
Actor-turned-first-time-director Jason Flemyng rounds up a decent cast (Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, Mackenzie Crook), but Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers (opens in new tab) did much the same thing with far more wit, energy and innovation.
Director: Jason Flemyng; Starring: Charlie Cox, Mackenzie Crook, Freema Agyeman; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
Filled with fascinating detail about the history and significance of Voyager 1, this doc explores the 1977 NASA space probe’s role in understanding our solar system and the universe.
With emphasis on Earth’s microscopic standing within an infinite cosmos, as well as the sobering fact that Voyager 1 will continue travelling for millions of years, outliving mankind, the film’s scope is truly astronomical.
Director: Emer Reynolds; Starring: Frank Drake, Carolyn Porco, John Casani; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
Two Shetland step-brothers, one streetwise Irish girl and the long road to Glasgow drive this awkward attempt at a Scottish Road Trip (opens in new tab). Director Philip John aims for broad, knockabout comedy with gorgeous scenery, Viking whimsy and wedding-day farce.
The breeziness is scuppered by darker set-pieces of genital injury, while the charmless crisis at the story’s heart signals a vein of sour misogyny.
Director: Philip Long; Starring: Jack Parry-Jones, Christy O'Donnell, Tara Lee; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
Dominic Cooper is John Stratton, a Special Boat Services commando chasing terrorists in this sub-007 adventure. Cooper is always watchable, even if those around him (Connie Nielsen, Tom Felton) flounder in a humdrum script.
But Con Air (opens in new tab) director Simon West knows how to pull off a set-piece, and from the underwater opener to the double-decker finale, there’s plenty of prang for your buck.
Director: Simon West; Starring: Connie Nielsen, Tom Felton, Tyler Hoechlin; Theatrical release: September 1, 2017
The ‘city symphony’ genre that flourished in the ’20s is made over in a monochrome montage from director-editor Alex Barrett, offering a view of London life spanning the city’s architecture, wildlife, religions and nightspots.
The vision of a busy, protean, multicultural metropolis, supported throughout by James McWilliam’s commanding score, is one that will strike a chord with visitors and locals.
Director: Alex Barrett; Starring: Adam Hickey, Pamela Hutchinson, Phil Abel; Theatrical release: September 3, 2017