Out on Friday 14 October
Andrea’s road trip is Shia brilliance. Tom Hanks ups the Dante. An Oasis doc that goes into the Gallaghers’ sibling rivalry.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of American Honey, Supersonic, Storks, and Kate Plays Christine.
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Prepare to (man)crush on Shia LaBeouf. Returning from a career wasteland to play a wastrel roaring across dustbowl America in a people carrier housing a peripatetic party posse, his charisma burns radioactive from the moment that we, like heroine Star (superb newcomer Sasha Lane), first spot him: hopping onto a Walmart checkout to strut his considerable stuff to Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’.
American Honey sees one of Britain’s most exciting filmmakers muscle her way to the vanguard of global cinema. Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) here fashions a loose, ragged American epic, its narrative cul-de-sacs and unwieldy length, with spin-cycle repetitions and flagrant dismissal of a three-act structure, bringing not just authenticity but a crazed, anything-goes energy. Yes, there’s a shorter, tighter film in there, but that would lose… well, everything.
Early scenes sketch out Star’s crushed life in Hicksville, Oklahoma. Then, after an oh-so-cute meeting with Jake (LaBeouf), she gets the hell out, joining the band of merrymaking misfits as they travel the Midwest selling magazine subscriptions by day and hoovering intoxicants by night. Take-no-shit Krystal (Riley Keough) is queen bee of the operation, and Jake is her on-call toy boy. Then Jake and Star begin to find love in a hopeless place…
With songs playing on loop (who doesn’t repeat favourites?), sun-soaked days bleeding into moonlit nights into weeks into months, and Robbie Ryan’s gorgeously scuzzy photography capturing Hopper-esque Americana, Malickian nature and the detritus coating all, American Honey presents an endless summer in which everyone lives in the incandescent moment.
As well they might: America is bust, these teens and twentysomethings robbed of their prospects. It would make for a sad, angry picture if anyone in it wasn’t too busy raving and chugging to notice.
Like an empty beer can rattling across a windswept parking lot, Arnold’s masterpiece blows between the kind of twilit ambience that infuses Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark and the thrilling energy of Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. And like those pictures, it’s fuelled by outlaw spirit, with Jake and Star’s high-voltage connection recalling such on-the-lam classics as They Live By Night, Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands. A gun is even introduced at one point, but such is Arnold’s refusal to adhere to narrative conventions, its later appearance doesn’t play out quite as you’d expect.
Come the credits, this exhilarating, exhausting movie will leave you spent but ready to hit repeat. It’s the filmic equivalent of the anthemic tunes its characters listen to – immersive, euphoric and utterly addictive, demanding to be played again and again and again.
THE VERDICT: Will infuriate those who like their movies tight and tidy but go along for the ride and this is wind-in-your-hair thrilling. A modern classic.
Director: Andrea Arnold; Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Sasha lane, Riley Keough, McCaul Lombardi; Theatrical release: October 14, 2016
He traced Christ’s bloodline in The Da Vinci Code and stopped the Vatican going kablooey in Angels and Demons. What’s left for an encore? For Harvard brain-box Robert Langdon, nothing less than attempting to save humanity will do in Inferno, the third of Dan Brown’s novels to be brought to the screen by the dream team that is Tom Hanks, director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer.
This time around, Hanks’ puzzle-solving symbologist has a major handicap – a wound to the noggin that has left him plagued by apocalyptic visions, suffering “mild retrograde amnesia” and prone to “nausea, confusion and dizziness” according to the doctor.
This leaves him in no fit state, then, to deduce the current location of a Doomsday virus cooked up by a bonkers biologist (Ben Foster) as a cure for the planet’s overpopulation, even with the aid of a resourceful yet doe-eyed medic (Felicity Jones) who comes to his assistance after he wakes up groggy and disoriented on an Italian hospital gurney.
No sooner has he done so, of course, than an implacable assassin (Ana Ularu) starts shooting at them, sending Hanks and Jones out into Florence on a Dante-driven scavenger hunt that has the combined forces of the World Health Organisation snapping at their heels. It’s enough to ensure a breathless first hour that takes in everything from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Boboli Gardens, interspersed by nuggets of Wikipedia knowledge, visuals from a drone’s POV and hellish dream sequences that give Inferno a stylistic audacity absent from its 2006 and 2009 predecessors.
Hour two, alas, is an entirely different kettle of fish. Here Howard exchanges the streamlined kineticism of a race-against-time thriller for a bewildering tumult of reversals, flashbacks and contradictory information. Meanwhile a mushy romantic subplot involving Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen gives rise to a whole new sub-stratum of irrelevant backstory. Not only that, but there’s also a pointless side-trip to Venice that stops the film dead just when it ought to be gathering momentum.
Never wanting to rest on its breathless trip around the ancient historical landmarks, things begin to pick up again in time for an explosive Istanbul climax that effectively uses sites previously featured in From Russia with Love – an appropriate touchstone for a film whose hero acts more like a globe-trotting James Bond than a fusty book-scented academic. (Check out the hilarious scene where he makes off with a priceless artefact while a museum guide’s back is turned.)
In spite of all this, though, we are still left with a feeling of both missed opportunity and nagging frustration. Having already taken two rides on the Dan Brown merry-go-round, shouldn’t this have been the one where Ron finally got it right?
THE VERDICT: Early promise proves misleading in a sequel that should be far better than The Da Vinci Code than it actually is.
Director: Ron Howard; Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan Khan, Omar Sy; Theatrical release: October 14, 2016
Following his Stone Roses movie Spike Island, Mat Whitecross helms a blistering celebration of more Manc-rock heroes with his docu-portrait of Oasis. Marvelling at how five council-estate lads rocketed to superstardom in three years, the doc is so stuffed it almost (almost…) justifies ignoring Oasis’ slump into trad-rock torpor.
If some of the stormy relationship stories seem old, the wealth of archive material is gob-smacking: early rehearsals, gig footage and intimate phone calls. The result tugs into the heart of a band who wanted it all in one “big, fuck-off explosion of madness”
Director: Mat Whitecross; Starring: Liam Gallagher, Noel Gallagher; Theatrical release: October 14, 2016
Storks once delivered babies. Now, via the Amazon-alike cornerstore.com, they deliver everything but – so when delivery stork Junior (Andy Samberg) makes a baby (not like that), it’s panic stations. If The Secret Life of Pets was Toy Story with fur, then Storks is Monsters, Inc. with feathers and fewer laughs. Thumbs way up for the shape-shifting wolves; way down for the pigeon with Donald Trump hair.
Directors: Nicholas Stoller, Doug Sweetland; Starring: Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Keegan Michael-Key, Jordan Peele; Theatrical release: October 14, 2016
Kate Plays Christine
This strange and hypnotic ‘documentary’ follows Kate Lyn Sheil, an actor preparing to play Christine Chubbuck, a real-life news anchor who in 1974 shot herself on live TV. Like Robert Greene’s Actress, it wilfully straddles the fiction/non-fiction border. It can be tedious and frustrating, but it fascinates too. A surreal, layered look at the nature of truth.
Director: Robert Greene; Starring: Kate Lyn Sheil; Theatrical release: October 14, 2016