Out on Friday 2 September
Seth Rogen serves up a tasty comedy. Woody Allen goes to Hollywood. Isabelle Huppert teams up with Mia Hansen-Løve.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Morgan, Sausage Party, Café Society, Things to Come, Brotherhood, The 9th Life of Louis Drax, Jim: The James Foley Story, and Equity.
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Risk-management consultant Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) arrives at a subterranean lab to assess Morgan (The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy), a humanoid grown from synthetic DNA and capable of emotional responses, autonomous decisions. The research team (including Michelle Yeoh, Toby Jones and Rose Leslie) are pretty much agreed that the project is a success, despite Morgan stabbing one of their number, Dr. Kathy Grieff (Jennifer Jason Leigh), in the eye. Weathers isn’t so sure…
Confined to a few blue-grey rooms and a patch of nearby woods, this contained feature debut by Luke Scott (son of Ridley) asks questions about science, big business and consciousness, artificial or otherwise. It engages but falls a good deal short of Ex Machina’s fierce intelligence, while the inevitable last-act action sequences rely on blitzkrieg cutting to bring intensity – there is none of the grace and fluency evident in Joe Wright’s Hanna, another movie that Morgan evokes. A twist, meanwhile, is so telegraphed it’s almost audacious but actually madness.
The performances are robust: Mara exudes capability with her short hair and immaculate business suits, Taylor-Joy transfixes with those wide-set, otherworldly eyes, and Paul Giamatti aces his one scene as a doctor conducting a psych report.
THE VERDICT: Interesting to see Luke Scott touch on some of the themes of his dad’s seminal Blade Runner, but this grounded sci-fi movie does nothing new.
Director Luke Scott; Starring Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, Toby Jones; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016
It’s often said that Pixar makes movies for adults as much as kids. But they’ve never made anything like this. The first word spoken is “shit”, a deluge of f-bombs and c-bombs soon follow, and there’s an orgy scene that would make those Team America puppets take pause from their watersports to watch, agape.
The high (as in stoned) concept has Seth Rogen’s Frankfurter and a bunch of other supermarket foodstuffs learn they do not go to The Great Beyond when they’re ‘chosen’, but rather get sliced, diced and devoured (“They’re eating children, fucking children!” goes the scream when a woman pops a baby carrot in her mouth).
The action alternates between some chosen items trying to escape and, in the supermarket, Rogen and pals – including Kristen Wiig’s bun, Edward Norton’s Jewish bagel and David Krumholtz’s Arabic flatbread – questing for their aisles after spilling out of a shopping cart.
It’s let down by a saggy midsection, but amid the swearing, scatology and ethnic stereotypes (politically correct this ain’t) is some inspired religious satire. And the animation, though crude (in every sense), possesses real energy. In a word: tasty.
THE VERDICT: Patchy, but genuinely hilarious in places. Just don’t order one of those jumbo hotdogs before you take your seat.
Directors Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon; Starring: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Edward Norton, David Krumholtz; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016
More slick and satisfying than the majority of Woody Allen’s 21st-Century output, Café Society sees the neurotic New Yorker head for the sun-soaked, glamorous climes and times of 1930s Hollywood. Jesse Eisenberg plays neurotic New Yorker Bobby, travelling to Tinseltown to work for his super-agent uncle, Phil (Steve Carell).
He promptly falls for office secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), only it transpires that she’s Phil’s secret mistress. And so begins a carousel of lust, love and strained loyalties that spins all the faster when drop-dead divorcée Veronica (Blake Lively) clambers aboard.
Allen’s 49th movie is his debut collaboration with legendary DoP Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Apocalypse Now) and his first shot on digital – the mobile camera weaves through throngs at pool parties, sashays in night clubs and gambols along the coast to provide real energy.
At once beguiled and horrified by Golden Age Hollywood, Allen returns to many of his favourite themes – fate, art, class, relationships, guilt – with a light touch. And while Eisenberg makes the young Woody role his own, it’s Stewart who steals the movie, showing a tenderness, guilelessness and luminosity hitherto unseen
THE VERDICT: More flyaway entertainment than vintage Woody but a joy while it lasts. Allen, at 80, has a spring in his step.
Director: Woody Allen; Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016
THINGS TO COME
French writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve’s films (Goodbye First Love, Eden) track protagonists through changing circumstances. This time she leaves youth(s) behind to focus on middle-aged teacher Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert), who moves forward despite losing her mother, job and husband. Nathalie’s brought to life by Huppert’s subtly complex turn and Hansen-Løve’s fluid, unfussy direction.
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve; Starring: Isabelle Huppert, André Marcon, Roman Kolinka, Édith Scob; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016
The kids of Kidulthood are grownups now, fighting drug lords and middle-aged spread in this trilogy closer. Writer/director Noel Clarke returns as bad ’un turned good ’un Sam, whose past comes back to haunt him. The camerawork keeps the plot crashing between Essex gangsters (Jason Maza), comedy sidekicks (Arnold Oceng) and grime artists turned actors (Stormzy), but the original’s energy feels awol.
Director: Noel Clarke; Starring: Noel Clarke, Michael 'Stormzy' Omari, Steven Cree, Olivia Chenery, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Jason Maza; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016
THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX
Louis Drax (Aiden Longworth) suffers a near-fatal fall; Dr Allan Pascal (Jamie Dornan) tries to establish the cause. A mildly compelling thriller with a solid cast – Sarah Gadon and Aaron Paul play Drax’s folks – this adap of Liz Jensen’s bestseller swirls with dark motivations. As in director Alexandre Aja’s Horns, the action alternates reality/fantasy to middling effect.
Director: Alexandre Aja; Starring: Jamie Dornan, Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016
JIM: THE JAMES FOLEY STORY
James Foley was the US photojournalist whose videotaped beheading in 2014 alerted the world to the threat posed by Isis. Made by Foley’s friend Brian Oakes, this heartfelt documentary explores Foley’s restless life and his warzone reporting work. Most moving are the testimonies from Foley’s fellow hostages, who pay tribute to his selflessness and generosity of spirit.
Director: Brian Oakes; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016
Anna Gunn goes from Breaking Bad to breaking bank in a slick finance thriller that’s energised by its fresh female perspective. It can be tricky to follow the jargon, as banker Naomi Bishop (Gunn) takes a firm public while fending off rumours that put the deal – and her job – in jeopardy. But if Equity at times feels small screen, Gunn proves Skyler’s anything but the limit in a gripping breakout role.
Director: Meera Menon; Starring: Naomi Bishop, Anna Gunn, Michael Connor, James Purefoy; Theatrical release: September 2, 2016