Get on Up | Film review – Godfather of Soul James Brown gets a very funky biopic

Get On Up -Chadwick Boseman as James Brown

Chadwick Boseman is electrifying as Godfather of Soul James Brown in daringly offbeat biopic Get on Up, which matches its subject’s brass-necked, go-for-broke audacity with its own bold cinematic risk-taking. Brown fearlessly pushed the boundaries of popular music; director Tate Taylor (The Help), working from a script by British brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, shakes up biopic conventions with similar zest.

Flashing back and forth in time to tell a life story is a common enough filmmaking trope, but Taylor gives the device an almost surreal spin, taking episodes from Brown’s dirt-poor Georgia childhood, his rise to musical fame, the imperial pomp of his prime and the caprices of his drug-addled decline, and framing them as aspects of Brown’s own cocky myth-making. This is, after all, the man who gave himself such grandiose titles as the Hardest-Working Man in Showbusiness, Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk, Soul Brother Number One and Mr Dynamite.

Get_On_Up_Jill_Scott_Chadwick_Boseman

Boseman’s Brown repeatedly breaks the fourth wall, smiling and winking at the camera as if to let us know that this is very much his version of events. We do get facets of the real Brown – revolutionary genius in the studio; breathtaking showman on stage; monstrous tyrant off it, fining his musicians for bum notes and beating his wives  – but Taylor never pretends to be creating a complete portrait.

Of course, the strategy would count for little if the film didn’t get the music right. Fortunately, Get On Up nails it. And so does Boseman. He was very impressive in sports biopic 42 as baseball player Jackie Robinson, another barrier-breaking African-American icon. Here, he is sensational. Lip-synching to Brown’s voice, he takes the breath away with his recreations of the singer’s trademark splits, spins, slides and glides.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 139 mins. Director Tate Taylor.

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The Homesman | Film review – Tommy Lee Jones & Hilary Swank saddle up for a grimly realistic Western

The Homesman - Hilary Swank as Mary Bee Cuddy

There isn’t a white hat to be seen in the grimly realistic Western The Homesman, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank, and its most heroic character wears a bonnet not a Stetson.

The setting is the harsh, unyielding plains of 1850s Nebraska where the hardships of frontier life have driven three local women mad. Brief, blunt flashbacks reveal some of their torments, from dead children to brutal husbands.

Evidently, no man in the community is manly enough for the task of escorting the women back east across the Missouri river towards ‘civilisation’ in Iowa and the care of minister’s wife Meryl Streep, so Swank’s doughty, devout, unmarried pioneer woman Mary Bee Cuddy volunteers for the job. Belatedly recognising that she might need aid in confronting the perils in store, she ropes Jones’s ne’er-do-well claim-jumper George Briggs into accompanying her on the five-week journey, having just rescued him from a lynching.

The Homesman - Tommy Lee Jones & Hilary Swank

Hollywood has done this odd-couple pairing of pious spinster and boozy reprobate before, of course, most notably with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, but don’t expect to find any of that movie’s feelgood jauntiness here. There are flashes of dark humour, for sure, but for the most part The Homesman’s pared-down, episodic narrative is as bleak as the unforgiving terrain the characters cross in a makeshift wooden wagon. Yet where the landscapes are stark and empty Swank and Jones (who also directs) give the characters of Mary Bee and Briggs richly vivid complexity.

Resilient and resourceful, Mary Bee yearns for a husband, only to be told she is too plain and too bossy to marry by each single man she encounters. The cloth keyboard on which she mimes playing songs signals her yearning for domesticity, but she is prey to deeper, more disquieting yearnings, too. Briggs is ornery, wily and selfish but surprises himself into acts of decency and kindness. Both characters are mysteries to themselves as much as to us.

Adapted from the novel by Glendon Swarthout, this is Jones’s second feature as a director, a follow-up to his edgy, offbeat, modern-day Western, 2005’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and it is a dark, difficult, prickly film that certainly won’t be too all tastes. Viewers searching for a cosy revival of the classic Western should look elsewhere, but hardy cinematic pioneers will find depths of compassion and pathos here, as well as shrewd insight into the physical and psychological costs of ‘taming’ the Old West on men and, above all, women.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 123 mins. Director Tommy Lee Jones.

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The Ipcress File (1965) | Michael Caine’s cockney spy anti-hero Harry Palmer gets a Blu-ray makeover

Ipcress File

SYNOPSIS
Under threat of blackmail, Harry Palmer (Michael Caine), a stubbornly insolent sergeant working for the Ministry of Defence, is transferred to an elite counter-intelligence unit. Palmer and the rest of his unit are then tasked with following the trail of a missing scientist. But when he finds a piece of tape marked IPCRESS in an abandoned warehouse, Palmer suddenly becomes a marked man…

Ipcress File

THE LOWDOWN
With 1960s cinemagoers already turned on by the super-groomed exploits of Ian Fleming’s playboy superspy James Bond, novelist Len Deighton presented a very different picture of the British secret service in the shape of racketeering Army sergeant turned secret agent Harry Palmer in his 1962 novel, The IPCRESS File.

This first screen adventure for Leighton’s anti-hero is a gritty tale of brainwashing and international treachery that bristles with wit and tension. Still the best of the five Palmer adventures, it also helped cement Michael Caine’s international superstar status. Complete with thick spectacles and even thicker Cockney accent, with a taste of Mozart, fine food and cheery wisecracks at the expense of his posh superiors, especially Major Dalby (Nigel Green), Caine’s Palmer is a shabby, iconic delight.

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A huge international success for director Sidney J Furie (who had previously helmed Wonderful Life with Cliff Richard and The Shadows and The Leather Boys), the film (produced by Bond producer Harry Saltzman) scored the director a Bafta for Best Film, while Ken Adam and Otto Heller also got gongs for their inventive, stylised art direction and cinematography. Adam, of course is best known for his work on most of the classic Bond movies, while Heller also photographed the black and white British classic Victim (check out the Blu-ray) and Michael Powell’s lurid thriller Peeping Tom (reviewed here). Bond composer John Barry also supplied the distinctive score.

THE UK BLU-RAY RELEASE
The Network Distributing Blu-ray release, part of their British Film collection, features the film in a High Definition transfer made from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.

SPECIAL FEATURES
(in Standard Definition unless otherwise stated)
Michael Caine is Harry Palmer – exclusive interview with Sir Michael Caine
The Design File – exclusive interview with production designer Sir Ken Adam
• Commentary with director Sidney Furie and film editor Peter Hunt
Michael Caine Goes Stella comedy short
• 1969 documentary: Candid Caine
• Original theatrical trailer (HD)
• Textless material (HD) and US radio commercials
• Extensive image galleries (HD)
• Commemorative booklet

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Win Mood Indigo book and DVD

mood indigo

Set in a fantasy version of Paris, Mood Indigo is the surreal and poetic tale of Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloé (Audrey Tautou) whose idyllic love story is turned on its head when Chloé falls sick. Dedicated to his beloved bride, Colin must go out to work in a series of increasingly absurd jobs to pay for the fresh flowers that Chloe needs to be surrounded with in order to feel better.

This moving romantic fantasy, based on the 1947 French novel L’ecume Des Jours by Boris Vian, from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry arrives on DVD and Blu-ray this week and we have three copies of the DVD and the book to give away. To enter, just answer the following question and send your answer to movietalk@timeinc.com.

Q: Mood Indigo gets its name from the 1930 jazz composition and song by which famous composer?

  • Michel Legrand
  • Duke Ellington
  • Irving Berlin

Competition closes 4pm Friday 12 December. Terms and Conditions apply.

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My Old Lady | Film review – American in Paris Kevin lands in a bittersweet ménage with Brits Maggie & Kristin

My Old Lady - Kevin Kline & Maggie Smith

Adapted by writer-director Israel Horovitz from his own 2012 Broadway play, My Old Lady initially looks as though it’s going to be another fluffy American-in-Paris rom-com. It begins with Kevin Kline’s hard-up, hard-luck, formerly hard-drinking New Yorker arriving in Paris hoping to turn his fortunes around by claiming his inheritance – a fabulously valuable apartment in the Marais owned by his long estranged, recently deceased father.

Much to his dismay, the flat turns out to be a viager. This is a property that doesn’t just come with strings attached; it’s bound in red tape. According to French real-estate law, he can’t shift the sitting tenant, a waspish, very droll Maggie Smith, who lives there with her frosty daughter, Kristin Scott Thomas. Indeed, he is obliged to pay her a monthly fee until she dies. This set-up yields some highly enjoyable battle-of-wits comedy, performed with lip-smacking relish by the three stars. But just when you think the story is going to proceed on a well-worn, cosily romantic track, its characters unpack their emotional baggage, revealing unexpected depths of hurt and taking the film into bittersweet dramatic territory.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 107 mins. Director Israel Horowitz.

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What We Do in the Shadows | Film review – Jemaine & Taika’s vampire houseshare comedy is a scream

What We Do in the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows, a hilariously silly mockumentary about a vampire houseshare in present-day New Zealand, taps a rich vein of comedy by inserting ancient bloodsuckers into a modern setting that couldn’t be more mundane.

Undead housemates Vladislav (Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement), Viago (Taika Waititi) and Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) bicker over the washing up, host excruciatingly awkward dinner parties for potential victims and fail to get into nightclubs – and the sheer incongruity of combining vampire lore with drab 21st-century life down under is priceless.

An unseen human film crew is following the characters as they go about their lives, and co-writer-directors Clement and Waititi exploit the reality TV setup with dry, deadpan wit, mining humour from the clash of personalities between the trio, who each retains the manners of the different era in which they became a vampire.

What We Do in the Shadows - Jemaine Clement Taika Waititi  Jonathan Brugh

Transylvanian Vladislav is an 862-year-old rampage and orgies kind of guy; Viago a gentle 18th-century dandy; and preening 185-year-old Deacon ‘the young, bad boy of the group’. A fourth housemate, 8,000 year-old, Nosferatu-like Petyr (Ben Fransham) mostly remains walled up in the cellar.

The arrival of brash newcomer Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer), accidentally turned into a vampire by Petyr, shakes up the status quo, as does the appearance of Nick’s buddy Stu, an IT guy who helps the vampires get to grips with modern technology and social media.

On top of which they also have to contend with the presence of a bunch of plaid-clad werewolves with anger-management issues. ‘Remember, we’re werewolves not swearwolves,’ is their mantra. Yes, being a modern-day vampire is a pain, but this vampire movie is a scream.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 85 mins. Directors Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement.

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The Wicker Tree (2011) | Robin Hardy’s quirky satire gets its UK premiere tonight on The Horror Channel

The Wicker Tree (2011)

Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is the most celebrated British horror of all time – and for many fans, can never be equalled. So, when Hardy decided to film his 2006 novel Cowboys for Christ, which treads very much the same pagan path as the original cult classic, many fans and critics thought it sacrosanct to do so. Neither sequel nor remake, Hardy’s The Wicker Tree is very much its own little beastie and gets its UK Premiere on The Horror Channel tonight at 9pm.

The Wicker Tree (2011)

Gospel singer Beth (Brittania Nichol) and her cowboy boyfriend Steve (Peaky BlindersHenry Garrett) head out of Texas to spread the word of the Lord in ‘godless’ Scotland. But the chaste singer and her fiancé are unaware that their purity makes them the perfect candidates for an ancient rite. The local laird (The Hobbitt‘s Graham McTavish) has hatched a plan to offer them up as a sacrifice to a pagan god in a bid to make the local population fertile again (an accident at a nuclear power plant has left everyone barren). But, as the May Day celebrations get under way, will the couple finally twig that they’re not just singing for their supper, they’re going to be supper as well?

wicker tree

Blackly comic, with a host of fabulously eccentric characters, The Wicker Tree is a keenly observed satire that belongs to a different time – in many ways it strongly resembles Lindsay Anderson’s underrated Brittania Hospital. This companion piece to Hardy’s pagan original may not be to every fan/critics taste, but it’s so curiously quirky and deftly-written that it definitely deserves another go. Original star Christopher Lee pops up as an old gentleman.

The Wicker Tree is also available to stream on YouTube from Starzmediavod.

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Win the French erotic drama You and the Night on DVD

You And The Night_CompetitionAround midnight, a young couple and their transgender maid prepare for an orgy with four invited guests. Each comes with their own dark and impassioned secrets, unravelled in sequences and flashbacks, in a night that none will ever forget…

Writer-director Yann Gonzalez’ sensual and erotic debut, You and the Night, starring former international footballer, Eric Cantona and cult legend, Béatrice Dalle (Betty Blue), arrives on DVD on 24 November 2014 from Peccadillo Pictures in a one disc standard edition and in a two-disc limited edition (featuring the electrifying M83 audio soundtrack as a exclusive extra).

To celebrate the home entertainment release of You and the Night, we have three copies of the standard edition DVD for you to win. To enter, just answer the following question and send your answer to movietalk@timeinc.com. And if you want a hint as to the answer, check out Pete’s review (here).

Q: Which character does Eric Cantona play in You and the Night?

  • The Slut
  • The Stud
  • The Star
  • The Teen

Competition closes 4pm Friday 5 December. Terms and Conditions apply.

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You and the Night | The Breakfast Club meets The Hunger in this kitsch ode to love and lust

You and the Night (2013)

Around midnight, a stylish young couple and their transgender maid prepare for an orgy. Their guests will be The Slut, The Star, The Stud and The Teen. Each comes with their own dark and impassioned secrets, unravelled in flashbacks and admissions, in a night they’ll never forget…

You and the Night 2

If the idea of football legend Eric Cantona engaging in some S&M whipping action with Betty Blue’s Béatrice Dalle and getting it on with a dude wearing a maid’s dress distresses you, then look away now.

Taking place within a vast Brutalist building set in a wintery woodland, writer-director Yann Gonzales existential dream play, Les recontres d’apres minuit (in the original French), follows seven characters who, over the course of a night of debauchery and soul-searching, have their emotional wounds healed through their contact with each other.

You and the Night 1

Imagine fusing The Breakfast Club, The Hunger and Tales from the Crypt with some Pedro Almodóvar kitsch and some Bava/Argento-styled giallo, all set within an über cool 1980s aesthetic, and you’ll be on the mark. Another big draw is the shimmering score by French electronic band M83 which gets played through a sensory jukebox (which would be cool if it were a reality). This one’s destined for cult status.

You and the Night is released on DVD on 24 November in the UK from Peccadillo Pictures

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 | Film review – It’s grim, but Lawrence’s charisma keeps us on side

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1_Katniss & Gale

With one more film to go in Hollywood’s Hunger Games franchise, it’s clear that the filmmakers are saving their big guns, and big battles, for next year’s finale.

For the most part, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is dour, dark and talky: jaw, jaw rather than war, war as Jennifer Lawrence’s renegade warrior Katniss Everdeen, newly rescued by the rebels of District 13, reluctantly joins the propaganda battle against fascistic President Snow (Donald Sutherland), ruler of the dystopian future America imagined by novelist Suzanne Collins in her bestselling trilogy.

Coerced by Julianne Moore’s silver-haired resistance leader President Coin into being the star of a series of rousing propaganda videos, Katniss is the face of the revolution. She’s a singularly glum one, though, wracked as she is by traumatic flashbacks to her time in the games and conscience-torn by the use of her friend Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as a propaganda tool by the other side.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1- Katniss - Jennifer Lawrence

With much of the action around her confined to the insurgents’ underground bunkers, the film matches her sombre mood. Even Effie Trinket, the bubble-headed Capitol fashionista played by Elizabeth Banks, looks drab in her boiler suit and bandana, though the task of turning Katniss into the ‘best-dressed rebel in history’ quickly perks her up. ‘Everyone will want to kiss you, kill you or be you,’ she trills.

Where last year’s Catching Fire was in many respects a re-run of the first film, this sequel takes the series in a new direction with timely urgency, exploring the pros and cons of revolution and the manipulative power of propaganda. And just as Katniss’s iconic presence proves uplifting for the story’s downtrodden masses amid the prevailing grimness, it’s Lawrence’s charisma, plus the nuances she brings to her conflicted character, that keeps us on side, too.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 123 mins. Director Francis Lawrence.

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