Season of the Witch (15) 94min ●●●●● Broad but mildly entertaining supernatural medieval action adventure in which Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman star as knights who must transport a woman/witch to a remote monastery. Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds, Swordfish) directs with all the subtlety of a witchfinder general. General release, Fri 7 Jan. Mammoth (15) 125min ●●●●● Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodyson (Together, Lilya 4-Ever) returns to some sort of coherent form with this big canvas drama about the rich, the poor, globalisation and power. Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams star. GFT, Glasgow, Fri 7 & Sat 8 Jan. Waiting for Superman (PG) 111min ●●●●● Compelling and persuasive documentary about the crisis of public education in the United States told through interlocking stories. An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim brings a rare clarity to proceedings. GFT, Glasgow, Sun 9–Tue 11 Jan; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Mon 31 Jan–Wed 2 Feb. The Green Hornet (12A) 118min Michel Gondry’s big- budget 3D take on the masked superhero starring Seth Rogen Unable to review at time of going to press. Will be reviewed at www.list.co.uk General release, Fri 14 Jan. The Big Sleep (PG) 114min ●●●●● Seminal 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler novel resurrected on 35mm print. Showing as part of Howard Hawks season. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 14–Thu 20 Jan. Collapse (15) 88min ●●●●● Focused and interesting documentary about the reporter who predicted the financial crisis. Documentarian Chris Smith (American Movie, The Yes Men) levels his usual mischievous gaze. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sun 16 & Mon 17 Jan. Enemies of the People (15) 93min ●●●●● Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin’s horrifying but remarkably redemptive documentary revisits the architects of the Khymer Rouge’s 1970s genocide of the Cambodian people and somehow gets them to open up about the bloodbath and madness of those years. Powerful, important and totally unforgettable. Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Tue 18 & Wed 19 Jan. 48 THE LIST 6–20 Jan 2011
ADVENTURE/DRAMA 127 HOURS (15) 94min ●●●●●
Is there a more versatile or interesting British filmmaker than Danny Boyle working today? Few of his contemporaries have as varied a filmography, and there is no denying the consistency in quality of his cinematic narratives. Slumdog Millionaire earned him well- deserved Oscar recognition, but any fears that success would go to this most down-to-earth director’s head can be comfortably – or perhaps not so comfortably – put aside after watching 127 Hours. An intense hour and a half of exemplary filmmaking, it is a concise distillation of everything that is essential about Boyle’s cinema, and is arguably his most accomplished work to date. A reconstruction of a real event, the film covers the five
days that mountaineer Aron Ralston (James Franco) spent trapped in Blue John Canyon in the Utah desert, after a fall left him pinned at the right arm under an unmoveable boulder. With limited supplies, a portable video camera and, significantly, a travel knife, Ralston kept himself alive and undertook an unthinkable act of self-amputation to escape this early grave.
Boyle has reunited his Slumdog dream team of
cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, composer AR Rahman and writer Simon Beaufoy and he orchestrates their contributions with absolute confidence and control. The film’s opening 20 minutes are a joyful storm of visual activity before the enforced calm of Ralston’s ordeal, but it’s when the story reaches this underground standstill that Boyle’s invention really starts moving. His camera is alive to every visual possibility of the cramped location, even at one point switching to an inside-the- injured-arm perspective.
But this is no technical showcase; Boyle’s film is a question, a search to discover what drives a man to survive. Franco is completely convincing as he enacts a mental journey from self-sufficiency to realisation of his need for human connection, to a moment of decisive action. The intense and graphic depiction of that moment may prove too much for some viewers (this writer came very close to fainting), but it’s justified. Boyle drags the audience into hell and out the other
side, and everyone who makes it will feel Ralston’s triumph as their own. (Paul Gallagher) ■ General release, Fri 7 Jan.
DRAMA EASIER WITH PRACTICE (15) 100min ●●●●●
‘A one-sided love story’ is how writer-director Kyle Patrick Alvarez has described his downbeat US indie, which won the Best New International Feature Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2009. Adapted from an autobiographical GQ magazine article written by Davy Rothbart, Easier with Practice follows a struggling 28-year-old writer Davy (Brian Geraghty from The Hurt Locker), who is trying to promote his unpublished collection of short stories on a tour of the American South-West. One night at his cheap motel, the phone rings and a seductively voiced stranger ‘Nicole’ is suggesting phone sex, swiftly arousing Davy. They’re soon engaged in an intense long-distance relationship, only Nicole never lets him call her, and she’s reluctant to meet in person.
Like the recently released Mexican drama Leap Year, this debut feature successfully establishes the loneliness and alienation experienced by its central character, which leaves him craving for an intimate emotional connection, however unorthodox.
Other filmmakers might have played this material for gross-out
laughs, yet Alvarez treats his insecure protagonist with some compassion, not least in the film’s unexpected resolution. Digitally shot in long, composed takes, Easier with Practice is
above all held together by Geraghty’s impressive lead performance. Appearing in practically every frame, he convincingly articulates Davy’s vulnerability and social awkwardness and his ultimate decency. (Tom Dawson) ■ Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 14–Thu 20 Jan.