Wednesday 28 September 2016

Cinema: Amy shows music can be a disgusting world

Amy Cert: 15A

Hilary A White

Published 06/07/2015 | 02:30

Amy Winehouse, pictured with her dad Mitch, fell into a spiral of drink and drugs that would kill the talented singer
Amy Winehouse, pictured with her dad Mitch, fell into a spiral of drink and drugs that would kill the talented singer
Magic Mike XXL
He's back: Arnie returns as the hit-bot on a mission

Reviewed this week are Amy, Magician: The Astonishing  Life & Work of Orson Welles, Magic Mike XXL, Terminator Genisys and Still The Water.

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If we can take one thing from the story of Amy Winehouse, it's that the music business can be a disgusting world. Cannes is unlikely to be the only place where Asif Kapadia's much-anticipated documentary is a hot talking point (despite screening outside official selection), such is the feeling of residual pain and confusion surrounding the death at the age of 27 of this extraordinary talent.

And like many victims in rock mythology, there are sweeping regrets, pangs that it was all avoidable rather than some pre-ordained fate. In the case of the North London Jewess who had a voice as gilded and timeless as tarnished silver, a foul combination of addiction, mental illness and a slew of sycophantic miscreants making too much money off her to ever say no, aligned to ensure her demise.

Widen the sphere, as Kapadia does in this excellently compiled documentary, and blame can be apportioned outside Winehouse's management, from chattering paparazzi shutters to gawking redtop readers. As Winehouse turned into a car-crash of spiralling weight loss and shambolic gigs, talkshow hosts who once welcomed the star now made fun of her terrifying collapse. She became just another romanticised Camden drug casualty, a soul-singing Pete Doherty to be laughed at.

Kapadia (Senna) lets archive footage, lyrics and those who looked on tell the story of the tragedy. The results are haunting for we see where she came from; health, levity, and girlhood dreams of touching people via her music. Not to be missed.

Selected cinemas

Magician: The Astonishing  Life & Work of Orson Welles

Ground-breaking, stylistically bold and panoramic of view it surely is, but once we pan back from Citizen Kane, or even that 1938, hysteria-causing War Of The Worlds radio broadcast, many would be puzzled as to why we should still speak about Orson Welles in the hushed tones that we do.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons, and it is the job of this affectionate documentary marking the centenary of the icon's birth, to present a taster of this furiously complex auteur to a new generation. After all, cinema buffs have already had any number of films and biographies at their disposal to detail the highs and lows, passions and peculiarities of Welles.

Thus Chuck Workman's release is a fine place to begin for those for whom the enigma is somewhat a mystery. Limiting itself to a brisk hour and half, it jogs through a life less ordinary, from child prodigy to a journeyman stint at the Gate Theatre (under Micheal Mac Liammóir) and on to the bizarre post-Kane litany of flops and duds. Fawning talking heads offer trinkets to carry us along - Welles biographer Simon Callow and latter-day directors like Spielberg, Scorsese and Linklater - but Workman cuts the reverence by letting Welles join the conversation via self-deprecating interview snippets.

Amidst all the talk of Welles' poor business acumen and torrid personal life - long-time partner Oja Kodar is an interview highlight.

Now showing at IFI

Magic Mike XXL

Cert: 16

Now that 50 Shades of Grey has departed auditoria, the conundrum of what to plan for your best friend's hen night has been solved. The answer comes doused in baby oil and gyrating rhythmically, and has no wish whatsoever to pester the shrieking hordes with anything as boring as sound plot structure or thematic layers.

What is a godsend for that lot is bad news for everyone else, because Magic Mike XXL, the sequel to Steven Soderbergh's surprisingly sophisticated 2012 male-stripper drama, is sheer dross.

Without going into the politics of objectifying either gender - surely a female equivalent would be met with pitchforks and picket lines - or the way Mike (Channing Tatum right) and his four stripper buddies (Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez and Gabriel Iglesias) do nothing but strut from one oestrogen-drenched cash confetti to another, there are more immediate complaints.

Why, for example, the feeble attempts to "develop" these bronzed bundles of muscle when all director Gregory Jacobs wants them to do is perform like monkeys at a "stripper-convention" grand finale?

Why all the sudden (and largely flaccid) comedy in writer Reid Carolin's script, comedy that relies on grown men calling each other "bro" and being corralled about by salivating women?

Where is the dark, muzzy-headed flavour of the first film (which conveyed a real struggle within Mike)?

In fact, all that seems to have been kept intact from the previous outing is Soderbergh's washed-out cinematography. Otherwise, this is just a shallow exploitation of its predecessor's abdominal glamour, a whooping night out that is marginally cheaper than a ticket to a Chippendales show.

Admittedly, the soundtrack is a success, and the choreography is at times impressive - some of Tatum's moves seem gravity defying - but does the world really need a Step-Up with codpieces? I would argue that it does not.

Now showing

Terminator Genisys

Cert: 12A

The noble Terminator brand has had to put up with a raft of indignities in recent years. Terminator Genisys is the latest cash-in on the 1984 android-assassin classic (created by James Cameron and then-wife Gale Anne Hurd) and serviceable 1991 follow-up Judgement Day. And while marginally better than the god-awful Rise Of The Machines (2003) and Salvation (2009), this fifth film marks a no-comeback point in respectability. 

Alan Taylor's contribution to the legacy begins quite well, primarily because many of the opening scenes in Cameron's original are re-shot to the letter. This time, we get to see Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) being sent back in time by John Connor (Jason Clarke) to 1984 to find and protect Connor's mother Sarah from Skynet's hit-bot.

However, writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier have monkeyed around with things because you can do that when time-travel is involved. What transpires is Reese being rescued by Emilia Clarke's Sarah Connor and her trusty protector cyborg (a rusty Arnold Schwarzenegger, naturally).

From here on, we're taken into increasingly pongy waters as the franchise is turned into a kids theme-park ride. All the sharp edges are filed down, buffed, and replaced with screwballisms and dry one-liners from the lips of an Austrian robot.

They even reconfigure John Connor, the story's freedom fighter against the machine threat (now updated to a viral one for the times we live in). Motifs and clauses of dialogue are liberally pilfered from the Cameron era, and by the time the old banger has spluttered to an uninspired halt, you pray Arnie achieves his life dream to sit in the White House so that this rubbish can finally stop. With talk of two further instalments in this reboot, such hopes appear dead in the water.

Now showing

Still The Water

Cert: Club

Wind and wave provide ample pathetic fallacy in award-winning Japanese auteur Naomi Kawase's slow-burning coming-of-age drama. Set in the lush, subtropical climes of Japan's southerly Kagoshima Prefecture, nature and the elements seem continuously on hand to lend a symbolic typhoon or swaying tree bough as a backdrop to human strife bubbling indoors.

Kaito (Nijiro Murakami) is 16-years-old and struggling to process the absence of his Tokyo-based father. He discovers a man's body floating in the sea one night, an out-of-character incident for the quiet island community. Meanwhile, Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga) and her father must watch helplessly as her mother fades away through terminal illness.

An uneasy romance blooms between the two as they come to rely on one another while trying to make sense of the cards they have been dealt. That Kyoko is more emotionally equipped for adult life due to her loving and supportive extended family is made apparent next to the cripplingly insular Kaito.

All around them, life must continue regardless, Kawase reminds us. Goats are slaughtered on camera, songs are sung and hatches are battened down when the wind picks up.

Nothing gets done in a hurry in this beautifully framed, finely acted poetry-piece, which would be a splendid thing indeed if it weren't stretched out for two hours.

In selected cinemas

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