Not quite at home with horror
Through a mix of fangs and flesh, Hammer has enjoyed a long and colourful career as a slightly camp horror institution dating back to the Fifties. The Resident is their latest offering, and while it may not quite succeed in fully chilling the blood, it does have a ridiculous quality in keeping with former ghoulish glories.
Hilary Swank is Dr Juliet Dermer, a heroine very much of the Hammer mould. She moves into a Brooklyn apartment after parting with her husband. Landlord Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) becomes a love interest for Juliet. Soon, however, she begins to feel that all is not quite right.
It's giving nothing away to tell you that Max is the baddie. Director Antti Jokinen sows vague seeds of doubt early on about Max's intentions, only to completely expose him as the obsessive stalker who has rigged up the building to spy on the scantily clad Juliet. With this out in the open, any intrigue created in the pacey and well-rounded opening half-hour soon evaporates. From here, it descends into a predictable and even at times laugh-out-loud thriller, one where too much time is spent looking at things from the villain's viewpoint.
It's hard to get mad at The Resident. Swank is fine as the single white female, while Morgan is stymied from being properly sinister by playing a pitiful character more begging of ridicule than fear.
To remind us Hammer are in charge, Christopher Lee plays Max's grandfather, the early red herring of suspicion. Ultimately it's all light on fright, yet remains oddly entertaining; an example of how there's fun to be had when a thriller goes this wrong.
Battle Los Angeles
Another year, another big-budget alien invasion flick. Battle LA shows little to distinguish itself from any other Independence Day or War of the Worlds, except that it views everything from the perspective of a handful of US soldiers.
The film begins by introducing us to each member of the team, all of whom are straight out of the "Dummy's Guide to Making a Military Film". We meet the smooth-talking southerner, the softy, the dad-to-be and the hip-hop guy. As the soon-to-retire sergeant, Aaron Eckhart's all-American chin leads the group through a city reduced to flames by technologically sophisticated aliens. Their mission is to rescue civilians, make sombre confessions to one another between skirmishes and try to kick some ET butt.
Director Jonathan Liebesman has opted for the shaky hand-held camera style to evoke a first-person presence for the viewer. After an hour, you pray for the thing to be held still for a while so you can see if the special effects are any good. Likewise, the script seems to have been cut and pasted from any number of US military movies, so we get lots of "I'm not leavin' you behind" or "I'd go to hell and back for you sir" rubbish. As for the aliens, there's little to fear from these creatures who can't seem to shoot straight.
All this comes before a tedious 15-minute refrain where the troops lick their wounds and make heroic speeches. If you manage to stay awake, you'll be overcome by a whiff of cheesy sentimentality of the kind only produced in the USA.
Submarine's writer/director Richard Ayoade is best known for his role as Moss in Channel Four's comedy The IT Crowd. That's set to change with the release of this, his sparkling debut feature starring Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine. Recent additions to the genre, such as Scott Pilgrim v The World, have heightened the sense that thinking-person's teen movies are destined to promise much more than they deliver. But such criticism cannot be accurately levelled at this coming of age/sage comedy.
Craig Roberts takes the central role as Oliver Tate, a 15-year-old Nietzsche-reading monument to melancholy. Home is a coastal backwater in Wales where the stark reality of his adolescence is punctuated by hilarious flights of fantasy involving his schoolmates and how they might react to his demise. It turns out that his appetite for escapism is entirely understandable.
Routine searches of his parent's bedroom reveal that his marine biologist dad (Noah Taylor) is on anti-depressants since losing his job. While the domestic-happiness index isn't helped by the new-age psychic Graham (Paddy Considine), an old flame of his kooky mother (Sally Hawkins), moving in next door. As if that wasn't enough, a crush on the ethereal Jordana (Yasmin Paige) holds out the chance of added angst. Cue a scenario that sees this Holden Caulfield-type setting out to "save his parents' marriage and be the best boyfriend in the world". So, no pressure then.
Such a set-up may lack originality but what propels proceedings into the realm of the memorable is the quality of the script and the visual flair Ayoade brings to the spectacle. Relative newcomer Roberts excels in the central role while Hawkins is also flawless. A Ben Stiller blink- and-you-miss-it cameo plus his production credit adds to the sense that Ayoade is a director of whom great things are expected. On this evidence he's destined to deliver.
Opens on Friday
Phil Traill directed a film called All About Steve in 2009 and should perhaps, on the strength of that film, have been forced to change career. However, someone gave him another chance and this time it's English instead of American and stars Felicity Jones instead of Sandra Bullock, and is often funny and charming instead of clunkingly stupid.
Kim Matthews (Jones) is a former skateboard champion who, following the death of her mother, has relinquished her glory to care for her father (Bill Bailey). She works a rotten job and is permanently broke but still reluctant to take up better-paid and more interesting work as a chalet girl in a house in Austria.
Under pressure, she goes but can't ski, is the wrong social class and doesn't hit it off with her co-chalet girl Georgie (Tamsin Egerton). But Kim can cook, has a sense of humour and snowboarding is really just slippy skateboarding. She meets Mikki (Ken Duken), melts Georgie, develops dreams and has a multilayered relationship with her employers the Madsen family (Bill Nighy, Brooke Shields and Ed Westwick).
The brothers Grimm could cry plagiarism regarding the storyline but despite the familiarity, not to say predictability of the plot, there is a lot to be enjoyed in Chalet Girl. The script isn't half bad and the cast is pretty good. With humour, pretty people, snowboarding and romance, there is plenty for a younger audience to enjoy.
Opens on Wednesday
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