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Film of the week: Greed

Cert: 16; Now showing

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Caroline Flack makes her last screen appearance beside Isla Fisher in 'Greed', starring Steve Coogan

Caroline Flack makes her last screen appearance beside Isla Fisher in 'Greed', starring Steve Coogan

Steve Coogan as Sir Richard McCreadie in 'Greed'

Steve Coogan as Sir Richard McCreadie in 'Greed'

Salma Hayek in 'Like A Boss'

Salma Hayek in 'Like A Boss'

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Caroline Flack makes her last screen appearance beside Isla Fisher in 'Greed', starring Steve Coogan

Taking a well-deserved pot-shot at big evil capitalists can result in a bit of an own-goal, especially nowadays when billionaires are finally being asked to justify such unimaginable wealth.

But with Greed, a satire loosely based on Topshop mogul Philip Green, writer-director Michael Winterbottom had hoped to not only dig the boot into the high-street's exploitation of cheap, developing-world labour but also the willingness from across the celebrity class to cuddle up to it and make itself available to these megalomaniacs.

In the end, studio executives made him rein in some of the heavier blows he had hoped to land during the closing credits. These included the naming and shaming of massively rich fashion brands, the celebrities in their pockets, and the pittance paid to workers in the Indian subcontinent for making the stuff. Some of these statistics have made it into this final cut but you do wonder about the full extent of Winterbottom's original excoriations.

In an intro featuring a poignant cameo by the late Caroline Flack, we meet Sir Richard McCreadie (it rhymes with "greedy" you see), played by regular Winterbottom muse Steve Coogan.

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Steve Coogan as Sir Richard McCreadie in 'Greed'

Steve Coogan as Sir Richard McCreadie in 'Greed'

Steve Coogan as Sir Richard McCreadie in 'Greed'

The retail magnate is waist-deep in preparations for a lavish 60th birthday bash he is throwing for himself on the Greek island of Mykonos. The event is the perfect backdrop with which to show the immoral billionaire (aren't they all) in all his splendour, barking at the Syrian refugees spoiling his view, haranguing his production team and being unpleasant to everyone on his payroll. These include David Mitchell's biographer, who has decided to look behind the curtain at how McCreadie generated such vast wealth in the first place.

While not an outright knee-slapper, Greed's satirical humour never sets out to tickle ribs but instead to draw a circle around the seriousness of having such miscreants celebrated by our society. While unsubtle, Coogan (and his severely bleached teeth) is suitably obnoxious and spars well with a good ensemble support cast that features Isla Fisher, Sophie Cookson and Shirley Henderson (as Richard's ex-wife, daughter and mother, respectively).

Arguably the best of Greed takes place during those flashback scenes where we see a young Sir Richard (Jamie Blackley) scamming and cajoling his way into the rag trade, before opening a series of garish, loud and ultimately doomed high-street outlets before fiddling the system into a financial win for himself (which, we are told, is all that matters).

As the architecture of his dealings and the impunity with which his type operate are detailed, Winterbottom starts to hit a similarly sweet spot to those spelled out in The Big Short (2015).

Here, you start to get a clearer picture of how the world unfortunately works. The faffing about on the island with trained lions and logistical headaches is less memorable, however.

★★★ Hilary A White

 

End of the  Century

Club Cert: Now showing, IFI 

Video of the Day

As soon as I left this screening I searched for A Flock of Seagull's Space Age Love Song and every time I've played it since I remember the joyous scene it narrated in Lucio Castro's debut, End of the Century (Fin de Siglo).

Back in 1999 - and the song was a throwback even then - two men thrown together in Barcelona by a mutual acquaintance, are drunk and dancing. It's midway through the film, a flashback to what is either an all but forgotten moment or a beginning, and that confusion of time and what-ifs is the essence of this lovely film.

For the first 20 minutes no one speaks, we just follow Ocho (Juan Barberini) as he arrives in Barcelona, sets up in his Airbnb and wanders around. We see him spot a handsome guy, Javi (Ramón Pujol), spot him again and then decide to invite him up to his apartment.

The film plays into the stereotype of Grindr-inspired transient hookups between gay men before playing out of it, around it and with it in an exploration of who, what and when things become important to us. The sliding doors concept is always interesting but the effortless, wonderful performances and the overall kind tone of the film left a lingering pleasure.

★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Like a Boss  

Cert: 16; Now showing 

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Salma Hayek in 'Like A Boss'

Salma Hayek in 'Like A Boss'

Salma Hayek in 'Like A Boss'

 

Chalk and cheese besties Mel (Rose Byrne, awkward, white, practical) and Mia (Tiffany Haddish as herself, basically) co-own a slow-cosmetics company they built up themselves. Their differences become more and more apparent when the company books begin to suffer. They are forced to entertain getting into bed with Salma Hayek's dastardly cosmetics mogul who is out to take over their interests under the guise of a benign investment.

Written by Sam Pitman and Adam Cole-Kelly, this blur of toilet humour and slapstick will do on a hen night between warm-up drinks and cocktails. Its women-behaving-badly sass and unchallenging moral (it's what's underneath the make-up that counts, apparently) are ideal for such audiences.

The rest of us mere mortals should probably give a very wide berth to Miguel Arteta's film, which manages the feat of making Amy Schumer's comparable I Feel Pretty look good.

★★ Hilary A White

The Call  of the Wild

Cert: PG; Now showing 

Jack London's classic novels The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906) adopt the perspectives of canines during the Yukon gold rush, when dogs were needed to haul sledges and wolves roamed the woods. Both survival epics are evergreen, and with nearly 25 years since Peter Svatek's film of The Call of the Wild, an update is welcome.

A younger audience is clearly in mind as director Chris Sanders and writer Michael Green soften the darker tones of the novel considerably. Buck, the bulky but heroic hound, is a CGI concoction whose cartoonish inflections take a little getting used to.

We see him kidnapped from his privileged California estate and sold to a dog trader in the Klondike (a slavery metaphor runs through the novel) before joining a postal dog-sled team.

Buck has to wise-up fast if he's to make it in the treacherous new environment. He crosses paths with Harrison Ford's lonely prospector and a mutual rapport leads to companionship. As they press deeper into the wilderness, the spirits of his lupine relatives call louder and louder to him.

The only real elements on the screen are the cast, with Ford and Dan Stevens's baddie putting in good shifts. Everything else in the backdrop, every blade of grass, is CGI. The landscapes are perfectly beautiful, the action set-pieces perfectly thrilling. Buck is perfectly expressive, to boot. But "the wild" of the title is a piece of computer coding, and you find yourself longing for the days when real animals were cast in such films and shooting took place on location.

★★★ Hilary A White


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