Movie reviews: Kill Your Friends, Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, He Named Me Malala
Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases - Kill Your Friends, Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, and He Named Me Malala
The posters for Kill Your Friends (1*, 18, 103mins) acclaim it as an American Psycho for our times. And though whether anyone would have need of such a thing is open to question, Owen Harris's film is certainly strongly influenced by the 90s book and slick but sickening movie that followed it.
Kill Your Friends is based on a novel of the same name by John Niven, which on the strength of this ghastly mess I have vowed never to read. Its story is set in the hedonistic madness of London's mid-1990s music scene, when Oasis and Blur were engaged in their tiresome, phoney feud and every music scout in town was on the hunt for the next Radiohead.
Stephen Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is one such fool, a shallow and vicious A&R scout at an ailing record label. His goal is to get ahead, and whenever others threaten his ascent, he kills them. Mostly, though, he talks, spewing forth a flood of psycho-babble in a maddening, deafening voice-over. He never shuts up, and writer John Niven's attempts to shock veer are always tiresome, sometimes pointlessly offensive.
This nasty, vulgar, cheap little film has little to recommend it, not even a rather obvious soundtrack or the normally reliable Nicholas Hoult, who's badly miscast here.
Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2*, 15A, 93mins) is almost as tacky, but at least boasts a few decent jokes. Childhood friends Ben (Tye Sheridan), Carter (Logan Miller) and Augie (Joey Morgan) have been in the scouts together for years, but now they've hit 16 and the cracks are starting to show. While Augie's still keen on camping in the woods and earning every merit badge under the sun, Ben is tired of tying knots and being useful, and Carter is obsessed with girls and most specifically their bosoms.
Ben and Carter have abandoned Augie at a forest camp and are sneaking off to a high-school party when they notice that their town seems strangely empty. That's because a mystery plague has turned half the residents into flesh-eating zombies, and the other half have fled in terror.
Determined to find and rescue Carter's beautiful older sister Kendall (Halston Sage), the boys team up with a very resourceful stripper (Sarah Dumont) and are soon cutting a swathe through hordes of shuffling zombies.
Directed by one Christopher B Landon, Zombie Apocalypse is as dumb as a box of rocks, and as spectacularly violent as you'd expect. It endeavours to marry the gross-out conventions of the zombie genre with a jauntily irreverent Animal House tone. It's silly but knows it, and its cheerful stupidity is endearing at times.
On October 9, 2012, a Taliban gunman boarded a bus in Swat Valley, northern Pakistan, and shot a 15-year-old girl called Malala Yousafzai in the head. She had become a powerful spokesperson for female education rights in a territory run by Islamic fundamentalists, writing first an anonymous blog for the BBC, then risking death by issuing fearless public statements. The bullet passed through her forehead and ran the length of her face, but it did not kill her, and instead made Malala an international celebrity, a symbol of defiance.
Davis Guggenheim's solid and moving documentary He Named Me Malala (3*, PG, 87mins) gives us the background of a story that shocked the world, but could have been more rigorously made. Malala comes across as a brave, bright and likeable young woman, coping gamely with her new-found celebrity and putting it to good use: she's now an advocate for women and children's rights.
Most moving of all is her relationship with her father, Ziauddin, an enlightened, articulate and compassionate man who knew what he was doing when he named his daughter after a legendary Afghan heroine.
Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet); The Lady in the Van (Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings); Fathers & Daughters (Russell Crowe).