Monday 11 December 2017

Movie reviews: Raw, Table 19, Going in Style, I Am Not Your Negro

I Am Not Your Negro (5*, 12A, 94mins)

A taste of horror: Justine (Garance Marillier) in Raw
A taste of horror: Justine (Garance Marillier) in Raw

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington has the lowdown on all this week's new releases - Raw, Table 19, Going in Style and I Am Not Your Negro.

Julia Ducournau's feature debut Raw (5*, 18, 99 mins) has been described as one of the most unsettling horror films ever made, but there's a whole lot more to it than that. It gets under your skin from the word go, as first year student Justine (Garance Marillier) arrives at a French provincial veterinary school.

Her elder sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf) is already in situ, but doesn't help Justine when she and the other first years are subjected to a humiliating hazing ritual. Justine, a lifelong vegetarian, is bullied into eating raw rabbit's kidney, unleashing a deep hunger for flesh that will have horrific repercussions.

Cannibalism is the subject at hand, folks, but Ducournau approaches the whole thing so stylishly and cleverly that it almost looks like fun. Everything in Raw seems terrifying: her camera ducks and dives through appalling Bacchanalian student raves, pauses lovingly over animal dissections and makes sex seem synonymous with slaughter. Not to be missed if you can bear it.

Given a right old kicking by the American critics, Table 19 limps into your local multiplex with little hope of lasting more than a week. But I think it's been unfairly treated, because it has heart, charm and a good cast. The ever-likeable Anna Kendrick is Eloise, who arrives at the wedding of her former best friend Kate to discover she's been seated at the worst table in the room.

Fragrant whiffs from nearby toilets engulf the diners on table 19, who all feel insulted.

Nanny Jo (June Squibb) lovingly tended to Kate and her brother Teddy (Wyatt Russell) as babies, but is now an unimportant footnote. Married couple Jerry and Bina (Craig Robinson, Lisa Kudrow) know exactly what their seating arrangement means, but are more interested in bickering with each other. And Walter (Stephen Merchant) is the bride's shamed uncle, who appears to be on day release. Most insulted of all is Eloise, who used to go out with Teddy but has now been exiled from the circle of trust. Help and solace will be provided by her table-mates.

Table 19 (3*, 12A, 87mins) starts slowly but pings to life once the diners have been assembled: Craig Robinson and Lisa Kudrow are excellent as the unhappy couple, and Stephen Merchant's comic timing as Walter is superb.

Going in Style (3*, 12A, 96mins) is your average geezer caper, a remake of a 1979 George Burns/Art Carney comedy most of you won't remember (I certainly didn't).

It has a bog standard plot, a workmanlike director (Zach Braff) and a cast of actors who've been around the block. But I for one would watch Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine

 and Alan Arkin in anything, and their performances make Braff's film more than watchable.

Joe (Caine), Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) are former colleagues at a steel plant. When their pension fund collapses, Joe persuades his buddies that the only way to save their homes is to rob the local bank.

Ann-Margret plays Albert's girlfriend, and Matt Dillon is a dim-witted cop, but it's Freeman, Caine and Arkin who make this film work: they're great together, and Arkin's comedy has lost none of its sharpness.

And finally, a word about Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro (5*, 12A, 94mins), an Oscar-nominated documentary which uses the life and words of writer James Baldwin as the starting point for a far-reaching visual investigation of the African-American experience. A brilliant debater and essayist, Baldwin was friendly with three of black America's most iconic leaders - Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

All were assassinated, and Baldwin's reflections on their lives and deaths are skilfully interwoven with images from Ferguson and the LA riots to demonstrate how depressingly little has changed.

Irish Independent

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