Sunday 19 November 2017

Twilight star Stewart takes off Jett to a tee


Aine O'Connor, Padraic McKiernan and Hilary A White

The Runaways

Cert: 16

We're unsure if Kristen Stewart (of the Twilight saga) was born with that "I'm so over it" expression on her face. What is for certain is that her sulky pout suits this portrayal of Seventies poprock brat Joan Jett down to the ground.

The Runaways were part-manufactured by rock svengali Kim Fowley, who moulded the LA quintet into a libidinous all-girl teen outfit, trading as much on image as on garage-rock din.

Playing opposite Stewart is Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie, the band's singer who eventually succumbed to LA's hedonism. They cut striking resemblances to Jett and Currie and even break into a sizzle here and there as their romantic bond is tainted by differing career goalposts and substance abuse.

Unfortunately, they are put in the corner during any scene shared with Michael Shannon's rollicking turn as the flamboyant Fowley.

Based on Currie's memoir Neon Angel, The Runaways is a by-numbers rock biopic and throws up few surprises. You've got the precocious ambitions, the absurdly quick rise to proficiency, the fame, the drugs and the bickering. In the last act of the film we see Currie, post-burnout, working in a hardware store and overhearing Jett's globe-gobbling new single I Love Rock 'n' Roll during a radio interview. She calls up the station and awkwardly greets her estranged partner in crime. An abrupt and clumsy coda, but an oddly fitting one too.


Now showing nationwide

Tamara Drewe

Cert 15A

YOU don't need to be an authority on the lives of major writers to know that lust, lechery and a literary vocation are often intimate, er... bedfellows. And the characters in Tamara Drewe, director Stephen Frears thoroughly enjoyable comedy do little to detract from that racy stereotype. Adapted from Posy Simmond's comic strip (in turn inspired by Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd), the action centres on a rural writer's retreat run by Beth Hardiment (Tamsin Greig) and her philandering husband Nicholas (Roger Allam), a highly successful purveyor of pulp fiction.

The current crop of scribes enjoying the delights this pastoral enclave has to offer include Glen (Bill Camp) a high-brow American struggling with writer's block and a pretentious poet (John Bett).

Things take a turn for the Bacchanalian with the arrival of the bodacious Tamara Drewe (Gemma Arterton). Tamara left the retreat years earlier with a prominent proboscis and a reputation for dizziness but a triumphant return complete with nose job and a sexy new career as a national newspaper columnist sets the cat among the proverbials. The ranks of the smitten include local yokel studmuffin Andy (Luke Evans), the aforementioned "Nichol-ars" and Ben (Dominic Cooper) an obnoxious rock musician. Throw in a hilarious comic cameo from Jessica Barden as a local teen queen and you're left with a recipe for a kick-ass comedy confection.

And so it proves. Terrific performances together with a script studded with caustic, satirical slingshots combine to forge an end product that bristles with comic verve and flair. Barden excels but Arterton steals the show, while Frears's deserves great credit for delivering that all-too-rare experience -- a spectacle that encourages the use of words like "intelligent" and "comedy"in the same sentence. Disposable, but undeniably fab while it lasts.


Now showing nationwide

Resident Evil: Afterlife

Cert 15A

Alice (Milla Jovovich) worked for the Umbrella Organisation before it all went wrong and a virus escaped turning the entire world population into zombies. An army of Alices (she got a different virus) comes seeking revenge. Along the way Alice is converted back into a human and heads off in search of survivors she met in previous Resident Evil films, all of whom were on the way to Arcadia, a haven in Alaska.

But there is no haven, just one of her friends Claire (Ali Larter) with a strange robot spider on her chest and no memory. In a ravaged LA the gals meet a motley crew of survivors on a skyscraper island in a sea of peckish zombies. These survivors can see Arcadia, which is in fact a ship moored off the LA coast. But what with one thing and another they have to shoot loads, dodge stuff, blow up zombies... and gosh darn it, it's all a trap anyway.

Paul WS Anderson has directed all four of these Resident Evil game spin-offs with reasonable success, ie good box office, poor critique.

Fans of the franchise will perhaps enjoy this, but no-one else will. It's lazy, ridiculously scripted, with simplistic special effects and 3D just means you get bits of mashed zombie flying at you while you wear stupid glasses. It's not especially gory despite a death count in the squillions, the slow-motion flips are annoying and there is virtually no suspense. An acquired taste.


Now showing nationwide

The Last Exorcism

Cert 15A

Who said the devil just gets the best tunes? The evidence of super-scary feature, The Last Exorcism, adds substance to the suspicion that he also gets the best movies.

Mimicking the mockumentary format Ricky Gervais used in The Office, and taking Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as the eerie backdrop, this Daniel Stamm-directed feature centres on a couple of tumultuous days in the life of evangelical preacher and part-time exorcist Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian).

He's stopped believing long ago in exorcism but needs to pay the bills. Part of his motivation for making the documentary that fuels the narrative is the hope that by coming clean on the tricks of the trade, he'll achieve a degree of personal redemption.

When he gets a letter from a farmer who believes his daughter is possessed, Marcus sees this as the perfect opportunity to expose the scam. Naturally, it isn't long before he finds himself in way over his rotating head as it were.

Impeccable performances, the creeptastic setting and the distressing nature of the subject matter combine to create an experience guaranteed to set spines tingling. Understated humour and unadulterated horror have rarely been used to such good effect.


Now showing nationwide

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