Movie 43 (2013) – D-
Believe the buzz, this festival of renowned actors and relentless crudity is an absurdly ugly waste of time. I watched the version framed by kids excavating the internet for filth (worthless), but was mildly taken aback when the first two skits (involving misplaced testicles and cruel home-schooling) provided a few light giggles. However from there on in "Movie 43" is embarrassingly inept, failing in the remaining 80 minutes to provide anything resembling a formidable joke. It's also catastrophically immoral and artistically bankrupt, with some of the weakest punchlines I've ever seen committed to celluloid. Indulgent and offensive. AVOID
Stoker (2013) – A-
Playing like Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt" with a more artistic and gothic sensibility, "Stoker" is a compelling and incredibly shot coming of age story. Mia Wasikowska's enduring popularity within Hollywood remains a mystery to me (she's typically mediocre here), but Matthew Goode sizzles uneasily as an uncle who comes to stay following the death of her father. Park Chan-Wook frames every shot with foreboding and picturesque purpose, fully embracing the wonderfully inappropriate and edgy directions the screenplay lunges. It's trippily edited and effortlessly seductive, climaxing on a shocking but wholly memorable moment of maturation. Stunningly emotive and startlingly graphic.
Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013)– B
Reverently assembled prequel from an interesting director, who uses his love of the 1939 original and cinema as a whole to charming effect. Some of the casting is a bit iffy (Raimi clearly never saw "Max Payne", because despite her many talents Mila Kunis still doesn't convince as a badass), but in the title role Franco proves wonderfully suited to the flamboyant arrogance of the part, and keeps things fleet of foot and likable. Raimi directs with more edge than a Burton, so whilst the landscapes are vibrant and over-produced, the set-pieces and stakes manage to cultivate a sense of momentum and purpose. Commercially it resembles 2010's "Alice in Wonderland", but in practice "OZ" is a much more engaging work. Imperfect but consistently respectful to its source and fun on its own mega-budgeted terms.
All three films now available to rent & buy in the UK on DVD/BD/Digital Download
Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013