Only God Forgives (2013) (B+)
Smouldering hotbox of a film from “Drive” director Nicolas Winding-Refn, “Only God Forgives” suffers from matters of inaccessibility, but thrives in the company of those who can engage with its testy aesthetic and narrative nothingness. It’s a film of supreme moodiness, lit in dangerous reds and backed by daunting black spaces, with characters defined by action and belief, rather than oneness with any sort of identifiable reality. Absolution of sin and the hunt for justice power the basic storytelling faculties, whilst performers Ryan Gosling, Vithaya Pansringarm and especially Kristen Scott Thomas as a seedy matriarch, hold the fort with subdued strength. You could potentially accuse Refn of occasionally becoming overly absorbed in questions of style and meaning at the expense of coherent rapport with his audience, but it’s a small price to pay for something so striking and deeply memorable. Much like Refn’s previous features, “Only God Forgives” is laced with harsh violence, albeit the bloodshed is communicated with depth and artistry.
Much Ado about Nothing (2012) (B)
Cheerful Shakespearean romp from Joss Whedon, which benefits from his lightness of touch and talent for casting. The film’s rich black and white palette subtly disguises its budgetary restrictions, as does the presence of a lovely setting (modern Hollywood housing as provided by Monsieur Whedon) and a group of competent actors who appear to be having a lot of fun. Honours the source material craftily by retaining the sound of its author’s writing, but is gifted a modern tweak thanks to the director’s mischievous sense of humour. As self-important Benedick, Alexis Denisof is the scene-stealer, although Whedon favourites Fran Kranz, Nathan Fillion and Clark Gregg also get moments to shine.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013) (B)
Legendary British TV character makes his way to bigger screens with pleasingly above average results. Steve Coogan applies enough affection to his reappraisal of Norfolk Radio DJ Alan Partridge to gift proceedings a healthy glow of nostalgia, without relying on old jokes. It’s the same figure, just in a different era, and that general gist is enough to see Partridge through his first (and likely only) cinematic foray. Director Declan Lowney never manages to eclipse the character’s TV origins visually, but there are plenty of giggles to be had here, many of which support a refreshingly smart voice. Good, solid fun.
Reviews by Daniel Kelly, 2013