Ginger & Rosa (2012)

Ginger & RosaEvery teenager has felt like the world’s going to end at some point. The trick in Ginger & Rosa is that the end of the world is a very real possibility – it’s 1962, and as the Cold War clamps its icy grip around the world, a nuclear holocaust seems to be edging over the horizon.

Scared and confused, teens Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) attend anti-bomb rallies; which is nothing compared to the bomb that’s dropped when Rosa reveals she’s started sleeping with Ginger’s dad (Alessandro Nivola).

Metaphors run rampant in Ginger & Rosa, threatening to tip the film into all-out absurdity on numerous occasions. An intriguing, hit-and-miss, coming-of-age period drama, director Sally Potter’s film isn’t big on subtlety where the script’s concerned.

Luckily, it’s evident in spades in G&R’s spectacular collection of performances, with Fanning and Mad Men star Christina Hendricks (as her mother) delivering commendably tremulous turns. Both are American, but both wrap their tongues around a decent middle-English accent, and it’s through their wrought mother-daughter relationship that G&R really lives and breathes.

The same can’t be said of the teenage angst that G&R frequently falls back on. It’s been done better a hundred times over in other films, and it’s only Fanning’s formidable talent that keeps her character interesting despite the recurrent strop-throwing and fall-outs.

Sporting an eye-catching crop of red hair, Fanning’s the main reason you should seek out what is essentially a flimsy teen drama lifted by a fantastic cast. See it for Fanning, marvel at what a fantastic young actress she’s turning into, then hope she finds better material in the future. 3/5

Happy Happy (2010)

The hunt for happiness is miserable indeed, not least when it involves the seduction of your married neighbour.

Such is the predicament Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen) faces in Anne Sewitsky’s dramedy debut when, weary of her chilly marriage, she cosies up to hunky Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen).

The ensuing drama is typically Scandinavian in the best way possible – the setting’s beautiful, the tensions slow-burning. Meanwhile, musical interludes courtesy of a barbershop quartet lend a playful undertone.

Sweet but never saccharine, Happy Happy is as delicate as Kaja and just as endearing. 4/5

Via Total Film

For A Good Time, Call (2012)

If Bridesmaids proved anything, it’s that the girls can be just as filthy/depraved/unsubtle (delete where applicable) as the boys.

Taking that insight and dialling up the dirty, Jamie Travis’ comedy sees ex-college frenemies Lauren (Lauren Miller) and Katie (Ari Graynor) launch their own amateur phone-sex line: 1-877-MMM-HMM.

All right, it’s not up there with Bridesmaids but, thanks to a game Graynor (here channelling a young Bette Midler), a revolving door of cameos and some gloriously smutty pillow talk, For A Good Time delivers, yes, exactly that.

Via Total Film

Chronicle (2012)

Following on from the likes of Kick-Ass and Christopher Nolan’s Bat trilogy, Chronicle not only made superheroes (and, pivotally, supervillains) thrillingly plausible, it also did so without any silly costumes, A-list stars or – most impressively – wheelbarrows of cash (its budget: just $12m). That alone should earn the film our respect. Chronicle is more than an ambitious indie super-film, though. With its likeable characters and measured approach, it’s a human drama that slogs you right where it hurts.

Which isn’t bad for a film that capitalises on a dying fad – found footage – and makes it feel as vital and immediate as it ever was. Because for all its impressive action scenes – and they are impressive, not least the blockbuster climax – Chronicle never loses sight of the three guys at its core, all of whom react differently to their newfound superpowers. Of them all, Dane DeHaan smirks then seethes admirably, both updating the Carrie formula for a new generation and creating an intriguingly complex lead.

Word is that a sequel’s already being fast-tracked, but Chronicle doesn’t need one. It’s a perfectly self-contained contemporary tragedy with mysteries that should be left unsolved, and one of the best superhero films out there. Which, in today’s crowded market, is really quite something. 4/5

Via Grolsch Film Works

Ruby Sparks (2012)

As bright and likable as its titular lead, Ruby Sparks marks the triumphant return of Little Miss Sunshine co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who’ve not made a film in the six years since Sunshine nabbed two Oscars and a legion of fans. With its quirky narrative, Sparks recalls the very best of Woody Allen’s oeuvre (not least his recent Midnight In Paris), etching away at the inner workings of its romantic leads just as much as it observes their numerous trials and tribulations.

Paul Dano plays Calvin, an author who earned acclaim for his debut novel, but has been struggling for years to deliver his second work. Then he starts writing about a fictional girl called Ruby Sparks, who just so happens to be his ideal woman. Things take a turn for the weird, though, when Ruby (Zoe Kazan) appears in Calvin’s apartment one day, as if she’s always been there. Is he losing his mind? Or has he just managed to create an entire new person?

Like Little Miss Sunshine, Sparks is an indie comedy that’s as enamoured with making you laugh as it is getting under the skin of its lead characters. Inspired by the Greek Pygmalion myth – a sculptor falls in love with his sculptures – Sparks explores its nifty premise with intelligence and wit, examining the responsibility we have for those we love, and the danger of attempting to control them.

The cast is also a delight, with Kazan (who wrote the film’s script) delivering one of the freshest performances of the year. Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas also offer show-stopping support as Calvin’s hippie parents. It’s the chemistry between Dano and Kazan that really pops, though, and Ruby Sparks is a magical delight that never succumbs to romcom cliché. More, please. 4/5

Via Out In The City

Premium Rush (2012)

David Koepp has been the brains behind some of Hollywood’s smartest action thrillers, having scripted everything from Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible to Spider-Man and Panic Room. Premium Rush is the scribe’s fifth directing gig and a departure from his brainiest tension-ekers – as the film’s title suggests, Rush is less about the grey matter and more about the intoxicating adrenaline kick.

Set entirely on the streets of New York, Rush follows bike messenger Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he takes on a job delivering a package for Nima (Jamie Chung). When he’s accosted by Bobby (Michael Shannon), Wilee begins to suspect he’s carrying something very important – a suspicion that’s confirmed when Bobby turns out to be a crooked cop who’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on Wilee’s package (so to speak).

Zipping through the Big Apple on his two-wheeler, Gordon-Levitt is a likeably unconventional action hero. It’s not the kind of role JGL’s best known for, but the one-time Third Rock From The Sun actor has star quality to spare, and he turns the wattage up considerably for a role that’s as lean as the film itself.

Behind the camera, Koepp generally knows what he’s doing, too. The visuals are sleek and inventive, with tongue-in-cheek ‘hazard prediction’ sequences recalling Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films. Taking its cue from other NY-lover /Spider-Man/, Rush looks gorgeous and its sun-soaked streets vibrate with a fist-pumping soundtrack that includes The Who and My Chemical Romance.

You’ll want to leave your brain at the door, though – Rush’s attempts at a city-wide conspiracy are ambitious at best, convoluted at worst. When it comes to humour and breathless action, though, it generally delivers the goods. Fittingly, Koepp’s film is not unlike a sugar rush – it’s fun while it lasts, but it’s pretty forgettable once it’s over.  3/5

Via Out In The City