Foxcatcher 2014 ***


Bennett Miller’s claustrophobic true story about athletics trainer John du Pont (Steve Carell) and his sinister input into the well-being of his charges is a cold, unlikable but intensely gripping drama. Channing Tatum sports some amusing late 80’s hairstyles as Mark Schwartz, a champion wrestler that Do Pont wants to prepare for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but Mark’s brother David (Mark Ruffalo) has his suspicious about the millionaire’s methods. Tatum, Ruffalo and particularly Carell turn in darkly shaded performances, and the looming violence of the finale is handled in a calm and un-exploitative way. Carell is frequently off-screen for long periods of the film, but his physical transformation makes Do Pont into an unnerving and domineering creation.


Unman, Wittering and Zigo 1971 ***


The unusual title comes from the last three names on a register called by idealistic teacher John Ebony (David Hemmings) in John Mackenzie’s adaptation of a play by Giles Cooper. Ebony takes up his post only to find the mood of the class is ugly; they hint at their collective responsibility for the death of Ebony’s predecessor, and it’s clear that Lower 5B have ominous plans for Ebony and his wife (Carolyn Seymour). Mackenzie’s film has a subversive feel for the mind-games of the pupils, and builds to some impressively tense scenes as Ebony’s dream job becomes a nightmare. There’s also a roll-call of British TV stars in support, from Barbara Lott (Ronnie Corbett’s mother in sitcom Sorry) to Tony Haygarth and Douglas Wilmer.

Gerry 2002 ***


Gus Van Sant seems to alternate his more Hollywood efforts with striking experimental work; this 2002 drama brings both world together as Matt Damon and Casey Affleck play two men called Gerry who find themselves lost in a desert with little water to sustain them. Plotwise, that’s about it; the script, co-written by Van Sant, Damon and Affleck is about how the layers of Gerry’s character are unpeeled by the situation, making the film a meditation on personality and identity. Based on a true-life murder, it’s no surprised that mortality lies ahead for one of the Gerry’s, but the patient long-shots employed by Van Sant and the strong performances from the leads make Gerry a curiosity worth seeking out.

Santa Sangre 1989 ***


Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mystical, violent meditations on life (El Topo, The Holy Mountain) are not for the faint-hearted, and his long-gestated comeback, Santa Sangre has the same surreal energy. A young Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky) is deeply traumatized by seeing his knife-throwing father cutting off his mother’s arms. Fenix has problems of his own as a result, and decides to revenge is mother by becoming her arms. Throw in such thematic oddities as a elephant funeral and Santa Sangre emerges as a surrealist classic, as bloody as any horror film but seemingly driven by a higher purpose. Produced by Claudio Argento, Dario’s brother, Santa Sangre is a limb-lopping, philosophical work that elicits admiration and disgust in equal measure.

Talk Radio 1988 ***


Long before internet chat-rooms, comments banks and twitter became the repositories for public hate and argument, talk radio was the front line when it came to racial disagreement, and Oliver Stone’s 1988 thriller goes straight for the jugular. In a film adapted from his own play, Eric Bogosian plays Barry Champlain, a shock jock based in Dallas whose show is a lightning rod for debate, anger and general public disaffection with modern life. Stone’s film takes inspiration from Stephen Singular’s book Talked To Death and draws on the murder of talk-show host Alan Berg, with Robert Richardson’s cinematography making something highly disturbing from the closed environment of the studio. Alec Baldwin is ideal as the pushy boss, while Michael Wincott is suitably disconcerting as the prank caller who gets invited tonto the show; Talk Radio is theatrical, but also compelling it its consideration of the extreme forces at work in modern-day USA.

Agatha 1978 ***


Early work from documentary director Michael Apted, before he moved to a Bond blockbuster level, this engaging curiosity features Vanessa Redgrave as Agatha Christie, and focuses on her eleven-day disappearance circa 1926. Dustin Hoffman is Wally Stanton, an American journalist determined to track down the truth, and Timothy Dalton is the obstructive, philandering husband who stands in his way. Agatha was part of 1970’s cinema’s yearning for the past, but serves up a crisp, well-acted period drama, with Hoffman and Redgrave convincing. Photographed by the great Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now)!content/71136/Agatha

Enter the Void 2011 ***


Gasper Noe’s 2011 phantasmagoria of drugged-up weirdness is something of an acquired taste, but its also ambitious, original and visually stunning. Over a 161 minute running time, Noe takes first persona cinema to new extremes, allowing audiences to see a Tokyo backdrop through the amphetamine-widened eyes of Oscar (Nathaniel Brown). Killed in a drug deal, Oscar’s spirit hovers over the city, observing the impact of his death on those around him. Occupying a territory somewhere between In The Realm of The Senses and 2001, the eye-popping visuals begin from the ridiculously self-promoting credits, and Noe’s no-hold-barred approach certainly delivers a shock to the system for unwary viewers.