Killer Joe, William Friedkin, 102 mins (18)
Your Sister's Sister, Lynn Shelton, 90 mins (15)
The Amazing Spider-Man, Marc Webb, 136 mins (12A)

Want to murder your mother? You need Joe, the cop who moonlights as a killer

Be warned: William Friedkin's febrile film noir, Killer Joe, is funnier than most comedies, but its gobsmackingly vicious violence leaves most torture-porn movies looking like Postman Pat.

Set in and around a Texan trailer park, it's the southern-gothic tale of a small-time dope dealer, Emile Hirsch, who hits upon a simple way to pay back the money he owes a gangster: he'll have his mother murdered and collect the life insurance. His befuddled father, Thomas Haden Church, his slatternly stepmother, Gina Gershon, and even his wide-eyed sister, Juno Temple, go along with his plan. But as amoral as they are, they're nothing compared with Matthew McConaughey, a demonic police detective with a sideline in contract killing.

The actors are tremendous, and there's a dizzying script by Tracy Letts, a Pulitzer-winning playwright. His perverse sitcom can't quite transcend its off-Broadway origins, but not many plays have such a remarkable cast … or a climax that's so certain to make you lose your appetite.

If you crave something softer and sweeter after Killer Joe, then try Your Sister's Sister, a warm indie comedy from Lynn Shelton, the writer-director of Humpday. Essentially a three-hander, it stars Mark Duplass as a sarcastic slacker who's been on a downward spiral since the death of his brother a year earlier. His best friend (Emily Blunt) persuades him to take a sabbatical in her family's summer house, but his plans to get away from it all don't pan out. Blunt's half-sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) is already staying at the house, and Blunt drives up to join them the next day. What follows is an insightful, humane study of relationships between siblings and between men and women, with improvised dialogue that sounds like real speech, only funnier.

A mere 10 years on from the first of Sam Raimi's three Spider-Man films, The Amazing Spider-Man recounts Spidey's origin story all over again, with a new director (the appropriately named Marc Webb) and a new cast, but plenty of scenes that are almost identical to the ones we saw when Tobey Maguire was in the spandex. Still, after its slow and gloomy first hour, Webb's movie builds into an explosive superhero epic in its own right. It's darker and less kitsch than Raimi's trilogy, but Spider-Man himself (Andrew Garfield) has got his sense of humour back, quipping mid-fight just as he does in the comics. Twitchy, livewire Garfield is a great improvement on the morose Maguire, just as his love interest, Emma Stone, has more spark than terminally drippy Kirsten Dunst. I look forward to seeing them in the sequel, as long as it doesn't tell us how Spider-Man acquired his superpowers yet again.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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