New film releases (09/06/2012)

 

Casa de Mi Padre (15) ***

Dir. Matt Piedmont

Stars Will Ferrell, Gael Garcia Bernal, 84mins

Will Ferrell's Spanish-language comic tribute to Mexican popular cinema and melodramatic telenovelas is surprisingly earnest, and even their continuity errors and misaligned edits, cheap special effects and lurid colours and costumes are mocked with affection. He plays another guileless man-child: this time a middle-aged virgin rancher who doesn't realise that his family's money comes from the drugs trade, and falls in love with his brother's fiancée.

The Innkeepers (15) ****

Dir. Ti West

Stars Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, 101mins

Ti West's follow-up to the superb retro horror film The House of the Devil takes place in the present day but has a similarly eerie out-of-time quality. It is set in one of those creaky American hotels that are rumoured to be haunted, and has vintage patterned wallpaper and carpets straight out of The Shining. West's patient approach to storytelling means that you get to know and like the bored young clerks overseeing the hotel's final week in business, who investigate paranormal activity on the sly. It also means that the film fully earns its comparison with The Shining.

The Pact (15) **

Dir. Nicholas McCarthy

Stars Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, 88mins

A low-budget ghost story about a young woman who moves back into her dead mother's suburban home, and slowly – oh so slowly – comes to realise that she isn't alone there. The build-up is muddled, but the spooky stuff is effective enough.

Red Tails (12A) **

Dir. Anthony Hemingway

Stars David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Elijah Kelley, 124mins

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of black US Air Force fighter pilots stationed in Italy during the Second World War, who had to combat institutional racism as well as the Luftwaffe. No doubt their efforts deserve to be memorialised with something other than this simplistic action movie, produced and personally financed by George Lucas and displaying his usual childish delight in special effects and explosions, and concomitant indifference to characterisation.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything (15) **

Dir. Crispian Mills

Stars Simon Pegg, Amara Karan, 100mins

The first film by the former frontman of the Britpop band Kula Shaker (and Hayley Mills' son), Crispian Mills, is an insistently quirky mock horror, adapted from a Bruce Robinson short story, about a writer whose research into Victorian killers has left him agoraphobic and paranoid. A one-hander for too much of its running time, its thin and unstructured screenplay and its director's overcompensatory tricks leave a mugging Simon Pegg exposed.

Sing Your Song (12A) ****

Dir. Susanne Rostock

104mins

Harry Belafonte is your highly personable host for this documentary about his own life, which establishes his significance as a black entertainer who reached a mainstream American audience during the era of segregation, before focusing on his political activism during the civil rights movement, in Apartheid-era South Africa, and today, when he continues to campaign on behalf of black America's imprisoned youth.

Woody Allen: a Documentary (15) ***

Dir. Robert B Weide

113mins

This film-by-film guide to the life and work of Woody Allen spans six decades, and finds that he is much the same neurotic but romantic figure as a 76-year-old director that he was as a 16-year-old 50-gags-a-day joke-writer for television. Which is pretty much the definition of an auteur.

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