New releases 04/08/2012: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, London: the Modern Babylon, A Simple Life, Sound of My Voice, Undefeatedm The Flowers of War, Eames: the Architect & the Painter, Leave It on the Floor and Truth or Dare

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Dog Days (U)

**

Dir. David Bowers
Starring Zachary Gordon,  Robert Capron, 94mins

Another episodic series of misfortunes and indignities befall Greg Heffley, the fairly charmless hero of these adaptations of Jeff Kinney’s children’s novels. He  embarrasses himself in  front of his teenage crush;  has to join his father in a  Civil War battle re-enactment; loses his trunks in the swimming pool, and so on.

 

London: the Modern Babylon (15)

****

Dir. Julien Temple, 128mins

This beautifully crafted mosaic of archival footage  is almost as multifaceted as its subject, but key themes emerge: the continued significance of London’s former position at the  hub of Empire; and the historically dynamic and ever-changing multi- cultural composition  of its population. Eisenstein himself would have been proud of Julien Temple’s montage technique, and there are some inspired audio-visual juxtapositions.

 

A Simple Life (PG)

****

Dir. Ann Hui
Starring Andy Lau,  Deannie Yip, 118mins

An unmarried Hong Kong film producer and the long-term maid who helped raise him begin a new phase of their relationship after she has a stroke and he must begin to take care of her as well as himself. A variously wry, compassionate and tender drama about old  age and familial bonds.

 

Sound of My Voice  (15)

***

Dir. Zal Batmanglij
Starring Brit Marling,  Christopher Denham, 85mins 

Two young documentary film-makers infiltrate a cult  of white-robed new-agers  led by a beautiful young woman (Another Earth’s Brit Marling) who claims to have arrived in the present from the year 2054. Is she a fraud? Is she dangerous? What’s happening to the film-makers’ sceptical objectivity? Who is that creepy young child? Will we ever get the answers to these questions? Does the world need another M Night Shyamalan?

 

Undefeated (12A)

****

Dir. Daniel Lindsay +  TJ Martin, 113mins 

Undefeated is about Bill Courtney, a volunteer football coach mentoring underprivileged black boys in Memphis. And how, by instilling in them qualities such as discipline and co-operation, he is able to turn around not just their football season but their whole lives. A cross between Hoop Dreams and The Blind Side, it was a worthy, albeit predictable winner in the Best Documentary category at the 2012 Oscars.

 

The Flowers of War (15)

*

Dir. Zhang Yimou
Starring Christian Bale, Ni Ni, 142mins

Zhang Yimou has aestheticised warfare before, in period martial-arts epics such as Hero. But it becomes problematic in a film about still contested recent history such as the 1937 Nanking Massacre. There’s something downright creepy about this film’s mix of rape, gunfire and visual exoticism. And something simplistic and disingenuous about the whole story, a fictional episode in which Christian Bale’s white American tries to save some Chinese children from the depraved Japanese invaders.

 

Eames: the Architect  & the Painter (12A)

***

Dir. Jason Cohn + Bill Jersey, 84mins

A documentary about the designer and architect Charles Eames, with special emphasis on the significant contribution to their legacy that was made by his wife, the artist Ray Eames.

 

Leave It on the Floor  (15)

**

Dir. Sheldon Larry
Starring Ephraim Sykes,  Andre Myers, 101mins

A low-budget musical  about a young gay black man’s introduction to the New York ball culture, in which drag queens form surrogate families called houses for which they  vogue and have other competitive dance-offs.  Brash and colourful, but  also amateurish.

 

Truth or Dare (15)

*****

Dir. Robert Heath
Starring David Oakes,  Jennie Jacques, 95mins

A gang of detestable, privileged students get their comeuppance in a cabin in the English countryside, in this utterly unconvincing and weirdly homophobic low-budget British torture porn.

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