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last update 27.May.12
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All in Good Time
dir Nigel Cole
scr Ayub Khan-Din
prd Suzanne Mackie
with Reece Ritchie, Amara Karan, Harish Patel, Meera Syal, Arsher Ali, Neet Mohan, Shelley King, Amith Rahman
karan and ritchie release UK 11.May.12
12/UK 1h34
All in Good Time Based on the 1963 play Rafta Rafta, this lively comedy-drama is a story of delayed satisfaction in the Indian subculture in Bolton, northwest England. The characters and situations are entertaining, even if it all feels somewhat stagey and corny.

On the day of their colourful wedding, Atul and Vina (Ritchie and Karan) are endlessly delayed by family business, traditions and the drunken antics of Atul's father Eeshwar (Patel), which his patient mother Lopa (Syal) just about tolerates. And being in a room next to his parents makes their wedding night less than satisfying. But it gets worse when their honeymoon is cancelled. And the growing pressure - from helpful parents, nosey neighbours, work colleagues and Atul's cheeky title brother (Mohan) - to consummate the relationship is just too much to bear.

The film's bustling tone obscures the story's theatrical roots, even if most of the action takes place in the dialog. Right from the start, everything is so crazy-busy, and everyone speaks with the same smart-snappy voice, that we have to work to figure out the interconnections. That said, Ritchie and Karan are sexy and thoroughly endearing. We root for them to overcome the obstacles to their relationship, even if nothing seems nearly as traumatic as they think it is.

On the other hand, Eeshwar and Lopa are a bit less likeable. They're very well played by Patel and Syal, and in many ways the whole film belongs to Patel's frenzied comical performance. But just a moment of rational thought on Eeshwar's part would end all the melodrama, as would Lopa if she stood up to him instead of comically rolling her eyes and half-heartedly nudging him. Combined with some slapstick plotting and physical silliness, all of this makes the film feel like a sitcom stretched to feature length.

As the farcical rom-com escalates, the story touches on some genuinely resonant themes, including Atul's crisis of confidence and some rather dark issues he has with his father. And there's also a gentle exploration of the clash between the European and old-country cultures. But in the end it's all a bit simplistic, resolving into a cute little tale of a couple trying desperately to block out the chaos around them and start their life together.

12 themes, language, sexuality, some violence
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The Angels’ Share
dir Ken Loach
scr Paul Laverty
prd Rebecca O'Brien
with Paul Brannigan, John Henshaw, Gary Maitland, William Ruane, Jasmin Riggins, Roger Allam, Siobhan Reilly, Scott Kyle, Charlie Maclean, David Goodall, Jim Sweeney, Roderick Cowie
riggins, ruane, brannigan and maitland release UK 1.Jun.12
12/UK 1h41

the angels' share Oddly structured like a whisky tasting, this film cycles through moods from the first taste to the full flavour to the final kick. It's a bit under-developed, but the characters are lively, the settings enjoyable and the message important.

In Glasgow, Robbie (Brannigan) narrowly escapes a lengthy prison sentence and is assigned to community payback under the supervision of Harry (Henshaw). At the same time, Robbie's girlfriend (Reilly) is about to give birth to their son, forcing him to rethink his life as a street thug. After Harry introduces him to single-malt whisky, Robbie decides to further explore whisky-tasting with his fellow workers (Maitland, Ruane and Riggins). And after meeting whisky broker Thaddeus (Allam), he hatches an idea that might get them all out of trouble.

Through tone changes and lost plot-threads, the story's transitions aren't very smooth. The film opens as a dark doc-style drama about poor young people stuck in a cycle of violence, then changes into a tale of youthful hope and camaraderie before finally turning into a full-on caper comedy. All of this is written and performed to realistically reveal the issues, settings and characters as it veers between humorous slapstick, serious drama and a surprisingly tense heist.

The actors give likeable performances even when characters drift toward stereotype. At the centre, Brannigan's engaging stillness reflects Robbie's internal turmoil. Pressured from all sides, we root for him to channel his inner rage into something positive. That this turns out to be whisky feels gimmicky (the title refers to the portion that evaporates during distillation), but this world so rarely seen on-screen that we don't mind. Although the fact that a crime releases him from a life of crime is frankly dodgy.

As the story progresses, the growing camaraderie between Robbie and his pals is entertaining, as is his clear joy at fatherhood and the respect he has for Harry, the person who finally gave him a chance to straighten out. Yes, all of this is rather tidy, and perhaps not so hopeful for viewers who feel like they never had a chance like this. But the point is subtly made that it's useless to complain about low-life youth if you're not willing to do something, however small it seems, to set them on a better path.

15 themes, language, violence
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The Innkeepers
dir-scr Ti West
prd Derek Curl, Larry Fessenden, Peter Phok, Ti West
with Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis, Alison Bartlett, George Riddle, Lena Dunham, Brenda Cooney, Jake Schlueter, John Speredakos, Sean Reid, Kurt Venghaus, Thomas Mahoney
paxton and healy release US 3.Feb.12,
UK 8.Jun.12
11/US 1h41
The Innkeepers Like a late-1970s haunted house thriller, this film subdues its scares, filling the screen with red herrings and off-handed comedy while building a creepy atmosphere. Yet while there are several genuinely chilling moments, the story never quite comes to life, as it were.

Claire and Luke (Paxton and Healy) aren't taking their last weekend on the job seriously. The hotel they work in is closing, so they're trying to finally get proof of a legendary ghost. They only have two guests: an angry mother (Bartlett) and her young son (Schlueter). Then a former actress (McGillis) arrives, who turns out to have some psychic abilities. And an older man (Riddle) also checks in, asking for a specific room on the closed-off floor. Meanwhile, Claire is starting to think that the ghost might be real.

Essentially this is a mumblecore comedy with moments of horror woven in. Claire and Luke are hilarious slackers who hate the annoying next-door barista (the annoying Dunham) and delight in scaring each other. They're nicely played by Paxton (who's like a young Reese Witherspoon) and Healy as likeable idiots you'd never want to spend five minutes with. Meanwhile, McGillis gets the balance right for her character's lifelong impatience with fans as well as her interest in the afterlife.

Along the way writer-director West keeps things tightly under control, dropping hints about what's coming while leaving other threads dangling enigmatically. The camerawork, editing and especially the music let us know when we're supposed to be scared, although this is often a trick to get us to jump at an unexpected noise. And the hotel setting is terrific, familiar but eerie, with plenty of door-lined corridors and a particularly scary basement.

So it's a shame that the script waits so long before grabbing hold of us. The only true freak-out moments come at the very end, and along the way there are long stretches that feel rather dull and superfluous, with several sequences that add nothing at all to the plot. Sure, all of this lets us get to know the characters better, but it doesn't build the required sense of dread. And it leaves the final act feeling both underdeveloped and rather trite.

15 themes, language, violence
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Top Cat: The Movie
2/5   Don Gato y Su Pandilla
dir Alberto Mar
scr Kevin Seccia, Tim McKeon
prd Fernando de Fuentes, Jose C Garcia de Letona
voices Jason Harris, Bill Lobely, Chris Edgerly, Melissa Disney, Bob Kaliban, Matthew Piazzi, Ben Diskin, Fred Tatasciore, Jim Conroy
trixie and top cat
release Mex 16.Sep.11,
UK 1.Jun.12
11/Mexico Anima 1h30
top cat Produced in Mexico and Argentina because of Latin America's obsession with Don Gato, this revival of the Hanna Barbera cartoon maintains the wacky tone even if there's nothing clever or particularly skilled in the script or animation. At least it's nutty, nostalgic fun.

Top Cat (voiced by Harris) is the con-artist leader of a New York alley-cat gang that's relentlessy pursued by nice-guy Officer Dibble (Lobely). But just as "TC" meets the purring Trixie (Disney), the even more ambitious conman Strickland (also Harris) takes over as police chief, converting the force to robots who do his bidding while he watches on a network of invasive surveillance cameras. He also manages to send TC to Dog Prison, forcing the gang to work out a rescue plan without their leader.

OK, the plot is gibberish. The whole point of these characters is their snappy wit or lack thereof: TC is a good-hearted grifter leading a pack of idiots. And the film focusses a lot more on numbskull stupidity than clever jokes. Fortunately for anyone in the audience with a brain, there is a very light dusting of smart humour throughout the film, with a few funny punchlines and some amusing visual gags. But most of the film is pretty ridiculous.

It doesn't help that the animation is adequate at best. Instead of punching images into three-dimensional figures (putting adding the 3D), the characters are still flat cutouts, with only some cursory added shading. Oddly, it's rather refreshing to see something that looks so strikingly different, even if it's sometimes very ropey (some of the 3D makes our heads hurt). But it's at least colourful and busy, and is much closer to that classic Hanna Barbera look than the Scooby-Doo or Yogi Bear movies.

Even so, the film's underwritten script and dated message (Strickand's obsession with technology is his downfall) leave us uninterested and uninvolved. And the kids will get rather restless too, since everything is so pointless and predictable. But there are moment when you see the rather enjoyable film that could have been made with this character. So at least the movie doesn't destroy all hope. And our memories remain intact.

U themes, violence
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall