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last update 14.Jun.12
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A Fantastic Fear of Everything
dir-scr Crispian Mills
prd Crispian Mills, Geraldine Patten
with Simon Pegg, Clare Higgins, Amara Karan, Paul Freeman, Alan Drake, Jane Stanness, Alice Orr-Ewing, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Kerry Shale, Jay Taylor, Elliot Greene, Zaak Conway
pegg release UK 8.Jun.12
12/UK Universal 1h40
A Fantastic Fear of Everything Strikingly designed and directed, this offbeat film feels like a one-man stage show as the entire story's told through an internal monolog. So while we enjoy the witty, skilled acting and filmmaking, we never really care what happens.

After a career writing children's books, Jack (Pegg) is working on a screenplay about gruesome 19th century serial killers, which has left him a quivering wreck afraid to leave his Hackney flat. He ventures out for a meeting with his agent (Higgins), who sets up a meeting with a producer. But this will mean visiting the launderette, which is his greatest fear. As the nightmare escalates, Jack phones his mentor (Freeman) for help, then finds his fate eerily entwined with a local cop (Drake) and a woman (Karan) doing her laundry.

With intense attention to detail, musician-turned-filmmaker Mills (son of Hayley and John) creates a funky black-comedy vibe, concentrating on Pegg's expressive face and stream-of-consciousness voice-over. Mills clearly loves the heavily art-directed mordant comedies of Tim Burton and the Coens (most notably Barton Fink) and also makes witty pop-culture nods to everything from Psycho to Knightrider. The eye-catching shabby, cluttered production design echoes Pegg's disheveled life and crippling paranoia. So the film makes us laugh, cringe and jump.

Amusing gags are casually scattered in the background of every scene, while more obvious hilarity comes from Jack's obsession with his mentor's theory that all murderers develop a mad-eyed stare. His mind races far ahead of reality, making ludicrous connections that are portrayed in Pegg's wildly spiralling eyes and flapping physicality. And menacing shadows lurk everywhere, as Jack's flat is a riot of creaking red doors, gloomy hallways and red herrings. In other words, there's a lot going on even though nothing much is happening.

Even in a wonderfully elaborate stop-motion animated sequence, this film's style swamps its intriguing substance. It would have more punch if Pegg performed this same script alone on a barren stage, because our imagination would fill in the gaps. This would also paper over the narrative excesses, which include crazy coincidences, illogical incidents and loaded revelations. As it gets increasingly nutty and horrific, the film is just too clever and detailed. Which leaves it feeling both long and dry.

15 themes, language, violence
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Late September
dir Jon Sanders
prd John Chappell
with Anna Mottram, Richard Vanstone, Charlotte Palmer, Bob Goody, Jan Chappell, Emma Williams, Sam Woodward, Douglas Finch, Seonaid Goody
vanstone and mottram release UK 15.Jun.12
11/UK 1h27
Late September Improvised by the actors, this exploration of relationships is original enough to get some attention and perhaps please fans of film as an art-form. But as a movie, it's far too pretentious and preachy, lacking both energy and a single character we remotely like.

While preparing for the 65th birthday party of her husband Ken (Vanstone), his wife Gillian (Mottram) repeatedly picks fights with him then regales their B&B guests (Palmer, Chappell and Williams) with discussions about the hopelessness of relationships. By the time she confronts the inarticulate Ken, asking, "Why do you hate me?", we understand that she's got a serious problem. But then so does everyone else, including their sailor friend Jim (Goody), who behaves like a greasy stalker, and their son Max (Woodward), whose relationship is in off-mode.

Apparently the actors inhabited some sort of narrative in rehearsals to create their characters and dialog, but the's no sign of a plot. Instead, it's a series of scenes shot in one long, simple take in which people talk about relationships, try to start or end relationships, and generally make each other feel dejected and miserable. The photography is as murky as the interaction, especially as night falls during the 24 hours covered by the film. Even the extended shots of trees, flowers and water wobbling in the breeze are minimalistic. And they're also pretty tedious.

Are we meant to make some sort of connection between the natural order of things? The end of the growing season and the impending winter? The innate cruelty of nature? The predictable cycles of everything, from foliage to human interaction? Let's hope the filmmakers had some reason for lingering so long on these uninspiring images, because otherwise you might think it was just padding to bring it up to feature length.

To be fair, the actors sometimes touch on something startlingly truthful, especially if you've been through an emotionally wrenching break-up. But the characters themselves are never believable, speaking in muttered pronouncements in an effort to convey Something Frightfully Meaningful about relationships. It's impressive that the filmmakers have managed to get this film onto the big screen, and fans of suggestively arty cinema will read all kinds of things into vacuous images. But it will leave most viewers cold.

15 themes, language
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Lovely Molly
dir-scr Eduardo Sanchez
prd Robin Cowie, Jane Fleming, Gregg Hale, Mark Ordesky
with Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis, Alexandra Holden, Field Blauvelt, Ken Arnold, Tara Garwood, Camilla Zaidee Bennett, Kevin Murray, Doug Roberts, Dan Manning, Daniel Ross, Brandon Thane Wilson
lodge and lewis release US 18.May.12,
UK 22.Jun.12
11/US 1h39

edinburgh film fest
Lovely Molly Eerie and atmospheric, this is yet another pointless point-of-view ghost thriller, like The Blair Witch Project (which was co-written and co-directed by Sanchez). There are some intriguing ideas here, but the script never makes anything interesting of them.

After their wedding, Molly and Tim (Lodge and Lewis) move into her creaky old family home. Her parents have died in a car crash, and Molly is clearly still unnerved, hearing loud noises in the basement and having bizarre dreams. Combined with Tim being away for work, this strains their young marriage. Molly's sister Hannah (Holden) tries to help when Tim's gone, but Molly's internal obsession is getting worse. And when she's alone, something seems to possess her, urging her to do increasingly horrific things.

Sanchez tells the story alternating between Molly's home-video diaries and shadowy scenes as she around the unnaturally dark house turning on lights to little effect and being freaked out by sudden weirdness. In her video recordings we also see odd things such as a Satanic-looking underground cellar and her voyeuristic spying on the neighbours. There's also what looks to be an evil green leather armchair, as well as a stash of drug paraphernalia that hits Molly in an area of weakness.

The vague, meandering narrative feels contrived, playing on demonic movie cliches without giving us anything to latch onto. There are several shuddery moments, but since we're allowed so little connection to Molly, it's more moody than scary. Lodge effectively portrays Molly's own terror, so the film feels less like a horror movie than an exploration of a young woman falling back into drug addiction and mental illness.

That said, the script and direction continually undermine this kind of sophisticated theme, mainly because Tim and Hannah can also hear the noises and smell the stench. Lewis and Holden play frightened convincingly, but we never understand why one of them doesn't just have her locked up for her own good. in other words, this is clearly just another murky, under-explained Blair Witch-style exploration of ghosts, possession and paranormal activity. But then it's made for audiences for whom eerie atmospherics and a few hideously unnerving jolts are enough.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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Your Sister’s Sister
dir-scr Lynn Shelton
prd Steven Schardt
with Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass, Mike Birbiglia, Mel Eslyn, Kate Bayley, Jeanette Maus, Jennifer Maas, Dori Hana Scherer, Evan Mosher, Steve Snoey, Jason Dodson
duplass, blunt and dewitt
release US 15.Jun.12,
UK 29.Jun.12
11/US 1h30


Your Sister's Sister As with Humpday, writer-director Shelton plays around with transgressive sexuality in this lively, watchable comedy-drama. The problem is that instead of dissipating, the underlying sense of homophobia is aggressively offensive this time.

A year after his brother's death, Jack (Duplass) has become best friends with his brother's ex Iris (Blunt), who suggests that he take some time out in her father's island cabin outside Seattle. When he arrives, Iris' sister Hannah (DeWitt) is there, nursing her pain from the breakup of a long-term relationship. After a few drinks they end up in bed, which is a problem for two reasons: Hannah is a lesbian who wants a baby, and Iris arrives the next day to tell her sister that she's in love with Jack.

After the opening scene, the film locks onto these three characters, whose relationships shift drastically over the next few days as the truth comes out. Each person has to deal with the revelation of a secret they wanted to keep, each badly hurts the one they love, and each must work out their feelings on their own before they know what to do next. All of this is played beautifully by the three central actors, who never hit a false note even when the script leaves them high and dry.

And this is the problem: the script isn't as thoughtful or honest as it pretends to be. As a director, Shelton is great at coaxing relaxed, authentic performances that feel largely improvised. So we believe the spicy interaction. But the more scripted elements ring glaringly false, overlaying the film with a sense of prudish moralising that undermines the more progressive themes these people are supposedly struggling with.

The fact that it seems perfectly natural for Hannah to leap into bed with her sister's best friend is an insult to anyone who has honestly grappled with sexuality (to say nothing of ethics). The way these apparently bright young people over-react to the mere idea of sex is almost laughable. And story's resolution is annoyingly simplistic. At least Humpday dealt with the issue of male intimacy even as it sidelined the more important themes at hand. This one leaves us with nothing to think about at all.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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