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last update 4.Sep.13
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Hammer of the Gods
dir Farren Blackburn
scr Matthew Read
prd Rupert Preston, Huberta Von Liel
with Charlie Bewley, Clive Standen, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Guy Flanagan, Michael Jibson, James Cosmo, Alexandra Dowling, Elliot Cowan, Glynis Barber, Ivan Kaye, Finlay Robertson, Francis Magee
bewley and friends release US 5.Jul.13,
UK 30.Aug.13
13/UK Vertigo 1h35

fright fest
Hammer of the Gods The low-budget production values and a rather messy Game of Thrones meets Braveheart script might make this film feel extremely corny, but at least it tries to tell an interesting story without the usual Hollywood bombast. It's also shot in spectacular locations with a darkly gritty tone that keeps the focus on the characters.

In AD 871 Britain, the Viking King Bagsecg (Cosmo) is fatally injured just as he is preparing to take on the Saxons. From his deathbed, he commissions his third son Steinar (Bewley) to find his eldest son Hakan (Cowan), who has gone native somewhere in England. While second son Harald (Robertson) holds the fort, Steinar and his fighter pals (Standen, Flanagan and Jibson) take younger half-brother Vali (Barklem-Biggs) on a quest to find Hakan. But what they encounter changes the way Steinar sees his past and his future.

The plot is a series of small skirmishes, limited by the cast of tens as bands of black-clad Saxons continually ambush Steinar's intrepid gang, picking them off one by one. Along the way the Vikings continually have their beliefs challenged, as they rely on their gods to help them conquer the Christian Britons. But Steinar has rejected religion and superstition and turned to reason, which puts him at odds with his own men.

These are interesting themes for such a blunt-minded film, which otherwise struggles to generate much momentum through the series of grisly mini-battles and shouty arguments. But the landscapes give a greater scope to the action, while the filmmakers continually add character details in an attempt to develop our interest. But there's never much to any of these people, who each have one defining characteristic. And Steinar's arc isn't very surprising, even though it has its moments.

At least the cast members do what they can with their thinly developed roles and make the most of the low-key action, which is earthy and often startlingly brutal. The period details feel rather generic, and the parent-child and sibling themes never really amount to much. But everything combines to help push the events slowly forward to a rabble-rousing climax that's ripe with possibilities for a bigger-budget sequel. But the movie isn't satisfying enough to make that very likely.

18 themes, language, violence
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I Do
dir Glenn Gaylord
scr David W Ross
prd Stephen Israel, David W Ross
with David W Ross, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Alicia Witt, Maurice Compte, Jessica Brown, Mickey Cottrell, Patricia Belcher, Grant Bowler, Mike C Manning, Pollyanna McIntosh, Ashleigh Sumner, Caryn West
ross and sigler release US 31.May.13,
UK 28.Oct.13
12/US 1h31

london l&g film fest
I Do Although it's somewhat overcomplicated, this romantic drama touches on some big issues while telling an engaging story about an interesting collection of characters. Even when the script pushes its themes too far, it's anchored by realistic people in strongly identifiable situations

After his brother (Bowler) dies, New York fashion photographer Jack (Ross) puts his life on hold to help his sister-in-law Mya (Witt) raise her daughter Tara (Brown). Seven years later, he finds out that his visa isn't being renewed, and he can't bear to return home to Britain, where he knows no one. Since he's gay, his last option is to ask his best friend and colleague Ali (Sigler) to marry him. But things quickly get complicated, as Jack meets charming Spaniard architect Mano (Compte) and the US immigration officials begin their investigation.

The film is nicely shot, with a relaxed pace and grounded characters. Director Gaylord maintains a natural and engaging tone without tipping over into pushy emotions or preachy moralising, although there are some overdramatic plot points. Intriguingly, the most involving aspect is the way Jack begins to doubt his lifestyle, rejecting promiscuity and longing for a marriage that lasts into old age. The relationship with Mano gets off to an unusually slow start, which adds weight to their gently growing bond.

Performances are equally understated. Muscly and almost too handsome, Ross is easy to identify with as he lets various issues gurgle around in the back of his mind. His chemistry with Sigler and Witt is realistically warm and uneven, strained by various issues even as they have a solid bond with each other. Which kind of makes the encroaching jealousies a little hard to believe. More convincing Jack's complete failure to notice Ari's loneliness.

As things heat up, the film gets rather melodramatic. Both Jack and Ari neglect their friendship, to say nothing of their marriage, and things become even more complicated for Jack in his relationships with both Mya and Mano. But even as things get a bit overwrought, the decisions everyone needs to make are genuinely wrenching. There isn't an easy path through this situation for any of them, and each does something they're likely to regret. Which gives the film an emotionally resonant kick.

15 themes, language
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dir-scr Amit Gupta
prd Amanda Faber, Isabelle Georgeaux, Richard Holmes, Nikki Parrott
with Amara Karan, Harish Patel, Kulvinder Ghir, Tom Mison, Madhur Jaffrey, Nikesh Patel, Ray Panthaki, Adeel Akhtar, Paul Bazely, Shane Zaza, Sophiya Haque, Nishil Saujani
ghir, karan and patel release UK 6.Sep.13
13/UK 1h24

Jadoo Colourful and engaging, this subculture comedy keeps us smiling with a mouth-watering mix of delicious food and lively characters. On the other hand, the film feels somewhat undercooked, as writer-director Gupta strangely misses the chance to stage a couple of climactic scenes.

Shalini (Karan) is thrilled that her boyfriend Mark (Mison) has asked her to marry him. But this brings up a big family issue that she now needs to confront: 10 years earlier, her father Raja (Patel) and Uncle Jadi (Ghir) fell out, closing the family's Indian restaurant and opening their own rival eateries instead. But Raja is an expert in starters while Jadi specialises in mains, so Shalini wants both of them to prepare the perfect wedding feast. And to patch up whatever it is that made them arch enemies.

Set in Leicester's Golden Mile, acclaimed for the finest Indian food in Britain, the film (the title means "magic") playfully cooks up a spicy mixture of English and Indian cultures. Raja might prefer an Indian son-in-law, but he's happy that Mark makes Shalini happy. On the other hand, his pride won't allow him to speak to his brother. But Gupta's script stops short of really diving into this melting pot; it remains focused on the surfaces.

He also stirs in plot points that push characters in convenient directions. For example, a cookery contest judged by iconic chef Jaffrey forces the brothers to work together, while a shady restaurant owner (Panthaki) becomes a common enemy. And as a director Gupta simply skips over two potential high points. A depiction of the intensely colourful Holi festival is wildly energetic but stops just before it gets truly exhilarating. And the whole movie ends just before what should have been a big show-stopper sequence: Shalini and Mark's wedding.

That said, the film is packed with warm and witty scenes that allow the likeable cast to create sympathetic characters we can root for. Even the minor side characters are interesting, and we are consistently entertained as we watch them interact in ways that are funny, tetchy, awkward and emotional. But it's the food that really gets to us: mouthwatering dishes that will make us want to run to the nearest curry house the moment we leave the cinema.

PG themes, language
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dir Andrew Douglas
scr Mike Walden
prd Simon Crocker, Steve Golin, Peter Heslop, Bryan Singer, Jason Taylor
with Jamie Blackley, Toby Regbo, Joanne Froggatt, Jaime Winstone, Liz White, Mark Womack, Louise Delamere, Stephanie Leonidas, Amy Wren, James Burrows, Mingus Johnston, Jack Lowden
pope and ferdinando
release UK 6.Sep.13
13/UK 1h33

edinburgh film fest
Uwantme2killhim? A true story is turned into an eerily relevant cyber-thriller that remains grounded in sympathetic characters rather than a formulaic movie plot. And the central mystery has an unpredictable edge that makes the story even more shocking as various thematic layers are explored.

Mark (Blackley) is one of the cool kids at his North London school. When not seeing girls, he spends evenings avoiding his parents (Womack and Delamere) to chat online to Rachel (Winstone), a local teen in witness protection due to her thug boyfriend (Johnston). When Rachel asks Mark to keep an eye on her little brother John (Regbo), the target of the school bully (Burrows), Mark and John strike up a friendship. But when Rachel vanishes, Mark starts chatting online to an MI5 operative (White) who convinces him that he needs to take violent action.

The 2003 setting is important as it draws on the urgency of both 9/11 and Columbine to create a crisis for Mark. And since the film is crosscut with the investigation of a tenacious detective (Froggatt), we understand from the start that someone has been messing with Mark all along. These people he chats to online are clearly creations of his imagination, although someone has to be behind it all. And as the facts come into focus, we really feel Mark's crushing return to reality.

All of this is nicely played by the sharply engaging Blackley, who balances Mark's charisma with his yearning to be part of something bigger than himself by first falling for this broken woman and then making what he sees as a heroic move. Mark isn't stupid: he's naive. And he's nicely mirrored by Regbo, as a more timid, awkward version of himself. Their scenes together have strong chemistry that warmly hints at more than a mentor-student relationship.

Everyone else on-screen is essentially seen through Mark's eyes, so their performances are somewhat heightened. This helps us see through the haze of his own perspective. And director Douglas shoots and edits the film skilfully, infusing the mundane London locations with a dark intensity. The film may not have the gut-punch of the similarly themed Compliance, but as we put ourselves in Mark's place, the movie becomes rather terrifying.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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