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last update 26.Apr.15
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Drink Me
dir-scr Daniel Mansfield
prd Daniel Mansfield, Richard Mansfield
with Darren Munn, Emmett Friel, Chris Ellis-Stanton
munn and friel
release UK 27.Apr.15
14/UK 1h14
Drink Me This gothic-style thriller is so contained that it sometimes feels like it might have made a better short than a feature. But using just three characters, minimal dialog and an almost subliminal plot, writer-director Mansfield builds a superbly effective freak-out, deploying clever camerawork, editing and music to create something sensual and suggestive.

All loved-up, James (Friel) proposes to his boyfriend Andy (Munn) one morning, but Andy thinks getting married is a bad idea since he has just lost his job. He's also having bizarre dreams after finding a music box and hiding it in their home. In need of some cash, they rent their spare room to Sebastian (Ellis-Stanton), who has a mysterious job as a bouncer. Now Andy's dreams include Sebastian in a combination of sexually charged and violent scenarios. And as Andy's relationship with James is strained, he begins to believe Sebastian is a vampire.

Mansfield has a great time juxtaposing imagery of this happy, steamy couple with darkly insinuating glimpses of danger all around them. In fact, there are probably more cutaways in this film than actual scenes. But this is so artfully done that it stirs up a vivid, sometimes scary sense of emotional intensity while also covering up the clearly low budget. In other words, what's essentially a mundane story about two nice young guys is soaked in psychotic overtones as this flirtatious stranger moves into their home.

Thankfully, everything is also infused with an offhanded wit that makes each encounter between these three men feel charged with possibility. Ellis-Stanton plays Sebastian as a dark horse who shamelessly taunts both Andy and James, while Munn and Friel being layers of desire and fear to their roles. All three actors spend rather a lot of time naked and convey more about their characters when they're not speaking, mainly because what's said has little to do with what's happening. This makes the entire movie feel internalised, spicing up the three-way chemistry in unexpected ways.

There are more than a few faintly ridiculous touches along the way, including the fact that it becomes impossible to tell how much of this is only taking place in Andy's mind. But the creepy momentum and emotional undercurrents hold the interest. And the premise is intriguingly timely, as this couple is forced by economics to allow a outsider into their life, making them feel awkward in their own home. And as the distance between them grows, their desire to return to normal is startlingly resonant.

18 themes, sexuality
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dir-scr Simon Blake
prd Colette Delaney-Smith, Zorana Piggott
with Aidan Gillen, Jonathan Slinger, Elodie Yung, Amanda Mealing, Sonny Green, Kate Ashfield, Joseph Duffy, Caroline Ford, Sam Hazeldine, Pedro Caxade, Emeka Sesay, Luke Saggers
gillen and the gang release US 1.Mar.15,
UK 8.May.15
14/UK 1h39
Still This British drama is so heavily stylised and awkwardly surreal that it's impossible to connect with on any level. Writer-director Blake's achievement is definitely artistic, but he struggles to keep the story resonant, simply because the tone of the imagery and acting is so artificial.

A year after his teen son's accidental death, Carver (Gillen) hasn't got his life back on track. Living in squalor, he at least has a hot girlfriend in Christina (Yung), a warm relationship with his ex Rachel (Mealing) and a job taking school portraits. He is also mentoring 10-year-old Jimmy (Duffy) in old-style photography. But a clash with a youth gang leads to an escalating war. And as the violence increases and the police are unable to solve the problem, Carver's journalist pal Ed (Slinger) suggests that he takes matters into his own hands.

When this vigilante plot takes over from the more intriguing dark drama, the film essentially derails. It's simply impossible to believe that these events have led to this, so the way everything develops feels exaggerated. Filmmaker Blake combines a low-key, often morose tone with quirky-arty camerawork, which is intriguing but eerily indulgent. For example, Carver's flat is designed as achingly colourful but utterly filthy, so it's impossible to imagine the glamorous Christina walking in the door let alone living there.

Blake further strains to be cool by having Carver use an old-style camera and process the film in his vile bathroom, which is a ludicrous undertaking for a school yearbook. Especially since Carver is always drunk, played full-on by Gillen as a bundle of smiley-nervous physical tics. Both Mealing and Yung struggle to generate any proper emotional connection with him, as each encounter strains for meaning but stubbornly refuses to reveal anything. So despite the strongly moody atmosphere, nothing cracks the surface.

This wouldn't happen if the film focussed on the characters, but the insistent plot is a continual distraction as these mindless thugs return for more mayhem while the inept cops are bizarrely unable to catch them (there's no DNA evidence of a brutal rape?). In other words, this revenge scenario drains the internal energy, turning the movie increasingly vicious for no real reason. So the grisly climactic sequence feels shockingly gratuitous. The film may work as an exploration of mental disintegration, but it's hard to see this as anything beyond a preachy cautionary tale.

15 themes, language, violence, drugs
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Two by Two
1.5/5   Ooops! Die Arche Ist Weg...
dir Toby Genkel
scr Richie Conroy, Toby Genkel, Mark Hodkinson, Marteinn Thorisson
prd Emely Christians, Jan Goossen, Moe Honan
with Callum Maloney, Dermot Magennis, Ava Connolly, Tara Flynn, Aileen Mythen, Paul Tylak, Alan Stanford, Patrick FitzSymons, Carla Becker, Lotta Doll, Franciska Friede, Tina Eschmann
leah and finny release UK 1.May.15,
Ger 30.Jul.15
15/Germany 1h25
Two by Two A feeble script sinks this animated romp about Noah's Ark even before the flood arrives. The writers clearly adopted the "kids won't notice if this makes no sense" mantra, revealing their condescending attitude toward children, who will instantly recognise this as a stinker. It's colourful enough to hold the attention of the very young. But that's it.

With an inexplicable flood imminent, nestrian Dave and his son Finny (Maloney and Magennis) are devastated to learn they're not approved to board the ark. So they disguise themselves as relatives of grymps Hazel and her daughter Leah (Flynn and Connolly). Then as the waters rise, Finny and Leah are left behind. As Dave and Hazel try to commandeer the ark from the lion captain (Stanford), Finny and Leah must cooperate with the blobby Obesey (Tylak) to get to higher ground, while a pair of griffins (Mythen and Maloney, again) try to eat them.

The painfully obvious joke is that, while grymps look like bobcats, nestrians don't exist, sporting orange or purple fur and bright blue stripes that shine in the dark. They're also so cheerfully optimistic and huggable that we immediately hate them. And the grymps are grumps. In other words, we only root for for the unsympathetic nestrians and grymps because they're the designated heroes. The villains are just bumbling morons.

At least the pacing is brisk and the animation colourful. Design-wise, the film looks like an Ice Age knock-off produced on a fraction of the budget. Sets have an eerie videogame-style emptiness to them, and action sequences are frantic and incoherent. But the real problem is that the imagery is badly limited by the lack of sense in the script, requiring moments that simply defy even the broadest definition of internal logic.

But then, this script is aimed at precisely no one. The humour is both too vague and too referential to connect with youngsters, while it's not funny enough to keep grown-ups from wishing they were anywhere else but watching this movie. The odd bit of inspiration provides some decent gags (like setting up the ark as a cruise ship), but The Flintstones did these jokes with more sophistication. And the oddest decision of all is to use the biblical flood for a pointless adventure that has no context whatsoever.

U themes, violence, vulgarity
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dir Levan Gabriadze
scr Nelson Greaves
prd Timur Bekmambetov, Nelson Greaves
with Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Will Peltz, Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Mickey River, Cal Barnes, Christa Hartsock
hennig and storm
release US 17.Apr.15,
UK 1.May.15
14/US Universal 1h23
Unfriended Cleverly plotted so it plays out in real time on a computer screen, this horror movie hits all the usual beats of both a found-footage movie and a teen slasher thriller. Even if the story isn't particularly original, and even if the filmmaker relies far too much on loud noises to create scary moments, the way it looks sets it apart and gives it a timely subtext.

Blaire (Hennig) is having a sexy Skype chat with her boyfriend Mitch (Storm) when they're suddenly joined by their friends Adam, Jess and Ken (Peltz, Olstead and Wysocki), plus a mysterious faceless caller named Billie. Their friend Val (Halverson) also joins the call, and as they talk they realise that Billie is connected to Laura (Sossaman), a classmate who committed suicide a year ago after being humiliated in a YouTube video. And now Billie seems to be in control of their computers, playing a vicious game that threatens to kill them one by one.

No, there's nothing remotely new about the story, and even the way everything plays out on Blaire's laptop screen without any cuts seems somewhat familiar. But the multi-windowed complexity and fast-paced storytelling keep things from ever being boring. Blaire is constantly clicking between Google, iMessage, Instagram and Facebook, plus a frantic visit to Chat Roulette, having side-chats and looking things up, offering elements of back-story as well as a few emotionally overwrought subplots.

The fresh young cast play their roles sharply, with an authenticity that's only slightly strained by their constant descent in to screamy panic. In general, these are normal cynical teenagers, more concerned about their status at school than the fate of a student none of them really liked. And as the film reveals more of Laura's humiliation, it becomes increasingly difficult to root for any of these kids to survive.

The plot is a hodgepodge of everything from I Know What You Did Last Summer to Saw to Paranormal Activity, and the approach is so gimmicky that it will seem horribly dated within about six months. But there's also plenty here to entertain horror fans, as the film is strikingly well assembled, never letting the pace slow down while cranking up the freak-out moments with high-volume jolts. So even if it's ultimately forgettable, this is clearly the kind of catchy horror movie that can spark a sequel with the invention of each hot new app.

15 themes, language, violence
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