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New release movie reviews - 17 January
COMPLIANCE **** (90 minutes) M
This little independent American film might be the scariest thing you see this year, an experience made all the more harrowing because it is solidly based on fact. In the middle of a busy day, frumpy, middle-aged fast food restaurant manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) gets a phone call from somebody claiming to be the police. He says one of her young employees, Becky (Dreama Walker), has stolen money from a customer and must be taken to a back room and strip-searched. Without questioning the legitimacy of the person at the other end of the line, who continually reinforces their authority, Becky is subjected to an escalating series of humiliations. As bizarre as the events are, writer/director Craig Zobel generates palpable tension - and growing frustration - about both the willingness of employees to blindly follow orders and of Becky to do as she is told. Though it is not a film that is easy to watch, Compliance becomes increasingly compelling the deeper its unwitting characters fall under the spell of their mysterious master. It's a shattering film about human psychology of which the young Martin Scorsese would have been proud. (See our interview with writer/director Craig Zobel).
THIS IS 40 *1/2 (133 minutes) MA
More aptly known as "This is 40 Minutes Too Long", Judd Apatow's comic attempt at a bitter-sweet comic dissertation about middle-age falls flat. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann play the freshly-40 couple dealing with kids, financial stress and mid-life worries. There are a handful of great moments as they argue and face the realities of failing businesses and mortgages, but they get lost in an overlong ramble that could have done with another pass through the editing suite. As is now standard with most films from the Apatow assembly line, many of the comic digressions here dilute any emotional engagement by pulling you away from the main story. Indeed, some scenes - like the two guys slobbering over Megan Fox - looking too much like the type of thing you see on a DVD deleted scenes reel. And hard as it is to say, Leslie Mann, who can be funny - 40 Year Old Virgin; Knocked Up - simply isn't here.
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER *** (98 minutes) M
With Woody Allen enjoying a spike of popularity with Midnight in Paris and the French film Paris-Manhattan, this 2010 comedy has been dusted off for a theatrical run. It's one of Allen's lesser films yet, as is so often the case with his B-material, it still features terrific performances from an ensemble cast and a cluster of truth-nailing scenes that are better than what you typically find in major releases. A pudgy Josh Brolin plays a frustrated writer who can't follow up his debut best-seller; Naomi Watts is his similarly frustrated wife, an art-world cypher desperate to start her own gallery. He has eyes for his neighbour (Freida Pinto, from Slumdog Millionaire); she for her boss (Antonio Banderas). As her father, Anthony Hopkins chimes in with a beautifully etched portrait of a Viagra-popping elder with a sexy blonde trophy wife (Lucy Punch) while Gemma Jones is a marvellous, psychic-trusting mess as his ex-wife. Allen fans will see recurring themes pop up - secrets; infidelity; deception; under-valuing long-time partners - and though Allen doesn't finish off the Brolin story, there are still enough charms and golden moments to enjoy for those who haven't ordered the DVD.