6   +   10   =  

We’re into that quiet period where distributors launch films they picked up at international festivals and couldn’t work out what to do with, or wisely held back to avoid competing against spandex clad superheroes. For everyone fed up of summer blockbuster explosions and the oh so worthy Oscar bait we’ll soon be swamped with, it’s a wonderful time. Releases this week covering James Dean, the housing crisis and the difficulties of juggling private and personal lives attest to it. And if that’s all a little serious, Keanu Reeves is out on DVD avenging his dead dog.

First up, when are we going to stop finding James Dean fascinating? The answer is probably never. Life, the latest from Anton Corbijn who has form when it comes to bringing cultural figures to screen (Ian Curtis in 2007’s Control), focusses on the friendship between Dean and Life magazine photographer Dennis Stock. With bright young things (I think they still count as that) Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson as Dean and Stock, and a strong supporting cast that throws in the likes of Ben Kingsley and Joel Edgerton, there’s a good mix of glamour in amongst the examination of their friendship.

It’s back to the more recent past in Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes. Set around the 2008 financial crisis, Michael Shannon’s unscrupulous businessman is happily repossessing all the properties he can get his hands on. Against this foe, Andrew Garfield’s single father has to make a deal with the devil to protect his own family. Bahrani’s drama premiered in Venice over a year ago and has taken a long time winding its way into cinemas. Make sure you catch it as it’s rather good.

Mia Madre, the latest from Palme d’Or winning Italian director Nanni Moretti is really two films welded together. Margherita Buy’s filmmaker is struggling to deal with her dying mother and fractured home life while battling a problematic American actor on the set of her new film. The two stories don’t combine well, but both are independently effective. Watch out for John Turturro’s flamboyant role as the wayward US star. His tantrums make it all worthwhile.

Now for a change of pace. Keanu Reeves’ kill-em-up John Wick is out to own after a successful cinematic run earlier in the year. The premise – Reeves’ retired hitman returns to the game when his puppy is killed – is ridiculous, and it spirals even further from there. Soon, Wick is ploughing through hordes of anonymous henchmen, always making sure to add an extra shot to the head. It’s gleefully good fun, never slackening until a preposterous finale rounds off a preposterous film.

That should be enough for now. See you next week as we all head off to Mars with Matt Damon and Ridley Scott.

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