WARNING! The Happytime Murders is filthy, funny, far-out and from the seedy side of the street. Made by HA! , Jim Henson’s son Brian’s imprint which is STRICTLY adult, it’s a hard R rated comedy with puppets, starring Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph, Elizabeth Banks, Joel McHale Written and a bunch of former puppet TV stars gone real bad. When one is murdered, McCarthy crosses the street and encounters sugar addicts, prostitutes and porn stars as part of her investigations. But don’t worry; she can dish it out swear for swear. Are you ready for this?
Isabel Coixet’s The Bookshop is an example of the proverbial sledgehammer wrapped in velvet. Emily Mortimer is Florence Green, a woman determined to set up a bookshop, her lifelong dream, in an historic home in a small English village. She finds the perfect spot and lovingly restores the “uninhabitable” space for work and living, orders the books, has the local Boy Scouts build shelving and finds a local lass to help after school. The dream is coming true, But Florence didn’t count on the local aristo’s jealous greed and the complicity of the villagers to do their “betters'” bidding – that is, run her out of town. The flimsy excuse is that Violet (Patricia Clarkson) has always wanted the place for an arts centre, even though it’s sat vacant for years. Violet launches a harassment campaign against Florence, plants her lapdogs in the shop and works away at Florence’s sense of belonging, even safety. Spies are everywhere. That’s the hammer, the velvet comes in the shape of a reclusive aristo (Bill Nighy) who buys her books and finds it in himself to confront Violet. Florence acts with dignity at all times as she stands up for her rights to be there and work and exist while set upon by the classicist upper crust. More velvet – the story is set in a glorious, windswept seaside village, surrounded by unspoiled landscapes where Florence finds solace. The satisfying ending hits hard bringing into focus the darkness in the heart of that story book village.
Much better than you think it’s going to be, Support the Girls, set in the universe of wait staff in a Hooters style bar, Double Whammies, is a slice of brilliance, akin to the amazing The Florida Project. Regina Hall is Lisa, the common sense, dressed down manager / mother to her girls, whom she protects from the demeaning boss (James le Gros), from handsy customers, and perils in their private lives. She does everything selflessly and maintains her dignity bringing peace and order to the Wild West of restaurants and is a role model to the girls, always there for them, putting her own troubles to the side. The characters are unforgettable, Crista, the savvy – and only other black girl on staff – is her Greek chorus; Maci is the giving heart and life of the group. Janelle, the new girl must quash her exhibitionistic tendencies, and someone has to look after Crista’s bright young son. The boss goes too far one day and Lisa walks out, upsetting the delicate framework she built over years in the most spectacular way. This is intimate, a meticulous character study, social commentary about real people in real situations. The girls take a quiet moment to watch the sky and I’m reminded of the depth of feeling the film has in common with some of Terrence Malick’s work. When one of the girls is upset, we feel it, when Lisa is upset, it hurts. Hall`s great and the situations are little miracles expressing ordinary life.
Ferenc Török’s stunning WWII film 1945 is about a shocking betrayal that unfolds one hot summer day in a Hungarian village. An Orthodox Jew and his son arrive in town just as villagers prepare for a wedding between the richest family’s son and a beautiful peasant girl. General anxiety has gripped the village as Communist Russians move ever closer. Townsfolk mutter about the Jews and charge them outrageous sums to rent a donkey cart to carry a heavy box they brought on the train. The wealthy family matron is an addict, lying in bed on her son’s wedding day; she gets up and terrorises everyone. An elderly man tells the groom to treat his bride badly until he’s trained her; the villagers stare down the Jews in the cart, wondering why they have suddenly arrived. When the Jews were taken to the camps, locals held their goods for them, but they hide it all for themselves. Everyone is complicit. And then the Jews get down to business. Nationalism, protectionism, bigotry and stunning cruelty are the order of the day. The film is precise and stark in black and white. Even the weather and the animals and birds are foretelling doom. It’s based on Gábor T. Szántó’s short story and it’s startling, and telegraphs the coming dictatorship of the fifties.
Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek reprise the landmark roles of Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in a new version of Papillon. It’s a new spin on the horrifying story of prisoners held at the infamous Saint Laurent prison on a remote island in French Guyana. It’s based on the autobiography of Henri Charrière, a Paris writer framed for murder and safecracking and imprisoned at age 25 and sent to French Guyana. IN his memoir, he describes brutal treatment, starvation, thirst, public execution and psychological and physical torture, and the daring escape attempts he made from his second prison, the Devil’s Island penal colony. In fact, he was never there but did serve eleven years at what is now ironically known as Salvation Island, as a slave for the expansion of France in South American.
Hunnam’s Papillon (Charrière’s nickname due to his butterfly tattoo) makes an arrangement with Malek’s counterfeiter Louis Dega to protect him for money he stores “in his guts” to finance his escape. Papillion’s consistent refusal to bow down is rewarded with endless torture, beatings for refusing to speak and he becomes the prison target. He tells the warden he’s going mad, and he’s ordered to be kept in darkness the rest of his life. Dega has risen in the ranks to become a favourite, the guards’ secretary and has power; he’ll use it to facilitate another escape attempt. One night local high society comes to the prison to watch a movie and the pair makes its move. They escape by sea only to be recaptured. Charrière’s says his extraordinary story is 75% true and “the story of a lot of men”. Eighty thousand lived and many died in the French Guyanese prisons; archival footage shows crowded prisons with poor frail, beaten men. The camps were closed between 1946 and 1953. Here’s a look at the original film:
Any of you from Australia and anywhere else too, will be transfixed by Acorn’s fabulous new detective series Mystery Road, a slow simmering outback noir, where hot white sunshine and bleached out desert hides evil deeds. An abandoned truck is discovered, and the disappearance of a local Aboriginal boy, the local soccer hero, and his friend who may have links to drug dealers. The legendary Judy Davis plays the lead detective, a tough customer with a pinch of Moira Schitt in an incredible performance you have to see. She’s partnered unhappily with an Aboriginal detective (Aaron Pederson) she calls a cowboy, from another region. Their first stop, the cattle station, owned by her brother and the boy’s family, which must deal with a pedophile uncle released from prison that day and landing at their door. He has not changed his ways. More mysterious characters show up including three women each claiming to be the soccer star’s girlfriend. European tourists, a possible sex and drugs ring and corporate wrongdoing factor into this gripping series. Meanwhile someone’s emptied the cattle water stations, and there’s blood on the road.
BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI