Perfect Sense (Arrow Films) is the latest offering from offbeat Brit director David Mackenzie (Young Adam; Hallam Foe), and marks a welcome return to his familiar Scottish stomping ground, after a brief sojourn to Hollywood for 2009’s glossy Ashton Kutcher/Anne Heche vehicle Spread.
Based on a script by award-winning Danish writer Kim Fupz Aakeson, Perfect Sense is a set in a not-too-distant-future where the world is being ravaged by a mysterious new virus, which is slowly stripping people of their senses, starting with the sense of smell. With society spiralling into disarray, the film focuses on Glasgow chef Michael (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting) and Susan (Eva Green, Casino Royale, The Dreamers), an epidemiologist who is conducting research into the outbreak. Following a chance encounter, Michael and Susan embark on an increasingly volatile affair that sees them share unforeseen moments of pure pleasure as the world around them crumbles into chaos. But with their senses failing them, how long can this emotional connection continue?
Full of striking, emotive scenes, Perfect Sense is an unashamedly cerebral drama that definitely ranks as one of McGregor’s most interesting films in years. Despite a clumsy moment introducing the two disparate protagonists, Mackenzie’s film rarely puts a foot wrong, and the use of stitched-together external footage offers a neat counterpoint to the intense central relationship. What’s more, the film is at its best when it is at its weirdest -such as the scene when the two lovers start snacking on soap in the bathtub in an effort to reignite their taste-buds! While it will be too art-house for some viewer’s tastes, to me this apocalyptic romance is the always-interesting Mackenzie’s best film yet. A compelling, thought-provoking drama.
Another man with a well-documented romantic streak is Woody Allen -if romance includes marrying your own step-children, that is. After the potentially career-ending ineptitude of 2007’s cockney caper Cassandra’s Dream, 2008’s enjoyable Vicky Cristina Barcelona heralded something of a return to form. The latest instalment in Allen’s latter-day cinematic tour of Europe is Midnight in Paris (Warner Home Video), a time-traveling romantic comedy that plays out like a ‘thinking man’s Goodnight Sweetheart’. Although Woody Allen has never gone on record stating a penchant for dubious ’90s Nicholas Lyndhurst comedies, Midnight in Paris bears a disturbing resemblance to the lamentable Blitz-themed BBC sitcom, with a number of the 1920s leading literary lights taking centre stage in the elderly director’s era-straddling flick.
Hollywood screenwriter Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) and his fiancÃ©e Inez (Rachel McAdams, Wedding Crashers, Red Eye) are in Paris on vacation with her ultra-conservative parents. Despite his success in the movie industry, Gil yearns to be taken seriously as a novelist, and hopes that his time in France will set his creative juices flowing. However, while Gil hopes to persuade Inez to move to Paris after their marriage, she struggles to see the city’s age-old romantic charms, and is keen to get back to Malibu. Out for a drunken midnight stroll, Gil finds himself invited on a night out with a crowd of enthusiastic partygoers in full 1920s dress. To his surprise, Gil finds himself in the company of F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, and realises that he has been transported back in time -to his favourite era. Understandably, rubbing shoulders with his literary idols on a nightly basis has a profound effect on Gil -but will it drive an irreparable wedge between him and the shallow Inez?
Despite a dangerously cheesy premise, Midnight in Paris boasts some quirkily appealing touches and a number of great one-liners. Although Owen Wilson delivers a winning central performance -and deserves kudos as an atypical Allen choice of leading man -the film gets progressively worse as it unfolds, and ends up too whimsical and self-indulgent for its own good. A frothy, uneven concoction.
Directed by feature film debutant Glenn Ciano, Inkubus (Trinity X) tells the grisly story of a malevolent figure (played by horror veteran Robert Englund of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame) who walks into a soon-to-be-demolished police station with the head of his latest victim, and proceeds to unleash a bag of ghastly tricks on the handful of unfortunate cops still loitering in the building. However, despite his actions, the man -cryptically known as ‘Inkubus’ -has something special in mind -he wants to destroy Detective Gil Diamonte (William Forsythe, The Devil’s Rejects) -the retired officer who came closest to capturing him 13 years ago.
Shot in just 15 days, on an apparently modest budget, Inkubus is a sporadically intriguing slice of straight-to-DVD horror that crams plenty of ideas into its brisk 77-minute run-time. With a murderous legacy dating back to the middle-ages, the maniacal Inkubus is a character designed to strike a chord with horror fans, and the claustrophobic setting allows for some appropriately gruesome set-pieces. Director Ciano has reportedly described Inkubus as a ‘nuts and guts’ throwback to nasty ’80s horror, and the well-judged involvement of genre veterans Englund and Forsythe is certain to guarantee a level of curiosity in the picture. That said, the film is badly hamstrung by its low budget and scattershot narrative, and will struggle to appeal to viewers outside of its core audience. For genre purists only.
The enduring success of the Twilight Saga is sure to open the doors of opportunity for everyone involved in it -not least the previously unknown Taylor Lautner (who plays hunky werewolf Jacob Black). Abduction (Lionsgate) sees Lautner draw first blood as a muscle-bound teenager tormented by inexplicable flashbacks to a vivid past that defies logic. Despite a happy home life with parents Kevin (Jason Isaacs, Harry Potter) and Mara (Maria Bello, A History of Violence), Nathan Harper (Lautner) needs weekly consultations with psychiatrist Geri Bennett (Sigourney Weaver) to help with his confused emotions. When researching a school project with girl-next-door Karen (Lily Collins, star of the upcoming Mirror, Mirror), Nathan stumbles across a website that identifies how missing children would look years later, and starts to question every aspect of his existence. Inevitably, his questions set in motion a violent chain of events involving corrupt CIA operatives and Serbian terrorists.
After a slick, purposeful opening half-hour, Abduction (which is improbably directed by Boyz n the Hood’s John Singleton) degenerates into a dim-witted chase caper that seems desperate to evoke the thrills and spills of the Bourne trilogy, only to fail dismally. Although he lacks any real dramatic depth, trained martial artist Lautner is undeniably convincing in the action scenes, and although his post-Twilight fanbase are unlikely to be too fussy when it comes to narrative coherence, Abduction is a pretty bog-standard product. With a misleadingly vague title and a surplus supply of childishly bad dialogue, Abduction is a weirdly unsatisfying movie throughout. What’s more, the impressive cast list -which includes Weaver, Bello and Isaacs, alongside the likes of Alfred Molina and Michael Nyqvist -is seriously mystifying, especially given the seriously weak script. All in all: a breezy, shallow slice of paranoia-lite.