Upcoming Films in June
The history of film is littered with pop stars' ill-advised vanity projects, but this brutalist urban melodrama isn't one of them. Okay, it is a vanity project: the 28-year-old writer and director Ben Drew, best known as the rapper Plan B, only gives himself a cameo role, but his music is all over it and the whole thing might have been written off as a flashy extended video for his accompanying concept album of the same name – were it not such an accomplished and fully fleshed debut, such an authentic-seeming representation of street-level criminal life in East London, and such a forceful howl of despair on behalf of the socially excluded and poorly raised. A multi-stranded ensemble piece set in the area's council estates and crack dens, it develops the links between its characters with care. And while they're a familiar motley bunch of dealers and addicts, teenage gang members and trafficked prostitutes, the film has empathy for even its most degraded or venal characters.
18 cert, 121 min Dir Ben Drew; starring Riz Ahmed, Ed Skrein, Natalie Press, Lee Allen The rapper Plan B, aka Ben Drew, makes his directing debut this week with a film that takes the “com” out of “uncompromising”. iLL Manors is hard-hitting in all the worst ways, like being repeatedly thumped by a randomly furious street hawker. What Drew is mainly selling is his own reputation as a poet of the disaffected, but we needn’t buy it.
Humiliation … Keith Coggins and Nick Sagar in Ill Manors. Photograph: James Dewar/Film London Ill Manors is a multi-stranded urban crime drama set in east London, the debut feature film from Ben Drew, otherwise known as singer-songwriter Plan B , and developed from his widely hailed song of the same name, all about the 2011 summer riots. The first half-hour of this movie is great: chaotic, inventive, energetic. But after this, the dynamism worryingly leaks out of the film; it turns out to be disappointingly and determinedly apolitical, while the lairy characters and situations look increasingly forced, derivative and unconvincing, with a touch of Guy Ritchie.
All Critics (26) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (5) This is an impressively mature and technically assured work. There are plenty of flaws here, but instinctively 'Ill Manors' feels important - like some British films of the 1980s ('Meantime', 'Scum') that spoke of a generation out of work and out of hope. On this form, 28-year-old Ben Drew has the world at his rapper's feet. Low budget director Drew has an eye for cityscapes and a finely-tuned feel for the mostly untrained cast. ll Manors, largely cast with non-professionals, is, for the most part, an astonishingly impressive exercise in hip neo-realism.
All he knows is that he can usually get the cast he wants for his many movies, despite the fact that they are not expensively made and thus don’t pay all that well. Also that he doesn’t abide, and never gets, any interference from the Hollywood suits, and can thus pursue his own course to heaven or purgatory unaided. This is an enviable position for him to be in but, he says, he always thinks he’s going to make the next Citizen Kane until halfway through a film when he prostitutes himself in any way he can to stop the end result being a complete catastrophe.
Engaging … Woody Allen: A Documentary. Photograph: Bernard Gotfryd This is the cinema-release version of a PBS documentary which originally ran at over three hours: an intimate, affectionate and warmly celebratory study of the great comedian and film-maker Woody Allen , directed by Robert B Weide, a documentary-maker who has also directed Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
15 cert, 113 min Dir Robert B Weide; starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese "Having a long career is not the achievement I’ve been going for,” explains Woody Allen at the start of this amiable career retrospective. “I’m still trying to make a great film, which has eluded me over the years.” Given what follows, this is evidently a load of rubbish: Allen has made many great films, from the sublime Annie Hall to the sublimely ridiculous Purple Rose of Cairo , and it is on these successes that Robert B Weide, a director and producer on the sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm and sometime documentarian, obligingly focuses.
With as definitive-sounding a title as Woody Allen: A Documentary , this new bio-doc from Curb Your Enthusiasm director (and Oscar-nominated documentarian) Robert Weide has one hell of a task on its hands. After all, Woody is a real all-rounder, having achieved success as a stand-up comedian, comedy writer and playwright before finding success as an actor-director over 40 years ago. 43 films later, he's back on a high with the success of Midnight In Paris, which has grossed more than any other Allen flick to date, and has garnered the bespectacled auteur yet another Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (his third, and fourth overall). With that in mind, there's no better time for an all-inclusive documentary.
With a development process spanning twenty-plus years and a release date almost six months after its US opening, Red Tails , George Lucas’ long-discussed account of the Tuskegee Airmen, finally hits our screens. Scripted by John Ridley ( Three Kings, U-Turn ) and Aaron McGruder ( Boondocks ), and directed by Anthony Hemingway ( The Wire , Treme ), Red Tails follows the 332nd fighter group, a squadron of African American fighter pilots who overcame racial discrimination to become one of the most decorated in World War II. Very much an ensemble piece, featuring a cast that includes Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston and Britain’s own David Oyelowo, Red Tails takes a broad brushstroke approach to its storytelling.
Nate Parker in Red Tails: 'Why didn’t George Lucas persuade his friend Steven Spielberg to take on this subject?' Red Tails Production year: 2012 Country: USA Cert (UK): 12A Runtime: 124 mins Directors: Anthony Hemingway Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Elijah Kelley, Gerald McRaney, Nate Parker, Ne-Yo, Terrence Howard, Tristan Wilds More on this film Produced in a hands-on way by George Lucas , for whom it was a long- cherished project, this aerial adventure yarn is a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, the African-American fighter pilots who survived terrible prejudice, injustice and constant racist humiliation (including an official US army air corps report that blacks were congenitally unfit to fly planes) to play a heroic role in Europe during the second world war.
All Critics (125) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (76) | DVD (6) There's no sense of threat or danger: this is a film with its head stuck firmly in the clouds. This is so generic as storytelling that it fails even as a basic history lesson: it's hard to believe that the stock conflicts on-screen have any connection to real events. One can get away with a lot of cornball speeches a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away but it doesn't work nearly as well a short time ago on planet Earth. Red Tails is better than nothing - but "nothing" isn't the other option.
12A cert, 124 min Dir Anthony Hemingway; starring Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Ne‑Yo, David Oyelowo "Die, you foolish African!” growls a blond Nazi fighter pilot, his hands tightening cruelly around the control stick of his Messerschmitt. It is 1944 in the skies over Berlin, and this snarling Aryan has a member of the Red Tails, the first all-black unit in the United States Army Air Forces, in his crosshairs. But he has reckoned without “Lightning” Joe Little (David Oyelowo), who swoops in at six o’clock and blows Fritz to smithereens. “How you like that, Mister Hitler?”
Advanced petrification … A Fantastic Fear of Everything. A Fantastic Fear of Everything Production year: 2012 Country: UK Cert (UK): 15 Runtime: 100 mins Directors: Chris Hopewell, Crispian Mills, Crispin Mills Cast: Amara Karan, Claire Higgins, Clare Higgins, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Paul Freeman, Simon Pegg More on this film Hold on to your comfort blanket and have the cloves of garlic handy: Crispian Mills's London-based horror - comedy is so spectacularly bungled that it leaves the viewer in a state of advanced petrification. Simon Pegg says "Arrrgh!"
15 cert, 100 min Dir: Crispian Mills, Chris Hopewell; starring Simon Pegg, Amara Karan Simon Pegg is an incredibly likeable actor who seems determined to appear in as many unlikeable films as possible, but even taking into account recent debacles such as Burke and Hare , this represents an alarming new low. A Fantastic Fear of Everything has been written and co-directed by Crispian Mills, the lead singer of the 1990s psychedelic rock outfit Kula Shaker, and much like his band, Mills’s film wears its influences about as subtly as a revolving bow tie. It is three parts The Mighty Boosh to two parts The Goon Show , which, when mixed with the quite astonishing lack of wit and finesse seen here, makes for pure cinematic strychnine. Pegg plays a writer who becomes obsessed with serial killers while researching a project for television.
Crispian Mills found success in the Nineties as the frontman of indie rock band Kula Shaker — their debut album K went double platinum, although they later had problems when Mills unwisely told the NME “I love the swastika” — for its mystical connotations, he meant.