2013 Catch-up Triple Bill

Another triple-bill of 2013 reviews, as my half-baked New Year's Resolution to watch more films already looks to be heading to the great Resolution graveyard in the sky. Anyhow, I managed to catch up with these offerings thus far.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Declan Lowney, 2013) is a fairly successful transfer to the big-screen for Steve Coogan's much-loved alter-ego. Here, Alan's comfortable DJ job at North Norfolk Digital radio station comes under threat when a large media corporation takes over. However, when another disenchanted DJ (Colm Meaney) takes the law into his own hands and holds everyone in the station hostage, the stage is set for Alan to save the day, although obviously in an utterly self-serving and cowardly manner, as the siege negotiator. It plays out entertainingly enough and fans of Alan will find many familiar laughs here, whilst those who enjoy a good old bit of swearing from Colm Meaney (and who doesn't?) will also be pleased. However, it doesn't really stretch itself and those who wonder what all the Partridge fuss is about will find little to convert them. I lie somewhere in between: Amusing Me, Amusing You, Ha Ha!

The Way Way Back (Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, 2013) is an unspectacular, but rather sweet coming-of-age movie focused around the summer vacation of shy teenager Duncan (Liam James) with his mother (Toni Collette) and prospective step-dad (Steve Carrell). His chance to blossom comes when he gets a temporary job at a nearby water park and is taken under the wing of its carefree manager Owen (Sam Rockwell). We've seen this sort of thing before (2009's Adventureland had a virtually identical plot), but this is nicely played by all, particularly James, who is agreeably awkward as a geeky teen, and Carrell, who relishes playing a bit of an asshole. However, it's Rockwell who gets the best lines and who therefore steals the show as the kind of funny, cool adult friend everyone wishes they had when they were impressionable teenagers. As it happens, I am now exactly that sort of cool adult and I have befriended several young boys. Hold on, that doesn't sound quite right..... Anyhow, directors Faxon and Rush, who won an Oscar for their Descendants screenplay last year, also turn up in supporting roles as Buddy and Lewis. It won't blow your mind, but it's a nice, undemanding little film.

Nice and undemanding are certainly not words you would use to describe Upstream Colour (Shane Carruth, 2013), the long-awaited follow-up to Carruth's mind-bending debut feature Primer (which I've reviewed here). Nine years is presumably how long Carruth needed to take on duties as (deep breath) director, writer, producer, actor, cinematographer, editor, composer, casting director, production designer and sound designer for this dreamy, elliptical film. In it, Kris (Amy Seimetz) is abducted by The Thief and hypnotised into signing over her life savings whilst under the influence of a drug-containing parasitic worm, which The Thief has cultivated from orchids in his garden. Later, having recovered, but with no real memory of what happened, Kris embarks on a relationship with the similarly affected Jeff (Carruth) and together they help each other unravel how their experience has affected their personalities and identities. Oh, did I mention Kris's parasitic worm gets removed and transferred to a pig by a strange, pig-farming sound recordist called The Sampler (Andrew Sensenig), meaning she has a strange psychic link to the animal? Thought I better make that clear. As you might gather, this is a bit of an odd affair, but I rather liked it by the end - it's actually fairly coherent, despite the fractured, disorientating presentation, with a nice cyclical theme running through it. It also serves up a beguiling mixture of influences, bringing to mind the body horror of David Cronenberg, as viewed through the poetic imagery of Terence Malick, by way of the drug-induced altered identities of Philip K Dick's work. Not to mention porky family favourite Babe. If the one thing you thought was missing from Babe was parasitic worm infections, this is the film for you. That'll blue, pig, that'll blue.

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