Foxcatcher. Wrestlemania.

foxcatcher__spanFinished a year ago, such was the studio’s hopes for awards season glory, Foxcatcher’s release was postponed until now to avoid competition with 2013 big hitters 12 Years A Slave and Gravity. That’s a lot of eggs to cryogenically freeze in a basket. No pressure…

Based, incredibly, on a true story it centers around two pro-wrestler brothers David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) aka The Smart And Well Adjusted One and Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) aka The Not So Smart And Struggling One. Both Olympic gold medalists, they now live in small town anonymity. David is happy, married with kids and running a local wrestling club. Mark, however, lives alone and with limited skills relies heavily on his brother in lieu of a father figure.

But help may unexpectedly be at hand. A phone call out of the blue invites Mark to the home of John du Pont, eccentric multi-millionaire recluse and member of one of America’s most hallowed family dynasties. Alienated by his equestrian-loving mother, John intends to indulge his own passion, wrestling, by setting up his own team housed in a state of the art training facility to gun for glory at the next Olympics and wants Mark as his star athlete. Offered both financial security and the chance to step out from David’s shadow, Mark thinks all his Christmases have come at once. But, kids, we all know i) money can’t buy happiness and ii) if something looks too good to be true, it generally is. Mark soon struggles to deliver so John persuades David onboard, once again relegating Mark back to the sidelines and starting a steady spiral towards destruction.

Shot in muted tones, Foxcatcher is clinically cool, calm and precise with an underlying sense of menace. Often ambiguous – what does du Pont really want with Mark? A surrogate son? Sex? A whipping boy? – and strongly psychological, it deals with themes of family rivalry and parental approval. And boy do the whole cast rise to the occasion. Channing Tatum in particular is heartbreakingly good as Mark, earnest, lonely, desperate for approval and frustrated by his own limitations. The Sloth just wanted to give him a cuddle.

This is no emotional melodrama. Foxcatcher doesn’t pick you up and bodyslam you down on the mat, rather it creeps insidiously into your head, leaving you shaken, not stirred. Commendably restrained.

UK release 9 January 2015

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

downloadIt’s been 9 long, Burgundy-free years since Anchorman first hit our screens. How old does that make you feel? Those depressing thoughts aside, The Sloth was quite beside ourselves in anticipation of catching up with our favourite cringeworthy newscaster. Would the years have been kind?

Bouffant, ‘tache and fake tan intact, Ron’s (Will Ferrell) over- powdered mug is as distinctive as ever. Sadly, his career isn’t holding up quite so well. Dumped from the station whilst his wife is promoted, Ron’s macho ego can’t take the strain and it’s the end of his marriage as well as his career. Until he gets a call from an old industry buddy. News network GNN (see what they did there) are planning a crazy new concept – 24 hour rolling news and need anchormen. Nothing else for it, Ron takes the gig and sets about reuniting his old news team; Brick (Steve Carrell), Champ (David Koechner), Brian (Paul Rudd) and Baxter the dog.

And with a new network comes a whole new cast of characters for Ron to insult. From slick newscaster golden boy, Jack Lime (James Marsden), to network owner Kench Allenby (Josh Lawson) a Aussie who also owns Koala Bear Airlines (love child of Rupert Murdock & Richard Branson, anyone?? ).  And we’re sure we don’t have to spell out Ron’s reactions on finding his new boss Linda (Meagan Good) is not only female, but black.

The gags come thick and fast. To be fair, not all hit the mark. But there are sufficient sly digs at contemporary news, topped off with a liberal helping of slapstick, to ensure at least some will tickle your funny bone.  The real treat is the ending. Hold out for a rather splendid and off-the-wall finale with more A-list cameos than you can shake a stick at. Good to see you back, Ron. Just don’t leave it so long next time.

UK release 18 December

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The Way Way Back. You Can Choose Your Friends…

wayAh, the awkward early teenage years. The Sloth for one is glad they’re over. The Way Way Back brings memories of all that gawky ineptitude flooding back, featuring a youth even more pained than most.

Duncan is 14. His mother, Pam (Toni Collette) is well meaning but weak willed. Pam is separated from Duncan’s father with an overbearing, manipulative new boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carrell at his most obnoxious). Our not-so-happy trio, plus Trent’s daughter Susanna, are taking a fake-family trip to Trent’s holiday home, which Duncan is looking forward to as much as a hole in the head. Although we’re elaborating on his behalf here, as Duncan is the most morosely silent screen teen we’ve seen in a while.

Having suffered ‘advice’ from Trent en route on how to stop being a loser, Duncan understandably isn’t keen to hang around the house. Heading out to explore, he encounters Owen (Sam Rockwell), the chirpy chappy owner of the local Water Wizz water park. Owen is a one-man charisma machine, flirting with staff, fist-bumping the regulars and trailing a Pied Piper pack of adoring kids behind him. Duncan is smitten and Owen, who has substance behind the charm, recognises an unhappy soul in need of TLC.

And so begins the classic coming-of-age story. By day, Duncan blossoms, taking a job at the park and learning vital people skills including how to delay girls standing in line for the waterslide to get a better view – the cad! By night, ‘family’ life deteriorates further, with Trent’s true colours coming to the fore and Pam forced to choose where her loyalties lie.

It’s a heartwarming, sweet and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, thanks to Sam Rockwell’s scene stealing turn as the irrepressible Owen. Bond with your date over reliving that youthful angst, then be very glad you’re both adults.

UK release 30 August

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