Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk
The Canyons arrives with stacks of notoriety, thanks to its position as the mainstream debut of porn veteran James Deen and the on-set diva tantrums of Lindsay Lohan. Oh Lindsay, where did it all go wrong? Before becoming this century’s saddest celebrity car crash, Lohan exuded attitude and vulnerability on screen, and there are glimpses of her skittish talent here, even if they are shrouded beneath thick layers of make-up. Written by Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Schrader, it’s a softcore thriller about a trustafarian (Deen) who spirals out of control when he suspects his gold-digging girlfriend (Lohan) is shagging a wannabe actor (Funk, the face of Versace 2014). Everybody here has had better days at the office (including Deen), but we’re still filing this under ‘guilty pleasure’ for its soap opera plotting and Lohan’s mesmeric baring of body and soul in the name of career resurrection. Compulsively watchable trash, in other words.
Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves
This lo-fi revenge yarn from Jeremy Saulnier is reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ 1984 debut Blood Simple. Both films mix pulpy noir and slasher movie conventions into a heady brew; both feature brutal retribution and scuzzy protagonists; and both announce their makers as exciting new voices on the cinematic scene. Watching melancholy, rough-living outcast Dwight (Blair) turn ruthless assassin against the white-trash crime clan who stole his life away makes for a macabre, gutpunching ride.
Anat Waxman, Ofer Schechter, Yael Bar-Zohar
A gaggle of Tel Aviv neighbours, including an ex-beauty queen (Bar-Zohar) and a drag-loving kindergarten teacher (Schechter), decide to audition for the Unisong international singing contest (read: Eurovision) to lift their friend (Waxman) out of her splitsville funk. This candy-coloured confection marks the frothiest feature yet from director Eytan Fox, who previously explored gay Israeli life in The Bubble, Yossi & Jagger and Yossi. As corny as it is kitsch, it’s the perfect homage to Eurovision itself.
THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY
Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, Kirsten Dunst
Patricia Highsmith’s travelogues of murder and homoeroticism lend themselves to big-screen makeovers and writer-director Hossein Amini squeezes maximum tension out of one of her lesser-known novels. The story sees Isaac’s low-level scam artist sucked into the criminal vortex of a glamorous American couple (Dunst and Mortensen) in 1962 Athens, getting flirty with the former and combative with the latter. Amini weaves it as a deliberately old-fashioned thriller, but it’s no less compelling for that.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon
Two Jakes for the price of one: who can resist? There’s much to relish in this brain-teasing mystery, in which Gyllenhaal’s sad-sack history professor discovers he has a doppelganger – a not-so-nice actor with a pregnant wife (Gadon). The first half unfolds with creepy efficiency, with increasingly disoriented turns from Gyllenhaal, Gadon and Melanie Laurent, as nice Jake’s gf, before ponderousness, an overinsistent score and one very large spider prevail.