Screen grabs: Amy Schumer is gloriously shocking and Sean Penn’s still got it

Mostly Sex Stuff: Amy Schumer. Sean Penn in The Gunman.

Old film, new release: Bartleby.

DVD: Avanti!


HITS AND MISSES All platforms Time, now, to take stock. What was great … and what flopped? First, the hits… 1. Fallout 4 (post-apocalyptic with a sense of humour). An obvious one, but somehow even better for all the pre-release hype since it actually delivered. 2. Until Dawn (twist on teen horror genre). A compelling attempt at an “interactive movie”, where you spend more time directing outcomes than “playing” in a traditional way.   3. Grand Theft Auto 5 (crime spree in fictional Los Angeles). An amazing, sprawling, detailed city that invites you to kill innocents … or go mountain biking instead.  4. Agar.Io (blobs eat other blobs, get bigger). The mobile addictive hit of the year. Try it for free. 5. Fantasy Life (free-roam community). A highlight in a thin year for Nintendo’s 3DS, it had echoes of Animal Crossing but brought some original flavour too.And three that disappointed… 1. Battlefield: Hardline (cops-and-robbers variant of long-running series). They took our favourite open-world army game and made it into a poor parody of Grand Theft Auto. Boo. 2. Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley (farming simulator). Nintendo made farming too realistic for its latest 3DS installment in the series: all busywork and no fun. 3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (shooter). Like an over-sequeled action movie: lots of explosions, noise and woeful acting. Yawn. AH


BARTLEBY  Wellspring, unrated

Herman Melville’s brief but endlessly suggestive 1856 masterpiece Bartleby, the Scrivener concerns a Wall Street clerk who suddenly stops working, meeting all requests with the polite but firm statement, “I would prefer not to”. It’s a role that seems tailor-made for an eccentric like Crispin Glover, and as the star of Jonathan Parker’s updated 2001 adaptation he doesn’t disappoint: he’s a pale, intent, disturbingly comic presence, frozen like a waxwork in his undertaker’s suit, or squirming in panic as if fearing the loss of some private treasure. Parker retains much of Melville’s dialogue while relocating the action to a modern open-plan office, filmed in the kooky expressionist style of Tim Burton or David Lynch: the cartoonish colour scheme makes jarring use of lime green and burnt orange, while everyday objects such as a photocopier or a ceiling vent take on uncanny menace in close-up. Like the original story, the film can be understood as both a surreal allegory and a literal account of the soul-destroying nature of office work – a theme that has lost none of its relevance since Melville’s day. JW



If you’re not familiar with US comedian Amy Schumer (who has had a meteoric rise to fame in just the past few years), this stand-up special, filmed in front of a live audience in San Francisco in 2012, is a great primer: you’ll either love her or you’ll be appalled. She opens with the announcement that she “finally slept with my high-school crush! But now he expects me to go to his graduation. Like I know where I’m going to be in three years …”. Before apologising for a “kid-f—ing” joke and moving on to another gag that opens with the line, “So my mom’s a c—. No, hear me out!” If that’s not your thing you definitely won’t enjoy the rest of her routine which, as the title promises, is mostly about sex, ranging from jokes about Asian chicks and their vaginas, pubic hair maintenance, “slutty”  friends, knowing her body type (“sturdy”) and going to a yoga class just after taking the morning-after pill. It’s lewd, edgy and out there – everything that makes Schumer one of the best female comedians today. KN


THE GUNMAN Universal Sony, R

Sean Penn has still got it. At 54, he can still play the action man and be completely convincing. Based on the French novel The Prone Gunman, the film plot has Penn acting as an undercover hitman in the Congo, working for a third party contracted to multinational mining companies which did not want the government to nationalise their assets. Penn kills the country’s interior secretary and flees undetected. He also leaves behind his lover, a doctor, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), without explanation. Seven years later he comes looking for answers. He’s made his way back to the Congo, but somebody wants him dead. Again, he flees, seeking answers from his original security contractor in London. That leads him to Barcelona, where his former contract mate, Javier Bardem, is now married to Penn’s former lover. Guns, chases, threats, sex, it’s all there, pushing the plot to its predictable conclusion. Warning: the body count is high. JK



An oblique response to changing times, Billy Wilder’s sweet-and-sour 1972 romantic comedy is crammed with topical allusions despite centring on two extremely unhip characters: Wendell Armbruster jnr (Jack Lemmon), a prudish American businessman who comes to Italy to claim the body of his father, and Pamela Piggott (Juliet Mills), a British shop assistant with an apparent eating disorder whose mother died in the same accident. Shot on location around the Gulf of Naples, the film has a leisurely, scenic quality unusual for Wilder, yet the script is one of his most densely woven, paradoxically intertwining idealism and cynicism, romance and bureaucracy, sex and death. Though the jokes about Italian inefficiency and corruption are gentle for the most part, there are multiple snakes in this Eden, including a blackmailer (Gianfranco Barra) with Mafia connections and a taxi driver who gives a fascist salute. American boorishness is mocked more relentlessly, especially when Armbruster’s State Department pal J.J. Blodgett (Edward Andrews) comes on the scene – leading to a prescient exchange about the Middle East, as well as some not-so-subliminal reminders of the Vietnam War. JW

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