30 March 2015-03-30

Matthew McConaughey as astronaut Cooper in Interstellar

Out in the UK This Week Interstellar (Warner, cert 12) I wasn’t a fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films – too long, too much yak, humourless, over-insistent and with a poor grip on action – so I wasn’t exactly warming up a welcome for this much hyped slide sideways into space fantasy. How wrong was I? This is the best “hard sci-fi film” for decades, so grand in scale that it dwarfs Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway. McConaughey is the star, playing the retired Nasa astronaut heading back into space after years kicking his heels on a world heading towards annihilation. There he finds that, out on the edge of a … Read more


Anne Hathaway vamps in Havoc

What’s this – lovely, sweet, wide-eyed Anne Hathaway saying “fuck”? Getting into a fight? Showing us her breasts? Giving a blowjob? And within the first ten minutes of the film starting too. Someone, it seems, is after an image makeover, and thanks to director Barbara Kopple, she gets one. That might be what Havoc is most remembered for, in fact, because in most other respects this is a rather disappointing “moral panic” movie like the ones from the 1950s where teenagers would race bikes too fast or hang with the wrong crowd, or both. Here the wrong crowd is people of colour and it’s the white people who get into trouble hanging with … Read more


Penelope Cruz in Volver

Pedro Almodóvar is bang back on form in a film celebrating a way of life he’s spent the best part of his artistic life revolting against – family centred, non-cosmopolitan, conservative, Catholic. Well, Generalissimo Franco has been dead a while now.The word Volver means “return” in Spanish, and if Almodóvar is returning to something he long ago rejected – with a fair degree of tenderness (ah, maturity) – Penelope Cruz is also back in a Spanish speaking role, in her home country, in the sort of film she started out in, a drama with its feet in familiar soil but its head who knows where (see Abre los Ojos). It’s set in one … Read more

The Departed

Jack Nicholson in The Departed

Martin Scorsese’s remake of the brilliant 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs adds 50 minutes of flab to what was a lean, taut thriller. The plot is the same – cop bosses Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg send in undercover man Leo DiCaprio to bust a gang. Unbeknown to the boys at the precinct, gang boss Jack Nicholson is one step ahead of them and has been grooming a placeman of his own (Matt Damon) for years, and he’s now deep deep inside their gangbusting team. The drama springs from the “Who is going to get whacked first?” premise as each side works out after a while that there’s a mole on the … Read more

23 March 2015-03-23

The Homesman

Out in the UK This Week Winter Sleep (New Wave, cert 15) The Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s latest thing of recalcitrant beauty is three hours long and breaks down neatly into three acts, each about an hour in length. In act one we meet Aydin, a progressive baby-boomer with a bit of money, a local luminary, a former actor, a newspaper columnist, a soft touch. Winter Sleep follows him, much in the way Michael Haneke did with Hidden, as that nice liberal carapace is pressure-tested, in Aydin’s case when the son of one of his tenants breaks his car window with a stone. Tenants? Yes, that’s how come Aydin is so comfortable, … Read more

16 March 2015-03-16

Alex Essoe in Starry Eyes

Out in the UK This Week The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Lionsgate, cert 12) Jennifer Lawrence works the adenoids in the third dump of Hunger Games literalism, in a series that has consistently mistaken event for drama. Being the first of two parts, Mockingjay was never even aiming to line up all its battalions, send them into battle and bring them safely home again. But even so, this is a very thin outing for Katniss and co – now she is being groomed as the mascot of the rebels and as such is off out with a camera team making propaganda TV infomercials. How very quaint – TV, camera crews, a world … Read more

9 March 2015-03-09

Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Out in the UK This Week The Imitation Game (StudioCanal, cert 12) Benedict Cumberbatch plays code-breaking genius Alan Turing as an Asperger’s Kenneth More in this superior biopic set in the era of stiff upper lips and laws against homosexual deeds. This drama returns to those laws several times, when it’s not busying itself with the actual big stuff – defeating the Germans. Of course, as everyone in the world knows but the UK’s cultural gatekeepers don’t acknowledge, the Americans and the Russians won the Second World War, with Britain luckily on the winning side but making useful contributions. The cracking of the Enigma code, which allowed the Germans to communicate with each other … Read more

The Reception

Darien Sills-Evans in The Reception

The Reception is a film that seems to be heading gloriously in one direction, only to actually be heading disastrously in another. It tells the surely thorny enough story of Jeannette, a rich French-American woman (Pamela Holden Stewart) and her African-American lover Martin (Wayne Lamont Sims), who live in bucolic splendour in upstate New York, where he gains her financial patronage for his career as a (blocked) painter, in return for his companionship and quiescence about her drinking – the few glasses of red per night generally turning into a torrent. Then her daughter Sierra (Maggie Burkwit) turns up with her husband Andrew (Darien Sills-Evans) and the delicate balance is undone. It turns … Read more