Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin, Green Room

12 September 2016-09-12

Out This Week Green Room (Altitude, cert 18) Jeremy Saulnier’s follow-up to his debut subjects a band of likeable punk nobodies to sustained extreme attack by a gang of neo-Nazi thugs. If it doesn’t quite suck the air out of the lungs as his brilliant Blue Ruin did, that’s because Saulnier to his credit is trying something new. Blue Ruin was an exercise in controlled, prolonged dread; in Green Room he’s seeing if he can pull the legs off the spider, re-attach them, then pull them off again. And repeat. Strangely enough he can. There are name actors here – Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart, who underplays nicely as the big daddy … Read more
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

9 March 2015-03-09

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
Rosario Dawson

5 August 2013-08-05

Out in the UK This Week         Trance (Fox, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Danny Boyle’s attempt to retake the crown as Britain’s most commercially savvy yet critically hailed director – current holder Christopher Nolan – sees him heading up Inception avenue with a crime thriller. Trance takes a basic heist plot, throws hypnosis and multiple levels of reality into the mix, then lays on the group dynamic of Shallow Grave. Which means that auction-house gopher James McAvoy, hypnotherapist Rosario Dawson and gangster Vincent Cassel are playing a threesome not exactly at ease in each other’s company. There’s much to enjoy here, particularly Boyle’s sense of pace, Cassel’s cool Mr Nasty turn … Read more
Russell Crowe in Noah

28 July 2014-07-28

Out in the UK This Week Noah (Paramount, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) Director Darren Aronofsky, having temporarily revived the career of Mickey Rourke with The Wrestler and then an entire genre – the tween ballet thriller – with Black Swan, goes for another challenge, the biblical epic. The story: a big flood. The man: Russell Crowe as a fundamentalist Noah. The tone: old school epic, with the odd arthouse break to remind us that Aronofsky once directed films like the overwrought Pi. Jennifer Connelly plays Mrs Noah in British Heroic voice, in what must be the least demanding role of her career. Surprisingly, bizarrely, very very little is made of the ark, the animals, the flood, … Read more
Britt Robertson in Tomorrowland: A World Beyond

5 October 2015-10-05

Out This Week Tomorrowland (Disney, cert 12) When did we give up on believing in the future? Can we believe again? Writer Damon Lindelof sets out to tackle the turn to postmodernism – the most significant philosophical cultural shift in the West for a century – in a big, multiplex popcorn film. George Clooney plays a character who is postmodernity incarnate. When Frank was an eager, inventive little boy he went to the 1964 New York World’s Fair (the high point of modernity and its showcase event) and met a young girl called Athena, was wowed both by her and by the scientific marvels he saw there. Then was wowed some more when … Read more
Fabrice Luchini between blow-up dollies of Stalin and Mao in In the House

22 July 2013-07-22

Out in the UK This Week In The House (Momentum, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) François Ozon’s thriller/farce is as clever as you’d expect from a man who gave us the relationship-in-reverse drama 5X2. Here he’s again examining the nature of storytelling with a film about a teacher who becomes infatuated with his star pupil’s stories, each of which ends with a “to be continued”. And in the continuation the story – and the teenager writing them – becomes more and more involved in the older man’s life. There’s post-structuralism in there, if you’re feeling smart. But the whole thing works just as well as a dark farce played to the hilt by a brilliant … Read more
Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins

5 September 2016-09-05

Out in the UK this week Florence Foster Jenkins (Pathe, cert PG) Tackled recently in the French film Marguerite, the story of Florence Foster Jenkins – the tone-deaf 1930s New York socialite who insisted she could sing – gets another trot around the block courtesy of Stephen Frears. Frears makes it a less pathetic, more screwball story, as if Fred and Ginger had stepped out for a minute, to be replaced by a non-dancing Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant – actually, there is a dance moment, and it’s there, deliberately, to underline what Frears and this film are about. As with Marguerite the joke is on us rather than her, her inability to … Read more
Frank Langella and Robot

15 July 2013-07-15

Out in the UK this week Robot & Frank (Entertainment One, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) Telling the story of an old guy who is losing his marbles and his will to live, this smallscale film drops us into the action at just about the point when his family have had enough of him and have sourced him a helper robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard). It’s the future, it seems, though it’s not a future that dissimilar to our own. The old guy, played with all the colours in the palette by Frank Langella, turns out to have been a career criminal, a bad dad, a poor husband. Where his mind is at is where … Read more
Roxane Mesquida grabs lunch in Kiss of the Damned

3 February 2014-02-03

Out in the UK This Week Kiss of the Damned (Eureka, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) There’s a scene early on in Xan (daughter of John) Cassavetes’s vampire film in which a man (Milo Ventimiglia) with the hots for a woman he’s just met (Joséphine de la Baume) is pawing at her passionately through the centimetres-wide gap in her intruder-chained door. What Paolo doesn’t yet know is that Djuna is a vampire who’s struggling with her vow to stay off human blood, which is why she’s reluctant to unchain the door and let him in. Cassavetes shoots the encounter from above – their arms snaking through the gap, his head thrusting forward, their mouths meeting … Read more
BB-8 and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars the Force Awakens

11 April 2016-04-11

Out This Week Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney, cert 12) You don’t go to a Rolling Stones gig to hear new tunes. And you don’t turn out for Star Wars – reboot or not – for new stories. And yet. JJ Abrams, having done a remarkable job on the first Star Trek rejig, does bring lots that’s fresh to Star Wars in a film that seemed more remarkable the more I thought about it. At first it appeared to be a case of “same but different”, with every new thing and new character an echo of something from the first three films (numbers IV to VI) – Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is … Read more
5332 tabu

14 January 2013-01-14

Out in the UK This Week Tabu (New Wave, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) From Miguel Gomes, director of the unique, genre-confounding Our Beloved Month of August, another amazingly original work – a story of forbidden love set in colonial Africa that looks and feels like an archive photograph of the “dark continent” come to life. Give it half an hour for its odd magic to start working, and for the strange use of sound (no dialogue, just background atmospherics) to start making sense. Tabu – at Amazon Shadow Dancer (Paramount, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) ITN reporter Tom Bradby adapts his own book for the screen and brings first-hand knowledge to a gripping, dirty, tamped-down drama … Read more
Charlie Hunnam in Pacific Rim

11 November 2013-11-11

Out in the UK This Week   Pacific Rim (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) Guillermo Del Toro, everybody, which raises expectations – Pan’s Labyrinth and Cronos being not too shabby. And Hellboy being a yawn but at least a formidably realised one. Throw a director of that ability at a story about alien creatures rising up out of the Pacific and waging war on humanity – who wage it right back with huge robotic leviathans controlled by human drivers – and the result should be something fairly awesome, shouldn’t it? And Pacific Rim actually is awesome up to a point. We have Charlie Hunnam showing his formidably sculpted abs. We have Idris Elba as the … Read more

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