Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Robert Redford in All Is Lost

28 April 2014-04-28

Out in the UK This Week All Is Lost (Universal, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) JC Chandor’s Margin Call was a brilliant debut, a great piece of storytelling which turned the complexities of the financial crash into a gripping human interest drama. Now he’s made All Is Lost, also a brilliant film, though as different superficially as they come. Instead of the high-tech, glass and steel, manmade world of finance, it takes place out on the high seas. And instead of a dialogue-driven screenplay there’s almost no speech at all. And yet a sense of jeopardy drives All Is Lost, as it did Margin Call, this newer film telling the tale of a lone yachtsman … Read more
Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple in Horns

2 March 2015-03-02

Out in the UK This Week Leviathan (Artificial Eye, cert 15) Not to be confused with the clankingly atmospheric 2012 documentary about trawler-fishing, this Leviathan is something like a retelling of the story of Job – a man who has the lot being tested in his faith as he loses it all. As we open, Kolya has a beautiful wife, a lovely beachside property, a teenage son and is respected in his community. Over the next two and half hours we watch most of it being stripped from him – in fact as Andrey Zvyagintsev opens his film there’s already trouble hemming Kolya in on most sides. The question is: which faith is it testing? … Read more
Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty

13 January 2014-01-13

Out in the UK This Week The Great Beauty (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) You don’t need to have seen Fellini’s La Dolce Vita to appreciate The Great Beauty, but it might make for a more rewarding experience if you have. The 1963 film told the story of a writer who has been seduced away from his noble calling to become a cynical journalist specialising in celebrity tittle-tattle. Paulo Sorrentino’s 2013 film imagines him at the end of his career, still a journalist, even more world weary, after decades of success, a name all over Rome, with a gnawing absence where his oeuvre  – or at least his second novel – should be. It’s … Read more
Commanding officer Bruce Greenwood talks to drone pilot Ethan Hawke in Good Kill

3 August 2015-08-03

Out This Week Good Kill (Arrow, cert 15) What happens when you force a Top Gun kinda guy out of his plane and into a bunker, where he is now commanded to kill people in Whereveristan remotely, using drones? Writer/director Andrew Niccol and his Gattaca star Ethan Hawke reteam to answer the question in an anti-war film running through most of the arguments made by the liberal intelligentsia (ie the intelligentsia). Hawke physically channels Tom Cruise, donning Ray Bans and copying the faux big-bollocks walk, while little touches nudge us even further towards the conclusion that drones are a bad thing – the voice coming down the line from Langley with lethal orders … Read more
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra

14 October 2013-10-14

Out this week in the UK Behind the Candelabra (E One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Most stars won’t touch an unsympathetic role, for fear of how it will play with their fans. Not so Michael Douglas. Again and again he’s waded in where others fear to tread, playing assholes, psychos and now Liberace, the gayest man in the world, if Steven Soderbergh’s film is to be believed. This is the movie that Hollywood wouldn’t fund, we are told, because of its gay subject. On the evidence of the movie it seems clear they wouldn’t fund it because of the way it portrays the flamboyant pianist – Douglas is majestically reptilian as Liberace and has clearly … Read more
Viktor Bout awaiting trial in The Notorious Viktor Bout

13 October 2014-10-13

Home Entertainment Out in the UK This Week Kidnapped (cert 18, DVD/digital) From Spaniard Miguel Angel Vivas a home invasion horror which understands that for the film to work we have to be entirely on the side of the invaded. And also, that we have to feel their shock, disorientation and fear. He achieves both brilliantly in this brutal, relatively short film that takes place over one evening and does a lot with long takes, then switches pace with some excellent split-screen, up-close points of view. It’s the standard family – mum, dad, whingey teenage girl and, eventually, her boyfriend. But it’s far from a standard film. Where Vivas came from, I don’t know … Read more
Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher

22 April 2013-04-22

Out in the UK this week Jack Reacher (Paramount, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) In this adaptation of the Lee Child novel One Shot, vigilante investigator Jack Reacher is called in to clear the name of a guy even he thinks is guilty of shooting a whole load of innocent folks. Coming across as a little bit Batman and a little bit more Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, Tom Cruise’s Reacher is in fact mostly Stacy Keach-era Mike Hammer. Because this is an exercise in cornball noir, the sort of film where people still use quaint terms like “patsy”, where relations between men and women are chivalrous – that’s Rosamund Pike in what amounts … Read more
Sandra Bullock in Gravity

3 March 2014-03-02

Out in the UK This Week Gravity (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download) By now you will already know whether the Oscar-winning Gravity is the sort of film you want to watch, or watch again. It’s had so much publicity and so many reviews that there’s no point adding anything. So I’ll just tell you that I got stuck getting up out of my chair watching this film. I was going to pause it and grab a drink and as I was halfway up the debris from the space satellite struck space-walking rookie astronaut Sandra Bullock, blasting her off into almost certain annihilation. Something like 20 minutes later I was still in the same position, … Read more
Chris Hemsworth and Benjamin Walker – In the Heart of the Sea

18 April 2016-04-18

Out This Week   In the Heart of the Sea (Warner, cert 12) Why have one sea adventure when you can have them all? Though ostensibly about the incident that inspired the writing of Moby Dick, In the Heart of the Sea also takes shots at Jaws, Mutiny on the Bounty and Robinson Crusoe in a tale of a whaling ship’s adventures, only some of which are whale related. Chris Hemsworth stars – and possibly that’s a strangled Boston accent or a Clark Gable impersonation – as the first mate of a whaler out of Nantucket whose ship is pounced on by a great white whale. The story is all set out in “dark … Read more
Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini in Gemma Bovery

8 February 2016-02-08

Out This Week Gemma Bovery (Soda, cert 15) Gemma Arterton plays the English belle getting French baker Fabrice Luchini in a tizz in this adaptation of the Posy Simmonds graphic novel which first appeared in The Guardian as a weekly cartoon strip. And very cartoon-strippy it is too, Arterton all tippy-toes sex appeal as a modern-day version of Flaubert’s hot-gusseted Madame Bovary, Luchini pulling a series of faces that Benny Hill would be proud of as the “no fool like an old fool” looking on haplessly as the new arrival in the French idyll forsakes lovely, broke husband Jason Flemyng and sets her hat at local rotter Niels Schneider. If it all feels … Read more
Laurence Fishburne and Lin Shaye meet

13 April 2015-04-13

Out in the UK This Week The Signal (E One, cert 15) An underrated sci-fi adventure about three young hacktivists who are abducted by aliens and then wake up in a clinical facility where Laurence Fishburne and co – all in hazmat suits – are looking after them. We arrive at the facility about 15 minutes in to the film, so I haven’t given away much of the plot, which uses tropes of Close Encounters, The Matrix and Vincent Natali’s Cube to great effect. Director William Eubank ties it all together with clean and precise direction of his stars (Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cook, Beau Knapp), and the Mogwai-meets-Wendy Carlos soundtrack by Nima Fakhrara lifts … Read more
Something in the Air

26 August 2013-08-26

Out in the UK this week Something in the Air (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) If you’ve got any interest at all in how the revolutionary moment of 1968 spawned the postmodern (ie conservative) era that followed it, Olivier Assayas’s brilliant, period-distilling drama is for you. Following a wannabe artist from the revolutionary barricades of Paris, when it was required that all personal preferences came with political justification, through the long intellectual wrangles, splits, and factionalising of what was once called the Left, we follow a young man and woman on a journey that takes them from letting it all hang out to getting a decent job and knuckling down (or not). Musically … Read more

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