Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry and Fiona O'Shaughnessy in Nina Forever

15 February 2016-02-15

Out This Week Nina Forever (StudioCanal, cert 18) If you ever saw the funny, dark and intelligent UK TV series Utopia – conspiracy nerds discover there really is a gigantic conspiracy going on – you’ll already know Fiona O’Shaughnessy, who played the mysterious and sexy lynchpin Jessica Hyde. She’s mysterious and sexy again in this comic horror about a dead woman (O’Shaughnessy) materialising zombie-like in the bed where her clearly-not-grieving-enough ex (Cian Barry) is making the two-backed beast with the new girl (Abigail Hardingham) he’s hooked up with. These two are loved up, but their new relationship has to weather repeated re-appearances by the crack-voiced dead girlfriend, who develops the habit of turning up unannounced … Read more
Rupert Friend and Hannah Ware in Hitman: Agent 47

21 December 2015-12-21

Out This Week North V South (Metrodome, cert 18) For reasons beyond the scope of human wit, the British gangster thriller has become a Christmas fixture, perhaps because it’s endangered, like the brussel sprout. This year’s front-runner takes the gang battle format – there’s a northern mob led by Bernard Hill, and a southern lot led by Steven Berkoff – adds a Romeo and Juliet romance subplot in the shape of a fixer for Hill (Elliott Tittensor) and the daughter of Berkoff (Charlotte Hope), then loads up with wrong’uns (Keith Allen, Geoff Bell, Freema Agyeman) and an exotic (Dom Monot in an Udo Kier role as a raging transvestite psychopath hitman), shakes and … Read more
The Homesman

23 March 2015-03-23

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
Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty

10 June 2013-06-10

Out in the UK this week Zero Dark Thirty (Universal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) “A lot of my friends have died trying to do this; I believe I was spared so I could finish the job.” The key line of dialogue, as uttered by Jessica Chastain in the drama about the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden. “Spared” – there’s a faintly biblical colour to that word and it’s deliberate. Mark Boal’s script is not only mechanically extremely good – so many characters are introduced so well in such a short time – but it also deals, with varying degrees of depth, with matters arising from the aftermath of 9/11. The use of torture as … Read more
Liron Ben Shlush and Dana Ivgy in Next to Her

25 April 2016-04-25

Out This Week Joy (Fox, cert 15) Joy tells the story of Joy Mangano, a real-life Mrs Mop who, as a young woman, invented the Miracle Mop and who went on to become the CEO of her own company. When we meet her, Joy is the bright kid whose early promise and dreams of further education and so on haven’t worked out, and is now the Mrs Fixit of a family of dysfunctional no-can-do’s. Director/screenwriter David O Russell breaks the film down into two halves. In part one, done in a screwball comedy style and speed, we meet Joy (Jennifer Lawrence), her flaky ex-husband (Edgar Ramirez), flakier father (Robert De Niro), flakier still … Read more
Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult in Equals

3 October 2016-10-03

Out This Week When Marnie Was There (StudioCanal, cert U) Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the guy at Studio Ghibli who isn’t Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, this is Japanese animation studio’s final, so Ghibli say, film. And it’s a typically sweet, anglophile story about a typically bereft child called Anna finding typical solace in the supernatural realm – a ghost, called Marnie, who lives in the big deserted house over the bay from Anna’s aunt and uncle. Adapted from Joan G Robinson’s Norfolk-set classic, it’s slow-moving and less loaded with drama than Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies or Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, but it’s undeniably sweet, and charms with its familiar Ghibli-style animation – 2D, … Read more
Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in Macbeth

25 January 2016-01-26

Out This Week Macbeth (StudioCanal, cert 15) Director Justin Kurzel must have hired every smoke machine in the UK for this adaptation of “the Scottish play” about a warlike laird driven crazy, either by his own ambition or by supernatural forces. But the relentless visual effects, dark, swirling lighting and fabulous performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard – as the high-born couple hoping to go just that little bit higher – aren’t the best thing about the film. That’s the superb filleting job that Todd Luiso, Jacob Koskoff and Michael Lesslie have done on Shakespeare’s original play, which has had many obscure references removed and has done away with any language that … Read more

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