Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Jacir Eid and Hussein Salameh in Theeb (aka Wolf)

26 October 2015-10-26

  Out This Week   Theeb (New Wave, cert 12) Jordan’s contender for this year’s Best Foreign language Oscar is, somewhat unexpectedly, an old school adventure story, the sort of thing Rider Haggard would recognise, set in a Lawrence of Arabia desert and starring Jacir Eid as a Bedouin kid. Eid is an untrained actor, as are most if not all of the excellent cast – goodies and baddies – and the plot is a basic dash across the desert, away from bad guys and towards a well which a floppy-haired English interloper wants to visit, for reasons probably nefarious. A sealed box provides a bit of a Maguffin, the cinematography knows that … Read more
James Deen and Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons

12 May 2014-05-12

Out in the UK This Week         12 Years a Slave (E One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) After Hunger and Shame, Steve McQueen advances into Hollywood properly with this very Spielbergian film following free black man Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) into slavery down in the antebellum South, where he is passed from one slave owner to another – this one bad, the next one worse – until a deus ex machina rescues him. This year’s Best Oscar gong went to this film which looks the real deal, disports itself like the real deal, has all the necessary support acting (Pitt, Fassbender, Giamatti) that you’d expect. But there’s a strange emotional lack … 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
Jeremy Irons in Margin Call

12 November 2012-11-12

Out in the UK This Week Margin Call (Paramount, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) JC Chandor’s debut, and what a film, is about a Lehman Brothers’ (ish) bank hitting the skids. It’s the definitive Hollywood entertainment about the financial crash, a cool, glossy, edge-of-seat procedural about a night in the company of two low-level bank employees (Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley) who are on duty at the point when a gigantic accounting error comes to light. Whereupon the problem is batted further and further up the heirarchy, until it reaches the top (a particularly dry and corrupt Jeremy Irons). The performances are in the ionosphere – Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci … Read more
Hayley Atwell and André Benjamin in Jimi: All Is by My Side

26 January 2015-01-26

    Out in the UK This Week     Jimi: All Is by My Side (Curzon, cert 15) Imagine a Jimi Hendrix record without any of his guitar pyrotechnics. That’s the feeling you get from this efficient, workaday biopic about the godlike genius who came and went so quickly, leaving behind enough music for us to know how good he was. The film follows Hendrix’s transformative year in London 1966-67, makes glancing references to his influences and to his ethnicity (as you might expect from a film directed by 12 Years a Slave writer John Ridley). The ethnicity, it claims, Hendrix chose to ignore, which almost brings into focus a man who … Read more
Michael Keaton in the air in Birdman

27 April 2015-04-27

Out in the UK This Week Birdman (Fox, cert 15) And coming right out of the sun to bag this year’s Best Picture Oscar, a director whose films had become increasingly up themselves, and a star whose career looked increasingly over, in one of the most purely enjoyable yet also intelligent films in years. It’s a reminder of the sort of film Hollywood used to produce in the 1930s, with screwball comedy clearly the inspiration for this backstage farce about a once-upon-a-time superhero actor (Michael Keaton) and his attempt to re-invent himself by acting in, producing and directing a stage performance of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. … Read more
James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and Danny McBride in This Is the End

4 November 2013-11-04

Out in the UK This Week     This Is the End (Sony, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Armageddon, aka The Rapture, arrives at a big Hollywood party thrown by James Franco in an in-jokey comedy whose USP is that everyone involved plays a version of themselves. The big names are Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and James Franco (natch), with Jay Baruchel as our entry point, playing the sort of Jay Baruchel who is slightly intimidated by the bigger stars. Cameos are the big thing there – Rihanna pops in for a minute, Michael Cera has fun with his image as a total dude being fellated and rimmed simultaneously by a pair of babes while … Read more

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