Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Chloe Pirrie in Shell

8 July 2013-07-08

  Out in the UK This Week   Shell (Verve, cert 15, Blu-ray-DVD) This is a hell of a feature debut for director Scott Graham, whose eye for poetic desolation is the key feature of his drama about a lonely girl working at a struggling petrol station in the Scottish Highlands. Graham’s camera dotes on Chloe Pirrie, who has one of those faces that can flash from knowingly beautiful one second to fairly ordinary the next, depending on how much wattage its owner is generating. Shell is a simple, succinct drama with the tension of a thriller – is our heroine going to do something stupid with one of the rare regulars whose … 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 … 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 … Read more
Keanu Reeves in John Wick

7 September 2015-09-07

Out This Week John Wick (Warner, cert 15) Like some kind of undead film star, Keanu Reeves manages magnificent returns every few years – Speed, The Matrix and now John Wick, a super-sleek bit of badass comic-book adaptation relying heavily on Reeves’s blank persona (no one does it better) for much of its appeal. He plays a retired hitman so frightening that, we’re shown, even incredibly hard hardmen blench when they hear he’s on the warpath – after some damn fool goes and kills the pet dog that was the only reminder of his dead wife. And that’s all you need to know about the plot. The screenplay is incredibly smart, a collection of … Read more

29 October 2012-10-29

Out in the UK This Week   The Hunter (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) There’s a totally immersive sense of place in this engrossing thriller starring Willem Dafoe as the titular hunter in kill-or-be-killed Australia. He’s some sort of badass eco-transgressor working for a rapacious global megacorp and he’s after the mythical and possibly mystical Tasmanian Tiger. Or is that a metaphor? Or is he actually not the hunter at all but instead the hunted? No spoilers. I will just say it’s a thriller and it’s structured like Apocalypse Now – one man, a quest, lots of delicious jeopardy.  The Hunter – at Amazon Your Sister’s Sister (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Grown-up mumblecore, a … Read more
Thomas Bair and Sarah Bolger in Emelie

14 March 2016-03-14

  Out This Week     The Dressmaker (EV, cert 12) Husband and wife team Jocelyn Moorhouse (director/writer) and PJ Hogan (co-writer) hit us with a curious mix of the comic, the tragic and the romantic, a flawed star vehicle for Kate Winslet, delivering a vaudevillian spin on her latterday Joan Crawford shtick as the troubled Aussie who returns to the Outback to make fabulous dresses for the town that exiled her years before. It’s the sort of town now familiar but once the antithesis of Aussie grunt – of Priscillas and Muriels, camp characters one and all who yearn, how they yearn, to cross-dress and lip-sync to a series of trash hits. … Read more
Richard Jenkins and Kurt Russell in Bone Tomahawk

13 June 2016-06-13

  Out This Week     Bone Tomahawk (The Works, cert 18) Someone somewhere described this as The Hills Have Eyes done as a western. That’s a good enough as a shorthand, but what that logline doesn’t quite capture is the amount of love and care – set design, locations, clothes, hair and make-up are all exquisite – that have been lavished on what is effectively a horror movie. And it’s off to an immediately strong start as we meet a pair of murdering robbers slitting a victim’s throat before they accidentally wander into an Indian bone cemetery. Bad shit happens in there, but we don’t find out exactly how bad until the film’s end, … Read more
The cast of Fast and Furious 6

16 September 2013-09-16

Out in the UK this week   Fast & Furious 6 (Universal, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) Having started as a “hot cars, even hotter girls” kind of affair, the F&F franchise is morphing as it goes into something more like an Oceans 11 heist series, with Vin Diesel and the still-pointless Paul Walker increasingly being called on to do jobs that are only tangentially related to driving in increasingly exotic parts of the world. Dwayne Johnson is back in F&F6, and it’s a welcome return (unless your name is Paul Walker, I imagine) to share badassery and bromantic backchat between action sequences expertly handled by director Justin Lin, who has become a master of … Read more
Stacy Martin and Shia LaBeouf in Nymphomaniac

14 April 2013-04-14

Out in the UK This Week     Nymphomaniac Vol I (Artificial Eye, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD/Digital) A middle aged man finds a woman beaten up in the street. Taking her back to his house – she doesn’t want the police involved – he coaxes her story out of her with nothing more than a bit of tea and sympathy. And so starts Lars Von Trier’s most “normal” film to date, effectively a Victorian bildungsroman in which one party (Charlotte Gainsbourg) relates the ping-ponging progress of her life, while the other party (Stellan Skarsgård) prompts more revelations with a “do tell me more”. Von Trier barely bothers to hide the structure and sets about … Read more
Sylvester Stallone in Bullet to the Head

3 June 2013-06-03

Out in the UK this week     Bullet to the Head (Entertainment One, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) Last week it was Arnie in The Last Stand. This week the DVD shelves are groaning with 400lbs of mechanically recovered Sylvester Stallone, complete with new facelift and hair (though there’s not much you can do about that creaky old gait). It’s a dick-swinging action movie directed by Walter Hill, who memorably gave us 48 Hours. Bullet to the Head is 48 Hours part two, you could say, with Sly as the criminal being partnered by reluctant cop buddy (the rather good though underused Sung Kang) to take down a bad guy (Christian Slater, sneering at … 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 … Read more
Walt Disney's Pinocchio

9 March 2009-03-09

Ratings on the UK system (ie U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=excempt) Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Disney, cert U) From the days when the voice cast went uncredited, Walt Disney’s 1940 follow-up to Snow White gave us the Oscar-winning song When You Wish Upon a Star, a wooden boy with a Freudian nose and one of the studio’s darkest and finest animations. Pinocchio – at Amazon The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Disney, cert 12) The Holocaust through the eyes of a nice German lad (Asa Butterfield) whose dad just happens to be a death camp commandant. The everyday normality of the death camps and the mix of … Read more

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