Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Serena

23 February 2015-02-23

Out in the UK This Week Serena (StudioCanal, cert 15) After Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper clearly have decided they can do no wrong, and so overreach themselves with a Depression-era Gone with the Wind-level epic about a wilful woman and a powerful man thrust together against a backdrop of urgent social blah. Susanne Bier directs, and it’s clear that the further this highly talented Dane gets away from the boilerhouse domestic dramas she’s so good at (Brothers and After the Wedding), the bigger her films, the less powerful they become. There is a lot to like here – the mist rolling over the Smoky Mountains locations where … Read more
Amy Winehouse

2 November 2015-11-02

  Out This Week   Amy (Universal, cert 15) Amy is a misery-memoir documentary about the singer Amy Winehouse, whose life ended at the age of 27 after she drank herself to death – years of bulimia had rendered her body too weak to cope with booze as well as the crack, smack and partying she’d put it through. Director Asif Kapadia proceeds in much the same way as he did with his film Senna – hide the fact that it’s a talking-head doc by laying archive footage, newspaper headlines, TV appearances, radio interviews with Amy, whatever you’ve got, over the recollections of journalists who interviewed her, musicians who worked with her, friends, … Read more
Mark Stanley as a soldier in a minefield in Kajaki

8 June 2015-06-08

  Out This Week     Kajaki (Spirit, cert 15) To find a really good, really British war film (so, no, not Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down or Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, both of which are over-rated) you have to go back a very very long way. Or watch Kajaki, which is out right now. It’s a simple, brutal and unflinching portrait of the gruesomeness of war, the camaraderie of the fighters and the raw bravery in the face of sheer terror which extreme situations reveal. Told with the straightahead simplicity and bleach-bright looks that bring to mind Ice Cold in Alex, it follows a detail of British soldiers from 3 Para … Read more
Liam Neeson in Non-Stop

30 June 2014-06-30

Out in the UK This Week     Non-Stop (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD/digital) Though there are pretenders, Liam Neeson is the king of the geri-action stars, a modern Charles Bronson whose attitude to violence is, to paraphrase the mild-mannered Dr Banner, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” This time Neeson starts out angry and hungover, then becomes increasingly vexed at 35,000ft, playing an air marshal no one will listen to, in spite of the fact that there’s a crazy man on board who wants to blow up the plane unless a large amount of money… etc … etc. Other big names include Julianne Moore, Dowton Abbey‘s Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy and 12 Years … 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, … Read more
Dwayne Johnson in Hercules

1 December 2014-12-01

    Home entertainment releases this week in the UK   The Inbetweeners 2 (4DVD, cert 15) Four go mad Down Under in the “ain’t broke, don’t fix it” follow-up to the British box office hit of 2011. The initial idea behind writer/director Damon Beesley and Iain Morris’s TV series was that the four misfits were the kind of nerdy guys who aren’t cool enough to be cool, not dumb enough to be losers – they’re just inbetween. Normal. But Beesley and Morris’s great skill, as well as jokes involving sex and bodily functions, is in locating these lads socially. So when we first meet them this time around, striving Will (Simon Bird) is … 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
snows of kilimanjaro sq 19782e013842f24674d2424feb6c7caa409

17 December 2012-12-17

Blu-ray and DVD releases this week. Distribution, certification info applies to UK only The Snows of Kilimanjaro (Cinefile, cert 15, DVD) Tonally similar to his Marius et Jeannette from 1997, Robert Guédiguian’s latest drama, about a Marseilles union official questioning his principles after he’s violently burgled by a comrade, is warm-hearted and delightful, Ken Loach in French and with added sunshine. The Snows of Kilimanjaro – at Amazon When the Lights Went Out (Revolver, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) A poltergeist monsters a 1970s council-house – avocado bathroom suite, twin-bar electric fire and all – in this British genre horror done with polish, style and gut-puckering sound design. When the Lights Went Out – at … Read more
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
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
Tom Cruise hangs onto a cargo plane in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

23 November 2015-11-23

Out This Week     Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount, cert 12) Tom Cruise’s desire to be James Bond really gets the better of him in M:I5, a flabby action spectacular which has visited Vienna, London, Langley, Paris and Havana within its first 20 minutes or so, right after the pre-credits sequence which sees Jason Bourne, hang on, Ethan Hunt clambering onto the outside of a cargo plane as it’s taking off. A stunt done for real, we’re told, and impressive whether it was or wasn’t. Christopher McQuarrie wrote and directed, so there’s plenty of that “who is the real bad guy?” attitude that was the making of The Usual Suspects, but … Read more
Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker in In Fear

10 March 2014-03-10

Out in the UK this week     In Fear (StudioCanal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) In Fear is a great little movie with a cast of two for most of it, Iain De Caestecker and Alice Englert as a couple who barely know each other but are now off to a festival together in Ireland. He’s driving, she’s wondering, antennae flapping, why he’s booked the pair of them a preliminary night in an out-of-the-way hotel. Except that, no matter how often they follow the signs, they just don’t seem to be able to find the hotel. Taking this as its starting point, director Jeremy Lovering lashes together a titanic raft of increasing creepiness from … Read more

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