Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Daniel Craig and Léa Seydoux in Spectre

22 February 2016-02-22

Out This Week Spectre (Fox, cert 12) Trope is what they should have called this film, rather than Spectre, though god knows the spectre of so many old Bond movies hangs over a film which, in reviewing terms is worth about two out of five stars if seen as a standalone film, but four as a mash-up. The usual recent writing team of John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (Bond writers since The World Is Not Enough) is augmented this time by playwright Jez Butterworth, whose knack for snappy dialogue made Edge of Tomorrow into something worth listening to as well as watching. Here, this quartet send Bond off to Mexico for … Read more
snows of kilimanjaro sq 19782e013842f24674d2424feb6c7caa409

17 December 2012-12-17

Out in the UK this week 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 Amazon The Killing Series 3 (Arrow, cert … Read more
Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson in Gimme the Loot

2 September 2013-09-02

Out in the UK this week Gimme the Loot (Soda, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) A debut movie by writer/director Adam Leon, someone with something to say, Gimme the Loot is appropriately about two black kids (skin colour is an issue) who do a lot of talking as they wander around a present-day New York like Belmondo and Seberg once wandered through Paris in A Bout de Souffle. Do not be put off by reference to the French New Wave, I’m just trying to say Gimme the Loot is energetic, fresh, nervy, in love with the idea of youth, full of lip and very hip. Reinforcing the idea is the soundtrack – cool 60s R&B, … Read more
Jon Jensen (Mads Mikkelsen) carries his dead son (Toke Lars Bjarke) in The Salvation

10 August 2015-08-10

Out This Week The Salvation (Warner, cert 15) Having made his name with austere Dogma films, Kristian Levring makes clear he’s more than a one trick pony with a film that pulls every “big movie” trick available – lighting, cameras, costumes, location and sound are all used to the max in a lavish western that sees Mads Mikkelsen striking Clint Eastwood poses as he tries to gain revenge for the death of his wife and child. One of the best modern westerns thematically, technically, artistically and in terms of pure entertainment, it references the medical violence of Peckinpah, the masculine codes of Aldrich, the operatics of Leone and the spartan ruggedness of John Ford, … Read more
Keanu the interviewer in Side by Side

13 May 2013-05-13

Out in the UK this week Side by Side (Axiom, cert 15, DVD) A documentary about the digital revolution in movie making that runs through the whole process – first the workings of the old photochemical technology which was king for more than 100 years and then on to how digital has changed everything, from cameras and acting, to editing and effects, the print and the projector. His Matrix experience apart, Keanu Reeves initially seems an unlikely guide to the whole thing. But he’s not just a voiceover, he’s the interviewer and producer of the documentary and it’s probably thanks to his clout that it gets access to pretty much anyone it wants. … Read more
Jaeden Lieberher in Midnight Special

1 August 2016-08-01

Out This Week Midnight Special (E One, cert 12) I’m a sucker for a deduction film, and in Midnight Special we are asked to deduce first what’s going on, and then what sort of a movie it is. This being a Jeff Nichols film, Michael Shannon is the star – as he has been in four of five Nichols films to date (Nichols’s latest, Loving, also a Shannon number, has not arrived here yet) – and he brings his brutish compassion to bear on a story that looks, at first, to be an abduction drama. Shannon, we deduce, is the abductor of a child, and on the run from the law and a religious community headed … Read more
Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori in The Grand Budapest Hotel

7 July 2014-07-07

Out in the UK This Week The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD/digital) Like a cornier Peter Greenaway, Wes Anderson gives us tableaux, picture-postcard symmetry, exquisite control of his mis-en-scène, in a black forest gateau of a movie, set in Europe between the wars, the last great age of decadence. Its revelation is that Ralph Fiennes can do funny, as the charming but crooked concierge with a finger in every pie (and most of his aged female guests) who is accused of murder when one of his ancient paramours is found dead. Whether he did it or not is immaterial. Anderson has, by the time we get to this point, pretty much … 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 a … Read more
David Oyelowo in Selma

1 June 2015-06-01

Out This Week Selma (Pathe, cert 12) Martin Luther King’s life done as a triumph, not the usual tragedy, the focus being the series of marches King led from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. These effectively rode a coach and horses through the prevailing practice of disenfranchising Negros by making registering to vote all but impossible. Up in Washington DC are two tricky customers – the conniving though not entirely venal President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, not over-reaching himself) and his homunculus, FBI boss J Edgar Hoover (another eel-like turn by Dylan Baker), while down in Alabama operates the strategically astute, tactically sharp King. Like last year’s Dallas Buyers Club, the success of the … Read more
Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Belle

20 October 2014-10-20

Out in the UK This Week Two Days, One Night (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) A French factory hand (magnificent Marion Cotillard) has a weekend to persuade her colleagues to do without their cash bonuses and keep her on instead. As much a portrait of a woman battling depression and low self-esteem as a condemnation of modern employment norms – what kind of scumbag boss dodges a bullet by making his employees take those sort of decisions? – it has a high concept, a big name in the lead, clear heroes and villains and an “if you try hard enough you can win” throughline. In other words it’s the Dardenne brothers’ most Hollywood film … Read more
Marcelo Alonso and Robert Fariás in The Club

30 May 2016-05-30

Out This Week The Club (Network, cert 18) Chilean film-maker Pablo Larraín’s seething drama is set in a remote safe house where a group of disgraced Catholic priests are living under the steely eye of capable nun Sister Monica (Antonia Zegers). Life is simple and ordered, with the only bit of excitement coming from the racing of the priests’ greyhound at a local track, though the priests themselves are symbolically watching the race from a distance, through binoculars. This cosy life of the exiled pariah changes when new priest Father Mathias (José Soza) arrives and, having been read the rules – no self-flagellating, no self-pleasuring, no contact with anyone outside – he resignedly settles in, complaining … 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 at its core. This … Read more

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