Scene from Murnau's Faust

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Silje Reinåmo in Thale

4 March 2013-03-04

DVDs/Blu-rays out in the UK this week Thale (Metrodome, cert 15, DVD) This tense fantasy thriller about a Norwegian police clean-up team finding a mythical creature in a hidden cellar is this year’s Troll Hunter. Unexpected, refreshing, atmospheric and tightly plotted, it’s beautifully shot with vivid colours and unusual deep-focus photography, oh the wonders of digital. Even if you hate this sort of thing, it’s worth watching, and if you do hate this sort of thing you’ll be happy to hear it’s only a short 75 minutes or so. I found some comments from its director, Aleksander Nordaas, over on Pirate Bay underneath the magnet and torrent links to Thale, pointing out to … Read more
Ryan Reynolds and Gemma Arterton in The Voices

13 July 2015-07-13

Out This Week The Voices (Arrow, cert 15) Marjane Satrapi has made a good film about a man with appalling schizophrenia. That she’s chosen to make it into a comedy, and has cast Ryan Reynolds as the disturbed guy who believes his pet cat and dog are talking to him shows she doesn’t lack for ambition. I suspect a lot of people won’t like The Voices at all, because a comedy about a man who likes to dismember people, and who is shown sawing them up and packing them neatly into many stacked Tupperware boxes like so many packed lunches, is, let’s face it, a bit gruesome. And he’s the “hero”. But Reynolds is excellent … Read more
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

2 June 2014-06-02

Out in the UK This Week Dallas Buyers Club (E One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) He literally rides bulls, the hero of this refreshingly unsentimental Aids drama – comedy? – about a rampantly heterosexual Texas guy who discovers he’s HIV+. That’ll be the meth and hookers parties we see him indulging in. The hero of this film is its script – a taut, tight example of economical writing that arrives in each scene as late as possible, tells us just enough of what we need to know, before moving on. There’s no backstories either – bane of so many films these days. So notice how many characters in this film, people with speaking roles and everything, … Read more
Naomi Watts in The Impossible

6 May 2013-05-06

Out in the UK this week The Impossible (Entertainment One, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) The Spanish have an appetite for mutilation. Look at bullfighting, or the bloody effigies of the crucified Jesus Christ in their churches. And though this film is entirely in the English language, it has a Spanish director, writer and production money behind it. It’s very much a Spanish film. So, parking my misgivings about a drama wrought from the 2004 tsunami in the bay marked “Anglo Saxon squeamishness”, let’s turn to the story of the nice family who copped the big wave while on holiday in Thailand. It’s based on a Spanish family’s true experiences and does at least put … Read more
James and Zoe share a tender moment in These Final Hours

8 August 2016-08-08

Out This Week These Final Hours (The Works, cert 18) A “last day of the world” film like we used to get around the turn of the millennium. It’s made on the cheap but with lots of skill and attitude, the attitude being largely borrowed from Mad Max. Actually, it’s about three genres in one and they successfully fold together as we follow James (Nathan Phillips of Wolf Creek) who is on a coming-of-age road trip on the very last day of the world’s existence. The question the film poses, and James asks of himself eventually when he’s got his priorities straight, is: am I going to be an asshole right to the … 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
Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine

18 November 2013-11-18

Out in the UK This Week The Wolverine (Fox, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) The X-Men series has been lacklustre, with too many characters chasing too little plot (X-Men First Class being the exception). But The Wolverine bucks that trend thanks to its tight focus on Hugh Jackman as the wolfman with the salon-sational nails and its decision to just chuck us straight into the plot, just like the comic books do. Japan is the focus, a grungy dirty Japan, where bearded, trashed Wolverine is just trying to forget all that superhero stuff and get on with a normal life. But, as is the way with these things, his past comes back to get him, … Read more
Ronald Zehrfeld and Nina Hoss in Phoenix

31 August 2015-08-31

Out This Week Phoenix (Soda, cert 12) Nina Hoss and Christian Petzold have made six films together, of which I’ve seen only one – the outstanding left-field supernatural thriller Yella. Phoenix builds its drama in a similar way to that 2007 movie – withholding a piece of information and asking us to guess what exactly is going on. Here, we’re in a quasi-Vertigo story, with Hoss as Nelly, a Jewish woman who’s having facial reconstruction surgery in the immediate rubble-strewn aftermath of the Second World War in Germany. Why? We’re not sure. Though the fact she’s been in “the camps” is surely significant. And chilling. And what sort of a clinic is offering … Read more
Laurence Fishburne and Lin Shaye meet

13 April 2015-04-13

Out in the UK This Week The Signal (E One, cert 15) An underrated sci-fi adventure about three young hacktivists who are abducted by aliens and then wake up in a clinical facility where Laurence Fishburne and co – all in hazmat suits – are looking after them. We arrive at the facility about 15 minutes in to the film, so I haven’t given away much of the plot, which uses tropes of Close Encounters, The Matrix and Vincent Natali’s Cube to great effect. Director William Eubank ties it all together with clean and precise direction of his stars (Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cook, Beau Knapp), and the Mogwai-meets-Wendy Carlos soundtrack by Nima Fakhrara lifts … Read more
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

9 March 2015-03-09

Out in the UK This Week The Imitation Game (StudioCanal, cert 12) Benedict Cumberbatch plays code-breaking genius Alan Turing as an Asperger’s Kenneth More in this superior biopic set in the era of stiff upper lips and laws against homosexual deeds. This drama returns to those laws several times, when it’s not busying itself with the actual big stuff – defeating the Germans. Of course, as everyone in the world knows but the UK’s cultural gatekeepers don’t acknowledge, the Americans and the Russians won the Second World War, with Britain luckily on the winning side but making useful contributions. The cracking of the Enigma code, which allowed the Germans to communicate with each other … Read more
Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Sarah Dumont in Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

7 March 2016-03-07

Out This Week Steve Jobs (Universal, cert 15) Walking in to watch this film on the last day of the London Film Festival, I was struck by the number of people in the cinema, waiting for the lights to go down, who were absorbed in their tablets, phablets, phones and whatever. We all live in Steve Jobs’s world now, and the case could be argued that collectively we have become those people in Apple’s famous Ridley Scott Big Brother advert of 1984, the ones striving to be freed from tyranny by technology. Coming at this film from the other direction, there’s the Google-financed movie The Internship, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, which failed … Read more
intouchables

4 February 2013-02-04

Out in the UK this Week Untouchable (EV, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) A rich white tetraplegic (François Cluzet) gets lessons in life from a lusty black guy from out of the projects (Omar Sy). Untouchable (Intouchables in French, and the plural is there for a reason) is the most successful French film ever but has generated at least as many accusations of racism as it has five star reviews. But, one joke about Barack Obama apart, this vastly entertaining, hugely feelgood, very funny and brilliantly acted film (Omar Sy’s is a “star is born” turn) touches more on socio-economics than race, unless you’re in the business of being professionally affronted. Either way, see it … Read more

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