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Le Procès aka The Trial

    An arch bullshitter of the first water, Orson Welles fell on Franz Kafka’s The Trial like he fell on everything – mountainously. Kafka’s is a simple story – about Joseph K, a man arrested for an unspecified crime, who is taken through a legal process, all the way protesting he’s innocent. Is he? We can never tell, since the narrator is K himself and it’s impossible to work out if he’s lying or not, though he does increasingly come across as a shifty piece of work. Not unlike the artful Mr Welles, who protested to the end of his days that Hollywood had found him guilty of an unspecified crime and … Read more
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Strangers on a Train

    Remakes are always being mooted – one far-fetched internet rumour had Ricky Gervais starring in one of them – but whatever eventually pops out, it’s unlikely to eclipse this warped 1951 original, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Patricia Highsmith, surely one of cinema’s most misanthropic couplings. Hitchcock, as book after book delights in telling us, loved torturing blondes. The lesbian Highsmith, on the other hand, loved to torture homosexuals – see The Talented Mr Ripley, for example. And it’s Highsmith who comes out on top in this thriller about two men agreeing to swap murders. Robert Walker plays Bruno Anthony, the psychotic ball of mother-love who wants his horrible … Read more
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Keyhole

    “That penis is getting dusty” – a line of dialogue in wonky auteur Guy Maddin’s latest film, another arthouse exploration of arthouse themes delivered in high contrast monochrome, from a camera on a bungee and via an editor with attention deficit disorder. There are a couple of famous names too, just to lure in the unwary, or more likely to open the wallets of the various art foundations that funded this mad collision of references. Isabella Rossellini, longtime Maddin collaborator and utterer of the great line in his film The Saddest Music in the World – “If you’re sad and you like beer, I’m your lady” – she’s here. So too, … Read more
Toby Jones in Berberian Sound Studio

4 January 2013-01-04

Out in the UK This Week Berberian Sound Studio (Artificial Eye, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) “A dangerously aroused goblin prowls the dormitory” – a line that says it all from the never-seen film that soundman Toby Jones is working on in Peter Strickland’s follow-up to the brilliant, Romanian-set Katalin Varga, a brilliantly overheated, Italian-set homage to 1970s “giallo” horror. Really worth watching with headphones on, this one. Berberian Sound Studio – at Amazon   The Imposter (Revolver, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) One of the most gripping films of 2012, a semi-documentary about how a 20something French juvie managed to pass himself off as a missing 16-year-old from Texas. And why the family bought it. A … Read more
Jeremy Irvine and Dakota Fanning in Now Is Good

Now Is Good

In Love Story, the 1970 weepie in which boy meets girl and girl dies – sorry, that’s it – it is, let me reiterate, the girl who dies. It always is, sickness being part of the female condition, in mainstream Hollywood of the era anyway. Different decade same idea in Now Is Good, a boy-meets-girl-and-girl-dies weepie with Dakota Fanning as the pale, interesting girl, Jeremy Irvine as the boy she falls for and leaves behind. To go into further plot detail is pointless – the publicity material points out that Tessa (Fanning) has a bucket list and that losing her virginity is at the top of it. But that’s little more than a … Read more
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26 November 2012-11-26

All distribution, certification info applies to UK only Ted (Universal, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Descending occasionally into Family Guy droning, Seth MacFarlane’s comedy about a guy (Mark Wahlberg) and his walking, talking, living teddy bear otherwise riffs rude and hilarious on popular culture – hookers and hookahs to Diff’rent Strokes and Ming the Merciless. Ted – at Amazon Magic Mike (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Channing Tatum takes his clothes off. Recommendation enough, maybe, but Steven Soderbergh’s Boogie Nights-lite drama about male strippers also faintly deals with the objectification of the male body. And Matthew McConaughey takes his clothes off too. Magic Mike – at Amazon The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD) The special … Read more
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3 December 2012-12-03

All distribution, certification info applies to UK only   The Dark Knight Rises (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download) The series has been overpumped but Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film is definitely the best of the bunch, a luxuriously long, character-packed comicbook adventure all the better for featuring Christian Bale’s caped crusader very little. The Dark Knight Rises – at Amazon The Bourne Legacy (Universal, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download) It’s the Bourne Leftovers, with Jeremy Renner taking over from Matt Damon, the taciturn amnesiac superspy now having a memory, a loose tongue and little raison d’etre. S’OK. Just. The Bourne Leftovers – at Amazon New Year’s Eve (Warner, cert 12, Blu-ray/DVD/Download) A Love, Actually idea – … Read more
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10 December 2012-12-10

All distribution, certification info applies to UK only The Expendables 2 (Lionsgate, cert 15, Blu-ray/DVD) Jason Statham helps action OAPs Sly, Arnie, Dolph, Bruce, Jean-Claude and even, god love him, Chuck Norris into their combat gear in a second tranche of lobotomised ass-kicking so ridiculous the franchise might run for ever. The Expendables 2 – at Amazon Ping Pong (Britdoc, cert PG, DVD) Play veteran table tennis and stay limber, sharp and connected to the world – the message of this riveting documentary that works because it focuses on the game and its very elderly players (one a feisty 100), rather than self-empowerment blah. Ping Pong – at Amazon Life Just Is (Independent, … Read more
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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
Arthur Christmas and Grandsanta

19 November 2012-11-19

Out in the UK This Week   Arthur Christmas (Sony, cert U, Blu-ray/DVD) There have been some terrible British animations in the past few years. Anyone remember Valiant? But this comic adventure re-imagining the Christmas delivery round as something that’s grown into a gigantic FedEx-like operation, with Santa Claus now almost as redundant as his sleigh, is not one of them. Brilliantly structured, it’s witty, gutsy, insightful and entirely entertaining. And its depiction of Santa’s family as a bunch of characters who don’t actually enjoy spending Christmas together gives it universal appeal, as does its “cake and eat it” suggestion that the corporatisation of everything we hold dear is going to happen, but … Read more
Matthew McConaughey and Juno Temple in Killer Joe

9 November 2012-11-09

Out in the UK This Week Killer Joe (Entertainment One, cert 18, Blu-ray/DVD) French Connection/Exorcist director William Friedkin returns to form and hands a decent role to Matthew McConaughey, who plays a dead-eyed contract killer menacing a family who thought they’d hired him to kill the materfamilias for insurance gain. As with The Exorcist, Friedkin gives us an awful lot of set-up before he gets the nasty stuff out, by which time we’re emotionally invested and feeling every jab. Juno Temple stands out as the braless jailbait who catches McC’s eye, but it’s very hard to get really involved in this family as they’re so scarily dim. Unless the whole thing is meant … 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

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