Film, Reviews

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47 Ronin

6 Jan 20142 stars

Keanu Reeves stars in this shambolic and derivative samurai adventure

First-time director Carl Rinsch’s mega-budget take on one of Japan’s most enduring legends feels like a folly that should never have been indulged. 47 Ronin is a messy and uninvolving tale of revenge that no amount of embellishment can save. If…

Last Vegas

30 Dec 20133 stars

Four sixty-somethings head to Vegas for a stag do in this frivolous comedy with a starry cast

The presence of Kevin Kline amongst the four aging partygoers in Jon Turteltaub’s Last Vegas harks back to Lawrence Kasdan’s far superior 1983 film The Big Chill, in which Kline played one of the thirty-somethings who converge for a weekend of chat…

American Hustle

17 Dec 20135 stars

An entertaining 70s crime caper starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper

Boasting one of the most dazzling, awards-friendly casts in recent memory, American Hustle finds writer-director David O Russell in the mood for flamboyantly filmed, often hilarious hi-jinks. His seventh film is a sexy, rollicking caper set in the late…

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

17 Dec 20134 stars

Will Ferrell's idiotic newsman makes a welcome return

In the nine years since the release of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell's titular creation has become a real icon of idiocy, making a sequel genuinely welcome. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (once again co-written by Ferrell and…

12 Years a Slave

12 Dec 20135 stars

Steve McQueen's latest is a powerful, essential drama that eschews sentimentality

In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free man living in New York state, was drugged, imprisoned and sold into slavery. After his release in 1853 he wrote a memoir detailing the 12 harrowing years he spent incarcerated. Steve McQueen’s (Hunger, Shame) film…

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

11 Dec 20133 stars

The lively set-pieces are undoubtedly impressive, but Jackson's bloated sequel is way too long

It may represent an improvement on An Unexpected Journey but Peter Jackson continues to test the patience of Lord of The Rings fans with bloated sequel, The Desolation of Smaug. Clocking in at in excess of two and a half hours, this second film in The…

The Patience Stone

11 Dec 20134 stars

A provocative drama about a wife and her comatose husband, set against a Middle East war

In an unnamed town in what could be Afghanistan, a young woman tends to her injured husband. A religious war is being fought around them, and while battling alongside his Muslim brothers the husband has taken a stray bullet in the neck. Now he is…

Powder Room

11 Dec 20132 stars

Lacklustre comedy set in a women's toilet starring Sheridan Smith, Kate Nash and Oona Chaplin

MJ Delaney’s Powder Room is designed to be an amusing expose of what really goes on in women’s toilets but its wayward plotting and lacklustre comedy mean it has more disappointments than laughs. Based on Rachel Hirons’ 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Festival…

All is Lost

9 Dec 20134 stars

Robert Redford gives one of the finest performances of his long career in this survival drama

It is almost 40 years since Robert Redford received his sole, unsuccessful Best Actor Oscar nomination for The Sting. Amazingly, he is quite likely to be back in contention this year for All is Lost, in which he barely utters a word and yet manages to…

Fill the Void

9 Dec 20133 stars

Elegant, claustrophobic drama about Orthodox Jewish traditions from Rama Burshtein

Where does family loyalty end and personal autonomy begin? This elegant but claustrophobic drama, written and directed by Rama Burshtein, a member of the closed-off Orthodox Jewish community that it depicts, sets its struggle between duty and instinct…

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August: Osage County

9 Dec 20133 stars

The third play written by Tracy Letts to reach the big screen in the past seven years, August: Osage County, on the surface, bears little connection to the two efforts adapted by William Friedkin. Both Bug (2006) and Killer Joe (2011) were intense…

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

9 Dec 20133 stars

Justin Chadwick's Nelson Mandela biopic features great performances from Idris Elba and Naomi Harris

Let’s get the cliché out of the way first. Yes, it’s been a long walk to bring Nelson Mandela’s autobiography to the big screen. Countless directors, writers and actors – including Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington – have come and gone. But finally…

Delivery Man

9 Dec 20133 stars

Ken Scott successfully moves his Canadian sperm donor comedy to the US, with help from Vince Vaughn

As Michael Haneke discovered with his US retread his US retread of Funny Games, directors who remake their own foreign-language hits in America always run the risk of diluting their vision. But with Delivery Man, Canadian director Ken Scott has managed…

The Railway Man

9 Dec 20133 stars

Colin Firth excels in this biopic of Eric Lomax, a POW forced to work on the Burma 'Death' Railway

Adapted from Edinburgh-born World War II veteran Eric Lomax’s 1995 memoir, The Railway Man recounts Lomax’s experiences as one of the prisoners of war forced by the Japanese to construct the Burma ‘Death’ Railway in the jungle of Thailand. Lomax’s…

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

9 Dec 20133 stars

A surprisingly subtle and understated big budget adventure from Ben Stiller

Adapted in the loosest sense from James Thurber’s 1939 short story about an ineffectual daydreaming husband, this family-friendly adventure reinvents Walter (Ben Stiller) as an unmarried, hard-working and inarticulate photo clerk at Life magazine. He is…

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A Long Way From Home

9 Dec 20132 stars

Victoria Gilbert's unsubtle psychological drama falls short of its intentions

Dreams aren’t always as idyllic when played out in reality. This is the harsh lesson that the two central characters learn in BAFTA-nominated writer Virginia Gilbert’s feature debut, A Long Way From Home. The film centres on the casual meeting of two…


4 Dec 20132 stars

Spike Lee's remake of the cult Korean film lacks suspense and wit

As a filmmaker Spike Lee is inconsistent, but successes like Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X and 25th Hour mean he's a director who's always been someone to keep an eye on. However Lee really has his work cut out for him with this remake of Park…


3 Dec 20134 stars

An old-fashioned but charming musical fairytale from Disney

The Walt Disney of Saving Mr Banks might barely recognize the company who currently partner Pixar and Marvel, but he’d be right at home with Frozen, adapted freely from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. This long-gestated project springs to…


2 Dec 20133 stars

Jason Statham faces off against James Franco in this preposterous action flick

Based on the novel by Chuck Logan and with a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, Homefront is about an American hero hounded by hostile small-towners, in the manner of one of Stallone’s finest, First Blood. Except this time our hero, Phil Broker, isn’t…


2 Dec 20132 stars

Low budget action flick with Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez and some well-staged car stunts

An unashamed B-movie that was critically mauled and publically shunned on its US release, Getaway is a surprisingly passable little thriller for genre fans. Filmed on the cheap in Bulgaria, it makes up for what it lacks in originality with a plethora of…

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Free Birds

29 Nov 20131 star

A limp, misguided animation about turkeys attempting to escape Thanksgiving

‘Hang on to your nuggets!' proclaims the poster for Free Birds, but director Jimmy Hayward’s film isn’t about chickens, it’s about turkeys. As an example of the wrongheaded brashness of this animated film, this misnomer sets the tone for a dull…

James Franco – Actors Anonymous

25 Nov 20132 stars

The actor’s circuitous, self-referential ‘novel’ is a frustrating read

‘Franco mercilessly turns his “James Franco” persona inside out’ promises the book jacket for Actors Anonymous – but which persona is this exactly? Is it Stoner Franco, the pseudo-recurring character from the films Pineapple Express and Freaks and…

The Family

21 Nov 20132 stars

Lively but predictable gangster flick starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer

Writer/director/producer Luc Besson made his name with genre thrillers like Subway and Nikita, but his touch has deserted him as he’s produced a conveyor belt of action melodramas ranging from the good (Taken) to glossy junk like Kiss of the Dragon…

Computer Chess

21 Nov 20134 stars

Andrew Bujalski's latest film is a wholly original slice of American indie

There is a scene towards the end of Andrew Bujalski’s latest idiosyncratic slice of America, where a chess programmer picks up an analog camcorder and begins to film the people in front of her. They sit still, awkwardly smiling and say nothing. Although…

Movement One / Ponydance

18 Nov 20134 stars

A Dance:Film 2013 documentary double bill with contrasting atmospheric and humourous approaches

It’s hard to imagine two companies approaching contemporary dance in more contrasting ways than the subjects of this diverse double-bill. In Movement One, American choreographer Teddy Forance takes us to the dark side of the human psyche, fusing…