Film, Reviews

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Mr Peabody & Sherman

4 Feb 20142 stars

A weak, overstretched revival of the super-intelligent pooch and his human son

Dreamworks Animation’s latest attempt to recapture Shrek’s hit combination of pop culture references and unforgettable characters fails due to an overabundance of the former and none of the latter. The titular pair are a dog and a boy, with the twist…

I, Frankenstein

31 Jan 20141 star

Repetitive CGI battles and lumpen dialogue result in a corpse that shouldn't have been reanimated

There are some stories that reverberate through the ages. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein was first published in 1818 and has since been adapted multiple times in film (most notably with Boris Karloff in 1931) and theatre (including Danny Boyle’s recent…

The Armstrong Lie

29 Jan 20143 stars

Alex Gibney finds an interesting resonance in the story of disgraced athlete Lance Armstrong

Alex Gibney delivers another smart and enthralling documentary with The Armstrong Lie, a look at cyclist Lance Armstrong and his spectacular fall from grace following confirmation, after many years of allegations, that he had been involved in…

That Awkward Moment

27 Jan 20142 stars

Romantic comedy is watchably bad rather than just plain awful

A romantic comedy from the perspective of three male friends has the potential to offer something new to the genre but despite one or two comedy highlights That Awkward Moment largely makes a mess of things. Zac Efron, Michael B Jordan and Miles…

Grudge Match

24 Jan 20143 stars

Stallone and De Niro go head to head in this flawed but worthwhile boxing picture

Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro are undoubtedly two of cinema’s heavyweights yet much of their recent material has been of the lightweight variety. Grudge Match does little to change that perception even if it does manage to land a few telling…

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DVD review: Wings

23 Jan 20144 stars

The flight sequences in William Wellman’s World War I-set silent classic still impress

From Bobby De Niro’s weight gain in Raging Bull to Oscar Isaac learning a few folk tunes for Inside Llewyn Davis, much can sometimes be made of an actor’s obsessive commitment to a particular role. Yet, surely nothing can quite match the feat of Buddy…

Locke

22 Jan 20143 stars

A high-concept, real-time, car-bound thriller starring Tom Hardy

Who'd have thought that concrete would make such compelling subject matter? In Locke we spend 85 minutes behind the wheel of a BMW driven by Welsh construction manager Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), who's haring it down the motorway putting out fires both…

Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus

22 Jan 20142 stars

Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffman star in Sebastian Silva's half-baked drug movie

The central event of this film involves the main character Jamie (Michael Cera) chopping up the ‘magical’ San Pedro cactus of the title, mixing it into a mushy swill, then cooking it in a pot for nine hours, in hopes of a legendary high from the…

Dark Days

21 Jan 20144 stars

Marc Singer's 2000 documentary on the subterranean homeless of New York remains warm and genuine

Marc Singer was a young Briton adrift in New York City when he discovered a community of people who had made their homes in disused underground tunnels, moved in with them to offer help, and then, with no filmmaking experience, begged and borrowed…

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

21 Jan 20143 stars

The spy franchise reboot is at its best when examining the ethical complexities of the spy game

Kenneth Branagh is rapidly becoming the go-to director for setting up franchises. Having done a great job with Thor, his latest mission is to reboot the Jack Ryan character most successfully played by Harrison Ford but also inhabited by Alec Baldwin and…

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The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

20 Jan 20142 stars

Fredrik Bond's Romanian-set thriller is a pretentious mess, starring Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf is rarely out of the headlines at the moment, whether it’s being caught for plagiarising a Daniel Clowes short story and skywriting his apology, sending pictures of his penis to Lars Von Trier for the forthcoming Nymphomaniac, or refusing…

Teenage

20 Jan 20143 stars

A fascinating and frustrating documentary examining the history of the teenager

Teenage sets itself an impossible task. Inspired by Jon Savage's hefty bestseller, Teenage: The Creation Of Youth 1875–1945, it attempts a sweeping, global overview of how the concept of the teenager came into existence. From the introduction of…

The Invisible Woman

17 Jan 20143 stars

Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Joanna Scanlon shine in this Dickens drama

Ralph Fiennes’ second directorial effort is impressive in its evocation of restrained emotion. Based on Claire Tomalin’s book about Charles Dickens’ relationship with an 18-year-old aspiring actress named Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), the film is…

Cuban Fury

16 Jan 20143 stars

Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd and Rashida Jones star in lightweight salsa dancing romcom

If it didn’t sound like a totally awful poster quote, Cuban Fury might be billed as ‘From half the team that brought you Shaun of the Dead’. Conceived by and starring Nick Frost, it’s produced by Nira Park, the woman behind all of Frost’s collaborations…

Inside Llewyn Davis

16 Jan 20145 stars

Oscaar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake star in the Coens' wonderful 60s folk movie

The Coen brothers return with the 16th film of their remarkable careers, once again vaulting the exceedingly high bar they’ve set for themselves. Set in the smoky dive bars of 1961 Greenwich Village, Inside Llewyn Davis is (very) loosely based on the…

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Dallas Buyers Club

16 Jan 20144 stars

Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto star in this impressive biopic of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof

You don't have to cast your mind back far to remember Matthew McConaughey as the star of a slew of mediocre romcoms, a man who seemed to have put his early promise behind him. But over the past year or so he's had an extraordinary run of performances in…

Her

16 Jan 20144 stars

Spike Jonze's 'sci-fi romance' is thoughtful, tender and bristles with invention

After his disappointing adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze returns in blazing form with the beguiling Her. Already being dubbed as a sci-fi/ romance, such simplification barely does justice to a story that feels both forward-looking…

The Night of the Hunter

16 Jan 20145 stars

Charles Laughton's masterpiece remains both gloriously cinematic and utterly terrifying

Masterpiece is a much overused term, but The Night of the Hunter, a 1955 thriller now restored and re-released, genuinely deserves that accolade. Adapted from Davis Grubb’s 1953 novel (itself based on a true story from 20 years earlier) by screenwriter…

Devil’s Due

16 Jan 20141 star

A tedious and wholly derivative horror experience from Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

From poor conception through to shoddy delivery, Devil’s Due is a tedious and wholly derivative horror experience. Co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, who made their name on one of the V/H/S horror anthology segments, and based on a…

Labor Day

16 Jan 20142 stars

An unintentionally hilarious melodrama starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet

Jason Reitman is the closest thing we have to a 21st century Billy Wilder with his fondness for sharply written, tart tasting explorations of modern mores. Juno and Up in the Air proved that there is still intelligent life at work in American comedy.

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Out of the Furnace

16 Jan 20143 stars

Christian Bale, Casey Affleck and Willem Dafoe squandered in this B-movie revenge scenario

All dressed up with nowhere to go, Scott Cooper’s follow-up to his award-garlanded Jeff Bridges drama Crazy Heart is a languid thriller, garnished with meaty performances in service of a deeply conventional narrative. The Rust Belt setting is powerfully…

Kiss the Water

16 Jan 20142 stars

Eric Steel's documentary about fly-fisher Megan Boyd is a slight curiosity of a film

A passion project for producer Eric Steel, Kiss the Water opens with his voiceover explaining a personal interest in the film’s genesis. Having read the newspaper obituary of Scottish fishing legend Megan Boyd, Steel (a producer of Nora Ephron’s…

The Wolf of Wall Street

16 Jan 20143 stars

Martin Scorsese's latest is too busy reveling in excess to consider any moral complexities

As with his wonderfully fluent Goodfellas, which chronicled the rise and fall of real-life gangster Henry Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street sees Martin Scorsese bring exhaustive meticulousness to Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). This dodgy share-trader’s…

Bastards

13 Jan 20143 stars

Claire Denis' latest is a needlessly tangled neo-noir with moments of great visual beauty

Films by Claire Denis offer certain pleasures as standard. Ravishing visuals, courtesy of her regular DoP, Agnès Godard. Stirring sounds from her musical collaborators, Tindersticks. Subtle performances from actors who tend to be awfully good looking.

Lone Survivor

13 Jan 20144 stars

A gutsy, draining and brilliant war movie from Peter Berg, with Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster

Two years after overloading his summer blockbuster Battleship with enough gung-ho patriotism to sink an aircraft carrier, Peter Berg returns to the military for an altogether different kind of film but, in displaying a little more restraint, duly…