Film, Reviews

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The Raid 2

9 Apr 20143 stars

Some astonishing set-pieces underwhelmed by this sequel's over-complicated narrative

The first film in writer / director Gareth Evans’ proposed trilogy of martial arts thrillers was a kick-in-the-pants to the genre: a simple, fluid action film that showcased the art of pencak silat via the story of Jakarta policemen fighting their way…

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

9 Apr 20144 stars

Marc Webb's superhero sequel delivers a sparky blend of thrills, laughs and heartfelt emotion

Marc Webb's sequel to 2012's franchise reboot finds Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) juggling his daily superhero duties as costumed crime fighter Spider-Man while agonising over whether or not he should honour the promise he made to girlfriend Gwen…

Half of a Yellow Sun

9 Apr 20142 stars

The adaptation Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel is beautiful and well-acted but lacks depth

This adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s prize-winning novel comes unstuck in the same way as many literary adaptations before it, feeling too often like a story that is just skimming the surfaces of its characters and plot-lines, never digging…

A Story of Children and Film

4 Apr 20143 stars

Mark Cousins’ film essay/poem is an impassioned look at childhood in cinema

A fervent supporter of world cinema, Mark Cousins’ new documentary provides some examples of the way childhood has been captured by filmmakers around the globe in the hundred years since cinema’s birth. Focusing on filmmakers from Francois Truffaut to…

Rio 2

1 Apr 20143 stars

The sequel to 2010's animated parrot adventure is amiable but forgettable family entertainment

The brief appearance of the acorn-loving Scrat character over the Blue Sky logo at the start of Rio 2 is a reminder that this animation studio has now authored four films in the Ice Age franchise to date. These films had a strong, evolving plotline, but…

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Noah

1 Apr 20143 stars

Darren Aronofsky's blockbuster bible-story is compellingly weird & occasionally wonderful to behold

2014 box-office hit Son of God was a straight-faced version of the Jesus story that Christian audiences lapped up, but letting a maverick like Darren Aronofsky loose on the story of Noah was always likely to create a controversy of biblical proportions.

Divergent

31 Mar 20142 stars

Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet star in this derivative adaptation of Veronica Roth’s YA series

It’s always disappointing when a film that places so much emphasis on the need to be free-thinking and different from the masses conforms so rigidly to other movies. Yet Divergent, the latest adaptation of a young adult book series hoping to become the…

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

24 Mar 20144 stars

The Cap's latest adventure cleverly taps into topical fears surrounding the activities of the NSA

The second Captain America movie is a terrific, stand-alone thriller that delivers exciting action sequences and engaging characters wrapped up in a satisfying and cleverly resonant plot. Co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo (best known for TV's…

The Punk Singer

19 Mar 20144 stars

Inspiring look at the Bikini Kill riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna

Whatever happened to Kathleen Hanna? That's the basic thrust of Sini Anderson's accomplished debut feature-length documentary chronicling the life of the explosively inspiring former singer with punk rock bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre and leader of the…

The Robber

18 Mar 20144 stars

Benjamin Heisenberg's minimalist crime thriller is a thought-provoking piece of work

Filmhouse’s distribution arm continues to snap up what the UK’s mainstream film companies have left on the shelf, with a long overdue release for this Austrian thriller. Is thriller the right word? Certainly the material – based on a true story, via a…

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About Last Night

18 Mar 20142 stars

Remake of the 80s comedy lacks emotional impact

If Edward Zwick's original About Last Night was notable for offering a provocative look at sexual politics that only just made it past the censors, Steve Pink's remake is nothing more than a tedious attempt to update it for a new generation. Both films…

Yves Saint Laurent

13 Mar 20144 stars

The ‘official’ biopic of the couturier takes a glossy look at his fascinating, but tragic life

The impeccably styled but tragic life of fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent always had ‘screen adaptation’ written all over it. On the surface, there are his glamorous, emancipating designs; the satiny, mannish tailoring and supple styles which helped…

Veronica Mars

13 Mar 20143 stars

There's lots to please Mars devotees in this big screen adaptation of the cult television series

Funded by its fans in a record-breaking outpouring of cash, Veronica Mars is the big-screen outing of Rob Thomas' cult, prematurely axed TV show of the same name, which focused on a teenage private eye. The events of the show's three seasons are…

Muppets Most Wanted

13 Mar 20143 stars

A fun enough adventure that lacks the magical quality of its nostalgia-driven predecessor

The opening song in Muppets Most Wanted openly acknowledges the fact that most sequels exist in the shadow of their original. They are words that prove prophetic. James Bobin’s follow-up is mostly inferior to the 2011 comeback movie despite existing…

The Unknown Known

13 Mar 20142 stars

Errol Morriss' examination of Donald Rumsfeld lacks nuance and depth

The veteran documentarian Errol Morris here turns his penetrating gaze upon Donald Rumsfeld, Defence Secretary under Gerald Ford and George W Bush. Comparisons are inevitable with Morris’ 2003 Oscar-winner The Fog of War, for which he interviewed…

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Need for Speed

13 Mar 20142 stars

Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul stars in a WASPy, derisory Fast & Furious wannabe

On the surface, Need for Speed should purr. A popular video game series, the star of Breaking Bad and a former stuntman directing, this tale of race car rivalries has all it takes to eat into the Fast & The Furious audience. But a quick peak under…

The Double

13 Mar 20143 stars

Richard Ayoade undermines some solid performances with airless retro-stylings

After rising to fame through The IT Crowd, Richard Ayoade made an accomplished directorial debut with coming-of-age saga Submarine. Taking on the work of Fyodor Dostoyevsky for his next project suggests a welcome ambition, but despite a good central…

20 Feet from Stardom

13 Mar 20144 stars

A soul-stirring celebration of backing vocalists from director Morgan Neville

Lapped up by festival audiences worldwide and winner of the Best Documentary award at the 2014 Oscars, Morgan Neville’s soul-stirring celebration of backing vocalists is a bona fide crowd-pleaser with substance to match. Neville captures the…

The Past

13 Mar 20144 stars

A quietly gripping domestic drama from Asghar Farhadi, director of A Separation

With this quietly gripping domestic drama, Asghar Farhadi once again demonstrates his ability to turn keen human insight into powerfully compelling cinema. As with previous film A Separation, the Iranian writer/director uses the dissolution of a…

Suzanne

10 Mar 20143 stars

Katell Quillevere's French drama lacks the intimacy its title suggests

We first meet Suzanne as a bubbly child, living with her father and younger sister in a motherless but loving blue-collar household. A rebellious adolescence brings problems, however, and Suzanne's life quickly spins off the rails, to the perpetual…

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Back to the Garden

10 Mar 20142 stars

Dull improvised ensemble piece

Anyone with a glancing knowledge of the film industry is aware that in any given year, scores of fine films fail to make it into cinemas, because it's judged that they don't have commercial potential. This happens, particularly in time of recession, not…

300: Rise of an Empire

7 Mar 20143 stars

The sequel to the 2007 action hit succeeds thanks to a bonkers turn from Eva Green

If you thought that the main problem with 300 was that it didn't have enough boats in it, then 300: Rise of an Empire (more accurate title: 302: 300 On Boats) is most definitely the movie for you. The long-time-coming sequel to Zack Snyder's 2007 hit…

The Stag

7 Mar 20142 stars

John Butler's inoffensive Irish comedy lacks punch

Few genres are more wretched that the British stag comedy: post-Four Weddings and a Funeral, a number of drunken bromances like Staggered fell flat on their faces in cinemas. US import The Hangover cleverly depicted the stag night without showing it at…

Bullet

6 Mar 20141 star

Trashy, low budget Danny Trejo action vehicle

Essentially a low budget action vehicle for supporting actor-turned-star Danny Trejo, Bullet is a disposable cop thriller that's receiving a cursory theatrical release before being released three days later on DVD, where it may find a more natural…

Video Nasties: Draconian Days

5 Mar 20144 stars

Jake West censorship doc highlights horror's frontline position in our battle for personal freedoms

The second part of director Jake West's history of film censorship in the UK looks at the furore surrounding the issue of 'Video Nasties', resulting in the establishment of the Video Recording Act in 1984. The government stamped down on the lack of…