Film, Reviews

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DVD review: Extraction

28 Aug 20133 stars

A low budget, memory-invading sci-fi that channels The Twilight Zone

In this low budget sci-fi, Sasha Roiz plays Tom, a scientist working on a revolutionary system allowing individuals to enter another person’s memories; a technique allowing two linked users to dip into, explore and experience their recollections – with…

The Kings of Summer

27 Aug 20134 stars

A welcome addition to the coming-of-age genre, starring Nick Robinson and Nick Offerman

The coming-of-age genre gets a welcome new addition with Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ massively enjoyable The Kings of Summer. Thanks in no small part to its trio of hugely likeable teenage leads, the film breezes along, mixing comedy with drama to often…

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

23 Aug 20132 stars

Young Adult book series fails to succesfully adapt to the screens

Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments is the latest Young Adult book series to be given the big screen treatment in the hope of kick-starting another movie franchise as lucrative and long-running as Twilight and Harry Potter. But while Harald Zwart’s…

Elysium

20 Aug 20134 stars

A thrilling blockbuster that marries intelligence with spectacle, starring Matt Damon

Having dazzled with his breathtaking debut District 9, director Neill Blomkamp returns in equally emphatic fashion with Elysium. Bigger and more spectacular, courtesy of the extra budget afforded to him in the wake of the success of his debut, the film…

We’re The Millers

16 Aug 20132 stars

Predictable and uneven comedy that wants to have its cake and eat it

Rawson Marshall Thurber’s We’re The Millers is the type of comedy that wants to have its cake and eat it. On the one hand, it aims for edgy, black humour as a made-up family turn to drug smuggling to ease their financial woes, while on the other it’s a…

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Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

16 Aug 20134 stars

Mind haunting mood-piece by David Lowery is more than the usual outlaw story

On the back of his debut with festival favourite St Nick, writer/director David Lowery creates another intense drama with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a fictional slice of Americana which creates a dreamlike atmosphere around a traditional story of love…

Plein Soleil

16 Aug 20135 stars

Career defining masterpiece from the French Hitchcock René Clément

Patricia Highsmith was spot in when she remarked René Clément’s 1960 adaptation of her novel The Talented Mr Ripley was, ‘very beautiful to the eye and interesting for the intellect’. Filmed on location in Rome, Naples and islands off the Italian…

Kick-Ass 2

14 Aug 20133 stars

The super-sequel has lashings of violence and profane dialogue but lacks the heart of the original

Like an obnoxious younger brother, Kick-Ass 2 arrives wanting to outdo its older sibling – Matthew Vaughn’s surprise 2010 hit about teenage vigilantes. Again using Mark Millar’s comic as the template, with the shock factor of the original now spent, it…

The Way, Way Back

14 Aug 20134 stars

Tender and understated drama from the writers of The Descendants

A coming-of-age comedy-drama, The Way Way Back is the directorial debut from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar-winning screenwriters behind Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. This tale of an awkward-in-his-skin teenager isn’t quite as broadly…

Justin and the Knights of Valour

14 Aug 20133 stars

A sweet-natured family film that suffers from homely 3D computer animation and humdrum plotting

In a market either dominated by the glossy high-profile cartoons by Pixar and DreamWorks or the dreamy works of Japan’s Studio Ghibli, it’s heartening to see a European company get in on the animated action. Despite its very British cast, Justin and the…

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Pain & Gain

14 Aug 20133 stars

Michael Bay's action-comedy is compelling for long stretches, but ends up being exhausting

Love him or hate him, and he’s the bête noir of most serious film-lovers, there’s no denying on the evidence of his Transformers and Bad Boys franchises that Michael Bay can pull together a huge-scale production, and bring a certain style to it.

Bachelorette

14 Aug 20134 stars

Leslye Headland's hen party comedy is Bridesmaids but better: darker, franker and sharper-edged

Recently Evan Goldberg, the co-writer/director of the superior slacker comedy This is the End, was asked why he’d been unable to find a place for a funny woman in his main dramatis personae. His response amounted to: I’m not a woman, how can I possibly…

2 Guns

14 Aug 20133 stars

A stripped-down action comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington

The movie title could have sprung from the mind of one of Mark Wahlberg’s expanding gallery of macho dimbulbs: 'If all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun, how about we use two guns?' But it also feels like Walter Hill – veteran action director…

Bonanza

14 Aug 20132 stars

A documentary examining small town mentality in America that unfortunately loses momentum

Antwerp multi-media company Berlin's documentary focuses on the town of Bonanza, America, a once thriving, seedy place populated by miners, prostitutes and hard drinkers, now reduced to just seven permanent residents. Yet even here, the folks just can't…

Planes

13 Aug 20131 star

Knocked-off rehash of Cars feels brazenly opportunistic and mean-spirited

With this knocked-off aerial rehash of Pixar’s 2006 animated hit Cars, Disney Studios have found yet another way to rake in audience members’ cash without needing to trouble their own creative muscles, let alone reach far into their substantial…

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The Lone Ranger

7 Aug 20132 stars

Uneven tone and lack of chemistry make film feel like a vanity project gone awry

In reviving The Lone Ranger, the trio of Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer were undoubtedly trying to recapture the energy of the classic Clayton Moore TV series as well as their own Pirates of the Caribbean…

Looking for Hortense

7 Aug 20134 stars

Enigmatic comedy of identity and miscommunications set in French society

Intertwining the personal and the political, writer-director Pascal Bonitzer’s enigmatic comedy of identity and miscommunication unfolds in a recognizably ‘real’ Paris of beautifully decorated family apartments, discreet Japanese restaurants and the…

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

5 Aug 20134 stars

The hapless radio DJ's big screen debut is a welcome slice of accomplished British character comedy

Two decades after his initial appearance, the character of Alan Partridge takes to the big screen with enjoyable results; the gamble here is throwing him into a siege, a life-or-death situation where his majestically inappropriate behavior is…

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

5 Aug 20133 stars

AKA Harry Potter and the Serviceable Romp for Pre-teens

The last decade has seen dozens of aspiring knock-offs of Harry Potter hitting the screens (The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant), all promising expanded universes unlikely to ever be realized in…

Red 2

1 Aug 20132 stars

The Bruce Willis-starring sequel is a passable entertainment, but lacks energy or direction

With its all-star cast, the original 2010 comic book adaptation of Red was a surprise hit, a rare vehicle for an ageing action star (Bruce Willis) that had the arthritic legs to set up a world of retired counter-espionage agents battling it out long…

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Paradise: Hope

1 Aug 20132 stars

The final part of Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy is alienating and ultimately overstretched

Austrian writer/director Ulrich Seidl made something of a noisy entrance to the already busy field of modern cinematic provocateurs with 2007’s Import/Export depicting dementia in a rather grotesque fashion, but his Paradise trilogy hasn’t aroused quite…

The Smurfs 2

1 Aug 20131 star

The CGI-meets-reality sequel is a bald retread of the original, starring Katy Perry and Hank Azaria

Raja Gosnell has built up an unenviable reputation as a director for bringing technically complex live-action/CGI hybrids into being, with two movies bring Hanna Barbera’s Scooby Doo to life, and now back to back features featuring The Smurfs. The…

The Heat

29 Jul 20133 stars

Bridesmaids director Paul Feig delivers more cracking comedy from strong female leads

The mismatched buddy-cop genre gets a refreshing feminist spin from the director of Bridesmaids, in this action comedy that scores highly on the comedy front, but falls short on action. Sandra Bullock is Ashburn, an overachieving New York FBI agent…

From Up on Poppy Hill

29 Jul 20133 stars

Studio Ghibli's latest is an oddly conceived animation that partners community spirit with incest

Studio Ghibli have never played it safe by churning out sequels and remakes; instead they have chosen to push boundaries, notably with 1988’s groundbreaking Grave of the Fireflies, which stunningly depicted the lingering last few days of two children…

The Wolverine

24 Jul 20132 stars

James Mangold brings a leaden touch to this tedious franchise instalment starring Hugh Jackman

The popularity of Marvel’s Wolverine character is surprising in the light of the rather hairy quality of his films. Without a Joss Whedon or a Shane Black to shape his manly world of robotic exoskeletons, denim jackets and sideburns, instead James…