Film, Reviews

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Salvo

24 Feb 20143 stars

A slow-burning mafia crime drama in homage to Le Samourai

A slow-burning homage to Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï, Salvo uses the familiar trope of a stone-cold killer (Saleh Bakri) who falls for a female character connected to one of his victims. This time round it's blind woman Rita (Sara Serraiocco)…

LFO

24 Feb 20143 stars

Lo-fi black comedy about a trance-inducing sound engineer

Maladjusted sound technician Robert (Patrik Karlson) has stumbled upon an amazing discovery: a sound frequency which immediately puts the listener into a hypnotic trance, susceptible to any suggestion they might hear. Armed with speakers, a pair of…

Phantom of the Paradise

24 Feb 20143 stars

Brian de Palma's cult musical has eccentric plotting, weird characters and a rocking soundtrack

As teenagers, Daft Punk were apparently massive fans of Brian De Palma's gaudy alternative musical, a schlocky mix of Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein and, of course, The Phantom of the Opera (it's worth noting that this pre-dates Andrew…

Dead of Night

24 Feb 20145 stars

The 1945 Ealing portmanteau horror is by turns eerie, funny, macabre and utterly chilling

One of the finest horror films ever made and one of the best British films of all time? Grand claims, but this 1945 portmanteau film (here restored for re-release) produced by Ealing Studios and featuring some of their most talented regulars stands the…

The Zero Theorem

14 Feb 20143 stars

Terry Gilliam's latest is a tale of love and loneliness that sadly fails to touch the heart

Existential equations are the at first pleasingly perplexing order of the day in the third part of Terry Gilliam's dystopian trilogy, following 1985's Brazil and 1995's 12 Monkeys. Set in the near-future and boasting an eclectic international cast, The…

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Stalingrad

14 Feb 20143 stars

A well-played and vivid war story that misses the point of the titular battle

Russia’s entry to the 2014 Oscar race, and a big hit in the homeland, Stalingrad is a World War II epic less concerned with history than with a smaller, more personal story; five Russian soldiers caught up in the siege take collective responsibility for…

Under the Skin

14 Feb 20145 stars

Jonathan Glazer's Michel Faber adap is a genuinely unique, full-on sensory experience

It has been ten years since British director Jonathan Glazer’s last film – the understated, enigmatic Birth – and for much of that time he has been working away at this adaptation of Michel Faber’s cult novel. It has been time well spent, as Under the…

Wake in Fright

14 Feb 20144 stars

A fearsome treatment of Australian cultural identity, masculinity and violence

A fearsome treatment of Australian cultural identity, masculinity and violence, long unseen even in its native land due to the unavailability of a usable print, Wake in Fright has met with renewed praise since being restored from rediscovered negatives…

Stranger by the Lake

14 Feb 20144 stars

Alain Guiraudie's gay cruising thriller is an unusual and intelligent film

A mixed-up tone is customarily a negative trait in a film, but here the combination of gentle comedy, racy sex and murder works extraordinarily well, delivering a sophisticated, unpredictable and original modern noir. Pierre Deladonchamps plays Franck…

Nymphomaniac Volumes I & II

14 Feb 20144 stars

Von Trier's latest is a multi-faceted exploration of sexuality, in all its bizarre, twisted glory

His first film since Melancholia, Lars von Trier’s two-part erotic odyssey is undoubtedly the most anticipated arthouse event of 2014. While the promised five and a half hour ‘hardcore’ version has yet to be released – and may never reach the UK – this…

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Only Lovers Left Alive

14 Feb 20144 stars

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star in Jim Jarmusch's anti-vampire, vampire film

Jim Jarmusch has made a career out of subverting the norms of genre filmmaking – indeed, his work is a genre unto itself. After the divisive The Limits of Control, his latest film (which is best described as an anti-vampire vampire film) signals a…

The Lego Movie

11 Feb 20143 stars

A genuinely funny film from the makers of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Fast, funny and created with loving attention to detail, The Lego Movie will delight anyone who has ever played with those universally-recognised little yellow figures. Beginning at a blistering pace that never lets up, the film (from Cloudy With A…

Love is in the Air

11 Feb 20143 stars

A fluffy French twist on a typical high concept Hollywood romantic comedy

True romance is marked by missed opportunities and second chances in Love is in the Air, a slick, fluffy French confection that slides down as easily as an extra helping of tarte tatin accompanied by a dollop of creme chantilly. It is a very French…

The Monuments Men

11 Feb 20142 stars

George Clooney's WWII art heist movie is a monument to bad filmmaking

Ocean’s Eleven does The Dirty Dozen sounds like a fun movie, right? And this George Clooney-directed WWII comedy-drama tries, all too hard, to deliver on that very idea. But even low expectations won’t help you here, with a story that’s neither amusing…

Endless Love

11 Feb 20142 stars

A by-the-numbers love story starring Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde

Franco Zeffirelli's original 1981 film Endless Love (itself based on Scott Spencer's 1979 novel) was notable for featuring a very young Tom Cruise in a minor role as an arsonist. Shana Feste's remake, however, struggles to be notable for anything at…

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The Book Thief

10 Feb 20143 stars

Brian Percival's moving and well-acted WWII adaptation let down by hurried plotting

Brian Percival’s adaptation of Markus Zusak’s global best-seller The Book Thief is, like Mark Herman's take on John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, a film that unfolds from the German perspective during World War II. Unlike that film, however…

RoboCop

7 Feb 20143 stars

A slick but sanitised remake

Following Total Recall and the most recent entries in the Die Hard and Terminator franchises, RoboCop becomes the latest violent action film to get a family friendly, pimped-up makeover. José Padilha's film has contemporary resonance and is different…

The Patrol

4 Feb 20143 stars

A low-key, low-budget antidote to the Hollywood approach to soldiers at war

With Morocco doubling effectively for Afghanistan, The Patrol is a low-budget British film from first time writer/director Tom Petch. Although working in an oversubscribed genre running from John Ford’s 1934 drama The Lost Patrol to Kathryn Bigelow’s…

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…

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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…

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…