Film, Reviews

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Exodus: Gods and Kings

22 Dec 20144 stars

Revisionist, highly entertaining biblical epic from Ridley Scott, starring Christian Bale

Trust Ridley Scott to give us a bold, revisionist take on the foundation story of three major world religions. Like his gritty Robin Hood his version of the epic Old Testament adventure sheds some time-honoured elements for an earnest stab at realism…

Unbroken

22 Dec 20143 stars

Angelina Jolie takes the helm of an exciting but overambitious WWII survival story

Angelina Jolie’s second film as director, following her bleak 2011 Bosnian war drama In the Land of Blood and Honey, is another conflict saga. This time, it’s the true tale of Louis Zamperini, a US Army Air Force bombardier in World War II who died last…

Annie

22 Dec 20143 stars

Middling revival of the musical comedy featuring Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx

When the complaining tune 'It’s the Hard Knock Life' is applied to minor housecleaning, you know somebody’s been messing with the musical Annie. Director Will Gluck is at the helm of this realignment of John Huston’s 1982 film, itself based on the 1977…

Big Eyes

22 Dec 20143 stars

Fascinating if slightly flimsy biopic of painter Margaret Keane from Tim Burton

Amy Adams turns in a superb performance as artist Margaret Keane in this biopic from Tim Burton that tells the stranger-than-fiction tale of the time when her husband Walter took credit for her paintings, fooling the art world for many years. When…

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

15 Dec 20142 stars

Ben Stiller and co return for the third film in Shawn Levy's family friendly franchise

Even in a dual role, Ben Stiller can’t keep the bored look off his face as he fronts the third instalment of the Night at the Museum franchise. What started eight years ago as a charming kids’ romp has evolved into a series of overlong ‘comic’ sequences…

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Guys and Dolls

15 Dec 20145 stars

Joseph L Mankiewicz’s musical starring Brando and Sinatra returns to the big screen

The gritty, gutsy, funny short stories of Damon Runyon form the basis for this most rousing and delightful of big studio musicals, which boasts Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, a smart script and some of the best screen songs ever. The setting is a…

Kon-Tiki

15 Dec 20143 stars

A ripping, Oscar-nominated yarn from Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg

Seventy years ago Thor Heyerdahl's epic voyage from Peru to Polynesia was the real-life, high seas equivalent of Interstellar, as daring young men risked their lives on an adventure into the great unknown. Norwegian directors Joachim Rønning and Espen…

Dumb and Dumber To

15 Dec 20143 stars

Hit-and-miss sequel from the Farrelly brothers featuring returning star Jim Carrey

Twenty years have passed since Dumb and Dumber provided Bobby and Peter Farrelly with a box-office smash. Since then, their brand of comedy has become something of an endangered species, with both the writer-directors and star Jim Carrey no longer…

Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast

10 Dec 20143 stars

The fairy franchise's latest is charming if somewhat lacking in laughs

Directed by Steve Loter, this is the sixth instalment in Disney's series of animated Tinker Bell movies. Like its predecessors, it's an entertaining adventure that should play well with its young target audience without annoying dragged-along…

The Face of Love

8 Dec 20144 stars

Powerful romantic drama starring Annette Bening, Ed Harris and Robin Williams

Originally called 'The Look of Love', Arie Posin's love story assumes the guise of a compelling psychological drama, taking in grief and obsession and overcoming its cheesier moments to deliver something unexpectedly powerful. Set in Los Angeles…

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The Green Prince

8 Dec 20143 stars

Fascinating but flawed documentary focussing on an Israeli informant

‘The Green Prince’ was the codename used by Israel’s intelligence service for its most highly placed informant, Mosab Hassan Yousef, when he was passing information to them on Hamas’ activities during the Second Intifada. So, at least, runs Yousef’s own…

Manakamana

8 Dec 20144 stars

A mesmeric documentary following pilgrims as they visit the titular temple

Perched atop a mountain in the Nepalese countryside, the temple of Manakamana is a destination for thousands of visitors, devotees and tourists alike, who all make the trip via a panoramic cable car. And it's in this intimate setting that the entirety…

Electricity

8 Dec 20144 stars

Striking British drama featuring a revelatory turn from model Agyness Deyn

The family unit has been a cornerstone of storytelling since time immemorial, and of cinema since the first moving pictures flickered into life. It's rare to see a film that doesn't feature these relationships, screenwriters from across genres…

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

8 Dec 20143 stars

Peter Jackson's Middle-earth saga closes in sporadically spectacular style

Following on directly from The Desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson kicks straight into the action with the final installment of The Hobbit trilogy. This sad farewell to the dwarves, wizards, elves and other inhabitants of Middle-earth provides grand…

The Circle

8 Dec 20144 stars

Swiss love story about a real-life romance and the struggle for gay rights

Hogmanay 2014 will bring the first same-sex marriages in Scotland. In terms of the struggle for equality it should be a moment to reflect on battles won, rights achieved and how far the UK has come. Sadly, global events from Uganda and Russia to the…

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The Pyramid

4 Dec 20142 stars

Uninspired, Egypt-set horror starring The Inbetweeners' James Buckley

James Buckley appears in his first horror film as a toned-down version of his character Jay from the popular TV series, and now film franchise, The Inbetweeners. His role as Fitzie the cameraman allows him to keep his cockney accent and dole out lines…

Get Santa

2 Dec 20144 stars

Christopher Smith's festive film shows both a dark side and refreshing compassion

From the director of Severance and Triangle comes a heartwarming and very funny Christmas tale about a father who, after his release from a two-year prison sentence, has to learn the virtue of reliability...

St Vincent

1 Dec 20143 stars

Bill Murray's latest is a likeable mix of crabby and cute, co-starring Naomi Watts

Bill Murray is certainly no stranger to misanthropic sad-sacks and his titular Vincent is one such crabby feller, albeit with a slightly coarser edge. Vincent is given a crack at redemption when a young boy in need of a father figure moves in next door…

The Grandmaster

1 Dec 20143 stars

Stunning but emotionally undernourished martial arts biopic from Wong Kar-wai

Flying fists and the agony of unconsummated romance power Wong Kar-wai's Oscar-nominated kung fu spectacle, which receives a belated UK release after its clandestine premiere when it was unmasked as the 2013 London Film Festival's surprise film

Bonobo

1 Dec 20143 stars

Commune-set dramedy starring Tessa Peake-Jones and Josie Lawrence

While the father/son dynamic is a mainstay of narrative features, it’s less common to see a filmmaker explore the relationship between a mother and daughter. For that reason alone the premise of Bonobo is certainly promising, as it examines the strength…

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Black Sea

1 Dec 20144 stars

Gripping submarine thriller from Kevin Macdonald featuring a commanding Jude Law

Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), this enjoyable thriller stars Jude Law as Robinson, a Scottish former submarine captain who's made redundant from his job at a salvage company after 11 years of service. When he hears a story…

Penguins of Madagascar

1 Dec 20143 stars

Knockabout spin-off featuring the voices of John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch

Over their three Madagascar features to date, DreamWorks Animation have successfully established a menagerie of comic characters. The franchise's penguins have already struck out with their own short film and TV show, and they now get their own movie...

Me, Myself and Mum

1 Dec 20143 stars

Award-winning French comedy from Guillaume Gallienne that'll amuse and bemuse

Me, Myself and Mum has been one of French cinema's surprise crowd-pleasers over the past 18-months. Feted at Cannes 2013, it was also showered with César awards, including Best Film. You suspect British audiences might regard it as more of an acquired…

Eastern Boys

1 Dec 20144 stars

Morally complex, skilfully performed French thriller from Robin Campillo

A transgressive sexual connection gives way to a deeper, far more risky bond in this elegantly made and morally complex French thriller. Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) initially solicits young Latvian immigrant Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) solely for sex...

Hello Carter

1 Dec 20142 stars

Charlie Cox and Jodie Whittaker star in this so-so romantic comedy

Britain’s got talent and, at first glance at least, few low budget films show that better than Hello Carter. Starring as the lovelorn London loser Carter is Charlie Cox, soon to be American TV’s new Daredevil. Nimble romantic support comes from Jodie…