Film, Reviews

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They Came Together

1 Sep 20142 stars

Gifted comics Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are poorly served by a so-so rom-com parody

If ever there was a genre that was ripe for parody, that genre is the Nora Ephron-style romantic comedy. That's the conclusion drawn by writer-director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer) and co-writer Michael Showalter, whose new comedy sets about…

Sex Tape

1 Sep 20142 stars

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel head up a slapstick heavy sex comedy that's light on laughs

Few sub-genres are as moribund as the sex comedy; since the 70s, audiences rarely seek laughs and voyeurism at the same time, and certainly not at the cinema, with dedicated internet sites allowing them to indulge both humour and libido in…

Before I Go to Sleep

1 Sep 20143 stars

Superficial but stylish thriller based on the bestseller starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth

A psychological thriller boasting a top drawer cast and more twists than a bag of fusilli pasta Before I Go to Sleep is based on SJ Watson's bestseller. It stars Nicole Kidman as vulnerable amnesiac Christine Lucas, torn between two suspicious but…

The Guest

1 Sep 20145 stars

Dan Stevens ditches his Downton image in Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's superlative psychothriller

Taking gasoline and a match to his drippy Downton Abbey image, Dan Stevens reinvents himself in genuinely gobsmacking style. He's the titular houseguest: a soldier with a mysterious past, Terminator-like fighting skills and a knowing smirk. Directed and…

The Hundred-Foot Journey

1 Sep 20143 stars

Helen Mirren is on fine form in a sentimental culinary culture clash drama

Swapping cocoa for curry powder, Lasse Hallström’s latest is a culinary tale based on the book by Richard C Morais with a screenplay by Steven Knight (Locke, Eastern Promises). Recalling his Juliette Binoche-starrer Chocolat, Hallström again wants us to…

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Life of Crime

1 Sep 20143 stars

Jennifer Aniston impresses against type in this crime comedy based on Elmore Leonard's The Switch

A prequel of sorts to Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, in that it features three of the same characters (albeit played by different actors), Life of Crime is writer-director Daniel Schechter's low-key adaptation of Elmore Leonard's The Switch. Set…

Finding Fela

1 Sep 20142 stars

Alex Gibney's inconsistent documentary melds the life and music of Nigerian star Fela Kuti

Comparatively speaking, Fela Kuti did for African music what Djibril Diop Mambéty did for African cinema. Using his art as a means not only to battle against the harsh realities of neo-colonialism but to connect with other cultures, he created a…

Let's Be Cops

26 Aug 20143 stars

Fitfully entertaining cop comedy featuring New Girl's Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr

The buddy cop comedy gets an interesting spin in Let’s Be Cops, a hit-and-miss affair that amuses and frustrates in equal measure. Co-written and directed by Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door), the film follows two loser flat-mates – Jake Johnson’s…

If I Stay

26 Aug 20142 stars

Chloë Grace Moretz stars in this conceptually interesting but mishandled and mawkish drama

If I Stay finds a teenage girl plunged into existential limbo after a car accident, with her spirit self pondering whether the life that awaits her is worth fighting for. Director RJ Cutler (best known for documentary The September Issue) fashions his…

As Above, So Below

27 Aug 20143 stars

Atmospheric but inconsistent horror set in the Paris Catacombs starring Perdita Weeks

Taking the bulk of its cues from The Descent, director John Erick Dowdle's found footage horror adds a dash of The Da Vinci Code and seasons with some supernatural goings-on. The result is a suitably tense chiller that delivers the requisite shocks and…

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

26 Aug 20143 stars

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's sequel favours style over substance

Nearly a decade after Robert Rodriguez teamed up with graphic novelist Frank Miller to bring Miller’s celebrated Sin City to jaw-dropping life, their follow-up navigates the same schlocky, sweaty path of bloody crime and bloodier retribution. Like…

FrightFest 2014: The Babadook

28 Aug 20144 stars

An emotionally impactful, sad and scary horror from debut director Jennifer Kent

Overwhelming grief and depression takes the form of a top hat wearing, slithering monster with knives for hands in debut director Jennifer Kent’s genuinely upsetting and at times terrifying modern day fable. It's been six years since Amelia (Essie…

FrightFest 2014: White Settlers

28 Aug 20143 stars

Referendum-themed horror starring Pollyanna McIntosh offers entertainment but little depth

Simeon Halligan's second feature White Settlers takes the argument for Scottish independence to bloody extremes. Sarah (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Ed (Lee Williams) are a young couple from 'down south' taking advantage of the Scottish housing market to…

FrightFest 2014: All Cheerleaders Die

28 Aug 20142 stars

Hypocritical horror remake from Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson

Gender politics has always been at the beating heart of horror. While it could be argued that cinema as a whole is preoccupied with the white male experience, no other genre gouges such an indelible gender divide. Scary movies usually embrace the tired…

The Keeper of Lost Causes

26 Aug 20143 stars

Functional Danish thriller featuring appealing performances from Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares

Arriving very late to the Scandi noir party, The Keeper of Lost Causes is based on the best-selling novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, the first in his Department Q series. The title’s original translation, ‘The Woman in the Cage’, gives a better indication of…

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The Grand Seduction

26 Aug 20143 stars

Likeable, Ealing-esque comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Taylor Kitsch

Canadian screenwriter Ken Scott is no stranger to the remake treatment: his French-Canadian comedy Starbuck was remade twice (as Vince Vaughn vehicle Delivery Man and French version Fonzy) and now his French-language comedy La Grande Séduction (also…

FrightFest 2014: Faults

20 Aug 20144 stars

Riley Stearns' debut pitches a cult expert against a traumatised follower with interesting results

It’s not often you see a film where you have literally no idea what’s going to happen next. That’s one of the main reasons people seek out dark-side cinema, and it’s one of the appeals of American writer-director Riley Stearns’ intriguing feature debut.

Mystery Road

26 Aug 20144 stars

An atmospheric, expertly controlled modern western starring Aaron Pedersen and Hugo Weaving

Writer-director Ivan Sen's flinty, slow-burning murder mystery is a western wrapped in the trappings and clichés of a modern thriller. Aaron Pedersen's Stetson-wearing detective Jay Swan is just as much of an outsider as John Wayne's Ethan Edwards in…

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

26 Aug 20144 stars

A gripping and revealing documentary that tells the heartbreaking story of an internet legend

As digital culture matures, stories about its innovators and pioneers proliferate, preparing to become its myths. What adds nuance is the fact that these entrepreneurs were not the thrusting alpha males who went into space, invented modern advertising…

Million Dollar Arm

26 Aug 20142 stars

Jon Hamm stars in a bland, predictable baseball drama based on a true-life tale

The many admirers of Jon Hamm's work in the iconic television show Mad Men may feel like they could watch him in anything; Disney’s two-hour plus biopic of a sports agent offers a tough test of that. Hamm's charm works well playing a debonair scoundrel…

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The Hypnotist

26 Aug 20143 stars

A small-scale, intimate, Nordic noir thriller from director Lasse Hallström

After a series of mawkishly sentimental films for the British and American market (What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Cider House Rules and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) Swedish director Lasse Hallström takes a sideways step into Nordic noir. Based on a…

FrightFest 2014: Housebound

20 Aug 20144 stars

Gerard Johnstone's riotous debut skilfully mixes horror and hilarity

Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Kiwi first-time writer-director Gerard Johnstone, who casts two exquisitely expressive ladies in his deliriously funny and downright scary haunted house horror. A combination of fantastic performances and a…

FrightFest 2014: Wolfcop

20 Aug 20143 stars

Fun, furry retro horror from writer-director Lowell Dean

Some films take on a life of their own before they are even released, with the internet going into overdrive before anyone's seen the first frame of footage (recent examples being Snakes on a Plane and Sharknado). Wolfcop now joins these illustrious…

FrightFest 2014: Alleluia

20 Aug 20144 stars

Volver's Lola Dueñas stars in a blood-splattered psychodrama outlining the perils of online dating

A directors' fortnight selection at Cannes 2014, this blood-splattered Belgian-French psychological horror is the fourth feature from writer-director Fabrice Du Welz. The subject is the dangers of online dating; Du Welz conjures up a small scale but…

FrightFest 2014: Creep

20 Aug 20144 stars

Tense two-hander written by and starring Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice

Mark Duplass and debut writer-director Patrick Brice breathe new life into the found footage horror film with this incredibly tense two-hander which is hilarious and terrifying in equal parts. Duplass's indie beginnings (particularly Baghead, on which…