Film, Reviews

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Mortdecai

22 Jan 20151 star

Johnny Depp is reunited with director David Koepp in this crude, charmless caper

Ay, caramba! Johnny Depp has given us quite a catalogue of eccentric and goofy characterisations in his time. But none of them has been as thoroughly unamusing and charmless as his Charlie Mortdecai, eponymous anti-hero of a badly misjudged action comedy.

American Sniper

12 Jan 20153 stars

Sympathetic but simplistic true-life drama featuring a formidable Bradley Cooper

As a Republican Party stalwart, Clint Eastwood has never been shy of addressing the role of the military. From the gung-ho Heartbreak Ridge to his more thoughtful Flags of Our Fathers / Letters from Iwo Jima double-header, Eastwood’s frontline sojourns…

A Most Violent Year

19 Jan 20154 stars

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac shine in JC Chandor's elegant crime flick

'I spent my whole life trying to not become a gangster,' Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) tells his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) in a striking subversion of the famous line from Goodfellas. JC Chandor's third film as writer-director (after Margin Call and All…

Taken 3

6 Jan 20152 stars

Liam Neeson returns in this tired third instalment of the actioner franchise

You know the drill by now. If you're an evildoer, Liam Neeson’s grizzled ex-CIA operative will find you and he will kill you. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘I’ll be back’ battle cry, this catchphrase helped turn Neeson into an ageing action hero back in…

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…

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The Gambler

19 Jan 20154 stars

Modern twist on the 70s crime drama starring an impressive Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg has transcended his boy-rapper roots to become a dependable leading man but, although he's proved adept with lighter roles, he's sometimes struggled to be taken seriously. Reviving Karel Reisz’s 1974 heavyweight drama – which starred James…

Ex Machina

19 Jan 20154 stars

Smart, skilfully constructed sci-fi from Alex Garland featuring Alicia Vikander

Novelist and screenwriter Alex Garland’s directorial debut is an unsettling, teasing and thought-provoking sci-fi, centred around artificial intelligence. When Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins a work competition to fly to his CEO’s home to take part in a…

Into the Woods

5 Jan 20153 stars

Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt enliven Rob Marshall's latest musical

There's a sequence in Disney's adaptation of stage musical Into the Woods which will rank as one of the greatest movie moments of 2015. As Cinderella's Prince and Rapunzel's Prince respectively, Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen engage in an emotionally…

The Theory of Everything

29 Dec 20143 stars

Eddie Redmayne shines as Stephen Hawking in a sentimentalised biopic

If love is the ultimate conundrum then The Theory of Everything suggests that Stephen Hawking cracked that one too, with the celebrated physicist and cosmologist inspiring heroic levels of devotion as motor neurone disease took hold. Based on Jane…

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

29 Dec 20142 stars

Suspense-free sequel to the 2012 frightener starring Jeremy Irvine and Phoebe Fox

When Hammer brought The Woman in Black back to life in 2012 (it was previously a TV movie directed by Herbert Wise, based of course on the hugely successful novella) the revival was an atmospheric effort aided by a confident screenplay from Jane…

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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…

Birdman

29 Dec 20144 stars

Michael Keaton soars in an imaginative, enjoyably bitchy, highly meta comedy

What happens to actors who play superheroes? Birdman, the arthouse comedy from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful, Amores Perros), answers that so fully it may never be asked again. Michael Keaton’s performance as ex-leading man…

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…

Enemy

29 Dec 20144 stars

Jake Gyllenhaal is his own co-star in an unnerving psychological thriller

'Chaos is order yet undeciphered,' states the film’s opening epigraph, an idea taken from José Saramago's The Double on which Enemy is loosely based. It's a sentiment which Québécois director Denis Villeneuve boldly transfers onto his puzzling and…

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…

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Point and Shoot

12 Jan 20152 stars

Marshall Curry's flawed film documents Matt VanDyke's quest for masculinity

You can tell a lot about a documentary from its closing frames. In Point and Shoot the Oscar-nominated writer-director Marshall Curry asks a summing-up question of his subject Matt VanDyke, an OCD-suffering Baltimore filmmaker turned Arab Spring…

Beyond Clueless

19 Jan 20153 stars

Charlie Lyne's entertaining documentary celebrates and dissects the teen movie

Ever since James Dean set light to the establishment in the 50s, teens have been central to cinema, both as audience and subject. Every generation since has films that define adolescence: from the antics of The Beatles and the students of Rydell High in…

La Maison de la Radio

19 Jan 20152 stars

Nicolas Philibert's Radio France documentary proves both fascinating and frustrating

French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert will be best known to international audiences for his excellent 2002 documentary Être et Avoir, a portrait of a single-room school in rural France. His latest work, La Maison de la Radio, takes the same fly-on-the-wall…

Duck Soup

12 Jan 20155 stars

The Marx Brothers' masterpiece returns to cinemas in all its madcap glory

Featuring the kind of disruption to the cinematic status quo which couldn't be outdone by a feathered friend in a flap, 1933's Duck Soup was the fifth film fronted by the Marx Brothers and the last to feature straight-man Zeppo. Directed by Leo McCarey…

National Gallery

5 Jan 20154 stars

Frederick Wiseman's compelling documentary examines the great museum

Given the current trend for museum themed pictures, the timing is right for venerable documentary maker Frederick Wiseman to place his distinctive, considered mark on London’s National Gallery. Taken from 12 weeks' worth of behind the scenes snooping…

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The Last of the Unjust

5 Jan 20155 stars

Claude Lanzmann revisits the subject of the Holocaust in this fine documentary

Claude Lanzmann's Shoah is one of the most important documentaries ever made. His monumental oral history of the Holocaust was constructed over 12 years. In 1975 in Rome, Lanzmann interviewed Benjamin Murmelstein, the last president of the Jewish…

Dying of the Light

29 Dec 20142 stars

Nicolas Cage and writer-director Paul Schrader reteam for a forgettable spy thriller

The ridiculously prolific Nicolas Cage has films lining up for release like circling planes waiting for a safe landing slot. On paper, spy thriller Dying of the Light is one of his more promising recent ventures. Originally set to be directed by Nicolas…

Paper Souls

12 Jan 20152 stars

Disappointing supernatural dramedy from Vincent Lannoo about love and loss

It’s not unreasonable to say that, in recent times, the French have set the standard for eccentric existential comedies; from Jeunet to Gondry, there is clearly something about the Gallic sense of humour that compliments wildly absurd situations. It’s…

Erebus: Into the Unknown

5 Jan 20153 stars

Chilling yet stirring documentary from Charlotte Purdy and Peter Burger

On 28 November 1979 a flight took off from New Zealand loaded with 257 passengers heading on a sightseeing tour over Antarctica. They would never be seen alive again. This documentary mixes archive footage, interviews and reconstructions to bring to…

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…