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BFI London Film Festival: a pick of the 2014 programme highlights

3 Sep 2014

Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch among the stars of this year's line-up

As BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill pointed out today, for UK filmgoers the London Film Festival marks the start of awards-season, acting as it does as a showcase for many of those films that will feature heavily in this year's BAFTA and Academy Awards…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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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…

Autumn film preview 2014: Birdman, Mr Turner and Gone Girl among the likely awards contenders

27 Aug 2014

Foxcatcher, Inherent Vice, Big Eyes, Interstellar, The Judge and Brad Pitt's Fury also frontrunners

After a lacklustre summer of box-office disappointments, Hollywood hopes to regain some credibility by mounting a handsome awards season. Few of the tipped contenders have been on general release, like Richard Linklater’s superb Boyhood, and there’s…

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…

Profile: Kelly Reichardt, director of the Jesse Eisenberg-starring Night Moves

27 Aug 2014

The eco-activist drama also stars Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard

Name Kelly Reichardt Born 1964, Miami, Florida. Background Reichardt is one of the most celebrated directors working in indie cinema today, having directed Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff. Her work has received nominations for both…

God Help the Girl and Roger Christian's Black Angel among highlights of Dunoon Film Festival 2014

27 Aug 2014

The fest aims to bring international and local cinematic gems to Scotland's west coast

Corinne Orton, co-director of the Dunoon Film Festival, is reflecting on the level of audience commitment shown at the inaugural 2013 fest. ‘We had a screening of Wadjda, which is a Saudi Arabian film, and there was a problem with the subtitles, but…

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Autumn film preview 2014: Anton Corbijn, Zach Braff and Tommy Lee Jones among top director comebacks

27 Aug 2014

David Cronenberg and the Farrelly brothers are also signalling hopeful returns to form

A Most Wanted Man Photographer Anton Corbijn burst onto the filmmaking scene with his 2007 Ian Curtis biopic Control. 2010’s The American was less attention-grabbing, but hopes remain high for this new espionage drama starring the late Philip Seymour…

Autumn film preview 2014: Book of Life and The Penguins of Madagascar among the best upcoming family films

27 Aug 2014

Other highlights include Paddington, the Shaun the Sheep Movie and the concluding part of The Hobbit

There are rich pickings ahead when it comes to family films. First up is British comedy What We Did On Our Holiday (26 Sep), from the creators of TV's Outnumbered. David Tennant and Rosamund Pike star as a couple trying to keep their marriage…

Interview: Robert Rodriguez, Eva Green and Jessica Alba talk Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

26 Aug 2014

The director and stars are making a return to Frank Miller's graphic neo-noir universe

If there’s been one question Robert Rodriguez has faced over the past nine years, it’s this: When are you going back to Sin City? ‘To have a movie that people chase you down about to get a sequel for. That just doesn’t happen,’ nods the 46-year-old…

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…

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…

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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…

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…

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…

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…

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…