Film, Reviews

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Wish I Was Here

15 Sep 20142 stars

Zach Braff's disappointing, Kickstarter-funded second film features Kate Hudson

Like the struggling protagonist of Wish I Was Here, unemployed actor and father Aidan Bloom, writer-director Zach Braff’s follow-up to Garden State has considerable baggage. The easy charm and comedic melancholy of Braff’s 2004 debut created a cult…

Men, Women & Children

12 Sep 20143 stars

Toronto International Film Festival: Jason Reitman creates conservative comedy drama

Jason Reitman's cautionary, state-of-the-nation mosaic starts off with the promise of something Altman-esque like Nashville or Short Cuts, but winds up closer in tone to something written by Richard Curtis. Perhaps it is the fault of the extensive…

My Old Lady

10 Sep 20143 stars

Toronto International Film Festival: Maggie Smith excels in a witty, sophisticated drama

Israel Horovitz should be considered a source of encouragement for anyone in the autumn of their lives. A vastly prolific playwright, occasional screenwriter (Author! Author!) and father of Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, he has now made his directorial…

The Judge

8 Sep 20143 stars

Toronto International Film Festival: Corny but watchable drama starring Robert Downey Jr

The Judge is a corny, shamelessly manipulative wallow of a film made surprisingly watchable by the sheer charisma of acting heavyweights Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall. Both veterans are cast according to type but lend conviction to even the…

At Berkeley

8 Sep 20144 stars

An epic but enlightening documentary from Frederick Wiseman looking at the revered institution

The veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman applies a methodical but delicate touch to his examinations of American institutions, depicting the lives of workers and participants in aspects of public life in long observational takes without voiceover or…

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The Boxtrolls

8 Sep 20144 stars

Ben Kingsley and Elle Fanning add their voices to a smart, surprisingly dark animation

Billed as ‘from the makers of Coraline and ParaNorman’, The Boxtrolls is a weird, wonderful stop-motion and CG hybrid animation based on the novel Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow. Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi’s film isn’t innocuous knockabout fun…

Manuscripts Don't Burn

8 Sep 20144 stars

A courageously critical thriller from Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof

Writer-director Mohammad Rasoulof has been a thorn in the Iranian security service's side for years and his latest dry yet bravely critical effort has only exacerbated matters. It's a solemn thriller based on real events that echoes his frustrations and…

Pride

8 Sep 20143 stars

Bill Nighy and Dominic West star in a fizzy, feel-good take on an inspiring 80s campaign

Imelda Staunton rolling around a bed with a red dildo laughing is one of the gleeful high points of Matthew Warchus’ unashamedly fizzy, cheering take on the 'Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners' campaign which involved a unique coming together of two…

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…

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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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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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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…

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…

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…

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…

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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…

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…

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…

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…

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…