New Releases: 2nd March


Both Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall really should have been added to the list of Oscar nominations for this excellent biopic of the great painter JMW Turner. Mike Leigh, now firmly entrenched as Britain’s greatest living filmmaker, delivers his best film since Topsy-Turvy and Spall is absolutely unmissable in a performance that dominates nearly every frame of this film. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful period setting, Spall’s Turner is gruff, crude and guttural, an image equal parts at odds with the majesty of his paintings and intimately related to them, while Mike Leigh directs with characteristic emotional frankness and muddy English beauty. A cast of Leigh regulars completes this look at a great artist and his relationships with women, his father and his creative impulse.




Surely 2014’s outstanding directorial debut from Dan Gilroy (brother of Michael Clayton helmer Tony), Nightcrawler is a genuine 21st century masterpiece. Jake Gyllenhaal continues to prove that he is Hollywood’s most uncompromising and unconventional leading man (and handsome, did I say handsome? I mean DAYUM that man is fine, I’m not afraid to- okay never mind) as Louis Bloom, a borderline sociopathic young man who finds both exciting and lucrative business as a cameraman who films the sites of grisly accidents and murders and sells the footage to TV newscasters. The film is never afraid to take a turn towards the dark or ugly side of both its characters and subject matter and is a savage takedown of the reality TV era. Although this is Gyllenhaal’s movie, Rene Russo deserves a mention as the TV  producer who employs this young rogue.





Writer/star Celyn Jones impresses as the great Dylan Thomas in this slight but enjoyable biopic. Elijah Wood (I maintain, an underrated American treasure) stars as an aspiring poet who is tasked with reining in his hero, the hell-raising Thomas. TV director Andy Goddard directs in handsome black-and-white and the film is well-crafted in a distracting, occasionally interesting but never truly compelling way. Fans of Thomas’s poetry will find some nice selections to give them ideas for sweet nothings to whisper in someone’s ear, but like those sections of the film, there’s an interested distance rather than emotional intimacy on show here. Still, worth a watch for some good performances, especially from the two leads and the ever-lovely Shirley Henderson.




The latest sure-fire feel-good British hit in the vein of Made in Dagenham or literally anything by Richard Curtis, Pride is the true-life story of a group of gay-rights activists in Thatcherite Britain that take it upon themselves to come to the aid of a village of striking miners in Wales. They are initially met with bigotry and hostility but of course the film is a heartwarming story of two very different groups of people overcoming differences. To Pride‘s great credit, it rarely resorts to overly sentimental tearjerking and earns all of its gooey moments with some strong, emotionally weighty drama and a really excellent ensemble cast including a hilarious Bill Nighy, dramatic lead George Mackay (surely the next big British star?) and ever-reliable stalwarts like Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine and Dominic West. 




If there’s anything about The Judge that we can be thankful for, it’s that it gave us the most memorable part of this year’s Oscars: Robert Duvall steadfastly refusing to find literally anything funny. Downey is a big city lawyer who returns to his hometown to help out his father, a prominent judge accused of murder. Back home, the life he left behind comes to the surface once more. A formulaic and cliched script really hampers this one, but two meaty performances from big name actors in search of Oscar nominations elevate the material, and its always great to see a legend like Duvall flex his acting muscles once again. If you’re looking for some strong, not necessarily taxing watching, then give The Judge a go, after all, it is from the director of the illustrious Shanghai Knights.




It’s medieval England, and Henry VIII still has no male heir. He desperately wants to annul his marriage of 20 years and marry tasty bit of brisket Anne Boleyn. Naturally, he faces stiff opposition from the Church and Pope, but enter Thomas Cromwell, who takes it upon himself to make this desired marriage happen. Mark Rylance as Cromwell and Damian Lewis as the famous king own this gritty web of period politicking fresh from the rarefied world of BBC Two. A dirtier, more combative treatment of medieval England than the glossy The Tudors, this is sure to impress any fans of the era, Hilary Mantel, or quality British TV. Think David Cameron in Game of Thrones.




The gulf between Love, Rosie‘s ratings on IMDB (voted for by the general public) and Rotten Tomatoes (voted for by critics) speaks volumes for whether or not anyone is likely to be on-board with this story that reminds us all that sexy people can get sexy careers by being sexy. On IMDB the film has a strong rating of 7.4; on Rotten Tomatoes it currently sits at a disastrous 21% approval rating. Cliched and formulaic yes, but the two leads do have good chemistry together and anyone looking for an evening of zero thinking and 100% schmaltz should find little to complain about here. Not quite the zinging dialogue or romantic spark of What If? but this long-distance relationship rom-com is at least as good as a long-distance relationship: every now and then there’s a good moment but really you’re just suffering through it wondering how your time could be better spent.




Okay, Rob Reiner, it’s enough now, it really is. Michael Douglas is a misanthropic jackass who is unable to relate to a grandchild that arrives on his doorstep. His neighbour, who cannot stand him, forms a bond with said grandchild and of course everybody learns the meaning of love. The presence of these two legends is not quite enough to elevate the material, but it may just be enough to justify giving this a watch. I mean, does this film feature the director and stars of When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall and Wall Street? Yes. Would you know that by watching it? Just no. Though this will make you wish these two actors were given more meaty lead roles, because they use all their considerable charm to work with what they’re given, it will also make you wish you were being battered about the face with a dead halibut rather than watching this film.




If by now you are not already hooked on Sons of Anarchy, I don’t know if you ever will be, but it remains one of the most loyally followed shows around. The ab-tastic Jax’s story continues in this final season to the bloody and gritty biker conflict. I don’t want to say too much here, but if you aren’t familiar with this series, get started at Season 1, and meet me at Season 7 when you’re done. Those of you eagerly waiting for it, please, enjoy…



In-House Review: Nightcrawler (2014)


“The closer you look… the darker it gets.”

I have to say, for me personally, this was one of cinema’s highlights last year and it certainly lived up to all i thought it was going to be. Well, almost….

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a bit of a nobody; a loner with obsessive tendencies. Someone who will happily walk over a corpse if it means he’ll get to what he wants.

The film opens with Lou Bloom attempting to find a job in construction, but after refusal, heads on out into the night frustrated and looking for something, anything, better to come his way. Driving on the freeway he inadvertently stumbles across a car accident where his attention is drawn, not to the accident, but indeed to camera man Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) who is by chance on scene filming the carnage. And it is here his obsession starts.

imageAfter being refused by Joe Loder to give him a job as an assistant, Lou Bloom realises that he doesn’t need help. In fact all he needs is a camera and to be at the right place at the right time to capture life’s unfortunate events and to sell the footage to the highest bidder. In steps Rene Russo, Nina Romina, who is the morning news director for one of larger tv networks. She agrees to buy his footage and encourages him to continue his work and promises more exposure and more money within the tv network.

imageAs Lou Bloom’s obsession becomes more controlling of his personality he realises that to be able to get the best out of every unpleasant event, he needs a second pair of hands. This unwitting character is Rick Carey( Riz Ahmed) who, like Lou, is down on his luck and looking for any work that will pay and is happy not to ask too many questions. His weak character plays right into Lou’s hands and Lou knows now he can push the limit of acceptability with regards to what and more importantly, how, he films each event. And this is where I shall leave the plot so as not to spoil anything.

Nightcrawler is a clever mix of modern with retro, kind of in the same vein as Drive with Ryan Gosling. Its story of freelance camera men being “ambulance chasers” is what works so well in giving it that retro feel. It puts you back in a mind-set before the likes of Facebook and Twitter and the 24 hours a day news channels. That rush to get to the exciting story before anyone else and to show it to the world as “yours” must have been something very unique and special for those involved and which, for me, feels well captured here.

imageI have to admit that there were one or two little things that popped up where I thought… “hmmmm would that really happen…?!?” But I forgave it that because the rest of the film was so well-balanced and written to the point where later in the film I actually gasped in shock out loud. So to Dan Gilroy on his writing and directorial debut, I say “Bravo!”

So, simply put, I highly recommend Nightcrawler. In fact, thinking about it, I could have just said that at the beginning..

Reviewed by Ben

In-House Review: Fury (2014)


“War never ends quietly.”
Now, like most *ahem* young men like myself, I love a good war movie. Stuff exploding, people shouting obscene language, large guns, and the fight over good and evil taking centre stage once again. What’s not to like?! So when I heard two years ago that Brad Pitt was doing a realistic WWII film I was quite excited, naturally. But sadly, like opening a market-bought Christmas cracker and finding the feeble attempt at a gift inside, I was a little disappointed.
Set in 1945 during the last months of WWII, the films follows a US tank crew lead by grizzly
voiced, scarred, battered and weathered Don Collier also known as “Wardaddy” (Pitt).  His five-man crew, partly consisting of Shia LeBoef, Michael Pena and Jon Bernthal, have been together through almost the entire war campaign, namely from Africa to Europe, and have taken part in some of the most ferocious engagements of the war. Sadly for them, their long-standing machine-gunner is killed whilst fighting in Germany and their new gunner, fresh-faced typist Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman), is an unexpected and, to some extent, unwanted replacement.
Unsurprisingly, the crew’s initial time together is not harmonious and with a reluctant soldier at the trigger of the secondary weapon in the tank it is only a matter of time before something goes wrong and lives are lost. (I’ll say no more on that as it’ll be a bit of spoiler).
Brad Pitt;Logan LermanAs the war rages on, Wardaddy and his crew find themselves further into Germany where the fighting intensifies, especially against the die-hard elite SS units and German Panzer tanks. The realisation of what they are up against starts to become an ever pressing thought and with death all around them, the crew stand to wonder how long it’ll be before their luck runs out.
Now, for me, the film is well shot and produced. It’s gritty and violent in all the right places with the violence never seeming to be out-of-place or even gratuitous. But there’s just something missing. There is one segment in particular where Wardaddy (Pitt) and new boy Ellison (Lermen) enter a house and have a slightly uncomfortable engagement with two women which includes an awkward breakfast and adult interaction for Ellison in particular. Now while I’m not against a nice breakfast and a bit of adult interaction, the scene for me was unnecessary. It doesn’t add anything to the characters or the story. I get that the film writers wanted to add a scene where there was no fighting and death, which I appreciate, but this scene was not the answer. I’m not by any means saying I know what the right scene should be, but it isn’t that.
BradPIttCloseFuryNow, as I said, the film lacks a little something. Something that I still can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe its the fact that none of the characters really draw you in, or, to be honest, are even that original. The five man crew seem to be a mix of characters written for Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers which were all good for their respective film/tv series, but not original for Fury. Or maybe its some of the accents that are used, which for me made some of the lines inaudible.
 It could be that the story line itself is in fact not that original either. Namely: ‘Tightly nit crew has horrible moment, new person turns up, causes friction and risks people’s lives, then builds to crescendo where lots of death occurs and only a few survive”. Yup, sound familiar…? Its Saving Private Ryan! Sorry, I mean Fury…
Fury Tank in the Hayfield Battle in Columbia Pictures' FURY.My final note is once again about the BBFC rating of being suitable for 15 year olds. I am truly astounded that it’s not an 18. Seeing someone explode and limbs go everywhere or another guy’s head explode as it gets crushed by a tank is not in my mind suitable for a 15-year-old. Let me put it this way, Top Gun upon its release was a 15… See what I mean…?
Anyway, overall, as I started out by saying, I was disappointed. I’m a big Brad Pitt fan and I’ve even come round to like Shia LeBoef, but this film just doesn’t hit the heights it should do with a cast and budget like it had. Maybe the fact that they were filming in England on remembrance Sunday should have been the first give away that they weren’t really paying attention to detail about WWII and what should have been expected of them.
brad-pitt-in-furyFury…? More like mildly irritated.
posted by Ben

Staff A-Z of Film: G is for… (Pt. 4)

 GhostDog_quad-1DAVE SAYS G IS FOR: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily… And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.”

So begins this unique crime tragedy from one of America’s master filmmakers. Jim Jarmusch has been staking his claim as the US’s independent cinematic voice par excellence for some 30 years now, and in 1999 he furthered that claim with this strange, hypnotic, spiritual, cynical, lyrical noir gem. Forest Whitaker stars as the eponymous Ghost Dog, a hired assassin who has pledged his life to an aging Italian mobster. He lives on the rooftops of an unnamed city, training the carrier pigeons he communicates with (and only with) and living his life strictly by the Bushido, the ancient Samurai code. Nobody knows his name, or where he lives, or how to contact him. They know him only by the moniker he has chosen, and by the flawless record of assassinations he has left behind.

The film is an eclectic mixture of Eastern wisdom, hip-hop soundscapes and jagged-edged New York wiseguy cynicism. When Ghost Dog leaves a witness to one of his assassinations, the mob gives his master, Louie, an ultimatum: either Ghost Dog dies, or he does. And so Ghost Dog sets out to weave a bloody trail of death throughout the mob in order to protect the threatened Louie. Unfazed by the fact that not even Louie understands his unwavering devotion, Ghost Dog will do anything to uphold the Code of the Samurai, including hilariously shooting his master (twice) in order to throw the mob off the scent.

We never learn Ghost Dog’s true identity, and he becomes as much a myth to us as he is to the befuddled mobsters he sets out to take down. His only friend is Isaach de Bankolé’s Haitian ice-cream salesman, despite the fact that neither speaks the other’s language or has any idea what the other is saying. And the only way we get to know him at all is through the tentative friendship he forms with local school kid, Pearline, a kindred spirit who takes a liking to Ghost Dog and seems to understand his strangeness in some beautiful, unspoken way. This mythic quality is really what sets this film apart from other ‘hood’ or crime flicks.

Rather than bombastic and action-packed, Jarmusch’s film is elegant and understated, both in its treatment of character and its occasional outbursts of violence. It pokes fun at many tropes of the crime genre, not least with its Italian mafia that cannot afford to pay rent on time and who more closely resemble Scooby-Doo baddies than Goodfellas. Whitaker’s magnificent performance is at the heart of all of this – quiet and controlled but concealing a deep underlying emotion and a moving sense of loyalty and justice. He lets others do the talking, preferring to say only what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. In many ways, his profound inner peace is what most inflects the atmosphere of the film, despite the high body count.

Ghost Dog also features one of the great scores in recent film history, by influential hip-hop producer The RZA, who cameos (above left) in one scene as a mysterious fellow samurai. With this score, straddling the same gulf between urban grit and Zen harmony as the film itself, Ghost Dog creates a completely unique atmosphere, quite unlike any gangster film before or since. Those familiar with Jarmusch’s previous masterwork, the psychedelic western Dead Man, will also find this something of a spiritual successor, and the director leaves more than one Easter egg in here for the keen-eyed viewer.

There are not many films that can be called completely unique, but Ghost Dog, while perhaps not for everyone, certainly has no equal. By the end of the film one is left with the sense that one has not so much watched a slice of life as been told the story of a myth or tragic passion play, with a hero who represents a set of ideas and principles that have come into conflict with a time and place in which they do not belong.

One of those films that bears multiple viewings over time in order to truly let the weight of the ideas and the drama truly sink in, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai should be top of the list for anyone with a taste for daring, independent or unique pieces of cinema.

Check out the trailer right here:

Poster of the Day: This Gun for Hire (1942)



 Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake star in this classic noir, directed by Frank Tuttle (All the King’s Horses), with a screenplay co-written by the great W.R. Burnett (novelist, eg. Little Ceasar). The film is loosely based on the book of the same name by Graham Greene. This Gun for Hire was the first picture that Ladd and Lake made together, the partnership proving so successful that they went on to make another six including, perhaps most famously, The Blue Dahlia in 1946.


“You are trying to make me go soft. Well, you can save it. I don’t go soft for anybody.”

Posted by Dixie

Staff A-Z of Film: G is for… (pt.3)


WILLIAM SAYS G IS FOR: Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini, 1948)


‘I see this film as a prayer from Rossellini to the postwar world, a prayer for compassion’ – Martin Scorsese. More last gasp than prayer, Martin. Inadvertent last rites? Perhaps. Bazin said “not a movie but a sketch, a rough draft of a work Rossellini hasn’t given us.” Rossellini gestures; man is the bastard. Quiet, confident desperation here.


Staff A-Z of Film: G is for… (Pt.2)


LALLY SAYS G IS FOR: Garbage Warrior (2007)

“We’re trying to develop a method of living that allows people to take care of themselves”

Garbage Warrior is a documentary about American architect Michael Reynolds and his quest to evolve his designs for independent, sustainable living. Highly critical of the wasteful nature of his profession, Reynolds began his career experimenting with various technologies including thermal mass construction, wind and solar power, and green house designs. His experiments resulted in the Earthship, a self sustaining house built out of recycled materials such as car tires and beer cans.


“You’ve got to be able to make mistakes otherwise you never evolve”

Filmed over the course of three years, Oliver Hodge’s film introduces us to the architect’s designs and the long standing New Mexico based community who build with him. Reynolds’ 35 year battle with waste, however, was forcefully halted in the early 2000s by the State Planning Department due to the buildings’ unconventional nature and experimental design. Whilst he was caught in a bureaucratic ‘catch 22’ in America, Reynolds and his crew were invited to Indonesia where in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami their Earthship technology was immediately welcomed and put into practice by the residents of the devastated Andaman Islands.


“If you don’t want to look at the problem, why would you want to come up with a solution”.

Michael Reynolds, ‘warrior’ against waste, had to wade through years worth of paperwork and petitions just to be allowed to experiment with his radical designs on his own land. Ironic, given that in the past New Mexico sacrificed thousands of acres to irradiation experiments for Atomic bomb testing.

Oliver Hodge’s film provides us with an interesting insight into the inner workings of the State legislature, where hidebound attitudes and pitfalls await around every corner. It is not a scaremongering film intent on shocking its audience into action, but rather an inspiring account of how much positive change just one person can make with enough determination.


Garbage Warrior is the story of one man’s passionate and energetic efforts to change the way we treat the world, and to show us that change is not only obviously necessary, but well within our capabilities; the technology is here we just have to examine how we live our lives and act.

Since the release of Garbage Warrior, Reynolds and his crew have continued to evolve their designs and share them all over the world. You can check out his adventures and progress here:



Preview: The 87th Annual Old White Guy Awards

gurus-top8-021815It seems like the biggest stories of this year’s Oscars have been those films and people not nominated, rather than those who were. Much has been made of the fact that not a single nominee in the Best Director or either Screenplay categories are either female or African-American, despite the presence of presumed contenders Ava DuVernay, who directed Selma or Gillian Flynn, who adapted her own novel Gone Girl from page to screen. Add to this the fact that the Academy also nominated 20 white actors in its acting categories, one almost gets the feeling if it could nominate 10 old men for the Best Actress categories it would, if only the rules would allow it.


Moving on from these and other snubs, though (LEGO Movie, anyone?!), the race for Best Picture seems to have come down to two very different films: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which has the backing of most critics, and Alejandro Gonzalez-Iñárritu’s Birdman, which seems to have the majority of industry support. The criticism has been leveled at both that they are merely gimmicks, in Boyhood‘s case that it was filmed over 12 years and in Birdman‘s that it is made to look like one single continuous take from beginning to end. But both are brilliant, unique films that completely deserve their nominations. So which is going to take home the big prize?


Right now, the smart money is on Birdman. It is this year’s most-nominated film (tied with The Grand Budapest Hotel with 9 apiece) and all the recent momentum seems to have swung its way. It also seems likely to take home awards for Director, Original Screenplay and Cinematography. Of course Boyhood is certainly in with a shout and if it manages an upset in Picture it will almost certainly take Best Director too, but at the moment it looks like a solitary win for Patricia Arquette’s magnificent performance in Best Supporting Actress for the one-time frontrunner.

Birdman is a film of the moment, edgy and fast-paced and it’s about ‘the business’, precisely the sort of back-patting ego-inflater the Academy loves (I mean, it also happens to be an excellent film which helps, at least). But one can’t help the feeling that if it isn’t Boyhood‘s name called on the night, it may just be the latest in Oscar’s long-running tradition of should-have-won films that we look back on in years to come with hands on heads. Boyhood is sure to go down in history as a great piece of American cinema from Richard Linklater, some would say his generation’s greatest American director  – but is it what the Academy likes?

the-theory-of-everything-eddie-redmayne-2-3Eddie Redmayne as Hawking in Theory of Everything.

The only major award Birdman seems likely to lose is Best Actor, which is surprising considering Michael Keaton’s mammoth performance. But in a tight race it looks like it’s Eddie Redmayne’s to lose. Redmayne has surged late in the running with his remarkable work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The Academy loves a true story and a physical transformation, and Redmayne nails both with aplomb. Although Bradley Cooper scores his third consecutive nomination for his flag-waving work in American Sniper, he and fellow nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Steve Carell will all just be happy to be there.

What a pity that far and away the year’s best performance, from David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, jr. in Selma has been ignored. I wonder why. I mean, the Academy did nominate Laurence Olivier for playing Othello in blackface…but that’s none of my business.

still-aliceMoore in Still Alice.

The other acting categories are all but sewn up. Julianne Moore will get her long overdue statue for her work in Still Alice, while JK Simmons (Whiplash) and Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) will complete this year’s line-up with deserved wins. In another year without Moore perhaps Reese Witherspoon (Wild) or Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) might have challenged but both already have Oscars of their own and the Academy’s old white men- I’m so sorry, old wise men have decided its ‘time’ to honour one of the best actresses working for the last 20 years.


There are still a few unpredictable races scattered throughout, like Best Foreign Language Film. Despite many predicting Pawel Pawlikowski’s majestic Ida, this category has seen many upsets in recent years, so don’t be surprised to hear Argentina’s Wild Tales called out and that’s what I’m predicting to win. There’s even an outside chance of Russia’s searingly powerful Leviathan taking home the award, but in the past US foreign relations have played a bigger role than they maybe should have in determining this one and so it seem unlikely we shall see a Russian winner. On the documentary front it would seem that Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour  is going to be the one to beat, though keep an eye out for the wonderful Finding Vivian Maier, an in-store favourite, although it’s unlikely to be an upset this year.

Things to Keep an Eye Out For:

  • Neil Patrick Harris is the latest brave soul to take on the task of hosting the ceremony. Can he revitalize the world’s most popular roomful of old white millionaires?
  • Best Cinematography sees veteran Dick Pope finally nominated for Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner. Can either he or equally overdue legend Roger Deakins (Unbroken) claim a statuette or will we see Birdman’s Emmanuel Lubezki win for a second consecutive year (he took it home last year for Gravity)?
  • Just how much support will dark horses Grand Budapest Hotel and American Sniper have? Both could easily come away with 3 or 4 statues of their own. If any films are going to sneakily prove popular choices, it’s these two. Expect Sniper to challenge for both Sound categories, Editing and perhaps even Adapted Screenplay. Expect Grand Budapest to be up for it in Costume, Production Design, Hair and Make-Up, Cinematography and maybe even Original Screenplay if it’s really loved.
  • With no Gone Girl in Best Adapted Screenplay, it could go anywhere. Expect it to be one of the Brit biopics. Either further love for Theory of Everything (along with Best Actor and potentially Score) or a consolation for The Imitation Game.
  • Animated Film frontrunner The LEGO Movie was a shock omission, so will the completely wonderful Boxtrolls get it’s due or will we be learning How to Train Your Dragon?
  • The one nomination LEGO did get was for it’s hit theme song “Everything is Awesome”, expect song to come down to this versus Selma’s Glory”, which might end up being the ‘sorry-we-were-racist’ prize for 2015.

And finally, will it be Inarritu and Birdman or Linklater and Boyhood that come out on top? While some are predicting a split between Best Director and Best Picture, this is rare (ignore the fact that it’s happened in both the last 2 years, it’s RARE I tell you!) and whichever man wins is likely to see his film win too.


Fingers crossed on this end for Boyhood (or, in a perfect world, Selma – but that’s so unlikely it’s actually past the point of parody) but regardless of which film wins, either would be one of the most artistically daring projects the Academy has ever gone for, so good luck to all!

Posted by David.

New Releases: 23rd February


Brad Pitt, a tank, Shia LaBeouf, Nazis and a title that accurately suggests the gritty, mud-drenched male-bonding war drama to follow – these are the principal ingredients of David Ayer’s latest, the follow-up to his brilliant but underseen 2012 cop-drama End of Watch. Brad Pitt leads an excellent cast as the wonderfully named “Wardaddy”, once again proving the closest thing we have to the sort of classic Hollywood icons of yesteryear. The story sees Logan Lerman’s fresh-faced rookie thrust deep into battle at the back-end of WWII as this rugged group of manly so-and-so’s attempts to land a decisive blow at Nazi Germany. Fury is shot in gorgeous, washed-out 35mm and is ultimately a sensitive, muscular entry into the war film canon that is definitely recommended.



Re-uniting the two stars of 2012’s Silver Lining PlaybookSerena chronicles the difficulties of timber magnate George Pemberton and his wife, Serena, who is unable to provide him with an heir. Jennifer Lawrence is as reliable as ever and puts in a strong, layered performance as the titular character. The problem with this fine performance is perhaps that it exposes the deficiencies in other areas here, including her outmatched co-star Cooper and the film’s occasionally messy direction. Susanne Bier (After the Wedding, In a Better World) directs, and does her best with a weak script in this Depression-era tale of domestic romance and woe that is perhaps worth a watch just for the lead performance and the chemistry of the two leads.



Don’t let any generic descriptions of police intrigue and brooding male angst fool you – Felony is a surprisingly stylish, excellently acted (yes, even by Jai Courtney) Aussie thriller-drama. After a child is left in a coma following a tragic accident, three detectives will all find themselves caught up in the struggle for the truth. One of them is guilty of the crime, one will try to help cover it up and one can simply not let it go without finding out what really happened. While the film might prove to be a little too cynical for some, it does present an interesting set of characters and moral dilemmas for the audience to ponder as it sinks deeper into guilt, desperation and intensity. Yet another taut, tense entry in the recent wave of Aussie crime such as Animal Kingdom and Mystery Road.



It’s safe to say that the major target market for Annabelle would be those who really enjoyed 2013’s The Conjuring, of which it is a spin-off/prequel (it was only a matter of time). While The Conjuring was a pretty damn frightening movie that managed to linger in the mind for some time after, Annabelle concerns itself more with cheaper scares and, no doubt, the building of a franchise. Once again, the eponymous haunted doll causes some seriously scary things to happen in the house of an unlucky couple (who obviously had not seen any of the Chucky films). If you were a fan of the first film, then give this a go and you might find enough references to other great horror films and maybe even enough scares to get into this one.   



There’s something beautiful in the fact that Steve James, whose tremendous Hoop Dreams was one of the films most-championed by Roger Ebert, directs this incredibly moving portrait of the beloved critic. Spanning his life and career in film and featuring not only interviews with many of those filmmakers and colleagues whose paths crossed Ebert’s over the years but also stirring footage of the last months of his life, Life Itself is a rich, intimate and deeply poignant chronicle. Rather than simply a movie about movies, this is a movie about life and the things we come to love most about it. It does not paint Ebert as a saint, but rather a flawed, strong-willed man who never stopped learning, loving or growing and this is, in the end, what makes this so essential a watch for anyone who has ever truly loved a film or who has been affected, as so many were, by the writing of the man many called the last great film critic.



Dark, atmospheric, slow-building thriller in classic Scandi style. That’d be the quick description of Tommy, a tough depiction of a woman’s return to the city she had fled a year before with her husband and daughter following her husband’s role in a massive robbery. She returns without said husband, the titular Tommy, and proclaims that he is soon to arrive in Stockholm with a view to claiming his share of the take. This causes a stir in the city’s seedy underbelly that will, of course, have repercussions for all involved. The film’s focus on female characters is refreshing for those of us more used to the Hollywood formula and a nice surprise is the deft performance put in by Swedish indie-pop sensation Lykke Li.



Touted as a documentary cousin to 2008’s outstanding and criminally underseen Palme D’Or winner The ClassSchool of Babel takes a look at a class of young French emigres and inspects how they might integrate with each other and into French society. The film is rigorous in its approach to documenting the classroom space and one is able to get to know a bit about these characters and the challenges they, and the school system, face. Although one can’t help but feel this story would be better served being told fictionally, where there might be more freedom to explore the issues at play and more scope to create drama, the reality of these children’s lives is what gives the film its power. School of Babel is absorbing throughout and brings up a conversation as relevant across Europe now as it has ever been.



This gem of Chinese cinema, now regarded as one of the greatest films ever produced in that country, is finally seeing a release thanks to its inclusion in the BFI’s recent season on Chinese cinema. Made in 1948, but rejected by the Communist government for its apolitical content, Spring in a Small Town is a powerful and emotional but also incredibly subtle drama about a love triangle that forms between a woman and two childhood friends. Set in a provincial Chinese town still devastated by wartime damage, the film unfolds with exquisite delicacy and control and builds into a weighty, haunting masterpiece characterized by an erotic tension and complex beauty that have perhaps never been matched in Chinese cinema.


posted by David

Film and Poster of the Day: Paths of Glory (1957)

Poster - Paths of Glory_04

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, starring Kirk Douglas, Adolphe Menjou and Ralph Meeker.















posted by Dixie Turner

New Releases: 16th February


If The Babadook isn’t already the best horror film released to DVD in 2015, we’re in for a spectacular year because this is one of the most elegant, moving and yes, terrifying films in any genre in recent years. The indie smash from Aussie director Jennifer Kent features a stellar performance from lead Essie Davis as a single mom crushed under the weight of caring for her young and difficult, emotionally-troubled son. When before-bed story time brings them the mysterious book of Mr. Babadook (who also happens to be one of the most evocative movie villains in quite a while) her world begins to descend into a nightmare of unreality and past trauma. This film is at once an incredibly moving and honest portrayal of the difficulties of being a parent and a truly unsettling horror gem.




Here’s a good test to see if this latest Hollywood reboot is for you: 1) Did you like any or all of Battle: Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (just a few of director Jonathan Liebesman’s past outings)? If you answered yes to that question, or if you have any particular predilection for any film with the words “Produced by Michael Bay” in the credits, then you’re in luck. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the latest nostalgia-driven update that aims straight for the mone- I mean heart. Goofy action, very bad bad guys and a CG Johnny Knoxville come together in this story of our band of heroes saving their city and, yes, eating lots of pizza.




Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (had to get the full title in at least once) is a fun family comedy that, to its credit, never tries to be anything more and never fails to be exactly that. Alexander and his family find themselves living through the worst possible day, as things go wrong for all of them in some, er, creative ways. The cast does a great job of making us care and nails most of the jokes on offer, which makes this movie more fun than one might have expected. If it’s some throwaway family entertainment you’re looking for, then look no further than Alexander and the Terrible- (okay you know what I’d finish that but we just don’t have the time).




2011’s Dolphin Tale was a big hit with family audiences around the world and there seems to be no reason to suspect last year’s sequel will be any different. Featuring good-natured, old-fashioned fun and a strong returning cast of Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick, Jr. (not to mention that lovable bundle of cuddly family fun, Kris Kristofferson), we now find the first film’s heroine, Winter (also reprising her autobiographical role), joined in her quest for happiness by new arrival Hope. The film is a sweet, sometimes beautiful story of friendship not only between the two titular cetaceans but also the human cast and Video City will not be held responsible for any dehydration on account of any excessive weeping at this lovable family tale.




One of the finest science fiction films of this decade finally gets a UK DVD release. Coherence is a low-budget American indie offering featuring largely improvised dialogue and a mind-bending plot that begs to be watched and re-watched if one has any ambitions of figuring out just what is going on. A group of friends having a dinner party while a comet passes overhead discover that all may not be as it seems after a freak blackout. Parallel dimensions and alternate realities are imagined with painstaking detail as to their implications and the film manages to continually shock and surprise with its plot. This is a must for any fans of imaginative speculative fiction, brain-busting puzzles or just some great indie character drama.




It’s hard to say what the most charming aspect of this quintessentially Mexican adventure might be. Its unique and wonderful animation-style? Its boldly-drawn villains and lovable heroes? Or its wildly imaginative settings that jump between the real world and the Underworld? Mexican fantasy maestro Guillermo del Toro’s guiding hand can certainly be felt in almost every frame of this delightful romantic adventure. The young Manolo (Diego Luna) must decide between the life of bullfighting his family expects of him and his love for music and the beautiful Maria (Zoe Saldana). His adventure takes him through different worlds of life and death, watched all the while by angelic/demonic presences Xibalba and La Muerte (an ever-fantastic Ron Perlman and Kate del Castillo) who have placed a wager on who Maria’s heart will be given to. The Book of Life will be loved any any age group with a sense for high adventure, imagination and romance.




Ignoring the fact that this documentary tells the story of what protagonist Matthew Vandyke somewhat ridiculously calls his “crash course in manhood”, this is a gripping account of the true story of a sheltered Baltimore twenty-something who gets on his bike and sets out to find himself (bear with me here). What might have otherwise been a run-of-the-mill Eat, Pray, Love (The Man Version) becomes a fiercely compelling story of Vandyke’s quite amazing journey that culminates in his involvement in the Libyan Revolution, which he also documents, and a six-month long period of capture and solitary confinement. Point and Shoot surprises with its continuous evolution throughout and manages to paint a potent picture of modern American manhood.




If you are not already addicted to HBO’s Game of Thrones, I can only assume you have been living in a cave or that you must be a Lannister. The much-awaited (judging by in-store requests) fourth season of arguably the most popular series on TV anywhere in the world right now arrives to pick up where the horrifying events of season 3 ended off. Those hoping for more tragedy, sex, violence and jaw-dropping moments of utter shock will absolutely not be disappointed with the most insane season to date of a show that has staked its reputation on its plethora of insane moments. The War of the Five Kings continues across the land of Westeros, where the only guarantee (as many of our characters will soon find out) is that ‘All Men Must Die’.






New Releases: 9th February


Woody Allen’s latest sees Colin Firth (returning to his signature brand of romantic British charm) travel to the sunny south of France to help debunk the myth of a clairvoyant (Emma Stone), who has taken in a family of wealthy Americans. As one might predict, romantic and professional complications ensue as the skeptical Firth not only begins to doubt the certainty of his convictions but begins to suspect he’s falling in love. While not quite as sharp or as acclaimed as last year’s Blue Jasmine and slightly hindered by a lead romance perhaps lacking in chemistry, Magic in the Moonlight is a sweet-natured screwball-style romance from one of cinema’s modern masters, carried by an effortless lead performance from Firth.




Frances McDormand gives a powerful, understated performance in this critically-acclaimed miniseries based on the Pulitzer-prize winning novel. Tracing 25 years in the life of a retired country schoolteacher and her husband (an equally impressive Richard Jenkins), Oliver Kitteridge is a moving and painstaking character study about people, relationships and the passage of time. Directed by Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) and featuring supporting roles from Bill Murray, Rosemarie DeWitt and Zoe Kazan, Olive Kitteridge has been picking up awards and acclaim all over.




A young man wakes up in a rusty elevator remembering only his name and finds himself delivered to the centre of an enormous maze with a group of other boys. These boys gradually form a society as new boys arrive and eventually attempt escape. So begins Hollywood’s latest young-adult soon-to-be-franchise. The film is darker and moodier than expected and the unfolding mystery of the Maze is enough to sustain the interest and tension of the film, even for those suffering from Hunger Games fatigue. Great for a teenage audience or a night of easy, fast-paced entertainment.




Daniel Radcliffe may finally be transcending his boy-wizard image with this fun, charming rom-com, whose best feature is the brilliant chemistry of Radcliffe and co-star Zoe Kazan. With the duo’s sparkling interplay and a witty script, What If manages to overcome a slightly familiar storyline: boy, hurt by a string of bad relationships, meets girl that lives with her long-term boyfriend. Though the spark between them is undeniable and they become close friends, both begin to wonder if their best friend might not actually be more than that.




As Richard Corliss of Time writes: “[Luke Evans] carries Untold by admirably fulfilling the two essential functions of a period-movie hero: to enunciate comic-book dialogue with Shakespearean authority and to look great with his shirt off.” If that floats your boat, then go right ahead and enjoy the CG-action silliness on offer in this updated origin story, surprisingly featuring very little in the way of fangs or neck-biting, because you certainly get what you pay for here.




The latest Scandi drama for those who just can’t get enough is here. The Legacy was sold to UK TV even before it had aired in its native Denmark, so strong was the buzz. But rather than pitch-black noir, this is a complicated family drama, exploring how the lives of several people have been affected by their eccentric and difficult mother, a world-renowned artist. Tensions come quickly to the surface after their lives are altered by tragic events and the sprawling manor of their upbringing becomes the stage for their differences and the consequences of the past. Surely a must-see for any fan of this wave of Scandi entertainment, The Legacy is sure to prove a big hit in the UK and in-store.




It’s hard to say much about The Rewrite that one can’t immediately tell from its poster and star. It’s a safe bet that anyone who liked any of Grant’s previous rom-coms (mostly directed by Rewrite helmer Marc Lawrence) will find plenty to like here. This time Hugh is a past-his-prime screenwriter who begins a teaching career at university, only to find love with single-mom Tomei. The predictable plot is elevated by two likable leads, Grant actually playing a character who seems to be his own age for once, and fans of the genre or its formula are not likely to be too disappointed.




Simon Pegg does his thing with the usual brand of infectious comedy in this sweet and good-natured but perhaps overly schmaltzy story of a psychiatrist who decides to find the secret to true happiness. Frustrated with his job and his life, Hector feels he can no longer advise people how to be happy when he has no idea. So begins a round-the-world trip in the style of Eat, Pray, Love or The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Unfortunately this lacks the weight and skill of either of these, but Pegg and a very likable cast manage to do a fine job of making us care despite the barrage of sentimentality and guidebook locations.




If you’re thinking that the poster for The Best of Me is reminiscent of the multitude of Nicholas Sparks adaptations in the last decade, that’s because it is the latest in this long (and profitable) line. It’s highly unlikely that anyone not already enamoured with Dear John, The Lucky One or The Notebook will find much to change their minds here, but fans of Sparks’ particular brand of deeply emotional, hand-wringing romance will find themselves more than satisfied. Former high-school sweethearts reunite upon returning to their hometown. If you just have to know what happens next (or if you’re extra-hydrated and feel that a good cry might do you some good) then get some tissues and settle in.




This charming animation adventure is perhaps an unexpected follow-up to director Juan Campanella’s 2009 sensation The Secret in Their Eyes, the utterly gripping thriller that brought him the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. His latest tells the story of Amadeo, a keen foosball player whose foosball figures come to life to help him defeat his arch-nemesis (and actual football superstar) and win the heart of Laura, the girl of his dreams. There is plenty of great humour in here for both football fans and those who do not love the Beautiful Game, and the animation easily rivals Hollywood fare. Although this might be a bit of a slog for the parents among us, the young (and possibly the young-at-heart) will be thoroughly entertained.




This knowing homage to old B-movies and monster flicks features Australia’s answer to Sasquatch and the rag-tag group of treasure hunters, rangers and deadbeat cops that comes face-to-face with it. A search for the lost gold of a 19th-century outlaw is the catalyst for the action/horror/suspense/adventure mash-up that ensues as the characters battle for survival against their mythical foe. Fans of schlock and B-grade homages like Grindhouse or Hobo With a Shotgun should find more than enough fun packed into this flick to entertain. For those with less adventurous tastes, this might be a great opportunity to introduce some weird into your movie nights.




This tender and compassionate feature explores the confusing feelings of blind teenager Leonardo. Planning to leave his overbearing mother and best friend Giovana behind for an exchange programme, he is unprepared for the arrival of new student Gabriel. The arrival of this new personality causes Leonardo to start questioning the feelings he finds starting to develop inside himself. The film explores Leonardo’s coming-of-age with humour, tenderness and respect for the age of innocence the three protagonists are emerging from. This Brazilian gem has been receiving acclaim from critics and prizes from film festivals around the world since its release.




The Overnighters is an award-winning, uncompromising and blisteringly relevant documentary in which one cannot help but see shades of The Grapes of Wrath. The films tells the story of migrant labourers chasing the dying embers of the American Dream to a small oil town in North Dakota. There, their presence is met with hostility and it falls to the local pastor to give them shelter and take pity on them. This is a stark, devastating but also incredibly humane portrait of not just a place but a moment in time that never ceases to surprise and move.






Charlie Chaplin: As I began to love myself

Charlie-Chaplin-007The Little Tramp grows and grows. Seemingly penniless, but rich beyond measure.

Allegedly written on his 70th birthday, Chaplin penned a few lessons for us all – as always:

As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is “AUTHENTICITY”.


As I began to love myself I understood how much it can offend somebody if I try to force my desires on this person, even though I knew the time was not right and the person was not ready for it, and even though this person was me. Today I call it “RESPECT”.


As I began to love myself I stopped craving for a different life, and I could see that everything that surrounded me was inviting me to grow. Today I call it “MATURITY”.


As I began to love myself I understood that at any circumstance, I am in the right place at the right time, and everything happens at the exactly right moment. So I could be calm. Today I call it “SELF-CONFIDENCE”.


As I began to love myself I quit stealing my own time, and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.


As I began to love myself I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health – food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today I know it is “LOVE OF ONESELF”.


As I began to love myself I quit trying to always be right, and ever since I was wrong less of the time. Today I discovered that is “MODESTY”.


As I began to love myself I refused to go on living in the past and worrying about the future. Now, I only live for the moment, where everything is happening. Today I live each day, day by day, and I call it “FULFILLMENT”.


As I began to love myself I recognized that my mind can disturb me and it can make me sick. But as I connected it to my heart, my mind became a valuable ally. Today I call this connection “WISDOM OF THE HEART”.


We no longer need to fear arguments, confrontations or any kind of problems with ourselves or others. Even stars collide, and out of their crashing new worlds are born. Today I know “THAT IS LIFE”!




posted by Dixie


In-house review: Gone Girl (2014)


 Gone Girl – dir. David Fincher, starring Ben Affleck and Rosumund Pike.

Reviewed by Ben.

Now where to begin… where to begin….?

The problem with writing this piece is trying to not give anything away and spoiling it for all you lovely people reading this…but I volunteered, so here goes…

Gone Girl is the adaptation of a book of the same title by Gillian Flynn from 2012. Directed by David Fincher (Girl with the here Dragon Tattoo, Fights Club, Seven), it tells the story of the disappearance of Amy Dunne (played by Rosamund Pike). Featuring Ben Affleck, who plays Nick Dunne (Amy’s husband), the story is in essence a ‘who dunnit?’ With lies, betrayal and murder on the agenda, it’s left to the audience for the first half of the film to try to work out who is guilty and who is throwing the red herrings about the place.


Now, while I have no issue with a good psychological thriller, there are several elements of this film which did annoy me… greatly…I won’t say what they are as it would give away too much of the plot, but for me the second half of the film definitely saves the first half. Ben Affleck is pretty average at best, especially compared to Rosamund Pike who holds your attention from start to finish. Nick Dunne’s sister, played by Carrie Coon, is also a worthy mention for its her character that in a round-about way plays the audience, for she is completely in the dark about all the events that lead up to the disappearance, so as she learns of what’s been happening behind closed doors, so do we.

I’m going to leave it at that because I really can’t say any more without giving the plot away.

But, to answer the obvious question of would I recommend it?  Yes I would. Just be prepared to have an open mind about certain things for the sake of a good, old-fashioned Hollywood thriller.



Interview with Gone Girl cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth.


In-House Review: The Equalizer (2014)

image“What do you see when you look at me…?”

Well, Mr Washington, I see a man who looks bloody good for someone who is over 60! But enough about that, lets talk The Equalizer.

Set in Boston, Denzel plays Robert McCall a man with a hidden past. His life consists of sticking to a very regimented pattern, whereby he spends his days working in a home depot store and then frequenting an all night cafe drinking tea and reading classic books. He is a man of conviction, a man who seemingly wants to help those around him for no personal gain and is happy to disappear into the background of hum-drum life where no one will bother him. However all this changes after an encounter with a fellow patron of the all night cafe, Teri (whose real name is Alina played by Chloe Grace Moretz).

imageTeri/Alina is a young girl who has been forced into working as a call girl for a Russian gang and after witnessing the abuse that she is subjected to, Robert (Washington), realizes he cannot stand by and do nothing. But after years of living a lie and suppressing his old life to the shadows, can he go back to being the man whom he’d rather forget?

I know that those of you reading this will think ” Here we go… another mindless Hollywood action film” and, yes, there is a little bit of that woven into the film. But having said that, I think there is definitely enough extra to set this film apart. To me, its well shot, slick and it plays to Denzel’s strengths. To give a comparison, it sits somewhere between “Taken” with Liam Neeson and Denzel’s “Man on Fire”.

imageMy biggest word of warning, though, is I’m not sure who watched it and gave it a “15” certificate, but clearly they weren’t watching the same film I was. At moments it has very strong violence to which even Saving Private Ryan would blush.

Overall, I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a better than average action thriller that’s slick and easy on the eye… and the brain!



Posted by Ben.