New Releases: 23rd March

THE DROP:

James Gandolfini’s final appearance in a feature film is only one reason to put this taut, muscular thriller on your must-watch list. Gandolfini cuts a weary figure, overmatched by more ambitious and ruthless criminal elements around him, as the owner of a local bar that functions as a drop-off point for mob payments. Tom Hardy leads the cast as Bob, a quiet man who tends bar and prefers plain speaking and avoiding confrontation. When Bob finds an abandoned puppy in a garbage bin, it’s the start of a tentative romantic entanglement with the beautiful Nadia (Noomi Rapace). Of course, unstable ex-flames and violent gangs complicate everything for our protagonists as The Drop builds to a brilliant and brutal conclusion. This is old-school, low-key genre fair, backed up by flashes of frightening tension and an emotional set of performances from three excellent leads. A fitting tribute to the late and very great Jimmy Gandolfini.

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WINTER SLEEP:

Last year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia) is becoming one of Europe’s premier auteurs. At a sizzling 196 minutes, don’t expect this one to fly by, but you will be more than rewarded for your perseverance by this emotional masterwork. A man, his wife and his sister hole up for the winter in his hotel. That is the simple, Reader’s Digest-version of the plot. This simple set-up allows these people to really become fully-fledged human beings and develop both themselves and their relationships in ways that film rarely manages to achieve (part of the reason for this being you need a 196-minute film to do this). So, if you’ve got the time, this is a film that really deserves to be seen, for its ambition, its emotional weight and its flawed, delicate human core.

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PADDINGTON:

This is one of those films that just had no right to be this good. Everything about Paddington yells feel-good-moneymaking-fluff and yet, this is a film full of sincerity, humour and fun. An impressive cast of British character players (and the lump of botox that was once Nicole Kidman) brings this magical tale of a beloved character to life. And don’t be put off if, like me, you find the Harry Potter films and the like completely insufferable – there is plenty here to distinguish this as a piece of filmmaking with heart. Fun for the kids, naturally, but more than that a film capable of holding the attention of everyone in the family, this is perfect for any evening of light, feel-good entertainment. And hey, anything to bring Paddington to a new generation.

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THIRD PERSON:

Okay, I’ll admit I’m prejudiced. I think Paul Haggis’s Crash is likely on my list of 10 most-hated films of all time, and so when I came to this one I found it hard to keep an open mind. Fortunately, I didn’t need to. This pseudo-Woody Allen series of interlocking love stories that tell the beginning, middle and end of relationships is middle of the road enough that I feel I don’t need to expend the effort required to show hatred. It’s middle-of-the-road stuff, not too bad, definitely not too good, just…meh. One of those movies where you get the feeling everyone in the impressive cast did it because of everyone else in the impressive cast and no one really stopped to think ‘Are we making a good movie?’ Anyway, harmless but forgetful, Paul Haggis’s brand of desperate profundity is perhaps losing a bit of commercial edge.

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HOMESMAN:

Tommy Lee Jones’s directorial chops get ample showcase here, but it’s Hilary Swank who totally owns this film. Her performance really deserved more attention during the awards season, but, alas she will have to settle for acclaim from the discerning denizens of Video City. She plays a farm woman who saves the life of Jones’s claim-jumper and convinces him to help her escort three insane women to an asylum some distance away. Both leads get to do some real scenery-chewing and are a fantastic match for each other throughout this thoughtful, character-driven western that really gives one the sense that Jones, by this point, is just doing what he loves best. One would love to see him directing more, going on this and 2007’s magnificent The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. But for now, this is strong stuff that showcases the best of Swank, a supremely gifted actress who is sometimes unduly forgotten.

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MEA CULPA:

Tough policemen investigating tougher criminals having their strings pulled by even tougher Eastern European baddies. That’s this fast-paced policier in a nutshell. And that’s kind of all there is to say. A solid genre entry in the proud tradition of French crime cinema, there’s little here that won’t satisfy fans of a good thriller to make a couple of hours on the couch fly by in an instant. If narrative plausibility or dramatic resonance are essential for you, maybe skip this. But if a good car chase, some loud whizz-bang action sequences and zingy cops-n-robbers street-talk is the kind of old-fashioned stuff you’re into, jump right in.

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NO GOOD DEED:

Ah, Idris, this is not the way to back up the horde of your fans clamoring for you to take up the 007 mantle. Woman lets man come in and use her phone. He turns out to be less-than-wonderful and terrorizes her for the rest of the film. Derivative, not particularly engaging, but nevertheless featuring two talented actors who do their best, this is one for the ‘I’ve come in at 9.45pm and everything else is out but damn it I need a film’ pile. If general London life wasn’t enough to already have you totally distrustful of any and all strangers and resistant to acts of human kindness, this film might just tip you over the edge. Outside of Idris Elba’s gorgeous face and melodious baritone there’s little to draw you in here. On to the next, Idris, we’ll get rid of that pesky Daniel Craig, you’ll see…

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posted by Dave.

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