New Releases: 15th June, 2015 (OUR FINAL NEW RELEASES WEEK!!!) sob sob..

SELMA:

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Forget Boyhood, Birdman and all the other Oscar shenanigans. The film that really got the short shrift from the Academy for…reasons, is Selma. In the opinion of yours truly, this film deserved at the very least Best Picture, Best Director for the remarkable Ava DuVernay and without question Best Actor, because David Oyelowo gives one of the great modern screen performances. His MLK is human, vulnerable, stubborn, courageous and a kaleidoscope of other qualities we all have in us. The danger with these types of biopic is always elevating the lead character to god-like status (see: Gandhi, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), but this is a film about people, and the very real need for change as more than just a high-minded idea. Never more relevant to contemporary America than right now, Selma is a great film that will be remembered in years to come as a defining statement on American life.

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WILD TALES:

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It’s six movies for the price of one! This anthology of short films connected by the shared theme of revenge provides endless laughter, shock and on-point observation through its variety of variously-unhinged characters pushed to their limit by the vicissitudes of fate. Though diverse in length and subject matter, all six tales share the same wicked, pitch-black sense of humour. There are plenty of moments where you won’t know if you’re watching comedy or tragedy, and that’s all part of the fun. To anyone unsure, I would simply say that the first scene is one of the most brilliant openings to a film I have seen in years and if it doesn’t hook you, nothing will.

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TAKEN 3:

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Let’s get some honesty out in the open here: I was one of the few people to really enjoy Taken 2. Yes, I was annoyed that Bryan Mills’ family members still allowed themselves to get snatched willy-nilly but it was enjoyable stuff and Liam Neeson’s career renaissance as a buster of heads is delightful. No one actually gets taken in this third installment, but rest assured plentiful henchmen are dispatched with wonderful disregard for the laws of physics. Without spoiling the plot for those of you who actually want to watch this one, things take a serious turn when Bryan’s ex-wife is targeted by some very bad baddies, and he is left with no choice but to beat the living sh*te out of everyone in sight. Which, it turns out, he’s still really good at. To be avoided if you like your films: 1. intellectual 2. evenly-paced 3. coherent. But to be rushed to if you like your films: 1. suuuper fun 2. completely silly 3. smashy-smashy-egg-man.

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posted by Dave

 

 

New Releases: 8th June, 2015

KINGSMAN:

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Pretty much the anti-Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, this is about as impolite as British spying has ever been. Taron Egerton plays ‘Eggsy’, a young lad from Lundun taken in for training by the Secret Service. His mentor is thinking-woman’s-totty Colin Firth, doing his best to prove that he can be charming in literally anything, including apparently causing the death of a trainee and promptly recruiting said ex-trainee’s son to, like, hopefully not die. Samuel L. Jackson plays the lisping, squeamish villain and only black guy in the movie, really, which apart from bringing up all sorts of not-okay colonial memories as our presumably Tory heroes hunt him down is apparently totally cool. I’ll admit I’m the wrong audience for this as apart from Stardust (which is delightful, dammit) I have never been a fan of Matthew Vaughn’s films (and contend to this day that his crowning achievement is marrying Claudia Schiffer) but if you like your action slick, quippy and comic-book OTT then dive in here and you won’t be disappointed.

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INHERENT VICE:image

Arguably my favourite movie of last year, this is hazy, weed-fuelled psychedelia of a sort we haven’t seen in a long time. Equal part Big Lebowski, Naked Gun and Chinatown, you’d be forgiven for having close to no idea what’s going on at any stage of this one. But that’s hardly the point. I’ve heard many people say that this movie is the closest thing they’ve found to what it feels like being high (not that any of us do that sort of thing, no no, nope, not us) and that’s a fair way to think about the atmospheric, down-on-one’s-luck beach-bum noir that flows through the veins of this latest offering from Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, The Master). Anderson has cemented himself in recent years as the singular great American filmmaker of this generation and it’s wonderful to see him crafting a piece that feels epic, intimate and irreverent all at once and never seems to care much what people think. Not for everybody, this one, but essential viewing for all you screen junkies.

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TRASH:

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Ethnic people learn how awesome and wise and helpful white people are in the latest from Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, The Reader, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). I have listed all of his films so that one can see the declining quality apparent to all. Until this film, Daldry had never directed a movie that had not been nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture. Thankfully that record has drawn to a close with Trash, the story of three Brazilian teenagers who become unwitting agents against the corruption of their city when they find a lost wallet. Well-meaning and sentimental, it’s hard to feel truly antagonistic towards this film despite my politics, and it’s an even 3-out-of-5 stars. But one can’t help but feel the filmmakers were all a little too lazy with the street-kid formula and not lazy enough with the syrupy message-sending.

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MORDECAI:

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My goodness, Johnny Depp, will you do literally anything for money? Don’t answer that. But please answer for Mortdecai, a film so devoid of merit I actually have trouble writing words about it. And so I will instead suggest things one might do instead of watching Mortdecai.

1. Watch paint dry. Modern art has come a long way in the last couple of decades, but why not propel high culture forward with an interactive home-installation system that foregrounds the fleeting nature of time and the controlling role of economics in the modern human condition? That is, paint your wall at home and watch it dry, because you will find more character development and learn more about yourself in the process than watching this film.

2. Hit yourself with a stick. Too often we become stuck in the morass of urban career-orientated technocracy. And so might I suggest a jaunt to the country? Find yourself some nature, explore the wide open outdoors, find yourself a blunt object (preferably stick-shaped). Then perhaps beat yourself about the head and face with said stick. If you’re lucky, you’ll do permanent damage to your cranium and will thus never have to watch Mortdecai (or, perhaps it’s the only way to happily watch Mordecai – Dixie). If not, well, you’ll have taken in some un-mustachioed fresh air (have you ever been to the country? Full of moustachios – Dixie).

3. Rob a bank. Nowadays we have become so distanced from those around us, insulated in our domestic spheres of self-absorption. Connecting with others in a meaningful way can be difficult, and so why not live a little and get some buddies together to try jack some unsuspecting bastar- I mean, bankers. The rush of holding an assault rifle, the freeing anonymity of a balaclava, the shrill cry of the silent alarm (hey, don’t wanna alienate the canine clientele that follow our blog (looking at you Rufus)), these are just some of the things more pleasant than Mortdecai. And hey, if you’re given a life sentence, there is next to no chance of this turd of a film ever being thrust upon you… (have you ever been to jail?- Dixie)

4. Come to Video City and rent ANYTHING else 🙂

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posted by Dave (annoying interjections by Dixie)

SALE INFO

The Video City sale has now commenced in earnest. This is how it works:

New stock are selling at 2 for 1 (except on the latest releases). Rental copies are still £3 to rent as always or from £4 to buy. We also have Bargain Bins of ex-rentals for £2. We’re also open to reasonable offers if you’re planning on making yourself a small library..

If you’re of a fragile constitution, feel free to drop us a wish list of titles (specifying if you’re looking for new or ex-rental titles), to avoid that Black Friday feeling.

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 Thanks for your continued support and see you in store.

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posted by Dixie

New Releases: 25th May, 2015

WILD:

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The most exciting movie about walking since Lord of the Rings, and just as likely to make you cry, is Wild. Reese Witherspoon ups her game with a seriously compelling performance in this follow-up to Dallas Buyers Club from director and man-not-afraid-to-show-emotions Jean-Marc Vallee. Without giving too much away, you’d be forgiven for thinking this one was nothing more than Eat, Pray, Love 2 but give it a chance and it reveals a depth and maturity absent from Julia Roberts’ hit chick-flick. Vallee clearly has a flair for true-life drama and his protagonist Cheryl comes across painfully flawed, relatable and real. Witherspoon’s Oscar nomination was well-deserved and I have a feeling that, had she not already won a statue, she might well have taken home the little man.

 

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TESTAMENT OF YOUTH:

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I should begin this review by saying that if you haven’t read famed pacifist Vera Brittain’s tragic, moving memoir of her life during WWI (upon which this film is based) then please do so. The film does a fine job of maintaining a personal humanity amidst the grand poetry of war that is rarely avoided by films tackling military conflict. Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina) and Jon Sno- I’m sorry, Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones), ground Brittain’s story in a believable romance which carries the film and prevents it descending into the realm of maudlin. Those who love romance or period dramas will be right at home here. Think Atonement but, you know, better.

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BIG HERO 6:

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Whether or not Big Hero 6 quite deserved to triumph in an extremely competitive Animation category at the Oscars is debatable. What is not is that it’s quite impossible to watch this one and not have a great time. An unexpectedly hard-hitting first act, which catches many off-guard with the seriousness of its drama, gives way to a thrilling, funny and unflaggingly optimistic superhero adventure brimming with ideas and introducing the evocative hybrid city San Fransokyo. Parents, get ready to watch this one over and over again.  The great thing is, you probably won’t mind.

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New Releases: 4th May

BIRDMAN:

“WITHOUT ME, ALL THAT’S LEFT IS YOU.”

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“HOW DID WE END UP HERE? THIS PLACE IS HORRIBLE.”

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ALSO OUT:

 

UNBROKEN:

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ME, MYSELF AND MUM:

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New Releases: 20th April

THE HOBBIT PT.3:

I mean, look, if you’re still here after two interminable outings of CGI-heavy dwarvish shenanigans, then power to you. The Hobbit trilogy has been this generation’s Star Wars prequels – the childish, over-animated money-grab after a profound and moving series of lovingly made films. Or, alternately, time to pay up the dodgy-looking lady of the night who last night you and your drunk friends thought it’d be a fantastic idea to hire and take back to yours (“You’re getting married, Dave, this is your last chance!”). First off, SPOILERS, the poster is unbelievably misleading, and once you see this film you will know why. It basically represents about the first 10 minutes. I’ll leave it there. After a series of 3-plus-hour movies, it’s amazing just how painfully long and bloated this one feels, despite clocking it as the shortest of all six. But hey, if you’re Peter Jackson (and if you are Peter Jackson, you have some damn explaining to do), then these movies achieved exactly what you wanted…which is totally not money. Nope, no money-grabbing here, folks. Having said all of this, Video City have forked out actual money for this one, so we’d really appreciate if you could all rent it from us again and again in a merry fit of Tolkienian whimsy. Ignore everything I’ve just said (sage advice in general, that). Thank you.

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BIG EYES:

Tim Burton takes a welcome break from being Tim Burton with Big Eyes, one of the more mature films he’s made in recent years. Christoph Waltz continues his streak as everyone’s favourite panto villain, playing the real-life swine who passed off his wife’s paintings as his own and sold them as such for years. Amy Adams can do no wrong in my eyes, and here she is at the top of her game, bringing sincerity and soul to a slightly underwritten part. The film functions as marriage drama, fascinating true story and visual feast of the sort Tim Burton has made it his career to deliver. It’s nice to see him dispense with Johnny Depp and cartoonish subjects and deliver a more adult character study, and for that alone this one is definitely worth a watch.

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INDIAN SUMMERS:

Ah, remember the halcyon days when the good old British owned that lovely little property called India (sea-facing, bit of a fixer-upper, a lot of other tenants, but don’t mind them)? Well, Channel 4 remembers, and from those days of yore comes this story of British socialites in a town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas during the time of the Raj, and the summers (as you might have guessed) that they spend there. Some fine UK acting talent is on show here, both names we already know and love like Julie Walters, and some that no doubt will come to dominate the period fair that is enjoying such a renaissance on British TV at this moment. There’s plenty of solidly-played costume drama on show here and if you’re a Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs type of person then by all means, dive right in.

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MR. SELFRIDGE SEASON 3:

Jeremy Piven does Jeremy Piven once more in the third season of this admittedly pretty popular series. It feels somewhat redundant typing this, because the only people I imagine who will be excited by the prospect of a third outing to the world of Mr. Selfridge will be those of you who have enjoyed the first two such outings. And I shall instead conserve my energy and make myself a sandwich. That’s not really relevant to you, dear reader, is it now? But yet you’ve read this far, and I applaud that. In case you’re wondering, and if you’re still reading I can only assume I have your rapt attention, I’m currently debating between smoked salmon and cream cheese or some nice corned beef and mustard. Please send your letters of advice to my offices at 1 Dunghill Mansions, Putney, SW13 1QP.

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POSTED BY DAVE

New Releases: 13th April 2015

BLACK SEA:

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Nothing much particularly deep or intellectual happens in this one, that’s for sure, but Kevin Macdonald manages to craft a taut, suspenseful thriller (and probably resurrect his flagging career) thanks to a compelling turn from a grizzled and yet somehow still ruggedly sexy Jude Law. A supporting cast of underrated character actors like Scoot McNairy, Michael Smiley and Ben Mendelsohn ratchets up the tension in this tale of submariners chasing Nazi loot in the titular body of water. I was on a submarine once, and I was about as claustrophobic as this film made me feel (and I didn’t even have the gorgeous Jude for company), so I’d certainly recommend it from experience if you’re a scrawny asthmatic who likes to watch big tough guys be big and tough (talkin’ about yours truly, ladies) or, um, if…you know, you like good movies and such.

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WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS:

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Probably my favourite comedy of last year. Do with that what you will. As long as what you do with this wonderful wonderful movie is take it out right now. Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi, New Zealand’s most underrated and versatile filmmaker (Boy, Eagle vs. Shark) team up for this mockumentary about a group of vampires house-sharing in downtown Wellington. They have to deal with the difficulties of adjusting to modern life and the addition of a new vampire to their number, not to mention annoying werewolves (not swearwolves! (you’ll get that when you’ve watched the movie (which will be soon (because you’re going to go get it after you read this (so many brackets!)))). Seriously intelligent and painfully funny, this movie is everything comedy should be. If you like either mockumentaries in general or that brand of very typically dark Kiwi or Aussie comedy then rush to grab this.  Actually, if you like happiness and joy and peace in the Middle East and smiles on the faces of children, you should enjoy this too. Basically, if you breathe air, you should find this hilarious. Thank me later.

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STILL LIFE:

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Since I saw Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky some 6 or 7 years ago, I have an eye on Eddie Marsan and determinedly watched everything he’s in. I happen to absolutely hate Happy-Go-Lucky, but Marsan was absolutely robbed of an Oscar nomination for his unbearably painful turn as a driving instructor turning his rage at himself on the world. He is easily one of Britain’s most versatile working actors (I direct you to his role as monstrous abusive husband in Tyrannosaur and adorably meek and timid man-child in The World’s End) and continues his rich vein of form here. He plays a man whose job it is to seek out the next of kin for people that die alone. He takes his job very seriously and when one of his neighbours goes he searches out a long-lost daughter, with whom he makes a beautiful connection. A patient and poignant British indie that deserves your time.

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NEXT TIME I’LL AIM FOR THE HEART:

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Shades of David Fincher and Denis Villeneuve abound in this French thriller starring French Patrick Dempsey-lookalike and luckiest man in the world Guillaume Canet (his long-term partner is Marion Cotillard). The Fincher comparison is especially apt, and seems to have been what the filmmakers were going for. They mostly succeed, with the one small hiccough that there is only one David Fincher and he is terminally un-French. There are some bravura set-pieces here and Canet is, as we might expect by now, excellent, as a cop that, when not doing his day job as a cop, is a serial killer. The 1970s setting provides a stylish backdrop to a serious-minded (occasionally too serious-minded) thriller. If this film were American, I might call it underrated, but being French it should more than get its due and though it drags a bit in places, is a nice meaty bit of serial fun.

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NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3:

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The Night at the Museum films have never been anyone’s idea of a classic trilogy. But they’re fun, and I imagine that if I were my inquisitive 10-year-old self, there would be plenty in here that would pique my curiosity and get me into books and learning about obscure bits of history, and for that I salute Mr. Stiller and co. If that’s your attitude and if you forget that this is the last time we’ll ever get to see either Robin Williams or Mickey Rooney (to both of whom the film is dedicated) and if you think it’s totally awesome they filmed at our very own British Museum, there should be plenty here for you to enjoy (it’s unlikely you’ve kidded yourself into expecting too much from any film starring Ricky Gervais in any case). Parents, under Section C of the DVD Renters’ Constitution, which I just made up, Video City cannot be held responsible for any injuries suffered due to unholy amount of times you will no doubt be forced to watch this film.

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DUMB AND DUMBER TO:

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Another did-the-world-need-this sequel, let’s just be happy that about one-third of this movie is actually funny, because it could have been worse. I know that one doesn’t necessarily want to say ‘This could have been worse’ as the best thing about a movie but, hey, when it comes to Jim Carrey I take what I can get. It’s great to see Jim Carrey having fun with a role again and, frankly, after The Newsroom, it’s great to see Jeff Daniels having a little less fun with a role. Both get some nice set-pieces and funny jokes are said which are funny and situations are funny and things are funny and funny people do funny things andddddddddd- Oh, I’m sorry, fell asleep at the keyboard again! Look, if you were a fan of the first film, this is worth it for the memories and a few oldies-but-goodies that showcase the fact that these two aging players still have a wonderful bond…James Bond.

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THE SIGNAL:

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In 2011, William Eubank burst onto the indie scene with an underseen science fiction low-budgeter called Love (which we, at Video City, stock because, naturally, we care about you. No, not you Barry, get outta here! Go on, go! I told you never to call this number again, that was one night and I was drunk!). While Love was remarkable for having being made in his front yard for little money and yet somehow being totally convincing as a story of an astronaut in space, The Signal is more about Eubank stretching his talent as a storyteller. We are given little to go on besides three young MIT students who black out and wake up in a secure facility and have to figure out just what it is they’ve uncovered in the desert. To say any more would be to give too much away, sufficed to say that there is enough in here to entertain most SF nuts. Although this isn’t quite Coherence or Another Earth level stuff, there is hope to be had for Eubank as a young American director with a voice of his own.

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THE PYRAMID:

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Idea for a horror movie: An unsuspecting group of kids go to rent a film in their local DVD shop. “Look guys, over here!” calls one as he blows the dust from the cover of an aged DVD box. On it is written The Pyramid. They rent the movie, blithely ignoring the sage advice of the wisened employees of Video City, who turn to one another and cackle, counting their 3 pounds as the kids leave. At home the kids presumably joke about how horror movies are so lame and they just want something really scary…They put the film into the DVD player. It unfolds before their eyes and, shock(!) and horror(!) it’s… a total bloody waste of time. This film tells us how some things are never meant to be uncovered. Listen to that advice. This film is one of those things. Leave it alone or you will suffer (plus-minus 90 minutes of) endless torment!

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KON-TIKI:

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Well I guess one of the good things to say about Kon-Tiki, the true story of Thor Heyerdal’s 1947 raft expedition (the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary in 1952), is that it will make you really sad the directors have been co-opted by Hollywood to make the fifth instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean. You’ll be sad because there is a lot to like about this old-school adventure flick that grips throughout with its true-life drama. The idea behind the famous expedition was to prove that South Americans could have settled the Polynesian island in pre-Columbian times by travelling to them using only the methods that would have been available to those non-European peoples. Quite apart from all that history and such is a fascinating story of personal determination and pride that will keep you entertained throughout.

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SEX AFTER KIDS:

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The title kind of says all you need to know about this sincere attempt at edgy ensemble humour. Sex After Kids is Canada’s answer to a kind of French sex comedy meets Judd Apatow’s This is 40. A bunch of young parents try their best to keep up their sex lives through tiredness, lack of interest and, most of all, chronic having-of-kids. The main issue here is that there are just too many characters. Which attractive young people am I supposed to focus on dammit?! There’s only so much time I can spend away from my mirror (that’s where the most attractive young person is, am I right…Bloody hell, I gotta get out more). Anyway, this is easy-going stuff that should mush up your brain just enough to get you through those weeknights when you’re not having sex because presumably you have kids.

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posted by Dave

 

New Releases: 6th April

ELLE L’ADORE:

“Enjoyably twisty nonsense” is thus far the best description of this one I’ve yet heard (thank you Mark Kermode (please return my calls Mark!)). Muriel is a divorced beautician and single mother who spends her days fantasizing over singer Vincent Lacroix. But one day…he knocks on her door and asks for help (gasp)! So begins a silly thriller that works by virtue of a strong lead turn by Sandrine Kilberlain and a lovely twist on the crazy-fan trope, where its not so much the fan but the object of her fandom who is the crazy one. Being a single parent has never been so whimsically thrilling.

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LOU!:

We continue our theme of Gallic silliness. Ludivine Sagnier does her best here with a sometimes annoying and silly-in-a-very-French-way confection. She is the frustratingly whimsical and immature mother to the titular Lou (exclamation mark optional), Lou spies on her dreamy neighbour, everyone eats croissants (is that racist?). But the arrival of a bohemian interloper who woos Lou’s mother with his singular charm (what the French call a certain…’I don’t know what’) brings about a series of embarrassing incidents for your amusement.

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ELECTRICITY:

Whether or not Electricity succeeds throughout its emotional journey, there can be no denying this is a wonderfully challenging and aesthetically bold second feature from Bryn Higgins. As an epileptic (occasionally hallucinating) girl searching for her long-lost brother, Agyness Deyn is absolutely riveting at the core of every great moment in this film.

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LILYHAMMER SEASON 2:

A couple of weeks later than we initially promised. I’d like to personally apologise to the hordes of slavering Lilyhammer fans out there for the trauma we have caused. May I suggest you let the questionable acting chops and delightfully Jersey accent of a certain Mr. Steven van Zandt soothe the pain?

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New Releases: 30th March

INTERSTELLAR:

Christopher Nolan returns to form in quite stunning fashion after the bloated, overlong The Dark Knight Rises, that may well have made one think Hollywood’s biggest director had run out of ideas. But that is certainly not the case in this epic, philosophical adventure in the grandest old-school science fiction fashion. The earth is dying, and of course Matthew McConaughey is the man to save it. Nolan blends huge concepts and breathtaking set-pieces with the ease of a helmer at the top of his game. Buried here are also a string of fantastic supporting and cameo performances, some from Nolan regulars, some from stars you’d least expect. If you like your blockbusters to be more than just action, then definitely give yourself over to the emotional spectacle of Interstellar, one of last year’s best films.

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GET ON UP:

It was only a matter of time before the life story of James Brown was committed to the screen. One of music’s most notorious personalities, Brown is played here by Chadwick Boseman, whose star is sure to rise with his accomplished work here as the troubled singer. Tate Taylor, of The Help fame, directs and brings along Help alumni Octavia Spender and Viola Davis to add some hefty scene-chewing chops to the drama on show here. If you’re a fan of Brown’s music, there is plenty of that, and that is the main attraction here. Although the film gets a bit messy at times, it is directed with passion and the attention to period detail and excellent soundtrack should be enough to keep up interest throughout.

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ST. VINCENT:

Bill Murray has managed to carve himself a brand new image in film since 2000, mostly through collaborations with indie royalty like Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson, as an actor whose chief attribute is strong dramatic range rather than wry wit. Here he gets ample space to showcase both sides of his talent as an old drunk who would rather push people away than let them into his life. His chief companion is Naomi Watts’s Russian prostitute and stripper. When 12-year-old Oliver and his mother move in next door he finds himself a lucrative job babysitting. But what he sees merely as a way to earn money becomes a friendship across the age divide that brings him out of his shell. St. Vincent is warm, human comedy anchored by a really strong cast and a moving script.

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HORRIBLE BOSSES 2:

If you were a fan of the first Horrible Bosses then I really can’t see too many ways in which this one could disappoint you. Was it really necessary to make this film? No, no it was not. Are there plenty of tasteless and offensive jokes on offer here? Yes. But Chris Pine especially is excellent and the three leads are all by now accomplished enough at this brand of humour to do it in their sleep. Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Aniston reprise their roles from the first time round, and while this is not quite the equal of the first film, there are some good jokes here and probably enough for you to go along with on a lazy evening.

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PENGUINS…:

Whether or not you enjoy this one kind of depends in large part on whether or not you are above the age of 7. If the answer to that question is yes, then this is likely too silly and light on character to be of much interest. If you are under said age, then this should be right up your alley. Also, what are you doing on a computer as a 7-year-old? Go play outside why don’t you! Live a little! I’m sorry. Anyway, this is great fun for the younger crowd, lots of colours and fast-paced dialogue that will remind everyone why the Penguins have taken on a life of their own since Madagascar. 

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GRANDMASTER:

If Wong Kar-Wai isn’t the most brilliant and compelling filmmaker of the last two decades, he’s certainly up there. This might not reach the dizzying heights of some of his finest, but the martial arts is breathtaking, the cinematography is utterly jaw-dropping and the character of Ip Man is given a more romantic and epic treatment than he is usually afforded. Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang, essentially Hong Kong and Chinese royalty these days, are an excellent set of leads that give plenty of substance to the sumptuous visuals and period detail on show here. This kind of gorgeous, thoughtful genre fair isn’t seen much these days in Hollywood, so leave it to a voice as singular as Wong’s to bring this kind of vision to life.

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PELO MALO:

This Paraguayan mother-son drama has been a hit on the international festival circuit and is a really moving story of how hard it can be to fit in. Junior is stuck with a head full of curly hair that he wants to have straightened so that in his yearbook photo he looks like the famous pop star that he idolizes. His unemployed mother Marta, a young widow, finds it increasingly hard to deal with her son’s fixation on his appearance. When her idea for an intervention to set an example for him doesn’t work out as well as she’d have liked, Junior must make a decision about who he really is.

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VEEP SEASON 3:

Hopefully you’re acquainted with the American cousin to Armando Ianucci’s The Thick of It, and the excellent third season is hardly news to you. But if you aren’t, get yourself on board with a political satire smarter and funnier than House of Cards by a mile. Finally, a vehicle that showcases the massive comedic talent of its star, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.

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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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New Releases: 16th March

HUNGER GAMES MOCKINGJAY PT.1:

The latest part-one-of-two-movies-split-up-from-one-book-for-a-reason-that-is-totally-not-money is here! The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was last year’s most commercially-successful film, and no doubt it will continue that trend on DVD release. The film is quite a bold tonal shift from the first two, and essentially sets up a civil war narrative that will be concluded in the final film. The drama here is definitely more adult and this is an ambitious film for a YA audience. The ensemble cast is, as usual, excellent (even Josh Hutcherson), and there is the novelty of seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final screen performance to rope those who might not usually go for such fare. More war drama than teen adventure, this one is definitely worth a watch, even if it doesn’t quite equal the brilliant second film in the franchise.

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MY OLD LADY:

New-Yorker travels to Paris after inheriting a massive home from his estranged father. Maggie Smith lives there, and she doesn’t want to leave. This is, in a nutshell, the plot to My Old Lady, potentially the winner of this year’s Most-Airbrushed-Poster award (those actors on the poster are 67, 54 and 80 – they don’t look like that!). My stock review for this sort of film is that it’s enjoyable, if unmemorable, but it’s buoyed by a wonderful cast, who do all they can, in particular Kline and Smith, to elevate the material. An ingenious conceit that sets up the battle between Kline’s protagonist and crotchety-old-lady-for-hire Maggie Smith’s crotchety old lady hints at an intelligence the film doesn’t quite carry through. But this is a touching and enjoyable little film that can’t do anyone any harm. I’ll revisit it when I’m 60, and thus the target demographic.

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THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY:

Those quotes on the poster: very accurate. Aaron Swartz, who took his own life aged just 26, was one of the great internet prodigies of our age. And here is a film that sucks you deep into the murky world that took over his life when his own quest for personal liberty and social justice found the wrong targets and trapped him in a legal nightmare for the last 2 years of his life. This is one of those stories that is hard to think of as actually being true, so removed is it from the realm of what those of us with ordinary brain capacity think about daily. But, like last year’s Ed Snowden doc Citizenfour, this will shock you with its journey of someone dedicated to making sure people are not being taken advantage of by those that run the technology designed to improve our lives. This is strong, emotional and gripping stuff.

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MARIUS:

Right now Daniel Auteuil can kind of do whatever the hell he wants and he knows people will see his slice-of-life French dramedies. It’s a foolproof business model, that’s for sure. It is not, unfortunately, a foolproof model for making a good film. Marcel Pagnol, one of the great French writers, directed a trilogy based on these stories himself in the 1930s and 40s, and I would advise people to seek out those crackling, vital pieces of filmmaking instead of these. The romance here is between beautiful people, but come on, this is France, every romance is between beautiful people. Of course, if you are a fan of Auteuil and aforementioned business model, perhaps you will find something here that I did not.

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FANNY:

The second part in Auteuil’s Pagnol trilogy (we patiently await a third, Cesar), Fanny is a definite improvement on the first film. The drama here is weightier, the story angled more towards a story of single mother Fanny and her divided love for Marius and her son, which prompts her to do things that may destroy the lovers’ hopes for happiness. Here one can tell that Auteuil is more actor than director, as the performances impress, but the drama, which is sincere but soapy, does not. Still, this is clearly a passion project of his and if you take in part one and two, who’s to say the final installment won’t make it all worth it.

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WHEN THE GAME STANDS STILL:

One-time movie Jesus, Jim Caviezel, is back with another set of miracles. This time, it’s the true story of a high school football coach who carried his team from unknown status to the greatest team in the history of that sport. Let’s start with the good things: the story is quite incredible, that’s for sure, and the football sequences are solidly crafted. The less good stuff would be everything else. For those that love their football dramas, may I direct you to Remember the Titans (aka That Film We Were Made to Watch in High School P.E.). There is a lot of cliche around in this one, and while not unwatchable, this is one of those stories that perhaps deserved a more sophisticated directorial touch than it got.

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HORNS:

Critics were a little harsh on this one, I feel. Yes, it’s completely muddled tonally and, yes, the script sounds like it was written through a protracted session of ‘Eeny-meeny-miny-mo’ but it offers some great set-pieces, an out-of-the-box idea and a really wonderful lead performance from Daniel Radcliffe, who seems as committed as ever to shake off the boy-wizard mantle. Indeed, it’s Radcliffe that makes all of this work, as a man accused of the rape and murder of his girlfriend who awakes to find horns having sprouted from his head and some rather nifty paranormal abilities. A useful comparison might be Dogma, though Horns has none of the sophistication and vicious humour that film had. If you can overlook some cosmetic flaws and have fun with it, this is an ambitious horror-comedy that works on several levels, and Radcliffe is quite brilliant.

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DISCONNECT:

I’m not entirely sure why this one has taken more than 2 years since its release to come out on British DVD, but let’s just be happy that it has. Disconnect  is about a group of people looking for some kind of connection in this technological jungle we live in. If you fell asleep reading that previous sentence (and have woken up on a bus to Croydon thinking “Who am I? And how did I get here?”) have no fear. Although this one gets quite didactic, and although there is some very heavy-handed ‘THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MOMENT’ content, the performances more than make up for it, and the drama underneath all the schmaltz is actually quite powerful. Those that like their dramas ensemble-cast and emotionally meaty, do check this one out (as well as the director’s previous (documentary) effort, Murderball).

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WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD:

There is something fascinating that happens with the work of director Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin, The Doom Generation) – even when, as in the case of this film, he somewhat mangles the plot he is working with and ends up with a bit of a mess, as he does here, his films manage to become even more engaging and hypnotic. It is inexplicably to the advantage of White Bird in a Blizzard that it never quite neatly straddles its twin tales of thriller and sexual awakening, because this is what makes it such a good watch. You’ll have to see it to know what I mean. Shailene Woodley continues to be brilliant, as she always is, and Eva Green is suitably beautiful and enigmatic. This story of a young girl’s sexual awakening and confronting of her mother’s mysterious disappearance promises nothing if not a unique experience.

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SKELETON TWINS:

It seems to be a theme this week that the films to arrive are good-but-not-great dramas with strong performances, and this is no different. You would be forgiven for thinking that Skeleton Twins is a comedy, based on the two leads. Although Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are two of today’s premier comic talents, this is decidedly darker, more mature fare for both of them, though there is a smattering of lighthearted comedy too. As two estranged siblings who attempt suicide on the same day, these two convey a deep, complicated relationship with elegance and a welcome lack of sentimentality. Definitely recommended, if ever there was a film not to judge by its cover (and leads), this would be it. Watch and ye shall be rewarded with some slight but sincere dramedy driven by two excellent actors.

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SPIRAL SEASON 5:

Do I really need to convince anyone to watch Spiral? No? Good. If you’re unfamiliar (which I doubt applies to any customers of Video City), may I refer you to the lovely Simon, who will no doubt have you convinced to start from Season 1 in about 10 seconds. If you are familiar, well, you know what to do.

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BROADCHURCH SEASON 2:

Broadchurch was one of the smash hits of the last TV season, and this is a wonderful case of more of the same. Conceived as a trilogy originally, the stories of Detectives Hardy and Miller are taken to new, emotional and thrilling places. There’s a bit of a dip in the middle of the second series, but it starts and ends very strongly and- actually, why am I writing this, go and take out Season 2. Unless you haven’t seen Season 1, then by God go and take that out instead. Just watch it people, this is great TV, end of.

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Posted by Dave

New Releases: 9th March

IMITATION GAME:

Okay, let’s open this up with a caveat: this is a hard review to write, because my opinion of this film seems to go against the grain. So I’ll write this review as though I am not me, and rather am some other person who found literally anything good about this steaming pile of- (see, that’s what I mean). Ubiquitous piece of thinking-woman’s totty, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the genius mathematician and codebreaker who kinda helped win WWII before being viciously turned against by HM Government for his secret homosexuality. Eight inexplicable Oscar nominations later (somehow more than the almost infinitely superior Theory of Everything) I hope you all are able to love this film more than me. No doubt you will. Now, to end off, here is a list of films that people involved here were much better in: Cumberbatch (Parade’s End), Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go), Mark Strong (literally anything, by now he just plays Mark Strong), Charles Dance (Ali G Indahouse – he’s in it, seriously, go look for yourself). Director Morten Tyldum, who has given me endless career encouragement by achieveing an Oscar nomination for this “superb” film, also produces much much better work in Scandi noir Headhunters. No doubt this will be a smash hit in-store, I look forward to angry rebuttals to this review.

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GEOGRAPHY CLUB:

Geography Club is that rare film that feels so admirable in its dramatic goals one is tempted to forgive any shortcomings on the side of filmmaking. Here is the story of a group of secretly gay teens who naturally don’t want anyone in their high school finding out about their secret. So they form the titular club, thinking that no one in their right mind would join, ensuring they get a private space to be who they are (I mean, Geography Club sounds like exactly the kind of thing I’d have joined in high school – work hard, play hard AM I RIGHT?). Some touching performances that feel quite honest and unforced are definitely the attraction here. This is easy watching, managing to address a serious topic in a way that doesn’t feel heavy or depressing. Definitely give it a go.

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71:

Yann Demange (Top Boy) continues to forge a reputation as a young director to watch on these fair isles. ’71 really is supremely gripping, moving effortlessly between a powerful political humanism and compelling action-thriller moments. Jack O’Connell (Starred Up) plays a young British soldier who finds himself beaten, disoriented and targeted by the IRA when he is left behind by his unit is Troubles-era Belfast (I mean, I say “Troubles-era”, the title is really quite specific). O’Connell, who displayed huge maturity in last year’s excellent prison-drama Starred Up, once again proves a charismatic and hard-edged lead capable of both emotional range and tough-as-nails man-acting. This is meaty British filmmaking of the top order.

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OUIJA:

Sometimes I just think “If only the characters in horror movies had ever watched a horror movie, none of this demonic tomfoolery would be occuring.” This is EXACTLY that kind of film. Debbie dies, and her best friend Laine decides (as you do) that the best way to get in touch with her is through a Ouija board. No one apparently suggests with enough insistence that this is a really bad idea (either because it’s just a piece of wood if you’re a non-believer, or because it’s just really stupid if you are a believer – or because you don’t want any unfortunate accidents if you’re a Belieber, which, strangely, no one in these films ever is). Of course, rather than communing with the spirit of their dead friend, the gormless set of unfeasibly pretty protagonists unleash a demonic spirit. Shenanigans ensue. Screams are uttered. Needless showers in public places are no doubt had. Tons of money is made by the producers.

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STANDBY:

There really isn’t very much I could tell you about Standby that you could not immediately glean from a DVD box. The story is a very familiar romantic set-up that really requires that we pretend we’ve never seen it before in a million different versions. Having said that, it’s charming Irishness and moments of wit perhaps do enough to elevate it into the realms of watchability. There is no ambition here to distance the film from those countless other versions of the selfsame story, and Standby seems quite all right to be exactly what you expect. So if you and your significant other can’t agree on a movie, and really just need an excuse to get Chinese takeaway and vegetate in front of a film that you can mutually heckle from the couch and slightly regret watching later, this last-night-to-save-a-failed-first-love-while-they-travel-through-a-city-sparkling-with-romantic-energy rom-com might just float your boat.

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EASTERN BOYS:

When the middle-aged, bourgeois Daniel approaches a boyishly handsome Ukrainian who calls himself Marek for a date, he learns the young man is willing to do anything for some cash. The film is an erotic drama that traces the complex development of a relationship intended only as cash-for-sex, but that takes both men in a direction they entirely did not expect, both materially and personally. This a love story told with delicate, deft direction and two sensitive lead performances that make the viewer care deeply for these two men as we figure out what their relationship means along with them. Eastern Boys is all the more interesting for being told in four parts, essentially four very different short films.

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HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY:

Finally, the staff at Video City can escape the trauma of having to tearfully answer “No” when ten customers a day ask for this film (usually a fun game where we’re asked for “You know that film with Helen Mirren, and she’s like French and, um, there’s an Indian restaurant, you know that one?”). As you all are no doubt aware, the film pits a displaced Indian chef against the owner of a competing restaurant just 100 feet away in a quaint French town (which is apparently where one goes when one is a refugee – let no one say social realism is dead!). When she realises he has genuine self-taught talent in the kitchen, she decides to take him under her wing. Naturally there is romance, wonderful ethnic mixing of the Frenchest kind (don’t talk about Untouchables being racist, don’t talk about Untouchables being racist, don’t talk about Untouch- okay I’m good) and naturally lots of food. This is a light, fluffy pastry of a film that is sure to delight anyone who has been patiently waiting for it. Now good luck forgetting the Indian dad is the guy who pulled the dude’s heart out in the second Indiana Jones.

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Posted by Dave

New Releases: 2nd March

MR. TURNER:

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.

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NIGHTCRAWLER:

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.

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SET FIRE TO THE STARS:

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.

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PRIDE:

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. 

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THE JUDGE:

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.

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WOLF HALL:

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.

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LOVE, ROSIE:

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.

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AND SO IT GOES:

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.

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SONS OF ANARCHY SEASON 7:

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…

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New Releases: 23rd February

FURY:

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.

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SERENA:

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.

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FELONY:

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.

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ANNABELLE:

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.   

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LIFE ITSELF:

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.

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TOMMY:

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.

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SCHOOL OF BABEL:

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.

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SPRING IN A SMALL TOWN:

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.

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posted by David

New Releases: 16th February

THE BABADOOK:

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.

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TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES:

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.

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ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE…:

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).

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DOLPHIN TALE 2:

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.

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COHERENCE:

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.

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THE BOOK OF LIFE:

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.

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POINT AND SHOOT:

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.

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GAME OF THRONES SEASON 4:

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’.

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