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

 

In-house review: Gone Girl (2014)

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 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.

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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.

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Interview with Gone Girl cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth.