Film reviews and more

Month: January 2013

Film Review: A Place in the Sun

★★★★★ Remembered primarily for its passionate love story, the consensus over the years has been that 1951’s A Place in the Sun toned down the social commentary of Theodore Dreiser’s American Tragedy, focusing instead on the central relationship. Watching the film over 60 years since its initial theatrical release, it would appear that accepted critical wisdom has undersold this astonishing picture. While […]

Film Review: ‘Antiviral’

★★★☆☆ The son of Canada’s foremost exponent of intellectually challenging body horror cinema, the genetically blessed Brandon Cronenberg made his Cannes Film Festival bow last year with Antiviral (2012), which now seeps its way into UK cinemas as part of a limited theatrical run. With a viscous smattering of paternal influence worn brazenly on his bloodied sleeve, Cronenberg Jr. […]

Film Review: ‘Do Elephants Pray?’

★★★☆☆ Based on an original screenplay written by its star performer Jonnie Hurn, Do Elephants Pray? (2010) is something of a low-key British indie oddity from director Paul Hills. Any film in which its  central character literally hugs trees could well extricate groans from a modern audience. Fortunately, this part rom-com, part treatise on embracing nature manages to successfully […]

Film Review: ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’

★★☆☆☆ Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) tells the tale of a clandestine love affair between Franklin D. Roosevelt and his distant cousin, Daisy. A whimsical comedy about the importance of ‘special relationships’, Michell’s period farce stars an eclectic mix of US and UK talent including Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams and Olivia Colman. On the cusp […]

Film Review: ‘Chained’

★★★☆☆ After the difficulties of making Hisss (2010), an audacious horror filmed in both Hindi and English, erratic director Jennifer Lynch returns to the murky psychological landscapes of Surveillance (2008) with Chained (2012); a chilling exploration of the nature versus nurture argument in the context of how monsters are created. It’s difficult not to admire the film’s conceptual ambition […]

Film Review: ‘Bullhead’

★★★☆☆ Belgium’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 2012 Academy Awards, Michaël Roskam’s Bullhead (Rundskop, 2011) finally receives a UK theatrical release thanks primarily to its star Matthias Schoenaerts’ critically acclaimed performance in Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone (2012). Schoenaerts plays Jacky Vanmarsenille, a young cattle farmer who finds himself involved with the notorious […]

Film Review: ‘Bullet to the Head’

★★☆☆☆ This year has already seen the return of one 1980s action star to big screens, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand (2012) hitting cinemas last week. Fellow ‘Expendable’ Bruce Willis will be playing an old man coming out of retirement to fight bad guys no fewer than three times this year, but before that comes Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stallone’s […]

Film Review: ‘The Punk Syndrome’

★★★★☆ Finnish filmmakers Jukka Kärkkäinen and Jani-Petteri Passi scored a surprise hit on the festival circuit last year with their 2012 music documentary, The Punk Syndrome. The film chronicles the trials and tribulations of Pertti Kurikka’s Name Day, four punk musicians with learning difficulties, as the band do their first recording session, tour Europe and return to Finland as […]

DVD Review: ‘The Confrontation’

★★★★☆ Hungarian auteur, Miklós Jancsó, made a name for himself in the mid 1960s with a loose trilogy of monochrome meditations on the corrupting nature of power. Even in these early pictures, his controlled visuals were noteworthy but in Second Run-released The Confrontation (Fényes szelek, 1969), the tone was set for the rest of his career. His first colour […]

DVD Review: ‘To Walk with Lions’

★★☆☆☆ Carl Schultz’s To Walk with Lions (1999) is one of those films which leaves you feeling bad if you’re not enthusiastic about it. Starring Richard Harris, Honor Blackman and Geraldine Chapman, it is – like the story it sets out to tell – an admirable attempt at stirring and heartfelt drama. Also, akin to the story, the film […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Piranha’

★★★★☆ Producer Roger Corman’s modus operandi was to take guys who wanted to be the next Godard and get them to make a 90-minute low budget exploitation film, so they could learn their craft and become more disciplined filmmakers. From Martin Scorsese to Francis Ford Coppola, the talents involved in ‘The Roger Corman Film School’ (as James Cameron called […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Blue Angel’

★★★★☆ One of German cinema’s first forays into talkies and shot simultaneously in an English language version, Josef von Sternberg’s tragic romance The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel, 1930) receives a worthy Dual Format rerelease this week courtesy of the Masters of Cinema series. Featuring a breakthrough performance from a young Marlene Dietrich (who went on to make six […]

DVD Review: ‘The Woodsman and the Rain’

★★★★★ Given its bucolic title and a gentle tone, evident even from its promotional images, one can’t be blamed for not knowing that Shuichi Okita’s latest effort is, in fact, a zombie movie – and a terrific one at that. The Woodsman and the Rain (2011) may not ‘technically’ be a zombie movie, but it’s quite easily the best […]

DVD Review: ‘5 Broken Cameras’

★★★★☆ Among this year’s gilded list of Oscar nominees, there are surely few peasants – but Emad Burnat is one. The amateur cameraman, who lives largely off the land of his modest Palestinian village, now shares a Best Documentary nomination with Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi for 5 Broken Cameras (2011), their illuminating first-person account of the ongoing Israel-Palestine territorial […]

DVD Review: ‘Everything or Nothing’

★★★☆☆ 2012 will no doubt be seen as a watershed year for 007. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, one of the most profitable and iconic franchises in film history released an entry directed by a respected Oscar-winner, starring proper actors – including another Oscar-winner as the villain – and successfully reinvigorated the whole idea of James Bond […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Fear and Desire’

★★★☆☆ Making its way onto DVD and Blu-ray in a newly restored (circa 2012) form this week courtesy of Eureka’s always excellent Masters of Cinema label, Stanley Kubrick’s little-seen 1953 debut feature Fear and Desire offers a bizarre and intriguing glimpse into the legendary director’s future career. Utilising the backdrop of a fictionalised war between unnamed nations, Kubrick offers […]

DVD Review: ‘About Elly’

★★★★☆ About Elly (2009) – the fourth film from Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar-winning director of A Separation (2011) – is another intense, contemporary tragedy about the ambiguities of truth and the consequences of being honest. Farhadi, to the extent of few directors before him, crafts a complex economy of truth and lies which interrogates the public façade […]

DVD Review: ‘The Queen of Versailles’

★★★★☆ Most people would probably manage to just about survive the ignominy of living in a 26,000 square foot home with seventeen (count ’em) bathrooms. The fact that the infamous Siegel family were “busting out of the seams” in theirs was part of the reason that photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield will have decided to focus upon them […]