Film reviews and more

Month: May 2013

DocHouse Presents: Winter Nomads review

★★★☆☆ Like Vincent van Gogh’s 1884 practically-titled painting, Manuel von Stürler’s debut documentary Winter Nomads (Hiver nomade, 2012) is a portrait of a ‘Shepherd with a Flock of Sheep’. The subjects of the filmmaker’s pastoral, however, are not situated in the 19th century or confined to the pages of a history book, but a living, breathing anachronism set against […]

Film Review: ‘The Big Wedding’

★★☆☆☆ Given the eclectic and well-respected actors that make up The Big Wedding’s (2013) ensemble cast, you’d be forgiven for thinking this could one be a blast; a more adult take on the family wedding sub-genre and, with such calibre on show, a great match-up on paper. In reality, however, it’s more kind-of-funny-in-an-awkward way than laugh-out-loud hilarity – though […]

Film Review: ‘The Comedian’

★★☆☆☆ Part of the way through British filmmaker Tom Shkolnik’s debut feature, the eponymous character – aspiring stand-up comic Ed (Edward Hogg) – performs a routine about gardening which has his audience fidgeting as nervous laughter ripples through the venue. Whilst The Comedian (2012) is not actually a comedy per se, it’s hard not to empathise with that audience, […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Theorem’

★★★★☆ However disposable our current trends are, there’s still a desperate need to classify what digital culture means to us. Trolling, outrage on social media, hacktivism – is it just iconoclasm writ large across the web? Some argue that these actions represent the mutilation of community, the loss of social value, worth and privacy. If so, we haven’t travelled […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Opening Night’

★★★★★ Opening Night – John Cassavetes’ 1977 masterpiece in a canon already full of them – betrays an understanding that self-destruction does not have the convenience of narrative. It’s a wholesale embracing of chaos that defies reason and stricture; the act of shedding the burden of being. “Love is a stream; it’s continuous; it doesn’t stop”, a character says […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘Cría Cuervos’

★★★★★ As General Franco lay dying during the summer of 1975, Carlos Saura was mirroring Spain’s monumental era of transition through the story of a young girl struggling with issues of mortality. Saura’s Cria Cuervos (Raise Ravens, 1976) is a poignant portrait of the final whimpers of the Franco regime in, masquerading as a deeply personal rites of passage […]

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Unbelievable Truth’

★★★★☆ The Unbelievable Truth (1989) is one of those débuts which arrived fully formed, with its own distinctive voice. Hal Hartley had recently graduated from the revered SUNY at Purchase where he had already developed his unique style through several shorts. By the time he came to making his first feature, Hartley said he had more experience than he […]

DVD Review: ‘First Position’

★★☆☆☆ Those that have suffered the proliferation of nationally-broadcast talent shows – an offshoot of the ongoing reality TV craze – will be wearily familiar with the proposition put forth by documentary First Position (2011). The directorial debut of Bess Kargman, the film looks to go behind the scenes of the world’s most prestigious ballet competition, the Youth American […]

DVD Review: ‘Aurora’

★★★☆☆ A follow-up to the acclaimed The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005), Cristi Puiu’s Aurora (2010) took three years from its premiere in Cannes to reach UK shores. With a runtime of over three hours and a characteristically languid approach, there’s no surprise it’s taken this opaque Romanian portrait of a killer so long to surface. An upturned murder […]

DVD Review: ‘Lore’

★★★★☆ Cate Shortland’s quietly powerful sophomore film, Lore (2012), is set in Germany during the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. This German-Australian co-production, based on the middle section of Rachel Seiffert’s 2001 novel The Dark Room, is told from the perspective of a young German girl who has to come to terms with her nation’s defeat and […]

DVD Review: ‘I Wish’

★★★★☆ Anyone even vaguely familiar with Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda will know of his astute ability to excavate the emotions at the core of family life. His tenth feature, I Wish (Kiseki, 2011), feels a lot like a follow-up to Nobody Knows (2004) in which he tells of a young boy who cares for his siblings after their mother […]

DVD Review: ‘Texas Chainsaw’

★★☆☆☆ Picking up where Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) left off, John Luessenhop revs up Texas Chainsaw (2013) with some fresh young flesh and, for the loyalists, special guest appearances from four beloved cast members from previous instalments – including the original Leatherface himself. In the aftermath of the original’s bloodless slayings, a group of angry vigilantes […]

DVD Review: ‘The Last Stand’

★★☆☆☆ Over the past few years, a trend has emerged that’s seen action stars of yesteryear tooling up once more to riddle bad guys with bullet holes and quip to their heart’s content. Spearheaded by The Expendables (2010), this new sub-genre isn’t interested in papering over the multiplying creases in the foreheads of its leading men, but wholeheartedly embraces […]

Cannes 2013: Kechiche wins Palme d’Or

Last night at a star-studded ceremony in Southern France, the 66th Cannes Film Festival announced the prize winners from its competition strand. Many believed Tunis-born director Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Colour to be the best film in show, but just as many believed that this year’s Steven Spielberg-led jury would perhaps shy away from its lesbian subject […]

Cannes 2013: ‘Venus in Fur’ review

★★★☆☆ Following on from 2011’s raucous American middle-class comedy Carnage – and as we await his long-gestating Dreyfus affair project – Polish director Roman Polanski returns to UK cinema screens with Venus in Fur (2013), a two-handed adaptation of the play by David Ives. The Ives production itself tells the story of an attempt to mould Austrian writer and […]

Cannes 2013: ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ review

★★★★☆ Director Jim Jarmusch has managed an almost impossible feat with new film Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), in competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – he’s made vampires interesting again. British actors Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play Adam and Eve, a pair of night-dwelling bloodsuckers. Eve is based in Tangiers where she hangs out with Christopher […]

Cannes 2013: ‘Behind the Candelabra’ review

★★★★☆ Władziu Valentino Liberace was a phenomenal success, his recording and performing career spanning four decades. A flamboyant showman and housewives’ favourite, Liberace fought long and hard to keep his homosexuality a secret until his death in 1987. Thus, Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra (2013) arrives at in UK cinemas with a lot of baggage. Is it his last […]

Cannes 2013: ‘Like Father, Like Son’ review

★★★★☆ Award-winning Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda lights up this year’s London Film Festival with Like Father, Like Son (2013), a closely-observed family drama which delves into contemporary Japanese life and, in the process, becomes an examination of social values and class. Ryota (Masaharu Fukuyama) is a born winner – a successful, work-obsessed architect living in Tokyo who provides his […]