DVD Review: Paper Towns

★★★☆☆ Last year, weepy romance The Fault in Our Stars (2014) in tandem with Divergent (2014) launched its leads, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, to stardom. Paper Towns (2015), based on another novel by John Green, author of Fault, is a slightly different prospect, straddling the boundaries between the classic American High School Movie and…

Film Review: ‘Barely Lethal’

★★★☆☆ All genres go through cycles and phases. The High School movie is currently deep into a self-referential phase, in thrall to the classics of yesteryear. Barely Lethal (2015) is part of this trend, loudly winking at Mean Girls (2004), Clueless (1995), and even quoting a monologue from The Breakfast Club (1985). If only this…

DVD Review: ‘Jupiter Ascending’

★★★★☆ Both of the following are true: Jupiter Ascending (2015) is a giddy, sweeping adventure filled with interesting characters and stunning visuals; Jupiter Ascending is a frustrating experience, filled with dead ends, vanishing subplots and too much exposition. Perhaps, coming from the perennially ambitious brother and sister duo Andy and Lana Wachowski, writer-directors of The…

DVD Review: ‘Palo Alto’

★★★☆☆ The feature debut of the most recent member of the Coppola clan to pick up a film camera, Gia (granddaughter of Francis), is also an entry to the evergreen staple of American cinema: the teen movie. Coppola acknowledges the tropes of the genre without bowing to them. Based on a collection of short stories…

DVD Review: ‘The Maze Runner’

★★★☆☆ Another year, another Young Adult book series optioned and adapted to spin into a trilogy (or more!) of action-packed and spectacular films. Based on James Dashner’s novels, Wes Ball’s The Maze Runner (2014) depicts the nightmarish dystopia of a peaceful forest glade populated exclusively by school-age boys. The daily routine of building, farming, and…

DVD Review: ‘Maps to the Stars’

★★★★☆ Everyone has heard stories about the weird behaviour and roaring egos of movie stars; the idea of screen idols as covert monsters has seeped into popular culture. David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars (2014) dives into a fictionalised Hollywood riddled with paranoia, backstabbing, drugs, odious child stars, incest and house fires. Agatha (Mia Wasikowska)…

DVD Review: ‘Wish I Was Here’

★★★☆☆ Zach Braff’s second feature, Wish I Was Here (2014), was famously – or perhaps infamously – financed partially through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Braff’s reasoning for this was to spare his project from the compromises that would come with a studio production. That Braff got to do exactly what he wanted is very evident…

Blu-ray Review: ‘Ganja & Hess’

★★★☆☆ The inspiration for Spike Lee’s upcoming Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), Bill Gunn’s 1973 vampire-but-not-quite film Ganja & Hess is being re-released by Eureka! on DVD and Blu-ray. It is a strange creature of the night; jumping back and forth in time, sometimes repeating itself in detail, eliding other important passages entirely. A…

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Killers’

★★★★☆ Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner star in this re-issued classic of film noir. Adapted from a short story by Ernest Hemingway, The Killers (1946) borrows the investigative flashback structure of Citizen Kane (1941) to uncover why ‘the Swede’, a seemingly ordinary gas station worker (Lancaster), came to be murdered by a pair of professional…

DVD Review: ‘Pompeii’

★★★☆☆ The pride of the Roman Empire is brought to its knees by director Paul W.S. Anderson and a small army of screenwriters in silly disaster flick Pompeii (2014). Kit Harington, of Game of Thrones fame, stars as Milo, the last survivor of a tribe of Celts. As a child, Milo saw his family slaughtered…

DVD Review: ‘Tom at the Farm’

★★★★☆ Prodigious Canadian writer and director Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature, Mommy (2014), took home a Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Before Mommy comes to UK cinemas next year, Dolan’s fourth film, Tom at the Farm (2013), based on a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray. Tom at the…

DVD Review: ‘Locke’

★★★★☆ A man drives alone in a car with a telephone. At first glance there’s deceptively little to Locke (2013), the sophomore feature from director Steven Knight. We’re with Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) on the night before he’s due to oversee the concrete pour of a massive new construction site. Risking the project, his career…