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  • Ex Machina

    Ex Machina 2015

    ★★★★½ Watched 24 Nov, 2015 2

    Isn't it strange? To create something that hates you?

    The idea of gods, or indeed, God 'himself', is constantly applied to science. All human progress has been examined within that context. Each progressive stratus of human development and achievement has been weighed against potential tacit approval from some benevolent maker. Even in our comparatively secular society God's nebulous grip can be felt on our collars. Stem cell research; 'designer babies'; cloning - ethical debates are inextricable from the emotive religious…

  • The Lobster

    The Lobster 2015

    ★★★★ Watched 31 Oct, 2015 1

    Is it possible that Yorgos Lanthimos is establishing a formula? I had the remarkable Dogtooth down as an absolute one-off; a deranged familial satire all the more biting for being played so completely deadpan. It is undeniable however, that The Lobster bears many of the hallmarks of his previous effort despite this being in English as opposed to his native Greek. The deliberately awkward and stilted performances; moments of unflinching violence played as the blackest comedy; long, static, shots that…

  • The Duke of Burgundy

    The Duke of Burgundy 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 27 Oct, 2015

    A beautiful young woman knocks on a door of a lush country cottage.
    "You're late," states an imperious voice from within. The young woman enters, timidly. The stern voice belongs to an older woman, also beautiful, who sets the seemingly innocent ingenue a series of tasks. These take place in a hermetic environment of increasingly rarified sexual tension, right up until the older woman declares herself displeased with the efforts of the other and that the luckless girl must be…

  • Set Fire to the Stars

    Set Fire to the Stars 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 20 Oct, 2015

    “New York is killing him.”

    Dylan Thomas is as famous for his hellion behaviour as he is for his poetry. He was delicate weaver of words, but also an incorrigible loose cannon.

    Set Fire to the Stars is the story of his first trip to New York, a few years before his final fateful trip to St. Vincent’s hospital.

    In 1950 Thomas (Celyn Jones) arrives for a reading tour in organised by John Brinnin (Elijah Wood), a Harvard graduate just…

  • Penguins of Madagascar

    Penguins of Madagascar 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 28 Sep, 2015

    Utterly bonkers animation from Dream Works that crams in the gags like a fluffy Airplane! Although not breakout icons to the extent of the Minions from the Despicable Me franchise, the penguins were easily the best thing in the Madagascar, and its rather pleasing to see them have their own showcase.

    The plot is throwaway lunacy that comes nowhere near close to troubling the best the Pixar and Disney have to offer, yet there are plenty anarchic laughs to be…

  • A Royal Night Out

    A Royal Night Out 2015

    ★★★ Watched 19 Sep, 2015

    Based on an actual event, in which Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were granted temporary leave from their cosseted confines on VE day and mingle with the common man, A Royal Night Out takes that basic premise and runs with it to absurd lengths.

    In reality, the regal pair was part of a chaperoned party of sixteen, and were tucked up safe and snug in their four-posters by 1am, unsullied by contact with any less-than-proper gentry. An interesting film this would…

  • The Imitation Game

    The Imitation Game 2014

    ★★½ Watched 04 Sep, 2015

    Benedict Cumberbatch was apparently a frontrunner for the best actor Oscar, as far as such things matter, for his role as Alan Turing, before Eddie Redmayne conquered all as Stephen Hawking. He undoubtedly keeps afloat what is otherwise an overly-mannered, safe and surprisingly quaint affair.

    Norwegian director Morten Tyldum’s previous film Headhunters injected some gleeful anarchy into the glower of Scandinavian crime drama to wonderfully entertaining effect, so it is a real disappointment that The Imitation Game feels like an…

  • What If

    What If 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 10 Sep, 2015

    Normally, ‘quirky rom-com’ is a phrase to rake the eardrums like nails down a blackboard. Add the spectre of the manic pixie dream girl, and we’re in seriously dangerous territory. It’s something of a minor coup then, that What If diffuses that bomb with blue-beret precision.

    The assembled cast helps tremendously. Zoe Kazan has previous in dissecting the dream girl trope in Ruby Sparks, which was a clever idea, even if it perhaps didn’t go far enough, and manages to…

  • Inside Out

    Inside Out 2015

    ★★★★½ Watched 08 Sep, 2015

    Even before realising both films share a director, I thought Inside Out felt like a companion piece to the glorious Up!. Both deal, in pretty unflinching terms, with the heights and depths of human experience and emotion. It’s another reason why Pixar’s relationship with Disney feels like a great symbiotic fit. The House of Mouse have rarely sugar-coated the pill for its younger audience; generations of traumatised post-Bambikids will attest to that.

    Pete Docter’s latest gem examines the other end…

  • St. Vincent

    St. Vincent 2014

    ★★★ Watched 07 Sep, 2015

    Bill Murray back in a starring role can only be a good thing, especially in a more overtly comedic role than the likes of Broken Flowers, fine film and performance though that was.

    Fortunately, the great man is at the top of his game, and he needs to be, as St Vincent is otherwise a slushy and predictable affair. Theodore Melfi’s film is a familiar riff on the classic odd-couple dynamic as Jaeden Lieberher’s bullied, socially awkward Oliver is flung…

  • Mommy

    Mommy 2014

    ★★★ Watched 04 Sep, 2015

    At the rate he’s going, Xavier Dolan’s going to be considered a veteran by the age of forty. Mommy was his fifth film by the age of twenty-five, and he’s got another one in the can, complete with heavyweight cast.

    Mommy is pretty unanimously being praised as his most accomplished work so far. The only one I’ve seen is Tom at the Farm, which I rather enjoyed as a low-key exploration of grief and small-town secrecy. Mommy retains a little…

  • Whiplash

    Whiplash 2014

    ★★★★★ Watched 02 Sep, 2015

    From the first strike of a snare ringing out from a black screen, Whiplash was completely riveting. Damien Chazelle’s debut feature is a barbed, relentless examination of the male psyche and the obsessive drive to succeed. One may think of jazz as laid-back; improvisational but this is a film of death-metal intensity.

    Miles Teller is great as the first-year music student consumed by his drive to be the best jazz drummer since Buddy Rich. He’s a combination of determination and…