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  • The Signal

    The Signal 2014

    ★★ Watched 28 Jul, 2015

    It’s nice to see the return to provenance of low-budget science fiction (lo-sci-fi?), driven by ideas rather than spectacle. The Signal attempts to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Shane Carruth’s Primer and Upstream Color, Mike Cahill’s Another Earth, and Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed.

    Sadly, William Eubank’s head scratcher is hamstrung by the story, which fails to engage, flat characters, and an obvious and bungled ending. It’s a shame; because the approach of going for a slow-burn,…

  • Winter Sleep

    Winter Sleep 2014

    ★★★ Watched 12 Jul, 2015 11

    I had high hopes for Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s much-lauded Winter Sleep. In my head I had it down as almost a companion piece with Andrey Zvyagintsev’s magnificent Leviathan; mainly because of them both being lengthy, opulently shot, and thematically hefty.

    The main difference I saw right away is that while Leviathan is very much about the dehumanising and corrupting influence of progress, Winter Sleep seems to be a cautionary tale of the ossifying effect of stasis. Indeed, the incredible landscapes…

  • Starry Eyes

    Starry Eyes 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 04 Jul, 2015

    It's strange timing that David Cronenberg's vicious dissection of the Hollywood ego, Maps to the Stars roughly coincided with this partly Kickstarter-funded feature from writer/director Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer. Starry Eyes tackles similar themes to Cronenberg's film while slathering on great dollops of the kind of body horror that the Canadian maestro was famed for in his earlier work.

    In fact, the price that Hollywood demands from its young starlets is a fertile topic for that kind of horror.…

  • Coherence

    Coherence 2013

    ★★★½ Watched 04 Jul, 2015

    Coherence is the impressive, experimental debut feature from James Ward Byrkit, which takes the bold improvisational approach to complex, twisty themes.

    Made on a micro-budget and taking place, for most part, around a dinner table, Coherence is possibly what would happen if Mike Leigh made sci-fi. A comet is passing over the Earth during a dinner party, and appears to be fracturing space into multiple realities. As this begins to dawn on the eight participants, through a series of neat…

  • Paper Moon

    Paper Moon 1973

    ★★★★½ Watched 30 Jun, 2015 1

    There is now the same time span between the release of Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon and today as there was between that film and the 1930s environment in which it was set. As we can watch a film like David Fincher’s Zodiac and nod in appreciation of his depiction of the 70s, I’m sure there were many people around during the depression years in the Dustbowl South who watched Paper Moon with a chill of recognition.

    Cinematographer László Kovács’ stark…

  • Spy

    Spy 2015

    ★★★★ Watched 28 Jun, 2015

    There have been very few things in my recent cinema attendance that have been as enjoyable as Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne firing foul-mouthed pelters at each other at rate of automatic fire. Writer/ director Paul Feig makes the utmost of the stars at his disposal, and marries his way with his actors to a genuinely witty and twistedly-plotted script.

    I wasn’t sold on Bridesmaids. While sporadically funny, it relied a little too much on obvious gross-out humour. Spy is…

  • Kingsman: The Secret Service

    Kingsman: The Secret Service 2015

    ★★★★½ Watched 22 Jun, 2015 2

    On recent form I reckon Mark Millar, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan are becoming some kind of unholy trinity. Vaughan’s eye for visual style is a perfect match for Millar’s irreverent, profane graphic novels, with screenwriter Goldman a natural translator between the two media.

    Kingsman: The Secret Service has the unmistakable fingerprints of the team that concocted Kickass. It’s wilfully sharp-tongued, with a brilliant line in stylised violence that makes you both blanch and bellow with laughter simultaneously.

    At first…

  • Nightcrawler

    Nightcrawler 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 20 Jun, 2015 1

    I seem to be watching an awful lot of films that deal with representation of the media, particularly TV news. In reviewing Night Will Fall, I mentioned the purity of purpose of the film crews documenting the liberation of Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz. Nightcrawler demonstrates the outcome when that purity becomes corrupted and the news crews become vultures, scouring for the next festering fix for the viewing public.

    Writer/ director Dan Gilroy's vision of the city is Hieronymous Bosch through…

  • Serial Mom

    Serial Mom 1994

    ★★★½ Watched 20 Jun, 2015

    That incorrigible raconteur John Water's trashy sensibilities have become increasingly tempered by an endearing streak. By the late 80's Hairspray and Cry Baby were downright adorable - Cry Baby in particular is the perfectly kitsch anti-Grease, featuring, for my money, Johnny Depp's finest hour - a fine distance from the lo-fi grungy outrage of Pink Flamingos and Divine's literally shit-eating grin.

    Serial Mom is an obvious attempt to inject some venom back into proceedings, as Kathleen Turner's Beverly Sutphin gets…

  • Night Will Fall

    Night Will Fall 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 16 Jun, 2015

    A few weeks back I finished reading Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes, a satire on the manipulation of the public by the media. In it, Hitler wakes up in a Berlin park, unharmed but unable to remember the last seventy years.

    Watching Night Will Fall served to remind me just how distanced we've become from the sheer horror Nazi regime; and how the occasionally purer motives that media had in the past have developed, evolved and distorted, making a…

  • Lost River

    Lost River 2014

    ★★★ Watched 15 Jun, 2015

    I think without a doubt Ryan Gosling has made absolutely the film he wanted to make with Lost River. His debut is a bubbling cauldron of congealed influence. Usually, too many flavours can cancel each other out, and I can’t deny Lost River is a bit of a mess; but Gosling has enough directorial style (and some talented collaborators) for the result to be a neon fever dream that just about has enough of its own voice.

    I genuinely think…

  • Unforgiven

    Unforgiven 1992

    ★★★★½ Watched 10 Jun, 2015 1

    Revitalising a moribund genre and providing a template for all that followed, Unforgiven is likely to go down as Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece. It strips away the notions of romance that still resolutely clung to the idea of the Old West, and is as caked in moral murk as the protagonist William Munney’s face is in pig muck at the beginning of the film.

    Eastwood plays Munney, ex-outlaw and ruthless killer, saved and redeemed by the love of a good woman.…