Out Now – 27th June 2014


Jon Favreau returns to not making Iron Man films with a comedy drama about a chef who loses his restaurant job and starts up his own food truck. Reviews are positive and it sounds like the kind of film that will have you drooling at the food on-screen. With plenty of swearing this is a grown up film that I’d quite like to see.

Walking on Sunshine
Jukebox musical featuring songs from the eighties. With its European seaside setting and British cast this is such a blatant Mamma Mia imitation that it should be applauded for its boldness. Whether is should be applauded for anything else is yet to be seen.

Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie
Contrary to popular belief I am not a fan of Mrs. Brown’s Boys though admittedly haven’t given it much of a chance. I have however seen the trailer for this big screen spin-off and frankly that was enough for me. Not a great week for British cinema this week.

“Despite being blocked at almost every turn in pursuit of the sport he loved, Seve Ballesteros fought against adversity to become the most spectacular and charismatic golfer to ever play the game.” This is the first I have heard of Seve or Seve so will probably give it a miss for better or worse.

The Return to Homs
“In the middle of Syrian Civil War, the film follows, 19 year-old national football team goalkeeper, Basset and 24-year-old Ossama, his media activist and journalist friend, their daily life in the city of Homs which has become a bombed-out ghost town by Syrian Army on Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad orders. Their homes, lives and dreams destroyed and in order to gain freedom, they are forced to change course Basset and Ossama turned from peaceful protesters into rebel insurgents.”

Mistaken for Strangers
Documentary about The National (American indie rock band) going on their largest ever tour as filmed by the brother of frontman Matt. It sounds as though the film quickly become more about sibling rivalries than the band and sounds all the more intriguing for it.

Cold in July
Michael C. Hall returns from disappointing everyone in Dexter to co-star in a thriller which is getting better reviews than I had thought. All synopses are suitably vague but I have been promised a few twists should that appeal to you.

A Haunted House 2
Don’t feel too bad if you don’t remember the original A Haunted House, which came out last year, as I can’t either and presumably I wrote about it at the time. The Scary Movie team has reunited and are not two films into another horror parody franchise.

Secret Sharer
A film I will be reviewed as soon as I get this train back on track but let’s just say, between us, that this is a three star film. A young Polish man takes over captaining a Chinese cargo ship and struggles to gain the respect of the crew whilst he hides a young Chinese woman in his cabin that he found naked in the sea. A little bit of a male fantasy perhaps but slightly better than it sounds.

Keeping Rosy
“All Charlotte wants from life is to be cut a slice of the media agency she has devoted herself to building. When Charlotte’s life disintegrates, we follow her on a heart-racing journey of self-discovery, atonement and danger.” Starring the wildly under-appreciated Maxine Peake this British drama was described by Kermode as “televisual” so let’s wait for it to pop up on ITV.

Under the Rainbow
French comedy about young Parisians looking for fairytale romance who quickly discover that love in real life is much more complicated.

The Villain
Indian action thriller: “When his lover becomes the latest victim of a serial killer, Guru blurs the line between good and evil in his pursuit of revenge.”

The Golden Dream
“A road movie about teenage Guatemalan immigrants and their journey to the U.S.”

Out Now – 20th June 2014

The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars
Based on a book I read in a day, no mean feat if you’ve ever watched me try to focus on reading in this internet age, and on a screenplay by the (500) Days of Summer scribes we have a film about two teens who fall in love at a cancer support group. Dismiss it if you wish but I know I will see it and that the person sitting next to me will be weeping like a loon.

3 Days to Kill
“A dying CIA agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment.” So rather than kill-or-be-killed it is kill-or-die-of-natural-causes? I’m not sure how well that stands up morally to be honest.

Chinese Puzzle
The third film in Cédric Klapisch’s international comedy trilogy that I didn’t know was a thing follows the gang to New York with Romain Duris’ Xavier as its focus. I saw the film and enjoyed it, regardless of whether or not I knew what I was watching.

Bright Days Ahead
Retired dentist has an affair with her younger computer lecturer and former patient. This is a French romantic drama so expect a healthy dose of sex and… cheese(?).

Camille Claudel 1915
Sticking with France, and joined by Juliette Binoche who was last seen sprinting in and out of Godzilla, we spend the film with a sculptor who has been sent to an asylum and is left with the task of convincing her doctors that she is completely sane.

Spring in a Small Town
The BFI are just starting a MASSIVE season of Chinese films over at the BFI Southbank and further afield and we should all try to educate ourselves before it is too late. I’ll let the BFI introduce this puppy: “Regarded as the finest work from the first great era of Chinese filmmaking, Fei Mu’s quiet, piercingly poignant study of adulterous desire and guilt-ridden despair – now restored – is a remarkable rediscovery.”

Leave to Remain
“Three teenagers forced to leave their family, friends and homes behind learn to live in yet another hostile country. That country is the UK.” I love the way this synopsis has been written; with a little biting twist at the end. I can almost imagine then raising their eyebrows and staring you down to gauge your shocked reaction; “but… but… this is the UK!”

Miss Violence
Greek drama revolving around suicide, self harm, and child abuse. Eesh.

Humshakals translates to doppelgänger which translates to “double goer” which makes no real sense. Let’s stick with the German. Bollywood comedy about three men who each have two doppelgängers that share their name. It’s like Primer but without the time travel. Good luck following the plot!

Jersey Boys
Acclaimed director Clint Eastwood directs the big screen adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway and West End hit about the rise to fame of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The resulting film? Well… all reports suggest that it a stinking mess of a musical. Enjoy!

Chinese Puzzle – Film Review

Chinese Puzzle

I’m not always completely up to speed with the films I watch as I try to not see all films having watched every trailer and speculative news article. Because of this I went to see Chinese Puzzle at last years London Film Festival knowing only that it starred Audrey Tautou and Romain Duris, and that I had enjoyed their work in the past both together and apart.

The film started by showing images of the cast when they were younger and slowly it dawned on me; they were all taken from the film I had seen Tautou and Duris in before. Without realising it I was watching a sequel to 2002’s French/Spanish film Pot Luck or The Spanish Apartment. The original film had shown an international group living together in Spain and Chinese Puzzle picks up the trail in New York over a decade later. I was a little confused at first as to how this had slipped me by but settled down to enjoy the film smug in the knowledge that I had at least seen the film that came first.

Chinese Puzzle - 1

Naturally I was wrong about this too. Researching the film later on I discovered that Chinese Puzzle was not really a direct sequel to The Spanish Apartment but actually the third film in a trilogy with Russian Dolls sitting in the middle. I still have yet to see Russian Dolls but at least it explained why I couldn’t quite remember everything the characters were referring to having happened in the past.

With this addled mind of mine and my failure to navigate a simply trilogy correctly perhaps I not the best person to review the film for you. Perhaps you deserve someone who has the wherewithal to watch three films in the order intended. Or perhaps you are like me and haven’t seen both, or either, of The Spanish Apartment or Russian Dolls and need to know whether you can still enjoy this English/French/Spanish/Chinese/Yiddish comedy drama. I sincerely hope the latter is true.

Chinese Puzzle - 2

All confusion aside I did enjoy Chinese Puzzle. Tautou and Duris are infinitely watchable, as are their returning co-stars Cécile De France (Belgian funnily enough) and Kelly Reilly. The film has a strong streak of drama running through while serving up a strong dollop of comedy to boot. Xavier (Duris) and Wendy (Reilly) are now divorced and she has taken their children to live with her new partner in New York. Not wanting to be away from his family Xavier follows them there and a culture clash comedy ensues as he moves not just to New York but to Chinatown. Meanwhile Isabelle (De France) is also in the Big Apple with her girlfriend Ju (Sandrine Holt) and struggling to stay faithful and Martine (Tautou) comes to visit and causes Xavier to think back on their old romance.

Chinese Puzzle has a lot of threads to follow and relies a little on you being able to grasp what is going on without it being told to you explicitly. I certainly benefited from having seen The Spanish Apartment and probably could do with seeing Russian Dolls to fill in the blanks. If you can cope with this minor inconvenience then what you are left with is a sweet and enjoyable comedy that isn’t afraid to move from emotional drama to comedic farce.

Good fun, if a little confusing for someone who doesn’t even realise they’re watching a sequel. If writer/director Cédric Klapisch continued with this pleasant international comedy franchise I certainly would not complain.

Chinese Puzzle is in UK cinemas from tomorrow.

The Knife That Killed Me – Film Review

The Knife That Killed Me

A decade ago the idea of making a film entirely on green screen with computer generated sets was making headlines with the release of the wobbly Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the audience-pleasing Sin City. The green screen technique was being used to create a world that was stylised to such a degree that conventional filming techniques would be too costly and insufficient. And so it is with The Knife That Killed Me, an upcoming film in which a teenager reflects on the tragic events that lead to the end of his life as adapted from the novel of the same name by Anthony McGowan. The fantastical world the green screen was needed to create?


Or at least a variation of the Yorkshire we know and love. As I mentioned The Knife That Killed Me is all about one teenager reflecting and what we see in the film is not the events as they happened but rather the events as he remembers them happening. His memories are focussed on the important events so rooms are stripped of extraneous details (and often all features) and instead are littered with handwritten notes, doodles, or images; all scraps of memories, emotions, and thoughts blown up and threaded through the narrative as Paul pieces together the moments that culminate with him lying lifeless and covered in blood.

Paul (Jack McMullen) is a teenager starting at a new school in the town where his dad (Reece Dinsdale) grew up. Following the loss of his mother the pair are looking for a fresh start and Paul struggles to find his place amongst the various social groups at school. Should he hang out with the “Freaks”, as lead by the enigmatic Shane (Oliver Lee) and featuring the enchanting Maddie (Rosie Goddard) or give in to the pull of the school bully, and pointedly named, Roth (Jamie Shelton)? In trying to keep everybody happy Paul’s life rapidly get’s out of control and he finds himself deeply out of his depth.

The visual style is initially jarring but once you acclimatise becomes the perfect canvas to tell this story. A story more commonly found in gritty british dramas and a filming technique suited to a fantasy adventure combine to make a unique visual style offering something unique and new. The lack of a traditional set quickly moves from a burden to a boon and there is only one moment where an actor looks like they are walking on the spot rather than across a room.

For something completely different and to support a pioneering piece of British filmmaking then The Knife That Killed Me is worth checking out. Directors (and co-writers) Kit Monkman and Marcus Romer have made a carefully crafted film with a fresh approach. It might take you as little while to get settled in but your effort will be rewarded.

The Knife That Killed Me is not getting a cinema release but will be available on DVD and VOD later this year. In the meantime the team plan to have a free multi platform premiere but need a little extra money to get it off the ground over on their Kickstarter page. There’s less than a day to go so if you are intrigued give it a look today.

Out Now – 13th June 2013


Shocking as it may seem England wasn’t always the multi-racial immigrant-loving country it is today. In fact we once actually participated in a slave economy. It’s all very embarrassing and is about time we faced up to this reality in our arts and culture. One step in the right direction is Belle which handles the issue of race in the only way we know how; through a period romantic drama filled with bonnets and corsets.

A surprisingly good American horror about a mirror that gets inside its owners’ heads to bring about their demise. With Karen Gillan in a lead role this should do well in the UK with the Doctor Who fans and luckily enough the film is actually quite good. Hurray!!!

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet
Directed by l’homme français who made the delightful Amelie amongst other cinematic morsels is back with the story of a young cartographer who runs away from home. It looks quite charming and is in English so stop your xenophobic moaning.

Devil’s Knot
The story of the West Memphis Three, young teens accused of murdering three boys in a satanic ritual, has been well documented in both the Paradise Lost trilogy and the excellent West Of Memphis. This is the first film to try to dramatise the case and I am interested to see what they make of what is a truly horrific true story.

The Hooligan Factory
British comedy spoofing the not-that-big-anymore football genre. I don’t enjoy Football hooligan films so the chances of me wanting to watch a film that apes them is marginal. And no, Danny Dyer isn’t in it though weirdly did a promo video.

Of Horses and Men
Icelandic drama about people and their relationships with horses. Or as IMDb likes to put it, “A country romance about the human streak in the horse and the horse in the human. Love and death become interlaced and with immense consequences. The fortunes of the people in the country through the horses’ perception.” All I know is that the main image seems to involve horses mating, not necessarily my cup of tea but I guess it is horses for courses (WAHEY!).

112 Weddings
A wedding videographer tracks down the couples he has seen wed over two wedding to see how they got on. Who cares about these 112 weddings though when we have two very exciting weddings coming up this year; Kat of this very site has only two weeks left as a spinster and my own sister gets married this autumn. I could cry from pride. I advise them both to avoid this film just in case it puts marriage in a bad light.

A Perfect Plan
A family curse means that a woman’s first marriage is doomed to end in (Kat and sister please look away now, the next word is “happiness” I swear) divorce so she decides to marry a random stranger before wedding her beloved boyfriend in this French comedy. I bet you €50 she falls in love with her temporary husband.

Knocked for Six
An Australian cricket comedy.

Knocked for Six

Not again! Don’t worry everyone, your husband won’t leave you and I really hope you won’t go driving your car into a wall.

Oculus – Film Review

Oculus 5

Oculus is an American horror film about a brother (Brenton Thwaites) and sister (Karen Gillan) who reunite to destroy the haunted mirror that took the lives of both their parents (Katee Sackhoff & Rory Cochrane) and resulted in the brother spending his childhood in an institute. While the siblings battle to destroy the mirror in their old family home the past and present mirror (PUN!) each other as their childhood counterparts (Annalise Basso & Garrett Ryan) battle the same mirror in the same house 11 years earlier.

The idea of a haunted mirror might sound a little silly but most horror synopses suffer a similar flaw and whether or not this leads to the film’s failure or not is all in the execution. Oculus works best when showing the mirror’s powers in a non-corporeal way. Let me explain… The mirror can alter a person’s perception of reality so when they are eating an apple they actually eat a light bulb or remove their fingernail thinking it is a plaster. Little moments like this are genuinely creepy and aren’t signposted in advance like most scares in a modern horror.

Oculus 7

Scares work less well when we see a physical representation of the mirror’s evil which takes the form of slightly ill-looking people, actually dead, who have shiny eyes. At first they make you jump but the longer the camera lingers on an actor in makeup the more they start to look like an actor in makeup. For the most part though the film does it job of creepiness and scares well enough and I had to hide behind my hand on at least one occasion.

Also managed well are the transitions between the two eras. Actors from the past and present day will pass on the stairs or a scene will cut suddenly and grown-up Karen Gillan will be replaced by the much younger Annalise Basso. The effort put into these moments shows an extra nugget of consideration and helps raise the film a notch in quality and above the noise of low budget horrors coming out each week. The ending too should be praised for showing a real commitment to the premise and integrity of the plot over what an audience might want.

Oculus 8

It has been a week now since I saw the film and this allows for Oculus to be put to a real test for any half decent horror; has it stayed with me? The answer is sadly no. While scary while I was watching the film easily slipped from my mind as soon as I stepped outside the cinema and my sleep hasn’t been troubled by the sight of a mirror from my bed. While enjoyable spooky Oculus is probably not going to be held up as a classic in years to come.

Slick direction and editing really make this film and the fact that the director (Mike Flanagan) resists the temptation to make a found footage film despite the presence of technology is a real saving grace. Oculus is good, not great, and should make for a nice distraction on a wet summer evening.

Or maybe…

But probably just…

Oculus is in UK cinemas this Friday 13th June.

Out Now – 6th June 2014

Grace of Monaco

Grace of Monaco
Despite getting laughed at rather than lauded at Cannes last month we are still being punished with a wide realise of the Nicole Kidman starring biopic of Grace Kelly. A film hasn’t been this poorly perceived since… actually it was only nine months ago when Diana stumbled into the spotlight. Double bill anyone?

22 Jump Street
The preceding film in this reboot franchise 21 Jump Street was a real surprise. What I thought would be a dumb comedy turned out to be a clever film that wasn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and won me over with its charm and silliness. If this sequel is even half as good then I will be a little disappointed but if it is, let’s say, 75% as good then that’s fine by me.

Holiday – A Soldier Is Never Off Duty
Indian action romance thriller in which a “military officer attempts to hunt down a terrorist, destroy a terrorist gang and deactivate the sleeper cells under its command”. This synopsis doesn’t explain where the romance come in so I think we can safely assume that the officer falls in love with the terrorist.

Cheap Thrills
When buying your ticket for this American comedy about a scheming couple who two men through a series of dares over the course of an evening do your best not to wink after you say “one adult for cheap thrills please.”

I Declare War
Canadian action comedy drama looking at when “summer war games between neighborhood kids turn deadly serious when jealousy and betrayal enter the mix.” Lord of the Flies Canadian style!

The Dirties
Canada is back for more, this time with a drama about two boys filming a comedy (?) about getting revenge on their school bullies. One of them takes it all to seriously and I think something harrowing happens.

Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets
The title is a lie, this is actually a film about Pulp first and foremost. Any life, death or supermarkets are purely incidental.

South Korean drama about an innocent student who is drawn into a group of elite high school students and turned into a monster.

Fruitvale Station
Critically acclaimed and award-winning US indie that tells the true story of a young man who spends the last day of 2008 trying to turn his life around with consequences that shake his town to its very core. Or so I have read.

Benny & Jolene
UK independent comedy with an improvised feel about a folk duo who don’t do a whole lot. This film amused and frustrated me. Best watched when you’re doing something else as well.

The Sacrament
Religious thriller from indie horror superstar Ti West. Expect spooky cult goings on.

Benny & Jolene – Film Review

Benny & Jolene

Benny & Jolene is an improvised British comedy about a folk duo travelling to their first music festival. That is roughly the extent of the narrative although if I were feeling more generous I could talk about how Jolene (Charlotte Ritchie) finds herself selling out and changing her style to please their record label while Benny (Craig Roberts) finds himself pushed to the sidelines as he pines for Jolene and the music they used to perform. The plot is the bare bones on which the two leads are left to build the body of the film through their performances and improvisations but the result is something slightly less than the sum of its parts.

Roberts has never put a comedic foot wrong since he first caught everyone’s eye in Submarine and Ritchie repeats the awkward funny charm that has helped make Fresh Meat so successful but these two on their best game simply aren’t enough to make a film. There is so little to the film beyond the characters that there is little to keep you engaged from scene to scene. Roberts and Ritchie are fine company but you want them to move their performances to a film with a little more to it. There is no message here, just mildly amusing scene followed by mildly amusing scene.

The improvisational style gives the film a feeling of authenticity that is frustrating as often as it is engaging. Improvisation can lead to small comedy gems within scenes but also leaves each scene to run on far longer than an audience has patience for and results in numerous edits within a single shot that quickly moves from a stylistic choice to a jarring effect that hampers the film’s flow.

The great lead performances almost save the film but at the end of the day the cast simply weren’t given enough to go on. The supporting cast includes the likes of the excellent Dolly Wells and Rosamund Hanson but they suffer a similar fate of doing good work in a weak film. Perhaps I am being too harsh; the film is sweet and funny and was an enjoyable experience but it didn’t give me any real cinematic sustenance. With a little more plot and a stricter script this film has the potential to have been a real winner, instead we’ll have to settle for bronze.

Benny & Jolene is on limited release in the UK from tomorrow.

Out Now – 30th May 2014

Edge of Malificent

Apologies for the lateness of this post and the general slow pace of the blog of late. Life has been busy. Back to normal service ASAP.

Angelina Jolie transforms into the baddie from Sleeping Beauty with the help of prosthetic cheeks and a lot of lipstick. Think of this as the Sleeping Beauty version of Wicked with no songs but an equal amount of defying gravity. Reviews are mixed so you’re on your own.

Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, and time travel nonsense co-star in an action sci-fi thriller that completely ruined traffic in London last year when filming necessitated the closing of Trafalgar Square. While I am ambivalent about Cruise I love a bit of time travel nonsense so will be giving this one a look.

A Million Ways to Die in the West
Seth MacFarlane is best known for his erratic TV comedies in which jokes are thrown at you with enough force and frequency to keep you amused for 20 minutes. Now he his starring in, alongside writing/directing, a comedy set in the old west and his comedic approach will be stretched to almost two hours. I don’t want to prejudge (because we never ever do that) but the resulting film looks awful. Some forms of comedy work best as a cartoon and don’t manage the transition to live action well.

Jimmy’s Hall
The trailer to Jimmy’s Hall to my mind makes it look like a remake of Footloose set in 1930s Ireland. At the climax of the film Kevin Bacon holds a prom in Jimmy’s hall surrounded by glitter and balloons…

Mariachi Gringo


Venus in Fur
An actress tries to convince a director to hire her in a play adaptation directed by Roman Polanski. You remember Roman Polanski; he comes somewhere between Woody Allen and Bryan Singer on the scale of “I love your work but hate the sex crime you allegedly committed”.

Heaven Is for Real
Adaptation of the non-fiction Christian book in which a four-year-old boy claims to have been to heaven after a near death experience. My research shows that the original book has been criticised by Christians and atheists alike so approach with caution.

“Four old school friends reunite to attempt the epic coast to coast walk, across the United Kingdom. As their journey unfolds, this comically incompatible foursome walk full tilt into their mid-life crises.”

Miss and the Doctors
French drama in which two brothers fall in love with the same woman. The brothers are doctors. THIS IS ALL I KNOW.

Mr. Jones
“A young couple moves to the woods and soon finds their nightmares and reality colliding.” This kids is why you should never just move to the woods. Move to a house in the woods sure but the woods is just a little to vague a place to live.

Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys
“One year in the life of a family of reindeer herders in Finnish Lapland. A study of hard work, hard-earned leisure, and an intricate bond between man and nature.” And the eternal search for the one with a very shiny nose; if you ever saw him, you would even say it glows.

Battle Company: Korengal
Korengal picks up where Restrepo left off; the same men, the same valley, the same commanders, but a very different look at the experience of war.” Starting to feel like I need to have seen Restrepo for this to make any sense.

“A young Palestinian freedom fighter agrees to work as an informant after he’s tricked into an admission of guilt by association in the wake of an Israeli soldier’s killing.”

For No Good Reason
“Johnny Depp pays a visit to Ralph Steadman, the renown artist and the last of the original Gonzo visionaries who worked alongside Hunter S. Thompson.”

A Farewell to Arms
Deliberately avoiding any kind of amputee humour here. Re-release of 1930s war romance drama.