Interview: Johannes Holzhausen, 'The Great Museum'

For a filmmaker responsible for an insightful opening of the curtain of an arts institution like he does on Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum (KHM) in The Great Museum (2014) it was grounding when CineVue chatted to Johannes Holzhausen on Skype, sitting in what looked like a store room in his offices. He began by explaining how his path had reached the KHM and what makes this formidable place such a beacon. There does seem a certainty with making a documentary about the KHM when you've studied Art History at University. Johannes pauses and smiles. "Who knows why someone becomes something. There came a point when I realised all the students around me were so much cleverer than I was, and I would never reach the level in that field I would want to."

Top 20 Films of 2014: Part One (20-11)

It’s that time of year where we brace ourselves for what’s to come. Yet before we say au-revoir to 2014 the CineVue team has taken the time to cogitate on the cinematic delights of the past twelve months. This year we’ve decided to split the list in two; partly to help promote indie films we’re passionate about, but also to celebrate just how great a year it’s been. Even though CineVue is a UK-based film blog, we pride ourselves on our festival coverage and as such have decided to allow any film that has received a world or UK premiere during this year's festival circuit to be nominated. Yes some of these films haven’t received a UK theatrical release, but in a world where on-demand services are pulling apart the theatrical model we believe it’s important to champion some of cinema’s braver, more eclectic films.

Special Feature: 'Batman vs. Superman' rumour mill

If you're a fan of superhero films (or comics for that matter), you're probably familiar with the basic details of the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. It's entitled Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2015) and appears to be every bit a prequel to an eventual Justice League film. Here are the basics: Zack Snyder and David S. Goyer will direct and write, respectively; Henry Cavill (Clark Kent/Superman), Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Gal Gadot (Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), and Jason Momoa (Arthur Curry/Aquaman) will comprise the bulk of the cast from a superhero perspective; Jesse Eisenberg (Lex Luthor), Jeremy Irons (Alfred) and Amy Adams (Lois Lane) will also be a part of the project, and you can find the full cast and crew listings at IMDb.

Film Review: 'Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb'

★★☆☆☆
There was an effortless charm to the original Night at the Museum (2006) that made it more than passable family fare, albeit of the silliest order. Two films later and the franchise has well and truly passed its sell-by date. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014) exists and contains one or two brief moments of verve, but it's mostly predictable swill delivered by actors merely seeing out their contracts. Larry (Ben Stiller) is now in charge of dazzling audiences at the Museum of Natural History in New York City who believe that the exhibits coming to life are a result of special effects rather than the powers of an ancient tablet.

Film Review: 'Kon-Tiki'

★★★☆☆
The ocean is vast and filled with peril, but it is the foolhardy resilience of men that proves the crux of Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s cinematic voyage, Kon-Tiki (2012). Norway’s most expensive production to date, it was nominated for last year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and now receives a UK release with both Norwegian and English-language versions available (they were shot concurrently). Charting an explorer’s journey from South America to the South Sea Islands on a tiny raft, it is an admirable and handsome picture that peaks in moments of intricately crafted tension, but which never quite captures the adventurous essence of its subject matter.

Film Review: 'Guys and Dolls'

★★★★☆
Damon Runyon is often imitated but never bettered - we won't even hold it against him that he’s partly responsible (via proxy) for the gangster films of Guy Ritchie and his ilk. Runyon's portrayal of the New York underworld and it's denizens with their peculiar argot seems to sound familiar and strange at the the same time to modern ears, but when it arrived in his tales published in the late 1930s it shone a light on an epoch that previously had only been know via arch genre films. Now, of course, this world is mostly known from Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film version of Guys and Dolls (1955) that has been beautifully restored and re-released.

Film Review: 'Dumb & Dumber To'

★★☆☆☆
Twenty years after the release of Dumb & Dumber (1994) Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) return with another dose of malodorous humour in Dumb & Dumber To (2014). Lloyd has been in a coma for 20 years but now he’s back and itching to go on another road trip with Harry whose just discovered he has a long-lost daughter with the one time love of his life, Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner). The pair sets off to find Penny (Rachel Melvin) just as she heads off to a big science symposium to give an important speech on behalf of her adoptive father Dr Pinchelow (Steve Tom). Two ineffectual and methane-loving knights in shining armour, the pair follow Penny to the symposium.

Film Review: 'Annie'

★★☆☆☆
Not even the promise of sunshine can save the one-note exercise in musical adaptations that is Annie (2014). Helmed by Will Gluck (of Easy A (2010) notoriety), this adaptation of the 1977 Broadway musical delivers on sights and sounds, but sadly, there is little meat on these bones. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna and Gluck have updated not only to a modern New York City, but they have also tweaked the plot to near fallibility. Most noticeable is a more racially diverse cast, a musical score that has been sufficiently urbanized and a more whip-smart yet oh-so-doe-eyed Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis). Annie lives in foster care rather than a bustling orphanage and with only a few girls to keep her company.

DVD Review: 'Still the Enemy Within'

★★★★★
The miners' strike of 1984-5 was a pivotal moment in the social and political history of the UK, and one which, 30 years on, we are just beginning to properly put into any sort of context. The landscape of the country, both cultural and literal, has changed to such a degree that the Britain we see in Owen Gower's Still the Enemy Within (2014) is barely recognisable, somehow further removed than either of the world wars. It's a representation of a path not taken – one of state ownership, care and intervention – as much as it is a historical record. Knitted together from extensively researched archive footage, contemporary interviews and luminous black and white photography, it unfolds with unhurried ease and vitality.

DVD Review: 'Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For'

★★☆☆☆
After an almost decade-long gap since Sin City (2005), you’d think that collaborators Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez would have made time to craft a watertight narrative and ensure that expectations were not only met but exceeded in belated sequel, Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (2014). Sadly, that isn’t the case. Once again pulling from those tropes of classic Noir and imbuing them with a graphic, hyper-violent gleam the follow-up also sticks to the same circular story structure as the previous film, but it simply isn’t compelling enough this time around, nor does it feature that same colourful collection of frazzled lowlifes and crazed antagonists.

DVD Review: 'Nas: Time Is Illmatic'

★★★☆☆
In the attempt to present a life on film, there will always be parts that are left out. The camera cannot capture every minute detail of a person’s life, and that’s an understanding audiences will usually approach with. Where biopics may attempt to cram in all the information necessary, documentaries rarely try; they aim to capture real life without truncating events to fit a neat runtime, but rather honing in a moment and building a story out from there. The documentary as celebration of a milestone means that the viewer can reminisce and engage with the subject in a contemplative and intrigued manner. This is exactly where we are put with director One9’s Nas: Time Is Illmatic (2014).

DVD Review: 'Hello Carter'

★★★☆☆
Filmmaker Anthony Wilcox embarks upon his first feature film in the director’s chair with a commendable amount of composure - an attitude presumably gained from experience further down the ladder on films such as Hot Fuzz (2007) and Brighton Rock (2010). The debut in question, Hello Carter (2013), ventures where many British dramadies tend to fail; extracting the best of British awkwardness and amusing politeness to great effect, without sinking fast amidst deflatingly unfunny quips. Despite the film's origins, the eponymous protagonist, Carter (Charlie Cox), has no floppy fringe; neither does he have a mockney accent, or a gun stashed somewhere about his person. It's thoroughly refreshing.

Weekly Round-up: 'Hobbit', 'Manakamana'

Welcome to our regular weekly round-up of the best DVD, Blu-ray and cinema releases over the past seven days in the UK. We'll also strive to keep you updated on upcoming festivals, events and the latest trailers from across the web. Come back each Friday to see what our talented team of writers are recommending and catch up on all the week's new releases. As an independent film site, our aim is to reach out to the largest audience possible, whilst also highlighting and championing some of the more diverse and less known new releases from the world of cinema. We can only do this with your help and support, so please feel free to add your comments and let us know what films and events you'd like to hear more about. For regular updates or to continue the conversation, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

Special Feature: Mark Cousins' 'Life May Be'

As an object, a letter is a lesson in immortality; it exists in a form of forgotten meanings that only change when the recipient allows them space to breathe. Its language is pure and uncorrupted by the corporeal, a beautiful (or horrible) surprise that will move to express what cannot be spoken; a link to our unconscious thoughts and desires. Once sent on its way to a potential explosion that may never arrive it seems to beckon a residual calm that allows cathartic contemplation and a sense of serene somnambulism that is broke only when the answer arrives. Epistolary novels reached their apogee in the 18th century with Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.

Film Review: 'Manakamana'

★★★★☆
Last year, the Harvard Sensory Ethnographic Lab swallowed screens with their briny and disorientating fish-eye-view experience, Leviathan (2012). When their latest film, Manakamana (2013) opens in the pitch dark to the whirring of mechanical winches audiences may be forgiven for wondering if they should expect more of the same. However, light bursts forth and what follows could hardly be more different. Manakamana is an exemplar of observational cinema, consisting of around a dozen unmoving shots as a cable car traverses the Nepalese foothills. It’s meditative, beautiful, utterly fascinating, and one of the year’s finest documentary achievements.

Film Review: 'The Green Prince'

★☆☆☆☆
The Green Prince (2014) is the fantastical story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hassan Yousef one of the founders of Hamas; who was an informant for the Israeli internal secret service Shin Bet for more than 10 years until his escape to America and a conversion to Christianity. Here lies an intriguing story that calls to mind John Le Carre at his murky best, yet what we are given is the self justification and propaganda of a trio of ideologues: Mosab Hassan Yousef, his handler Gonen Ben-Itzhak (a man who was fired from the Shin Bet years ago for lying and financial mismanagement, a topic conveniently not alluded to in the film) and lastly the Israeli filmmaker Nadav Schirman.

Film Review: 'The Great Museum'

★★★★☆
There's something inherently cinematic and therefore mysterious about institutions, and with the release of Johannes Holzhausen’s The Great Museum (2014) we have Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery (2014) arriving on screens in January. It’s worth mentioning both films in the same breath as they act as both point and counterpoint to one another. After premiering to critical adoration at the Berlinale in February The Great Museum now is unveiled for British eyes, and what a gem it is. Focusing on the majestical central beating heart of Vienna: Kunsthistorisches Museum (literally translated as 'Museum of Art History'), which sits astride the city like a cultural colossus opposite the Naturhistorisches Museum.

Film Review: 'Electricity'

★☆☆☆☆
The way Bryn Higgins' sophomore feature, Electricity (2014), sees itself is perhaps an integral part of its ultimate failure. It considers itself as stylish, sexy, tough, visually inspiring and numerous other targets it misses by a country mile. In fact Electricity never gets close to any of these poised ideas. The production notes inform us that this is a modern day retelling of Alice In Wonderland, which would be true if Alice had stumbled through badly written cliche after cliche without stopping for breath to alleviate herself of the bald faced banality that consumes her. The single factor that keeps the audience alive with hope of some ‘wonder’ is the magnetic charisma and strong actuality of the revelatory Agyness Deyn.

Film Review: 'The Circle'

★★★☆☆
The notion that documentary and drama should not be mixed is overturned by The Circle (2014), an ingenious and touching slice of little known gay history beautifully made by Stefan Haupt and the Swiss entry to the 2014 Best Foreign Language Oscar race. As the Second World War rages around it, Switzerland beamed like a beacon of a potential utopia for gay men oppressed in their neighbouring environs, German especially. There were no laws denying them sexual or social activity for instance, and gay clubs flourished unhindered. The pivotal organisation was the eponymous Circle, a 'self-help organization' for gay intellectual and bohemian denizens.

Film Review: 'The Battle of the Five Armies'

★★★☆☆
Thirteen years on from the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson completes his journey through Middle Earth with action-packed and satisfying finale, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014). Proceedings open in the depths of night in Lake Town in the midst of chaos; the town's inhabitants scream and panic as the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) looms overhead, belching fire. Jackson spends no time recapping the events of the previous chapter, preferring to get audiences' hearts racing with a sky-high duel between the barrel-toned fire-drake and Bard (Luke Evans) who, whilst doing his best Strider impression, stumbles through a plethora of dud lines.

Blu-ray Review: 'Six Gothic Tales'

★★★★☆
1960 was a landmark year for scary movies. Among pioneering offerings by Bava, Franju, Hitchcock and Powell was Roger Corman and The Fall of the House of Usher - the first entry in what became known as the ‘Poe Cycle’. Like horror’s own De Niro and Scorsese, the Hollywood rebel and Vincent Price terrifed a generation with gothic tales based loosely on the works of author and poet Edgar Allan Poe. A new blu-ray Arrow Video collection under the banner Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, (presumably missing The Masque of the Red Death (1964) due to rights issues) features delightful blasts from cinema’s drive-in past.

Blu-ray Review: 'Les Misérables'

★★★★☆
It's extremely fitting that after Tom Hooper's star-studded version of Les Misérables (2012) has exited stage-left that Raymond Bernard original 1934 adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless novel should re-appear fully restored. The film was released as three separate features in 1934 but the Pathe-restored Masters of Cinema Blu-ray enables audiences to watch all 300 minutes of the film's torturous struggle in one go. The narrative of this French classic unfolds in an effortless manner moving from Jean Valjean’s (Harry Baur) release from prison and the orphan Fantine’s (Florelle) carefree days, to Valjean’s eventual adoption of Fantine’s orphaned daughter Cosette (Josseline Gaël).

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 hitmen (Charles McGraw and William Conrad). Investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) pursues the life insurance policy that the deceased had taken out, leading him to a hotel maid (Queenie Smith), a police officer (Same Levene) and his wife (Virginia Christine), a former crook (Vince Barnett), and the Swede's glamorous ex-girlfriend, Kitty Collins (Gardner).

Blu-ray Review: 'Intolerance'

★★★★★
The release of D.W. Griffiths' technically dazzling and morally contemptuous The Birth of a Nation in 1915 provoked outrage from the American public. Archaic racial stereotypes were roundly condemned, and according to legend this reaction partly prompted the themes of his next film, the epic and ambitious Intolerance (1916). Subtitled 'Love's Struggle Throughout the Ages', it laid out the folly of humanity's historical prejudice and rivalry spread across two thousand years in a complex, cross-cutting multi-strand narrative. Now released on stunning blu-ray by Eureka’s Masters of Cinema collection, it has deservedly been hailed by some as the masterpiece of silent cinema.

DVD Review: 'In Their Room'

★★★★☆
For their 2013 collaboration, Interior. Leather Bar, Travis Mathews and James Franco worked on the premise of a reimagining the lost 40 minutes of William Friedkin’s 1980 film Cruising - cut by sensors who deemed it too explicit. Rather than present the extent of their footage however, Mathews and Franco’s film appeared as more an experiment in promoting the latter’s attempt to dismantle the effect to himself, of heteronormative sexual propaganda in the American mainstream. Franco as inevitable subject of the film somewhat obscured the sterling and sincere work being done by Mathews in presenting the lives of gay men on screen, for which the release of the collection In Their Room partially rectifies.

DVD Review: 'Finding Fela'

★★★★☆
The life of revered Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Kuti almost feels too unwieldy and ambitious to fit into just one feature-length documentary, but Alex Gibney makes a good fist of it with Finding Fela (2014). The many facets of his career splinter off into a series of dramatically rich threads after an upbringing in an academic middle class environment with a mother who was a renowned feminist campaigner. Founder of jazz-funk infused musical movement Afrobeat, Kuti was a heavily politicised figure who was repeatedly arrested and savagely beaten by the Nigerian government, before finally being jailed for his outspoken views.

DVD Review: 'The Congress'

★★★★☆
Director Ari Folman follows up the daring Waltz with Bashir (2008) with an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel The Futurological Congress, through which he explores the darker side of Hollywood and the human psyche. Robin Wright (playing a version of herself) is an ageing actress - in a world obsessed with youth, beauty and celebrity - given the chance to extend her career’s longevity in exchange for something very precious. The Congress (2013) is be mind-bending fare but the concepts are scarily feasible. Wright (the character) has made so many bad decisions in her career, that she is on her last chance. Her agent (Harvey Keitel) implores her to take one final job, a twenty year contract.

Weekly Round-up: 'St. Vincent', 'The Hobbit'

Welcome to our regular weekly round-up of the best DVD, Blu-ray and cinema releases over the past seven days in the UK. We'll also strive to keep you updated on upcoming festivals, interesting events and the latest trailers from across the web. Come back each Friday to see what our talented team of writers are recommending and catch up on all the week's new releases. As an independent film site, our aim is to reach out to the largest audience possible, whilst also highlighting and championing some of the more diverse and less known new releases from the world of cinema. We can only do this with your help and support, so please feel free to add your comments and let us know what films and events you'd like to hear more about. For regular updates, or to continue the conversation, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

LPFF 2014: 'Eyes of a Thief' review

★★★☆☆
The London Palestinian Film Festival opened with Najwa Najjar’s Eyes of a Thief (2014), Palestine’s chosen representative in the 2014 Academy Awards. Following on from her well received debut Pomegranates And Myrrh (2008), Eyes From A Thief is, like Najjar’s previous film, grounded in a reality that emphasises a humanism within a context that many will only know from the narratives of international news perspectives. The film circles around an incident in 2002 that happened in Wadi al-Haramieh ("Valley of the Thieves” in Arabic, where the film takes it name) where Thaer Hamad shot 10 Israelis to death at a checkpoint while hiding in the hills.

Interview: Ann Hui on 'The Golden Era' and her career so far

Ann Hui's presence and voice is uncommon in world cinema. Probably the most acclaimed of the Hong Kong New Wave directors, Hui began her career in the late 1970s in a film industry then dominated by Kung Fu movies. She continued to make films in Hong Kong for over 30 years, striking an almost impossible balance between art, politics and commercial success. She has been described as an ‘innovator within the mainstream’, working on relatively low budget productions with Hong Kong stars such as Andy Lau and Chow Yun Fat, and even bringing the legendary Deanie Ip out of retirement to star in her recent film A Simple Life (2011). Her latest The Golden Era (2014), a period film about the Chinese writer Xiao Hong premiered as the closing film at this year’s Venice Film Festival.

Blu-ray Review: 'Pulp Fiction: 20th Anniversary Edition'


★★★★★
It’s hard to believe the film that launched a thousand talky, hipster-inflected indie movies and changed the whole face of the industry is actually twenty years old. The sophomoric effort of a young film geek who had greatly impressed critically (if not commercially) with his debut Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994) has remained a lasting influence over a whole generation of cineastes in the way Star Wars (1977) did for a more populist audience two decades previously. But of late, the film seems to have lost a little of its lustre as the younger horde of Tarantino fans gravitate towards his later work.

Film Review: ‘St. Vincent’

★★★☆☆
Despite cultivating an identity as one of cinema's most loveable malcontents, Bill Murray's achievements remain unrecognised by the Academy. However, thanks to Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent (2014), Murray finds himself in the running for the industry's equivalent of canonisation; that holiest of holies - a Best Actor Oscar campaign. His role is that of the film's eponymous Vincent, a boozy, misanthrope that can be found in any of the bars, bookies or brothels of Melfi's broken America. He's joined by fellow comedians Melisa McCarthy and Chris O'Dowd in this surprisingly upbeat depiction of our recession hit contemporary world.

Film Review: 'Men, Women & Children'

★☆☆☆☆
If Jason Reitman's Labor Day (2013) was a misstep, then Men, Women & Children (2014) is the director missing the step and falling flat on his face at the bottom of the stairs. A would-be state of the nation address, it's an embarrassingly cack-handed stumble for the zeitgeist. How hilariously perverse that a film about how we don't communicate any more has nothing to say. That it's armed with that magical cross-breed of indie and prestige Hollywood credentials makes it even worse; this is calamitous, inept filmmaking designed to look and feel "important". With its self-congratulatory, po-faced take on the technophobic topic du jour, it's a film of our times - just not perhaps in the way Reitman would like.
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