Preview: Cronenberg unveils 'Maps to the Stars'

Following on from his disappointing psychoanalysis drama A Dangerous Method (2011) and the overly faithful chamber piece Cosmopolis (2012), fans of Canadian auteur David Cronenberg will be hoping for something of a comeback when Maps to the Stars (2014) potentially hits the Croisette this May. Enlisting A-List stars Mia Wasikowska, Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson, the film sets itself up as an acerbic portrait of celebrity competition and madness in the shallow waters of Hollywood. Dr. Stafford Weiss (the ever-sleazy Cusack) is a self-help guru while his wife, Christina (Olivia Wilde), manages the career of an obnoxious millionaire child star, Benjie (Evan Bird) who has just checked out of his precocious stint in a drug rehab clinic and is ready to restart his career.

Film Review: 'We Are the Best!'

★★★★☆
Whilst it would be churlish to say that Lukas Moodysson has ever really been away, it's still possible to proclaim his return with the irresistible We Are the Best! (2013). Adapted from the loosely autobiographical graphic novel by his wife, Coco, it's difficult not to be reminded of the authenticity and charm of Moodysson's 1998 debut, Show Me Love. Expertly combining a youthful desire for agency and rebellion with the death throes of the Swedish punk movement, it's a heart-warming tale with three captivating performances from its young female leads. The bespectacled Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and the mohawked Klara (Mira Grosin) form a friendship based on mutual feelings of adolescent exclusion.

Film Review: 'The Sea'

★★★☆☆
John Banville is one of Ireland's greatest literary sons of recent decades. In 2005, he won the Man Booker Prize for The Sea, a tale of a man in later life consumed by both a dark secret from his youth and the recent death of his wife. Banville now adapts his own work for the big screen, directed by Stephen Brown. A heady meditation on grief and nostalgia, Banville's poetic masterpiece is transformed into a middling drama with Ciarán Hinds in the lead as art historian Max Morden. After the death of his wife, Anna (Sinéad Cusack), Max is compelled to return to the coastal village of his childhood in order to lay to rest the ghosts of the past, visiting a boarding house governed by Miss Vavasour (Charlotte Rampling).

Film Review: 'Reaching for the Moon'

★★★☆☆
Bruno Barreto's handsome, English-language biopic Reaching for the Moon (2013) follows the passionate relationship between Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop (The Lord of the Rings star Miranda Otto) and Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo Soares (Glória Pires). It's 1951 and Elizabeth, suffering from writers' block, is encouraged by fellow poet Robert Lowell (Treat Williams) to try a change of scene. Elizabeth embarks on a journey around South American and stops off to visit Mary (Tracy Middendorf), an old college friend now settled in Brazil. Mary lives with Lota on her beautiful landscaped country estate, where they regularly entertain fellow urbanites with similar pursuits.

Film Review: 'The Love Punch'

★☆☆☆☆
If you were one of the many rubbed up the wrong way by Michael Hoffman's lightweight yet likable crime caper throwback Gambit (2012) a few years back, prepare yourself for the Second Coming. Starring Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as jet-setting divorcees on a mission to nick back their stolen nest egg (in diamond form), Joel Hopkins' The Love Punch (2013) is one of those films so implausible that it scuppers any hopes of being in any way ingratiating. Scraping the barrel for laughs revolving around 'being old', cat allergies and, when all else fails, Timothy Spall's digestive tract, it's only the twinkle-eyed self-parody of former Bond Brosnan that makes this dire Brit-com remotely watchable.

Film Review: 'Locke'

★★★★☆
Cementing itself as one of the best British offerings of the year thanks to a tour de force solo turn from Tom Hardy - whose titular labourer feels like he's been hewn straight from a block of his own beloved concrete - Steven Knight's Locke (2013) harks back to the bygone era of the one-person show. With only one discernible location - the interior of an expensive yet tellingly practical SUV gliding towards a date with destiny - Knight's follow-up to last year's Jason Statham revenger Hummingbird (2013) is more drive 'em up than beat 'em up. It's also utterly enraptured in the subtle drama of one perfectly ordinary man whose life begins to crumble around him after a past trespass comes back to haunt him.

Film Review: James Dean - An Icon Restored

★★★★☆
During the infamous "chickie run" race in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), there's a seemingly unassuming conversation that takes place between Nathalie Wood's Judy and Sal Mineo's Plato that neatly sums up five decades of audience fascination with James Dean. Plato - a shy, troubled lad - is exaggerating the extent of his friendship with Dean's Jim Stark, exposing his own vulnerability as well as Dean's irresistible allure: "His name is Jim. It's really James but he likes Jim more. And people he really likes, he lets them call him Jamie." We are Plato, intoxicated by the feigning familiarity with a dream just beyond our reach. Dean was Hollywood; a man who defined an era, an industry, a zeitgeist.

Film Review: 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

★★★☆☆
When everyone's friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler was rebooted in 2012 it was to scoffs, with the credits having barely rolled on Sam Raimi's version of the comic book superhero. Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man was largely a retread of the 2002 original but excelled in the improved chemistry between its leads, and in bringing a more faithful Peter Parker - played brilliantly by Andrew Garfield - to audiences. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) swings into UK cinemas next week, and while it shares problems with its predecessor, it also confirms Garfield as the very best big screen iteration of Spidey. What's more, there's even perhaps an argument that he's the strongest of all of Marvel's movie misfits.

Special Feature: World Film Locations: Shanghai

Shanghai has a long, rich cinematic history, spanning from the Golden Age of Chinese cinema in the 1930s to its modern role as an international production hub for both Western and Eastern filmmakers. World Film Locations: Shanghai is the latest in Intellect Books' cinematic guidebooks, providing a considered and informed psychogeographical exploration of the relationship between cinema and urban spaces, with this issue focusing on the showpiece city of China's rapid economic boom. The backdrop for an eclectic mix of mainland Chinese independent films like Lou Ye's Suzhou River (2000) and Zhao Dayong's Street Life (2006), Shanghai has also featured in numerous western productions such as Mission: Impossible III (2006), Skyfall (2012) and Spike Jonze's Her (2013).

DVD Review: 'Walking with Dinosaurs - The Movie'

★★☆☆☆
Branded after the hugely successful six-part BBC documentary series which aired back in the late 1990s, Walking with Dinosaurs - The Movie (2013) is a live action/CGI hybrid from co-directors Neil Nightingale and Barry Cook, and is released this week on DVD and Blu-ray. It's without doubt technically impressive, featuring some of the most visually lifelike dinosaurs since Jurassic Park (1993). And yet it's botched spectacularly by a paper-thin script and some laughably silly voiceover work from actors as Justin Long and John Leguizamo (of Ice Age fame). We follow the story of the adorably named Patchi (Long), born at the end of the Cretaceous period as the runt of a Pachyrhinosaurus litter.

DVD Review: 'Suzanne'

★★☆☆☆
French filmmaker Katell Quillévéré's second offering, Suzanne (2013), is an ambitious attempt to present a good twenty-five years (or perhaps, in greater detail, a decade) of her titular lead character's life into a single ninety-minute feature. Following on from the coming-of-age trials of her debut, Love Like Poison (2010)Suzanne charts the stilted maturation of a flawed young woman. That Quillévéré manages to create an impressively touching dénouement to her latest offering is certainly praise-worthy. What comes before that is, regrettably, somewhat inconsistent with regards to how much it is possible to fully connect with and commit to her selfish heroine.

DVD Review: 'The Story of Yonosuke'

★★★★☆
Following specialist distributor Third Windows' past championing of Shûichi Okita's The Woodsman and the Rain (2011), the director's next equally impressive film The Story of Yonosuke (2013) receives a welcome DVD release this week which will hopefully introduce the filmmaker to a broader audience in the UK. Okita seems to be carving a very specific niche in Japanese cinema, with films focused on downtrodden, marginalised men with identity issues struggling to find their place in contemporary society. Such a premise is nothing new, and to draw attention to such male ineptitude for comedy value is now a staple of male centred Hollywood vehicles for the likes of Seth Rogen.

DVD Review: 'Fill the Void'

★★★★☆
Tradition and duty are the themes of Fill the Void (2012), a tightly observed family drama and Rama Burshtein's debut feature. Set in a Orthodox Jewish community in Tel Aviv, the film draws a sympathetic portrayal of a young girl Shira (Hadas Yaron) who must come to terms with the sudden death of her sister, Esther (Renana Raz) and the position it puts her in of potentially obeying the imperative of the title and taking her place as her brother-in-law's new wife and step mother to her sister's child. The business of marriage is mediated via a series of match makers and family members and yet below the surface complex emotions are bubbling and Shira's dilemma is further complicated by her own family.

Blu-ray Review: 'Couscous'

★★★★☆
Released on Blu-ray this week to capitalise on the success of his Palme d'Or-winning Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013), Abdellatif Kechiche's Couscous (2007) is a film similarly built upon corporeal appetites, with the majority of its runtime spent around the bustling dining table of a Tunisian immigrant family. Flooding the senses with a warm, thematically rich and appetising drama about community and cultural identity, Kechiche's intimate portrait of migrant life in Southern France is a dish to truly savour. Slimane (Habib Boufares) is a 60-year-old Tunisian immigrant living in Séte, a port and seaside resort on the Mediterranean coast with a rich multicultural population.

DVD Review: 'Celluloid Man'

★★★★☆
Cinematic fanaticism has been tackled in factual form before, perhaps most notably in Xan Cassavetes' Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (a title which would equally befit this film). But while the subject of that feature, Jerry Harvey, proved to be a dark and ultimately tragic personality, the legendary lead figure in director Shivendra Singh Dungarpur's fascinating 2012 debut Celluloid Man (released last year in India to tie in with the country's centenary of home-grown cinema) proves to be both a heroic and endearing advocate of film conservation. Indian cinema is a hugely prolific industry, and that was also the case during the silent era, which saw several hundred titles churned out.

DVD Review: 'A Brutal Game', 'The Sound and the Fury'

★★★☆☆
Jean-Claude Brisseau has been a mainstay of French cinema since the early eighties, despite some legal troubles in 2005 in which life mirrored art in the seediest of ways. Perhaps best known for Secret Things (2002) and The Exterminating Angels (2006), he's a director adept in sexual boundary pushing and transgressive provocations, poised on the shady precipice between liberation and exploitation. Axiom's rereleases of his earlier films, A Brutal Game (1983) and the Cannes Special Youth Jury Prize winner The Sound and the Fury (1988), certainly bear the hallmarks of what was to come, but they reveal a more expansive director with technical expertise and an original vision.

Competition: Win Ghibli's 'Pom Poko' on Blu-ray

From acclaimed Studio Ghibli director Isao Takahata and available for the first time on Blu-ray in stunning high-definition, 1994's Pom Poko is at once a unique window into Japanese folklore, a comedy of modern failings and also an elegiac tale of unlikely heroes fighting insurmountable odds. To celebrate the long-awaited Dual Format (DVD and Blu-ray) release of Takahata's Pom Poko Fill the Void this coming Monday (14 April), we have THREE copies of this sumptuous Japanese anime to give away to our Ghibli-grateful UK audience, courtesy of the folks at StudioCanal. This is an exclusive competition for our Facebook and Twitter fans, so if you haven't already, 'Like' us at facebook.com/CineVueUK or follow us @CineVue before answering the question below.

Competition: Win 'Inspector De Luca' on DVD

Having already seen massive success with their Bafta-winning series The Bridge, Borgen and The Killing, Arrow Films are thrilled to announce the imminent home entertainment release of Inspector De Luca, an exciting crime series which will mark the first Italian television show to be released by the new Noir sub-label. To celebrate the DVD release of Inspector De Luca this coming Monday (14 April), we have THREE copies of the Italian period crime series to give away to our army of regular readers, courtesy of the generous team at distributors Arrow Films. This is an exclusive competition for our Facebook and Twitter fans, so if you haven't already, 'Like' us at facebook.com/CineVueUK or follow us @CineVue before answering the question below.

Competition: Win 'Fill the Void' on DVD

As tense and gripping as many a thriller, Rama Burshtein's Fill the Void (2012) is a breathtaking exploration of the struggle between familial bonds and individual freedoms. The drama has garnered innumerable festival awards, including an seven Israeli Academy Awards as well as the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival (for Hadas Yaron). To celebrate the long-awaited DVD and Blu-ray release of Fill the Void this coming Monday (14 April), we have THREE copies of Burshtein's debut to give away to our worldly readers, courtesy of the fantastic team at distributors Artificial Eye. This is an exclusive competition for our Facebook and Twitter fans, so if you haven't already, 'Like' us at facebook.com/CineVueUK or follow us @CineVue before answering the question below.

Film Review: 'Willow and Wind'

★★★★☆
To coincide with the release of Mark Cousins' A Story of Children and Film (2013), Filmhouse Edinburgh are rolling out The Cinema of Childhood - a touring film season exposing audiences to some of the rarest film's covered in Cousins' passionate celebration of childhood and film. The season launches this week with Mohammad-Ali Talebi's Willow and Wind (1999), a poetic and beautifully realised allegory for the disquiet felt in Iran at the turn of the century. Written by Abbas Kiarostami, this simple tale of a young boy's quest to replace a pane of glass broken during a playground football match is transformed into an adventure of tremendous poignancy thanks to the brevity of Talebi's direction.

Film Review: 'The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears'

★★★★☆
With The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears (2013), their follow-up to 2009's Amer, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani kick down the doors of perception and let loose with a spectacular work of psychedelic genre pillaging. This is cinematic pilfering with a difference; it's not so much the result of watching a swathe of gialli as it is endless nights spent dreaming about them afterwards. The archive is raided for images, sounds and motifs with fetishistic detail, then reconstructed according to the directors' distinctive kaleidoscopic vision. Cattet and Forzani treat giallo as an elaborate Freudian minefield; a pure cinematic expression of the proximity between sex and death - la petite mort as a dark night of the soul.

Film Review: 'The Raid 2'

★★☆☆☆
Around five minutes into Welshman Gareth Evans' The Raid 2 (2014), a door begins to shake. The camera dollies in as the lock starts to fall apart and a cacophony of impending violence builds on the other side. It's a Pandora's box of illicit possibility and, when it finally crashes open, Evans unleashes a tirade of lightening-fast martial arts, bringing us right back to the tight, visceral thrills of the film's 2011 predecessor. But then it stops, and we're sadly faced with a 150-minute gangster film that sags and drags when it should fly. Evans' ambition in both expanding the scope of The Raid and refusing to trade on past glories is laudable, but the shift from lean, self-contained action film to baggy crime epic is fatal.

Film Review: 'The Quiet Ones'

★★☆☆☆
After achieving relative recent success with 2010's Let Me In (directed by Matt Reeves) and 2012's Victorian frightener The Woman in Black, the recently revived Hammer return to UK screens with The Quiet Ones (2014), a stylish and ably acted yet ultimately lacklustre psychological horror that's as predictable as it is almost entirely devoid of bona fide scares. Mad Men star Jared Harris heads up the cast as Joseph Coupland, a paranormal expert who believes he can isolate and eradicate negative energy from troubled teen case Jane (Olivia Cooke). The only problem is that his funding has been cut off, leaving him with little choice but to recruit pupils from his lecture group to assist him in his work.

Film Review: 'Pioneer'

★★☆☆☆
It's not very often that a foreign-language original leaves you hankering for its already announced, big budget US remake. This, sadly, is the case with Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjærg's surprisingly frothy fourth feature Pioneer (2013). Whilst substantially glossier than his most famous directorial offering to date - the pre-Nolan Insomnia (1997) - there's little of the heart or indeed dramatic tension that made his gloomy detective thriller such a noirish delight. Once again illustrating a preoccupation with hasty cover-ups and morally dubious goings on, Skjoldbjærg's Pioneer aspires to plummet the depths of his nation's collective conscience, but instead reveals itself as a rather shallow pseudo-conspiracy thriller.

Film Review: 'The Lunchbox'

★★★☆☆
A nostalgic throwback to the Satyajit Ray heyday of Indian arthouse - though admittedly lacking much of Ray's sociopolitical spice - Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox (2013) blends teasing comic romance with a not-unrealistic portrait of modern Mumbai. Irrfan Khan warms the cockles as the retiring (in every sense of the word) office worker picking through the delight-laden lunchboxes that begin to arrive at his desk each day from a mystery cook. Its more vehement critics will predictably decry its middle-class leanings, but as the success of filmmakers like Joanna Hogg and Jon Sanders here in the UK has proven, there is an appetite for stories about pencil-pushers as well as poverty-stricken slumdogs.

Film Review: 'The King and the Mockingbird'

★★★★☆
Marking the 30th anniversary of its UK debut, StudioCanal rereleases the highly influential The King and the Mockingbird (1980) in a fully restored version after a popular reissue in France last year, offering audiences both old and new the chance to experience a landmark work of sublime hand-drawn animation 28 years in the making. Long considered a masterpiece of the genre, the film is the product of a collaboration between filmmaker Paul Grimault and screenwriter Jacques Prévert who, together in 1947, began loosely adapting Hans Christian Andersen fairytale The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, though complications arose and an unfinished version was released without their approval.

Film Review: 'Khumba: A Zebra's Tale'

★★☆☆☆
As the recent critical and box office success of both the Oscar-winning Frozen (2013) and The Lego Movie (2014) can attest to, animated movies have seldom been more popular than they are today. Though noble in its intentions, Anthony Silverston's Khumba (2013) - the sophomore effort from the Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios - is a substandard digimated excursion that's all the more dissatisfying when compared to the films that inspired it. When young zebra Khumba (voiced by Jake T. Austin) is born with only half of his usual stripes, his superstitious herd believe it to be a bad omen and he is quickly blamed and branded an outcast when a drought falls upon the dazzle's land.

Film Review: 'Half of a Yellow Sun'

★★☆☆☆
Odenigbo (12 Years a Slave's Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Olanna (Thandie Newton) are sat in uncomfortable silence at the dinner table before the quiet is pierced by a question: "Are we still trying to have a child?" This stuffy, uneasy scene - furnished with dialogue awkward and laboured - is regrettably Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) in microcosm. Based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adicie's novel of the same name, Biyi Bandele's stuttering directorial debut is a valiant attempt to navigate a tumultuous period in Nigerian history, but not an enormously successful one. An uneven blend of melodrama and the horrors of civil war, it should be anchored by strong leads but instead remains listless and adrift.

Film Review: 'Calvary'

★★★☆☆
Two years on from the success of his quintessentially Irish buddy movie The Guard (2011), John Michael McDonagh reunites with Brendan Gleeson for Calvary (2014) - an acerbic yet wryly humorous study of faith and the vilification of Catholicism that laudably displays the good the bad and the ugly side of organised religion. "That's certainly a startling opening line" ripostes Gleeson's surly father on hearing the declaration that "I first tasted semen when I was seven-years-old," from the individual in his confessional box. This confrontational introduction sets the tone for McDonagh's self-referential black comedy, the line delivered surreptitiously from behind the wooden lattice by Gleeson's future murderer.

Blu-ray Review: 'Pit Stop'

★★★☆☆
Pit Stop, a 1969 collaboration between B-movie king Roger Corman and director Jack Hill (renown primarily for his work across a number of Blaxploitation titles), represents something of a dream pairing for trash cinema aficionados. With its intriguing Faustian-like plot, stunning stock car racing footage and memorable performances, including a young, very beautiful Ellen Burstyn (credited here as Ellen McRae), Pit Stop proves to be a cut about the usual low-grade genre works from that period in US cinema. Weathered James Dean lookalike Richard Davalos plays Rick Bowman, a young tearaway (at 39) who has a penchant for fast cars and a talent for pushing them to their extremes.
CineVue © 2014. All rights reserved. Powered by Blogger.