Venice 2015: Read our Venezia 72 programme preview

The 72nd Venice Film Festival will run from the 2-12 September and promises one of the hottest line ups for years. The already announced opening film, Baltasar Kormákur's Everest, continues the start big philosophy of Gravity and Birdman of the previous two years. The Johnny Depp return to acting, Black Mass, has also already been announced as showing out of competition, seeing Depp don another physical transformation, but this time in the service of a more grown-up tale of real life gangster Whitey Bulger. In the main competition, the English language big hitters include Kirsten Stewart in science fiction thriller Equals, a post-True Detective project for Cary Fukunaga - Beasts of No Nation starring Idris Elba - and Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl starring an unrecognisable Eddie Redmayne.
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Review: 'Mission Impossible Rogue Nation'

★★☆☆☆
Tom Cruise reprises his role as spy Ethan Hunt in Rogue Nation (2015), the fifth instalment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, this time helmed by screenwriter-turned-director Christopher McQuarrie. While it may deliver on the expected hi-octane thrills and spills with a slew of outrageous stunts, it also delivers a ham-fisted third act and the predictable, woolly plotting will make audiences yearn for the days when the Impossible Mission Force were in the safe hands of Brian De Palma. McQuarrie previously worked with Cruise on several projects, including the abysmal Valkyrie, the more enjoyable Edge of Tomorrow and Jack Reacher, a bland effort to reignite interest in Lee Child's eponymous hero.
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Film Review: 'Man with a Movie Camera'

★★★★☆
Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929) still shines, even as an octogenarian. The film remains a testaments to the early days of filmmaking and the commitment to innovation and exploitation of the then-new medium. It has now also transformed itself into something of a time capsule, literally making itself into a scrapbook of a world long gone. Here, the mummification of time and people has reached its peak and Vertov's experimental masterpiece now a completely temporal travelogue. Its somehow still refreshing to watch, showing audiences spanning generations that film was and always will be a malleable medium as well as a mirror of the world.
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DVD Review: 'While We're Young'

★★★☆☆
For his sixth feature as writer-director, Noah Baumbach continues a newly prolific streak with While We're Young (2014), which furthers his approach to infusing his cinema with his own thoughts, feelings and verdicts on specific areas of contemporary culture. Where his previous film, the monochrome crowd-pleaser Frances Ha (2012), saw him breaking from the existential miserablism that has peppered his films thus far, this sees Baumbach taking an honest look at what it's like to grow old in a world of retro hipsterism, to mostly successful results. In his best role since his first collaboration with the director - the brilliantly acerbic Greenberg (2010) - Ben Stiller plays documentary filmmaker Josh.
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DVD Review: 'War and Peace'

★★★★☆
Anand Patwardhan's War and Peace was released in 2002, and its presentation of escalating nationalist posturing - aka the arms race between India and Pakistan - was incredibly apposite. Over a decade later, WMDs in Iraq may not be the hot-button topic they were back then, but the Bharatiya Janata Party has returned to power in India and international debate surrounding nuclear armament continues to rage; this pulsating and sprawling documentary thus retains its potency. Both a personal perspective and a clear-eyed and acutely focused examination of the internal and external effects of India's scramble for arms, for Patwardhan it begins in the aftermath of Mahatma Ghandi's assassination.
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DVD Review: 'Suite Française'

★★★☆☆
Given that its source material is a beloved book with a potent history, the film adaptation of Suite Française (2014) is a sincere disappointment. Its a middling exercise in schmaltz, often overflowing with heavily wrought dialogue and oft-deployed melodramatic tactics. Despite two leads of notable standing, this is a misstep for all involved. Sadly, Suite Française seems to be headed for a lifetime of relegation to 'rainy Sunday home viewing' fare. Its 1940 in a rural French town and Lucille Angellier (Michelle Williams) lives with her domineering step-mother, Madame Angellier (the always watchable Kristin Scott Thomas).
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Blu-ray Review: 'Rossellini & Bergman Collection'

★★★★☆
On his 40th birthday the Italian director Roberto Rossellini received a surprise gift. It was a letter from the Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman: enchanted by his Rome, Open City (1945), she offered to come and make a film with him. She signed off the letter with the only Italian she then knew - "ti amo". Thus began a five feature film partnership and a scandalous love affair that resulted in the break-up of Bergman's marriage and a child born out of wedlock. This period between 1949 and 1955 saw the release of the three films in this collection: Stromboli (1950), Journey to Italy (1954) and Fear (1954), rereleased this week on Blu-ray by the BFI.
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Blu-ray Review: 'Listen Up Philip'

★★★☆☆
Alex Ross Perry's Listen Up Philip (2014) follows a self-absorbed writer (Jason Schwartzman) who scuppers his fledgling career through sheer arrogance and misanthropy. It;s both an engaging and a frustrating watch. From the very first scene, Philip is being obnoxious to a former girlfriend who turns up late to their appointment. He berates her for not having believed in him. He's on the verge of publishing his second novel and is full of himself. Philip is also ghastly to his long- suffering, live-in girlfriend, Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), a successful photographer. He struts around Manhattan telling his publisher he's not prepared to do a book tour, cancels all interviews and gets up everyone's nose.
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Interview: Sheila Vand on vampirism and revolutions

"I don't like when things are - I can't believe I'm saying this - so black and white," laughs Sheila Vand, the doe-eyed star of Ana Lily Amirapour's stylish and darkly devious feature debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), released on DVD and Blu-ray this week by StudioCanal. I chuckle as well, not only because we are discussing the moral ambiguity of her protagonist, but also because the entirety of the vampire indie film is incidentally shot in lustrous monochrome. By night, cloaked in a head-to-toe chador, The Girl shadows and preys on the townspeople of Bad City, a fictional underworld that supposedly takes place in modern Iran, but was actually shot near Bakersfield, California - where Amirpour is from - with a cast of all Iranian-American actors.
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DVD Review: 'Clouds of Sils Maria'

★★★★☆
Youth, beauty and mortality are potent themes in Olivier Assayas' latest feature Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart. Binoche plays Maria Enders, a middle-aged actress who remains at the top of her game but is assailed by doubts about her career and which direction to take. The film opens on a train. Valentine (Stewart), Maria's assistant, is taking numerous calls on behalf of her boss. These include calls about Maria's impending divorce as well as offers of new projects in both film and theatre. It's soon obvious that Val fulfils a number of roles for Maria including secretary, protector and confidante.
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DVD Review: 'A Girl Walks Home Alone'

★★★★☆
It's easy to mistake Ana Lily Armirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) as purely a mash-up of spaghetti western, horror and neo-noir - until a sign appears in Farsi, accompanied by a pile of dead bodies inexplicably dumped in a nearby gulch. In this subversive Iranian vampire flick, the appropriation of pop culture is perfectly suited to Bad City, a disquieting East-meets-West netherworld painted in high contrast monochrome. Though possibly a stand-in for Tehran, it feels more like a dark corner of Armirapour's imagination: both timeless and eerily contemporary. The vampire (Sheila Vand) stalks lowlifes at night on her skateboard like a bad conscience, her chador billowing behind her like a cape.
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Film Review: 'Southpaw'

★★☆☆☆
When the first image for Antoine Fuqua's Southpaw (2015) was released online of a muscle-bound, bloodied, Jake Gyllenhaal audiences became very excited. That excitement was misplaced. The anticipation was in part due to the Gyllenhaal's remarkable performance as the ghoulish Louis Bloom in Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler (2014). The physical transformation from the wraith-like Bloom to Southpaw's central protagonist, Billy Hope, was dramatic enough in itself. It promised something with a lot of potential. In reality, what has been delivered is a tired, dreary contribution to the boxing movie genre. A rippling Gyllenhaal hulks across the screen as a heavyweight boxer at the top of his game.
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Film Review: 'Ruth & Alex'

★★☆☆☆
Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play Alex and Ruth Carver in Ruth & Alex (2014), a wistfully bland property-based dramedy that comes off as a cross between Location, Location, Location and On Golden Pond (1981). Alex is a struggling artist and Ruth is a retired teacher. Together they live in their Brooklyn apartment with their sick dog Dorothy and far too many stairs. Puffed out from all the clambering up and assured that they can get a million dollars for the place, they decide to sell up and get somewhere more manageable, pocketing the difference. With the help of Ruth's niece Lilly (Cynthia Nixon) they are to have an open house, but at the same time they discover that their dog needs surgery.
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Film Review: 'The Legend of Barney Thomson'

★★☆☆☆
Robert Carlyle exhibits little flair in his dispensable directorial debut The Legend of Barney Thomson (2015), which was chosen as the opening film of this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival. With a crack-shot cast and well captured locations in and around Glasgow, the film passes by easily enough but is a lightweight affair never aspiring to more than poking fun and raising the odd smile. Any - and all - depth and characterisation is sacrificed in the process. Socially inept and unloved, Barney (played, perhaps mistakenly, by Carlyle himself) has built his life around being a barber, the one thing in life that's stable and rewarding.
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Film Review: 'Inside Out'

★★★★☆
Pixar have knocked it out of the park with new film Inside Out (2015), which premièred at Cannes earlier this year. Directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen have crafted a cerebral comedy, loaded with smart, witty humour and a great deal of meta-emotional intelligence. The story opens with the birth of Riley. At the same time, Joy (Amy Poehler) pops into being inside of Riley's head. Joy is a blue-haired Tinker Bell, bouncing around Riley's head full of a lust for life. She's shortly joined by Sadness (Phyllis Smith), a turtle-necked mope and counter-point to Joy. As well as these two anthropomorphic emotions, we also meet Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).
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Film Review: 'Eden'

★★★☆☆
French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve isn't exactly known for emotional subjectivity and visual bombast, so when a young raver tripping out in a field sees an animated bird swooping through the sky in her latest film, Eden (2014), it potentially marks something of a departure. Subsequently, things settle into a more familiar aesthetic that follows a similar trajectory to the director's greatly adored Goodbye First Love (2011) - namely the effect of time's passage on an intense love. Whereas her last film explored romantic affection, however, this time around her decade-spanning offering follows the passions of a DJ from youthful exuberance to weary resignation, all to the beat of French electronica.
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Film Review: 'Best of Enemies'

★★★☆☆
The 1968 television debates between William F Buckley Jr and Gore Vidal, which accompanied that year's Republican and Democratic conventions, had an impact on political commentary that is still evident today. New documentary Best of Enemies (2015) seeks to unpick that legacy bringing together a wealth of archival footage, including of the broadcasts themselves, alongside talking heads and reflections on the period from the two men's own written recollections. While examination of the wider context may be slightly elusive, Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville's film entertainingly lays bare the personal animosity that fuelled their confrontation and the lasting effect it had on punditry.
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Blu-ray Review: 'Third Man'

★★★★★
No cinematic genre can capture the inky morality of pernicious scavengers feeding on the carcass of post-war Europe like film noir. And no other noir manages it with quite the pervasive world-weariness and melancholy of The Third Man (1949). Beautifully penned by Graham Greene for Carol Reed's direction, it is one of cinema's true masterpieces: a labyrinthine search through the rubble of a defeated and desiccated Vienna; the tale of a wide-eyed American, exposed for the first time to the harsh, cruel realities of carving a bitter existence in the husk of a bombed-out continent. All the while, Reed and his cinematographer, Robert Krasker, craft an expressionistic landscape unlike any other.
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DVD Review: 'Mommy'

★★★★☆
The fifth feature from worryingly prolific mid-twenties Quebecoise filmmaker Xavier Dolan, Mommy (2014) sees him returning to the themes that have fuelled his impressive quartet of features thus far, only here they are so tightly woven together to form perhaps his most robust piece of work to date. The winner of a jury prize in Cannes last year - the director has become something of a cherished darling on the Croisette - the drama is a repackaging of sorts of Dolan's semi-autobiographical 2009 debut I Killed My Mother in that it focuses on the pangs of maternal love. Yet here his overarching question is posed in an intensely fraught way; how can conflicted personalities and emotions sustain compatibility?
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DVD Review: 'The Human Centipede 3'

★★☆☆☆
Tom Six's The Human Centipede 3: (Final Sequence) represents something of a challenge to the star-ratings system. Give it one star or give it five. Heck, give it none! The most notorious film series in recent memory is bulletproof against the accusations and barbs of outraged critics. They can get on their high horses all they want to, calling The Human Centipede films depraved and disgusting will be worn as a badge of honour and causing a media stink is the very best advertising available. If you assumed The Human Centipede 2: (Full Sequence) to be the height of nastiness, you'll have to reset your outrage-o-meter and add extra levels.
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DVD Review: 'The Face of an Angel'

★★★☆☆
Michael Winterbottom's latest feature, The Face of an Angel (2014), explores the intersection of beauty, youth, sex and violent crime. Inspired by Amanda Knox's alleged murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Italy, Winterbottom offers a perceptive, but at times plodding, take on the media's sensationalised coverage of her trial. Thomas Lang (Daniel Bruhl) arrives in Italy to research and write his next film. He meets Simone Ford (Kate Beckinsale), a journalist who been following the trial of American student Jessica Fuller, imprisoned for the murder of her flatmate Elizabeth Pryce (Sai Bennett). Thomas hopes to adapt Simone's book on the case. "Make it fiction," she urges him.
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DVD Review: 'The Gunman'

★★☆☆☆
With The Gunman (2015), Sean Penn becomes the latest inductee into that club slowly being filled by older gentlemen with a particular set of skills. Pierre Morel was a key figure in the meteoric rise of the 'geriaction' genre with his explosive Taken (2008), not only launching Liam Neeson's own brand of ass-kicking but transforming the subgenre from camp silliness to exploitation gold. It's now seven years later and a raft of imitators have tried their hands with varying success, while the Taken series has itself suffered from diminishing returns. If this latest staid entry into the canon is anything to go by, few lessons have been learned in recent times.
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Film Review: 'The Wonders'

★★★★☆
Casting a peculiar spell over its audience, The Wonders (2014) is a rural ghost story masquerading as a coming-of-age tale. Unfolding like a morbid reverie for a bygone era, Alice Rohrwacher's follow up to 2011's Corpo Celeste reverberates with the strange frisson of a world pining for a reality that never existed in the first place. Rohrwacher's haunting evocation of childhood memory fluidly shifts between realism and make-believe as if they were part of the same continuum. We observe the world via Gelsomina (a remarkably stoic performance by Maria Alexandra Lungo) as she works alongside her father Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck) producing honey on their family farm in central Italy.
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Film Review: 'Song of the Sea'

★★★★☆
When The Lego Movie (2014) was surprisingly overlooked at the Academy Awards earlier in the year, one of the theories posited for its shock exclusion was to do with technique. If the animators involved in shortlisting were showing preference for more old-fashioned, unique, and hand-crafted creations then it is very clear to see why Tomm Moore's breathtaking Song of the Sea (2014) was included. An independent Irish production, it immerses itself in Celtic folklore presented in a richly evocative and arresting animation style that was rightly lauded at the industry's biggest awards. What's more, it's a mythic tale of loss and love is just as likely to beguile as its beautiful visuals are.
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Film Review: 'Salt of the Earth'

★★★★☆
"Everyone should see these images to see how terrible out species is," says Brazilian photography Sebastião Salgado as he reviews the photographs that he has taken throughout his career. It has been a career that has been inspired by an intense social conscience, a fierce and bold curiosity, and an eye for beauty and the arresting image that can actually change the conditions he seeks to record. German film maker Wim Wenders came to The Salt of the Earth (2014) as a fan of Salgrado having purchased a print of his some years ago. Salgado’s son Juliano, who is Wenders' co-director, had already begun filming his father, and the seventy-year-old photographer proves as fascinating as his art.
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Film Review: 'The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson'

★★★☆☆
"If it's gonna kill me, I don't want it to bore me." It's an apparently novel way to approach a diagnosis with terminal pancreatic cancer, but is precisely the one adopted by Wilko Johnson. Most famous for being the wide-eyed berserker hopping around the stage for Dr. Feelgood in the 70s, his response to the Big C 'verdict' (as he refers to it) is now the subject of a new documentary by Julien Temple. Temple's Oil City Confidential (2009) told the story of the punk-influencing band and their emergence from Canvey Island, but The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson (2015) pays little heed to musical legacy. This is a moving portrait of a remarkable man, which is at its most effective when it just lets him speak.
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Film Review: 'Ant-Man'

★★★★☆
Starring Paul Rudd as the diminutive hero, Ant-Man (2015) is a hilarious heist movie cum superhero flick that proves to be a hugely enjoyable and playful way to bring the studios 'Phase Two' to a close. It revels in oddity; then again, it is about a shrinking hero who can control armies of ants. Because of this it shares many of the comical qualities of James Gunn's smash-hit Guardians Of The Galaxy. Both titles had to overcome the obstacle of less established Marvel characters, but it would seem that in each case this freed them up to be more playful in their approach. Ant-Man also has the shadow of the departed director, Edgar Wright, standing over it.
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Film Review: '13 Minutes'

★★★☆☆
The problem with Oliver Hirschbiegel's 13 Minutes (2015) is ultimately the weight of history. Where the knowledge of what is to transpire elevates every scene of his monumental Oscar-winning portrayal of Hitler's final days, Downfall (2004), in this tale of a failed assassination attempt it hamstrings the drama. Whenever a film opens with the chronological conclusion of its narrative thrust - usually a negative one - the aim is to capitalise on the eventual outcome for dramatic irony, or impending tragedy. Here, the story begins with the film's defining act and most accomplished sequence but, despite handsome execution, never hits those heights again in a plot where familiarity severely dampens the squib.
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DVD Review: 'X+Y'

★★★☆☆
The evolution of The Big Bang Theory's Sheldon has acclimatised modern audiences to notion of tittering at the eccentricities of people on the autistic spectrum. Generalities blind audiences to the fact that people on that spectrum are very much distinct individuals with likes, dislikes and talents, just as with the rest of us. Morgan Matthews' X+Y (2014) cannot be accused of ridiculing its subject, Nathan, who is considerately portrayed by Asa Butterfield. He is a maths whizz but not merely a cold, obsessed machine. Nathan is diagnosed at a young age and his father (Martin McCann), being a relaxed soul, finds it easier than his mum (Sally Hawkins) to cajole and coax a smile out of his seemingly distant son.
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Interview: Marjane Satrapi on black comedy 'The Voices'

"Earl Grey is my favourite tea," says Marjane Satrapi as she stuffs a handful of teabags into a large Thermos sat on the table before her. We're sat in a London hotel room to chat about her new film, the Ryan Reynolds-starring black serial killer comedy The Voices (2014), but British audiences are likely to have heard little from her since co-directing the adaptation of her own comic book, Persepolis, back in 2007. Her subsequent films, Chicken with Plums and The Gang of Jotas, haven't received releases in the UK - "what happened? Explain to me!" She's just snuck a crafty cigarette out of the open window and with her tea she's able to get comfortable. This is arguably the first time she's moved out of her comfort zone cinematically, adapting someone else's script.
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DVD Review: 'The Voices'

★★★☆☆
Ryan Reynolds deserves at least some credit for the patchwork of roles he's picked recently. There's the countless rom-coms, his superhero duds, acting work with Atom Egoyan and Rodrigo Cortés, but there are also curiosities like The Voices (2014). A jet-black horror comedy featuring severed heads in fridges and a gamut of talking animals (diversely voiced by Reynolds), it might not hang together entirely, but this latest is something of a macabre treat. Reynolds is Jerry, an awkward, mentally unstable packaging worker with more than a hint of Norman Bates. Emerging from an institutionalised absence, he re-enters the fray thanks to a crush on Gemma Arterton's accounts girl Fiona.
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DVD Review: 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch...'

★★★★☆
The dead-eyed cast of Roy Andersson's A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) would appear just as home on the streets of London as Gothenburg, or any other city experiencing the dreary decline of late capitalism. Still, their masterful comic timing and pacing make hilariously black viewing pleasure, with a dash of the Brechtian absurd. Don't be fooled by the drained blue-and - beige palette of Andersson's set design either. There is never a dull frame in his obliquely shot scenes of exquisitely composed, static long takes. Incorporating historical anachronism, musical revelry, and unsettling cruelty, 37 vignettes make up the the final part of his trilogy on humanity.
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VOD Review: 'Elephant Song'

★★★☆☆
Xavier Dolan proves once again that the world revolves around him (and that's a good thing) in the quiet Canadian drama Elephant Song (2014). The wunderkind is once again the secret spice that brings the best bout of other ingredients, allowing what was originally shaky and well-trod become something watchable and - dare it be said - intriguing. While the rest of the cast are respective standouts in their own rights, it is Dolan that is worth the price of admission. It's been two years since he has had a meaty acting gig (2013's Tom at the Farm); here again, he proves he's got credibility all over the place. Its Christmas Eve in blustery Canada.
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