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Venice 2014: '99 Homes' review

1 hour ago

★★★★☆Festival favourite Ramin Bahrani returns to the Venice Lido with 99 Homes (2014), a dramatic thriller set at the sharp-end of the housing crisis. The very first shot shows that there is blood on the bathroom walls of America. The recent economic travails are not just some victimless white collar larks - Margin Call style - but rather a human tragedy, the result of an ongoing and systematic fracking of the middle-class, driving thousands of homes into foreclosure and leaving families on the street. Shedding his superhero costume, Andrew Garfield plays Dennis Nash, an ordinary working stiff - a construction worker - living with his son (Noah Lomax) and his mother (Laura Dern) in their small suburban home.

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Film Review: 'Million Dollar Arm'

18 hours ago

★★★☆☆Only an actor with as much natural charisma as Mad Men star Jon Hamm (who plays ad man Donald Draper in the hit AMC show) could make a money-centric, hard-balling sports agent look appealing, and this is exactly what he does in Disney's Million Dollar Arm (2014). Based on a true-story and directed by Craig Gillespie, Hamm stars as J.B. Bernstein, who in a last ditch attempt to save his ailing career sets up a reality show contest in India to find fledgling cricket players that he can train up and convert into pitchers that are destined to play in Major League Baseball. Roping in curmudgeonly sports talent agent Ray (Alan Arkin) and his business partner Asah (Aasif Mandvi), the trio fly east to find their players.

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Venice 2014: 'Tales' review

18 hours ago

★★★☆☆Entering the race for the prestigious Golden Lion prize at this year's 71st Venice Film Festival, Iranian director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad's Tales (Ghesse-ha, 2014) presents the interlocking lives of several disparate Iranians trying to make sense of modern day Iran; imagine a Shortcuts set in Tehran and with a predominantly female cast. A documentary filmmaker takes a late night taxi, filming the streets and only half listening to the stories that the taxi driver tells of his life. The taxi driver asks why he never filmed him. "Because you didn't ask me too," the filmmaker says before disappearing into the night and leaving the taxi driver to the unfolding of another story.

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Venice 2014: 'The Price of Fame' review

18 hours ago

★☆☆☆☆When Charlie Chaplin died on Christmas Day in 1977, the whole world paid tribute to the passing of a comic genius. However, two down-on-their luck, unemployed immigrants living in Switzerland saw his passing as an opportunity - the answer to all their problems - and hatched a plan to dig up and steal his coffin and then hold the grieving Chaplin family to ransom. This is the initially intriguing premise for award-winning Of Gods and Men (2010) director Xavier Beauvois' latest film and Venice Golden Lion hopeful The Price of Fame (2014), but unfortunately the execution proves extremely poor. The talented Benoît Poelvoorde ;plays Belgian crook Eddy, a thief who has just been released from prison.

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Film Review: 'Let's Be Cops'

20 hours ago

★☆☆☆☆It's hardly an ideal time to be marketing a film in which two average Joes abuse the civil justice system by imitating Us police officers. With the tragic fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri still very much in the news, Luke Greenfield's gross-out buddy comedy Let's Be Cops (2014) now finds itself in the unenviable position of having to make law enforcement officials - or those willing to impersonate them at least - humorous again. Not only does Greenfield's barrel-scrapping head-banger fail to illicit enough laughs from those who consider themselves post-pubescent to warrant the 'comedy' tag, but it's also one of the most morose and insensitive mainstream releases of the year thus far. »

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Venice 2014: 'The President' review

21 hours ago

★★★★☆Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's opens Venice's Orizzonti sidebar with The President (2014), which attains the open force of a parable while at the same time maintaining the excitement and tension of a political thriller. Georgian actor Misha Gomiashvili plays the President of the title, who reigns over an unnamed country. His grandson (Dachi Orvelashvili) sits on his knee, dressed in a military uniform and asks for ice cream, which he's not allowed for health reasons. To distract the boy, the President has him order by telephone that all the lights in the city be turned off. It's a brilliantly absurd moment showing the childishness, flippancy and immorality of absolute power.

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Film Review: 'Obvious Child'

28 August 2014 3:25 AM, PDT

★★★★☆The label of 'abortion rom-com' doesn't necessarily scream box office success. However, director Gillian Robespierre doesn't care what you think. Her debut feature, Obvious Child (2014), aims to confront life's uncomfortable truths. From the moment Donna (Jenny Slate) begins her stand-up routine with an anecdote about vaginal discharge, you know you're in for something different. Stand-up has recently become a podium for women to confront the restraints of a patriarchal society. Donna certainly conforms to the confrontational paradigm of the contemporary female comedian. However, this wry tale of a twentysomething comedian's unplanned pregnancy thankfully proves anything but conventional.

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Venice 2014: 'Messi' review

28 August 2014 2:55 AM, PDT

★☆☆☆☆Messi (2014), a new film about diminutive Argentinian football icon Lionel Messi, has all the ingredients for a great sports documentary. A mass of archive material has been made available to director Álex de la Iglesia, apparently provided by Messi's constantly videotaping father, there are interviews with influential figures in the player's life including Fc Barcelona team mates and ex-coaches and, last but not least, the sublime splendour of the player himself, whose speed, skill and grace see him ranked as one of - if not the - best footballers of all time. And yet Messi is a mess, with Iglesia and his contributors bundled into a restaurant, pontificating about the man over a seemingly endless dinner.

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Interview: Kelly Reichardt on the radical 'Night Moves'

28 August 2014 2:47 AM, PDT

Kelly Reichardt's career has thus far seen a string of characters interacting - for better or worse - with the natural landscapes of the Pacific northwest. Whether they be settlers in the mid-19th century or two guys on a weekend road trip, Oregon in particular has proved both a comfort and an obstacle for her characters, and does so again in latest offering Night Moves (2013). The film examines an act of terrorism on a hydroelectric dam and the resulting effect on the three activists that perpetrate the crime. "At the very beginning," Reichardt explains in our interview with the director, "John Raymond [the screenwriter] and his partner spent some time on this farm - the farm we actually ended up shooting on. He was getting pretty fascinated with the small world polities that surround the community."

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Venice 2014: 'Birdman' review

27 August 2014 4:08 PM, PDT

★★★★★Last year Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity (2013) wowed the Lido with its bravura long takes and technical prowess, taking us into space and back down to Earth again. This year, Venice opens with Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman (2014) (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), who trumps his fellow countryman with a film that for the most part takes place in one long, seemingly continuous take. Rather than an immersive gee-whiz experience, however, here the technical choice recreates the danger and thrill of that old cinematic favourite location the theatre. From Dickie's A Chorus Line to Shakespeare in Love, the theatre is frequently held up by cinema itself as its prestigious, more authentic older sibling.

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Venice 2014: The Look of Silence review

27 August 2014 2:45 PM, PDT

★★★★★"You ask deeper questions than Joshua," states one of the killers in Joshua Oppenheimer and his anonymous collaborator's documentary The Look of Silence (2014). The film is a companion piece to Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing (2013), which revealed not only the mass murder of over one million suspected communists in a wave of political violence orchestrated by Indonesia's military dictatorship in 1965-66, but also the feting of the killers as national heroes and the rewriting of history to glorify the genocide as a righteous struggle. Oppenheimer's first film maintained a passive detachment, allowing the killers to re-enact their own atrocities and metaphorically hang themselves with their own words.

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Film Review: 'Night Moves'

27 August 2014 6:38 AM, PDT

★★★★☆The films of Kelly Reichardt have often explored the relationship between people and their environment - whether in tune or fatally at odds. Like a polar opposite to the autumnal flow of Old Joy (2006), the director's latest delves into the ambiguous world of fanatical environmentalism in a location ubiquitous with her oeuvre, Oregon. Where as her previous work, Meek's Cutoff (2010), strained relentlessly against its genre conventions and was widely labelled as an anti-western, Night Moves (2013) gives similar credence to the traditions of the thriller. This gripping film eschews typical tropes and character archetypes in favour of gradually wrenching the audience's collective stomach with a building tension.

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Film Review: 'Mystery Road'

27 August 2014 2:41 AM, PDT

★★★☆☆The wilds of Australia play home to Ivan Sen's latest in both a physical and metaphorical sense. The oppression of indigenous peoples was a topic explored in his previous film, Toomelah (2009), and it glints as a rich vein of this new genre nugget, Mystery Road (2013). Determined to steer clear of anticipated escalations in narrative thrust, it prefers to grip your attention by allowing a constant simmer beneath the surface of the barren outback. Jay Swan (played by Aaron Pedersen) occupies the role of local lawman. An entire police department is at the disposal of this small town, but the Aboriginal detective seems to stand alone after returning to his hometown from a spell in the "Big Smoke".

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Film Review: 'The Keeper of Lost Causes'

27 August 2014 2:23 AM, PDT

★★☆☆☆Nordic noir has been doing brisk trade on both page and screen over the last few years, cannily stimulating an apparently global appetite for a slew of flawed detectives and macabre investigations from the region. Although there have been some successful cinematic outings, it is actually on the small screen that the genre has made its most prominent splash, which is sadly where The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013) feels as though it belongs. Based on Jussi Adler-Olsen's international bestseller and brought to life by Mikkel Nørgaard - the director responsible for raunchy comedy Klown (2010) - its unsettling crime and detective odd couple aren't enough to elevate this largely forgettable affair.

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Film Review: 'The Internet's Own Boy'

27 August 2014 1:58 AM, PDT

★★★☆☆In January 2013, Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide following a series of protracted legal battle over copyright infringement after downloading Jstor articles. It was the tragic conclusion to years of persecution, frustration and innovation. The Internet's Own Boy (2014) takes a close look at Swartz, both as a person and as an icon for the internet generation. Brian Knappenberger, who also directed the Anonymous documentary We Are Legion (2012), has crafted a tender portrait which tries to look beyond the screen. Swartz was an adorable child who grew into a socially frustrated teenage genius, an arc portrayed through archive material and interviews with key family members and friends.

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Competition: Win doc 'I Am Divine' on DVD

27 August 2014 1:32 AM, PDT

Jeffrey Schwarz's award-winning documentary I Am Divine (2013) is the story of Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, from his humble beginnings as a bullied and teased you from Baltimore to internationally recognised drag superstar through his collaboration with queer filmmaker John Waters. To celebrate the DVD release of I Am Divine this coming Monday (25 August), we have Three DVD copies of Schwarz's fabulous tribute to "the most beautiful woman in the world" to give away to our regular readers, kindly provided by the team at Peccadillo Pictures. 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.

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Competition: Win 'Cycling with Molière' on DVD

27 August 2014 1:31 AM, PDT

Heartwarming, witty and with intelligence in spades, Philippe Le Guay's Cycling with Molière (2013) is a likable French comedy about two arrogant yet affable middle-aged men is like a French version of BBC's The Trip. To celebrate the eagerly anticipated home entertainment release of Cycling with Molière this coming Monday (25 August), we've kindly been provided with Three DVD copies of Le Guay's Gallic gallivant to give away to our francophile readership, courtesy of the hardworking cineastes at independent and world cinema specialists 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.

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DVD Review: 'Heli'

26 August 2014 3:44 PM, PDT

★★★☆☆The third film from Mexican director Amat Escalante (Los Bastardos, Sangre), Heli (2013) could perhaps be accused of following the shoulder-shrug school of social commentary. An at times almost-unspeakably brutal portrayal of one young family caught up in a cocaine deal gone wrong, Escalante's Cannes prize-winner offers little respite for its titular factory worker, who finds himself horrifically tortured for his unwitting role in the theft of several parcels of prime marching powder. Neither does the filmmaker offer any fresh optimism for his country's future, torn apart as it is by corruption, gang violence and narcotics. And yet, Escalante still manages to evoke beauty through some exemplary visuals.

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Venice 2014: Read our Venezia 71 programme preview

26 August 2014 9:09 AM, PDT

This week, the world's oldest and often most unpredictable film festival, the 71st Venice Film Festival, will unroll on the Lido. Twenty films will screen in competition, vying for the prestigious Golden Lion and a further fifty-odd films will show out of competition and in the various sidebars - all but one of which will be world premieres - along with nineteen restored classics and a series of shorts. French composer Alexandre Desplat is heading the jury, which includes Britain's very own Tim Roth. Following on from last year's big bang opening of Alfonso Cuarón's Oscar-engulfing Gravity (2013), fellow Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's (Amores Perros) heavily shrouded Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), ought to kick things of in some style if early glimpses are anything to go by.

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Film Review: 'Lucy'

26 August 2014 7:41 AM, PDT

★★★★☆There's a popular myth often perpetuated in movies that humans only employ a small percentage of their brain's capacity. One of the reasons this idea endures is the following assertion that there is the potential for us to unlock untapped mental power if only we could breach the fabled 10% barrier. With just a sliver more brain power, we might be super-intelligent or have even greater capabilities. These myths form the basis of The Fifth Element (1997) director Luc Besson's latest science fiction adventure, Lucy (2014), starring the excellent Scarlett Johansson. Having taken the Us box office by storm, this undeniably silly, but raucously entertaining, off-the-wall transhumanist actioner is an absolute riot.

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