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Film Review: 'Barely Lethal'

16 hours ago

★★★☆☆ All genres go through cycles and phases. The High School movie is currently deep into a self-referential phase, in thrall to the classics of yesteryear. Barely Lethal (2015) is part of this trend, loudly winking at Mean Girls (2004), Clueless (1995), and even quoting a monologue from The Breakfast Club (1985). If only this lineage were more deeply embedded in its DNA, Barely Lethal it might have been more satisfying than the window-dressing that it is. The premise gives it a leg up on some of its competition. Raised in a secret military programme for training spies, Agent 83 (Hailee Steinfeld, Mvp of this year's Pitch Perfect 2) fakes her own death and escapes, determined to live an ordinary teenage life.

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- CineVue UK

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FrightFest 2015: 'Aaaaaaaah!' review

21 hours ago

★★★★☆ Steve Oram's directorial debut, Aaaaaaaah! (2015), comes on like a collaboration between Dogme '95 and Chris Morris. It's hard to think of another film closely like it in British cinema. It really is that out-there and singular. You can bet your bottom dollar on Aaaaaaaah! becoming a cult oddity in years to come, but it's equally fair to say that the general cinema-going audience would be left nonplussed. It's an experimental work for the arthouse crowd, certainly, but it's also one of the funniest and most poignant movies of the year. The lives of gorillas and other primates, their hierarchies, interactions and rituals, serve as chief inspirations for Oram's anthropological social satire/horror-comedy.

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- CineVue UK

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FrightFest 2015: 'Pod' review

21 hours ago

★★★☆☆ In the varied annals of horror cinema history, attics and basements operate as spaces ripe for psychoanalysis. When not serving as metaphors for ills of the human mind, they function as focal points for demonic manifestations, and sometimes portals to other dimensions. Kitchens aren't scary, right? Parlours are only creepy if the house is grandly built and furnished and there is a piano going all Jerry-Lee Lewis of its own accord. Dining areas, pantries and garden sheds are rarely, if at all, used to stage sequences drenched in supernatural terror. It Came from the Pantry! (an invented title, admittedly) doesn't boast the same attention-grabbing promise as Cellar Dweller (1988) or The Attic (2007).

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- CineVue UK

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FrightFest 2015: 'Landmine Goes Click' review

21 hours ago

★★★★☆ Levan Bakhia's Landmine Goes Click (2015) is the kind of genre flick that comes along sometimes - where a director's intentions can be misinterpreted. The brutalisation of three female characters is horrific, but it would be a presumptuous leap to suggest the film itself flexes a misogynistic creed. Such assertions would woefully misconstrue Bakhia's thematic subtext, which is an examination and comment on the male mind warped by patriarchal thinking and a manipulative form of self-exculpation/cowardice. Its spiritual relation is perhaps Gaspar Noé's Irréversible (2002), a violent fantasy saga about two men filled with blind rage doling out vile retribution, after one's partner is raped in a Parisian subway.

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- CineVue UK

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FrightFest 2015: 'Cherry Tree' review

21 hours ago

★☆☆☆☆ David Keating's very silly and unsuccessful folkloric horror film, Cherry Tree (2015), suffers from a list of ailments no old crone in a woodland cottage, with her library of esoteric books, magic spells and potions, could ever save or transform into a superior version. She'd look the film straight in the eye and wish it the best of luck. The issues and problems cripple what could have been a gnarly genre piece. Because everybody loves sexy witches being evil, right? Among many, one of the most peculiar creative decisions is to pretend it wasn't filmed in Ireland, with the cast suppressing their Irish lilts in favour of, sometimes, strained attempts at Rp or Thames Valley intonations.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'The Wolfpack'

23 hours ago

★★★★☆ This Sundance award-winning documentary recalls English poet Philip Larkin's This Be the Verse: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad..." Then again, Larkin probably didn't have parents as paranoid as Oscar Angulo who, with ex-hippie Susanne, raised their six sons and one daughter in near-isolated lockdown. Like Grey Gardens, The Wolfpack (2015) blurs the traditional border between documentary filmmaker and subject, as director Crystelle Moselle captures the quotidian details of family dysfunction with intimacy, but also discretion. Sporting long hair and Sanskrit names, the Angulo brothers, aged 16-23, were forbidden by their father to leave their cramped public housing flat in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

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- CineVue UK

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FrightFest 2015: Our picks of the lineup

23 hours ago

Returning to Leicester Square for its sixteenth year as the UK's leading celebration of horror and fantasy cinema, Film4 FrightFest 2015 is also set to be the biggest yet. With 19 world premières, along with 16 European and 24 UK ones, a wide and varied programme made up of a whopping 76 titles will screen across five glorious and ghoulish days. Barbara Crampton, star of Lovecraftian gore feasts Re-Animator and From Beyond, is the festival's guest of honour. As well as making an on-stage appearance to discuss her career in horror, Crampton can also be seen in four films: Road Games, Sun Choke, Tales of Halloween and We Are Still Here. Kicking things off on Thursday 27 August is David Keating's eagerly anticipated Cherry Tree.

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- CineVue UK

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DVD Review: 'The Ang Lee Trilogy'

23 hours ago

★★★☆☆ Commonly referred to as the 'Father Knows Best Trilogy', Ang Lee's first three films are notable primarily as an introduction to key themes and his devotion to nuanced emotional drama. They also staved off the retirement of famous Taiwanese actor Sihung Lung. Almost a decade before his appearance as Sir Te in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) he was convinced to shed his tough-guy image in favour of the serenely charming Mr. Chu in Lee's debut feature, Pushing Hands (1992). Altitude Distribution are now bringing that film and subsequent Lee/Lung collaborations The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1993) to UK DVD in The Ang Lee Trilogy box set.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'Hitman: Agent 47'

27 August 2015 4:20 AM, PDT

★☆☆☆☆ The second adaptation of the successful video game series, Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) is no good whatsoever. Everything about it feels tired and half-hearted, as if it exists purely for the studio to hold onto the rights and make as much money as possible with minimal effort. Living on the fringes of society, Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) is a hired assassin - a killing machine with no moral compass. His latest assignment is to track down Dr Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), the man responsible for engineering the program that bore him. With the CIA and shady organisation 'The Syndicate' on his tail with plans to militarise the tech, he's forced to rely on Dr Litvenko's daughter Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware) for help.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'Gemma Bovery'

26 August 2015 2:39 PM, PDT

★★☆☆☆ "A boring woman sick of her boring life is not boring," claims Martin (Fabrice Luhini), the nosey French neighbour of Gemma Arterton's titular Gemma Bovery (2014). He's the narrator of this strangely quaint adaptation of Posy Simmons's graphic novel that updates Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary into a sarky modern setting. Martin, a former publisher who has relocated to Normandy, is struck by how closely his new neighbour's life mirrors that of his literary heroine, Bovary - even to the name. Gemma moves with her husband (Jason Flemyng) to a dilapidated cottage and embraces Gallic life drinking wine, visiting the market, going to the boulangerie so she can learn the French for croissant.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'Straight Outta Compton'

26 August 2015 1:37 PM, PDT

★★★★☆ This visceral hip-hop biopic documenting Nwa's meteoric rise to fame at times struggles to avoid stumbling into Hollywood cliché. Still, Straight Outta Compton (2015) proves as infectiously entertaining as it is educational thanks to F. Gary Gray's richly textured direction and a thumping soundtrack that confirms rap as the protest music of its time. Although gangster rap is now the stuff of legend, Straight Outta Compton reminds the viewer that for some it was - and still is - a way of life. The opening sequence reveals Eazy-e (Jason Mitchell) stomping his way out of the grilled window of a dope house, after a police military tank, without warning, rams its way right through the front door.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'L'Eclisse'

26 August 2015 11:20 AM, PDT

★★★★☆ There are some films that are defined, or at least deeply coloured by the power and poetry of their final scenes. Christian Petzold's Phoenix (2014) is a fine film in its own right, but is elevated by the emotional upper-cut of its conclusion. So too Pablo Larrain's Post Mortem (2010) conjures great effect from its chilling last shot. It may not be a given that Michelangelo Antonioni is emphasising what has come before in the incredible closing minutes of L'Eclisse (1962), but a case can be made that in it he unsettlingly distils his entire trilogy of alienation - begun in L'Avventura (1960) and continued in La Notte (1961) - into one poetic and wordless sequence.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: '45 Years'

26 August 2015 6:26 AM, PDT

★★★★☆ Tender, heartbreaking and endlessly engaging, the third feature by the hand of one of England's most intriguing directors is one of the must-see films of the year. Andrew Haigh's 45 Years (2015) is a quiet study of a seemingly comfortable marriage torn apart by the slow unravelling of a shelved moment. With a spotlight on the superlative performances of Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, what Haigh crafts for the screen is something akin to near perfection. There is never a wasted moment, never a spare second left to boredom. Haigh has taken David Constantine's short story - a mere twelve pages in print - and expanded the world while managing to distil every beat to crystalline clarity.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'The President'

25 August 2015 2:08 PM, PDT

★★★★☆ Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf opened last year's Venice 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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- CineVue UK

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DVD Review: 'Iris'

25 August 2015 1:49 PM, PDT

★★★★☆ Having featured in a variety of documentaries that explore the fashion scene in and around New York City, the unique and irrepressible fashionista Iris Apfel now takes centre stage in one of her very own. The final feature from the dearly departed Albert Maysles, who alongside his brother made some of the best exemplars of the genre (Gimme Shelter and Salesman are but a mere tip of the iceberg), Iris (2014) is a heartfelt and enlightening swansong that focuses on one the fashion industry's, nay the world's, most distinctive - and distinctively dressed - icons. A beacon of individuality, Apfel wasn't publicly recognised for her vivacious wardrobe until she was well in her eighties.

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- CineVue UK

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Blu-ray Review: 'Vivre Sa Vie'

25 August 2015 1:49 PM, PDT

★★★★★ Named by Susan Sontag as "the perfect film", Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre Sa Vie (1962), rereleased on Blu-ray this week by the BFI, is an unsentimental billet-doux to Anna Karina, the director's former wife and muse. Combining the aesthetics of cinéma vérité with an abundance of innovative techniques he would become renowned for pioneering, Godard's French New Wave classic remains as significant now as it did 50 years ago. A tragic portrait of a life told in twelve scenes, Vivre Sa Vie is a film of quiet confrontation. Karina plays Nana, a young Parisian struggling to make ends meet whilst working in a record store - quelle chic.

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- CineVue UK

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DVD Review Queen & Country

25 August 2015 12:36 PM, PDT

★★★☆☆ Queen & Country (2014), which screened in the Director's Fortnight sidebar at Cannes last year, is the second part of John Boorman's filmic memoir, following on directly from his 1987 Best Picture Oscar nominee Hope & Glory. It's 1952: ten years on since the Nazis dropped a bomb on a school causing the kids to celebrate in the streets - "Thank you, Adolf" - but post-War Britain is a place of stiff tradition, austerity and, worse still, National Service. The War might be over, but war in Korea means there is no escaping the military and Bill Rohan (a charismatic Callum Turner) is called up away from his idyllic island on the Thames and family life to go through basic training.

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- CineVue UK

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DVD Review: 'Eyes Without a Face'

25 August 2015 12:28 PM, PDT

★★★★☆ If you only know Eyes Without a Face (1960) from the Billy Idol rock ballad, then you are in for a treat. Georges Franju's Gallic body horror is a complex atmospheric chiller which balances graphic shocks with subtle characterisation. A woman Louise (Alida Valli) drives through the French countryside at night. In the backseat, a passenger sways unconscious. Parking by a river, the woman drags the passenger down the muddy bank and drops her in the water. The celebrated Dr. Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) is called to the morgue to identify a body which might be his missing daughter. He does so and a funeral follows but all is not as it seems as his assistant Louise stands by his side.

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- CineVue UK

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Interview: Carol Morley talks 'The Falling'

25 August 2015 12:11 PM, PDT

Carol Morley was in high spirits on the breezy spring morning CineVue met her (she likens press junkets to speed dating). The wind rustled in the air outside, but not with the sense of foreboding mysticism of her remarkable new feature, The Falling (2014). They are the winds of change, of a Britain embracing counter-culture as it rebels from its stuffy past in the late 1960s. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones) plays schoolgirl Lydia, whose fainting spells spark into an all-out outbreak of hysteria in a countryside girls' school still grieving the loss of a star pupil (breakout actress Florence Pugh). It marks a significant change from her previous film, Dreams of a Life (2011), the docudrama about Joyce Vincent, a Londoner whose body was left undisturbed by friends and family for three years.

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- CineVue UK

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DVD Review: 'The Falling'

25 August 2015 12:07 PM, PDT

★★★★☆ In a nameless girls' school, somewhere in wet, rural England, girls are falling - in both senses. The year is 1969, and it starts with the 16-year-old Abbie (Florence Pugh). Her dusky voice is beyond her years and she's the first of her friends to lose her virginity, tangled in the back of a car. This shrouds her with mystique, putting an unknowable distance between her and Lydia (Maisie Williams), her best friend. The rest of the girls are in awe of her worldliness. The French, as Abbie tells them, call the orgasm "a little death". Imitating her, celebrating her, deliberately or not, the other girls begin to faint. It starts with Lydia, but then it spreads - first to the other girls, then even a young teacher.

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- CineVue UK

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