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Film Review: 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence'

17 hours ago

★★★★☆ Widely-acclaimed Swedish director Roy Andersson's latest offering, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014), aims to demythologise the commercial image of reality, shutting the door on the stock-photo swaths of smiling happy faces of advertising and instead focus on the world's ignored. Observing humanity's endless capacity for error, cruelty and self-humiliation, Pigeon presents the audience with thirty-nine tragic sketches that pontificate on varying themes of solitude, regret, boredom, and death in a fittingly mordant finale to to the Swedish auteur's trilogy about 'being human' which began in 2000 with Songs from the Second Floor and continued with You, the Living (2007).

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Film Review: 'Stonehearst Asylum'

24 April 2015 9:01 AM, PDT

★★☆☆☆ "Believe nothing you hear and one half of what you see", is a line lifted from Edgar Alan Poe's The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether that is uttered by a plummy-toned Brendan Gleeson at the opening of Brad Anderson's entertaining Grand Guignol genre-piece Stonehearst Asylum (2014) (previously Eliza Graves). Based on Poe's book, the story opens at the beginning of the last century, where a naive young doctor, Edward Newgate (Jim Sturgess), embarks on his first position at a remote asylum in the wilderness of North Yorkshire. Upon his arrival, he is greeted by the institutes head shrink, the archly named Silas Lamb (Ben Kinsley).

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Kinoteka 2015: 'The Saragossa Manuscript' review

24 April 2015 6:45 AM, PDT

★★★★☆ There's a conversation in Wojciech Jerzy Has' hallucinatory picaresque epic, The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), in which a character utters the following words, "if I don't understand but I can write it down, I approach poetry." This could well be the filmmaker imparting wisdom through the mouth of his character, or perhaps comfort to the critic who will go slowly insane attempting to convey the plot. Insanity may or may not play a major part in proceedings depending on your point of view, but either way Has' Matryoshka narrative envelopes you even as it confounds. It begins with a pair of soldiers happening upon a dusty tome in an abandoned building in Saragossa during the Napoleonic War.

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Cannes 2015: Audiard, Haynes & Director's Fortnight

24 April 2015 3:22 AM, PDT

The eagerly awaited Official Selection for this year's 68th Cannes Film Festival (13-24 May) was announced in Paris this morning. As previously revealed, celebrated sibling filmmakers and Cannes regulars Joel and Ethan Cohen will preside over the jury this time around. Emmanuelle Bercot will become the first female director to open the festival in 28 years with her comedy-drama La Tête Haute (Head Held High), starring Catherine Deneuve and Rod Paradot. Meanwhile, highlights of this year's Palme d'Or race include new films from Jacques Audiard, Matteo Garrone, Todd Haynes, Jia Zhangke, Paolo Sorrentino, Gus Van Sant and Denis Villeneuve. Directors whose latest films appear to have missed out this year include Terence Davies, Michael Haneke and Ben Wheatley.

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- CineVue UK

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Interview: Carol Morley on new film 'The Falling'

24 April 2015 1:50 AM, 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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Kinoteka 2015: 'The Hourglass Sanatorium' review

22 April 2015 2:12 PM, PDT

★★★★★ Wojciech Jerzy Has took great relish in toying with narrative convention in the nestled labyrinthine pages of The Saragossa Manuscript (1965). He dispenses with it entirely in The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973), an oneiric odyssey through the cob-webbed recesses of memory and into the great beyond. Jan Nowicki plays Josef, who is first introduced on a decrepit old train where his Charon-like conductor encourages him to alight and make his way through a cemetery to the titular institution in which his pa resides. Once he gets there, recollections of his childhood and his father are grotesquely contorted into disconcerting fantasy with surreal majesty.

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Blu-ray Review: 'The Offence'

22 April 2015 11:55 AM, PDT

★★★★☆ When Sean Connery agreed to return to play James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971), as a sweetener United Artists offered to finance two pictures of Connery's choosing. One of those pictures was Sidney Lumet's The Offence (1972), a gritty police drama about a detective sergeant (Connery) who beats to death a suspected child molester. A million miles from the globe-trotting super spy, The Offence takes place in an unlovely England, rain swept place as seen a year earlier in Mike Hodges' Get Carter (1971). The climate is reflected in the hard-bitten faces of everyone standing around smoking in the office, with women at home and pints coming in bevelled glasses.

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Film Review: 'Exit'

22 April 2015 11:52 AM, PDT

★★★★☆ Celebrated Taiwanese cinematographer Chienn Hsiang's debut feature Exit (2014) is a tactile and strikingly vivid expression of isolation which alludes to wider national anxieties. Bristling with sexual repression Exit's familiar tale of generational disparity and middle-aged melancholy is elevated thanks to the poignant performance of Tsai Ming-Liang regular Chen Shiang-Chyi. With a precocious teenage daughter devouring her youth and a hospitalised mother-in-law ushering her into old age, 45-year-old Ling (Chen) finds herself trapped in a hopeless situation. Having recently lost her job as a seamstress at a nearby textile factory Ling struggles to get by on a meagre stipend from her husband.

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Film Review: 'The Good Lie'

22 April 2015 6:00 AM, PDT

★★★☆☆ It's not often that an actor who is arguably the fourth lead in a film gets top billing, an unfortunate but necessary marketing tactic for The Good Lie (2014), which uses Reese Witherspoon's face prominently in all advertising despite not being the star. The English language debut of director Philippe Falardeau - Monsieur Lazhar (2011) - tells the story of four Sudanese refugees (known as the 'Lost Boys of Sudan'), forced to walk hundreds of miles to escape war in their country and find a new life in America. Foreign conflict, particularly in Africa, has always been met with patchy portrayals by Hollywood studios. All too often underdeveloped African characters simply wait for a Hollywood actor to come in and save the day.

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Film Review: 'The Emperor's New Clothes'

22 April 2015 4:57 AM, PDT

★★★☆☆ It seems only fitting that England's prized louche comic-turned-activist, Russell Brand, should find his latest on screen venture in Michael Winterbottom's documentary The Emperor's New Clothes (2015). Brand assumes the lead, taking aim at the bankers and corporations that form the world's top 1% of the wealth pyramid, looking to expose the problems in their practices and the more severe issues of income inequality that stem from those practices. Brand is able to bring his signature levity to an otherwise grim topic. He shines in his connections to the public, never shying away from the opportunity to charmingly mouth off to passers-by, security guards - anyone really.

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Film Review: 'The Falling'

22 April 2015 4:00 AM, PDT

★★★☆☆ In August 2011, 14 students from Le Roy High School in upstate New York inexplicable began exhibiting perplexing medical symptoms including, but not limit to, verbal outbursts and seizures. Doctors were baffled, describing the incident as an outbreak of mass hysteria or a 'phenomenon of collective suggestion'. This incident, and others like it form the basis of Carol Morley's The Falling (2014) a mysterious drama set in an all-girl school in the 1960s where a single case of spontaneous fainting quickly becomes an epidemic. The mysteries at the heart of Morley's lurid exploration of female adolescence aren't medical, however.

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Blu-ray Review: 'Midnight Run'

21 April 2015 2:29 PM, PDT

★★★★★ From an era where the buddy movie became a ubiquitous fixture comes the one film which firmly stood out from the rest. The first film to showcase a looser, comedic turn from Robert De Niro (and considerably more grounded than his Meet The Parents shtick), Marin Brest's Midnight Run (1988) provided the best use of profanity as poetry until Malcolm Tucker turned up on the big screen decades later. Celebrating its 27th anniversary this year (the film was released at a time when co-star Charles Grodin was still considered hot box office property) this digital spruce-up offers a welcome return for a film which has lost none of its potty-mouthed charm.

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Film Review: 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'

21 April 2015 2:15 PM, PDT

★★★★☆ There was a shot in Joss Whedon's box office behemoth Avengers Assemble (2012) which set fan's tongues a-wagging when it popped up in a trailer. The camera panned around the team of superheroes as they regrouped against an overwhelming alien hoard. If sequels are supposed to be bigger and better, then its lucky that the equivalent shot in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) is not just superior, not just more impressive, but arguably the most spine-tingling visual interpretation of the comic book form ever committed to celluloid. Earth's Mightiest Heroes are back and it's with a right-hook that floors the competition. Chris Evans' Captain America would be oh-so proud.

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DVD Review: 'The Square Circle'

21 April 2015 6:38 AM, PDT

★★★★☆ There's much treasure to behold in Amol Palekar's The Square Circle (1996), an Indian film that has aged incredibly well. Its a searing indictment against masculine hegemony as well as a beautifully told portrait of female friendship amidst a search for establishment of identity. It's an empowering road movie of the highest order, where the women here speak plainly and openly about the woes and wonders of womanhood. As they come to understand each other and help each other grow, they work together against the staunch regulations of image and gender that Indian society seems eager to cast them into. It's a powerful piece of cinema that arguably feels more relevant than ever before.

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Film Review: 'Town That Dreaded Sundown'

21 April 2015 3:55 AM, PDT

★★☆☆☆ The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) is a bizarre remake/sequel hybrid of the 1976 film of the same name. That film, directed by Charles B. Pierce, recounted the real life murders attributed to a serial killer called 'The Phantom' who haunted the streets of Texarkana, located on the border of Texas and Arkansas and who was never caught. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's debut feature opens with a documentary précis of the situation thus far, setting the scene for the annual Halloween showing of the 1976 version of The Town that Dread Sundown. A de Palma-like tracking shot roams the audience of the drive in, as the local reverend passes out leaflets, the kids neck and nerds dress in costume.

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Blu-ray Review: 'Coffy'

21 April 2015 2:12 AM, PDT

★★★☆☆ As composer Roy Ayers' silky lounge-jazz score comes in during the credits and that era-specific funky typeface fills the screen, you're more than aware of what's in store for you with 1973's Coffy. This is a blaxploitation offering with all the wonderful chintzy seventies trappings, lashing of scuzzy violence (including one particularly horrific comeuppance) and a villain sporting the greatest pimp get-up ever to grace the screen. Coffy's avenging angel/vigilante storyline was rehashed by director Jack Hill the following year for Foxy Brown, and everything here is pretty much touched upon in that subsequent film, be it the racial and social politics or that uneasy mix of female empowerment and objectification.

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Film Review: 'The Invisible Life'

20 April 2015 9:01 AM, PDT

★★★☆☆ "It was a low, late afternoon light ... that only spoke of distant things." And so it is that a film seems to perfectly encapsulate itself in the delivery of a single line of dialogue. Those words are spoken by the protagonist of Vítor Gonçalves' The Invisible Life (2013) in a typical moment of reflective voiceover as he traverses a dimly lit hallway. This is a film that clearly has ambition to expound poetically about existential malaise and deep-seated loneliness; but it's all fustian, amounting to little more than its muted brown hues, some strikingly elegant compositions and vague discussions of things too remote for them to ever drift into clear focus. Drifting is the apposite word.

This is not a film that is driven by any narrative or thematic concerns, but which instead moves at a gloomy glissade. The Invisible Life is Portuguese director Gonçalves' first work in over 25 years »

- CineVue UK

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Blu-ray Review: 'Carl Theodor Dreyer Collection'

20 April 2015 5:09 AM, PDT

★★★★☆ Carl Theodor Dreyer may be the titan of Danish of cinema but for a whole host of international cineastes, knowledge of his films doesn't stretch far beyond the likes of The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), Vampyr (1932) and Ordet (1955). Indeed, in an essay that accompanies the British Film Institute's fantastic new Blu-ray box set, the Carl Theodor Dreyer Collection, Casper Tybjerg suggests that many people are more familiar with the great director's name than much of his work. That can be remedied, of course. The BFI's new high definition-only release includes four features, half a dozen shorts and a wealth of additional material to fill in any gaps.

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DVD Review: 'Dumb and Dumber To'

20 April 2015 1:43 AM, PDT

★★☆☆☆ Twenty years after the release of Dumb and Dumber (1994) Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) return with another dose of malodorous humour in Dumb and Dumber To (2014). Lloyd has been in a fallow state for two decades 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.

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DVD Review: 'Big Eyes'

20 April 2015 1:27 AM, PDT

★★☆☆☆ Released today on DVD, Tim Burton's Big Eyes (2014) stars Amy Adams as Margaret Keane (née Ulbrich), a woman we first encounter on the brink of divorce. It's the late 1950s and, with her daughter in tow, Margaret forsakes the colour-coded conformity of suburbia for a new life in the big city, painting furniture during the week and selling her own art at weekends. It's at an art fair that she first meets Brian Keane, played by Christoph Waltz, a charming charismatic salesman full of the giddy enthusiasm of art, the happy amateur brimming over with his time on the Left Bank in Paris and vaguely ashamed of his day job as a successful realtor.

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- CineVue UK

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