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Film Review: 'Project Almanac'

9 hours ago

★★★☆☆ By transporting the narrative from a common day modern setting to a universe where anything is possible and new foundations for proper societal living are fundamentally obscured and changed, science fiction allows the audience to question their own ambiguous handling of impossible scenarios safely without ever having to worry about being in the same unfathomable predicament. Dean Israelite's Project Almanac (2014) scrapes the surface of contemplating how much is personal gain worth when the reaction of one decision is detrimentally consequential for the greater good, but loses its overall point more than once with unneeded extended party scenes.

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- CineVue UK

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Rotterdam 2015: 'Stinking Heaven' review

30 January 2015 7:07 AM, PST

★★★★☆ With his fifth feature, writer and director Nathan Silver again seeks to explore the dynamics of communal living just as he did in Exit Elena (2012) to Uncertain Terms (2014). In the latter film, pregnant teens take refuge in the home of Carla (Cindy Silver), who plays a maternal, educator role in their lives and aims to protect them from external anxiety. Stinking Heaven (2015), which received its world premiere at Iffr, focuses on the home of Jim (Keith Poulson) and his wife Lucy (Deragh Campbell) in 1990s suburban New Jersey, who have created a commune for sober living, welcoming any recovering addict to live with them peacefully.

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- CineVue UK

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Weekly Round-up: 'Inherent Vice', 'Big Hero 6'

30 January 2015 7:04 AM, PST

Welcome to our regular weekly round-up of the best DVD, Blu-ray and cinema releases over the past seven days in the UK. We'll also strive to keep you updated on upcoming festivals, events and the latest trailers from across the web. Come back each Friday to see what our talented team of writers are recommending and catch up on all the week's new releases. As an independent film site, our aim is to reach out to the largest audience possible, whilst also highlighting and championing some of the more diverse and less known new releases from the world of cinema. We can only do this with your help and support, so please feel free to add your comments and let us know what films and events you'd like to hear more about. For regular updates or to continue the conversation, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'Kingsman: The Secret Service'

30 January 2015 5:34 AM, PST

★★★☆☆ Matthew Vaughn's slick second collaboration with writer Mark Millar, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), brings together the kinetic energy and shock humour of Kick-Ass (2010) and the now well-worn tropes of the spy genre, making for a gleefully entertaining thrill ride, laden with taboo. At the centre of the story is a London yoof, named Eggsy (newcomer Taron Egerton), who is saved from his dead-end life on a crime-ridden estate when he meets dapper gent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) who offers him a place in the elite independent secret service, The Kingsman. As Hart, Firth breaks his run of duds, both sitting in his 'toff' comfort zone, and usurping it to become, quite surprisingly, an out-and-out action hero.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'Tales of the Grim Sleeper'

29 January 2015 12:00 AM, PST

★★★★☆ The opening moments of Nick Broomfield's Oscar long-listed documentary, Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014), call to mind the narrative inspiration for recent podcast, Serial. Pitching up in South Central L.A. in search of the story behind the eponymous serial killer, Broomfield is met with strident claims that the man awaiting trial has been wrongly accused. The stage seems set for an investigation into innocence, but instead morphs to become a gripping exposure of institutional culpability. Broomfield's expert focus widens from the killer, Lonnie Franklin Jr., to a compelling study of the sociological factors that allowed him to remain at large for so long.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'Trash'

28 January 2015 8:00 AM, PST

★★★★☆ Stephen Daldry's latest feature film, set among the garbage heaps of Rio de Janeiro, belongs to its youthful, non-professional cast. Trash (2014) opens with Jose Angelo (Wagner Moura) hurriedly packing. As he attempts to flee his apartment he is cornered by cops. Before his arrest, he throws a large wallet into a passing rubbish truck. The next day, fourteen-year-old Rafael (Rickson Tevez) finds the wallet while foraging in his local dump. He has no idea that it will change his destiny and that of his two friends, fellow rubbish-pickers Gardo (Luis Eduardo) and Rato (Gabriel Weinstein). Soon the police start sniffing around their favela, offering an award for the wallet's safe return.

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- CineVue UK

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Rotterdam 2015: 'Dreamcatcher' review

28 January 2015 6:24 AM, PST

★★★★☆ The lives of women in prostitution trying to survive in Chicago and young girls at risk of taking the same path, is revealed with compelling sensitivity in Kim Longinotto's latest documentary, Dreamcatcher (2015). The film follows co-founder and executive director Brenda Myers-Powell as she works and volunteers tirelessly for the Dreamcatcher Foundation to help the lives of women and girls whose lives so closely resemble her own past. Early on in the film, Brenda tells the story of a child who was raised by her grandmother, was abused from the age of four, and who, having observed the women standing in the street, just wanted to be as glamorous as they.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'I Am Yours'

28 January 2015 6:18 AM, PST

★★★☆☆ Expectations and desires are not coming together very easily in Iram Haq's feature-length debut film, I Am Yours (2013). It is Haq's second outing as director and writer but continues on themes she has already presented in her short film Little Miss Eyeflap (2009): tradition, desire and responsibility for one's actions. These are all presented through the very specific - and intriguing - lens as a woman of Pakistani descent living in Norway. With room to breathe, she deftly explores the tensions existing within the life of a woman who is of two worlds, torn by the desire to honor all people at all times and maintain a strong sense of identity.

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- CineVue UK

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Rotterdam 2015: 'Norfolk' review

28 January 2015 5:46 AM, PST

★★★☆☆ In director Martin Radich's Norfolk (2015) - the only British film with a world première in the Hivos Tiger Awards Competition at this year's Rotterdam festival - the rolling eastern countryside is presented as the site for a deadly serious vision of familial trauma and unmerciful violence that indicates a pessimistic future for its inhabitants. A boy lives with his mercenary father in a ramshackle farm house. His countryside wanderings are watched over by an elderly couple, whilst a girl he spends time with is mainly mute. Information comes via multiple television monitors, tuned to different channels simultaneously. Some nights the boy's father goes out very late and returns more brooding than usual.

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Film Review: 'Son of a Gun'

28 January 2015 4:47 AM, PST

★★☆☆☆ Julius Avery's debut feature Son of a Gun (2014) starts promisingly in a maximum security prison where young Jr (rising star Brenton Thwaites) has been sentenced to six months for some petty offence or another. The jail looks like a reformed and spruced-up version of John Hillcoat's Ghosts...of the Civil Dead (1988) but here it isn't the authorities or the prison itself that is the antagonist so much as a gang of rapist inmates. Having witnessed what happens to fresh meat in his new confines, Jr wisely seeks the protection of grizzled and famed con Brendan, played with angry determination and bearded fury by Ewan MacGregor.

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Film Review: 'Big Hero 6'

28 January 2015 1:09 AM, PST

★★★☆☆ Comic book adaptations are fast becoming a staple element in the diet of blockbuster cinemagoers and, despite already owning Marvel, Disney have now decided to get in on the action themselves. Their first foray into the superhero universe comes in the eminently cuddly form of the inflatable robot Baymax (Scott Adsit), whose Kuleshov care warms the heart of Big Hero 6 (2014). He's a roly-poly nanny, designed to soothe aches both physical and emotional in the futuristic synthesis of East and West that is the city of San Fransokyo. Envisioned as the ultimate carer, he provides a loveable axel around which the colourful animation and madcap fun can revolve.

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Film Review: 'Pelo Malo'

28 January 2015 1:02 AM, PST

★★★☆☆ Winner of multiple awards on the 2013 festival circuit including the Golden Seashell in San Sebastian, Mariana Rondón's Pelo Malo (2013) distorts your typical coming-of-ager about gender confusion into a well-observed Polaroid snapshot of contemporary anxieties in Venezuela, as well as the country's deep social fissures economic and political disquiet. Set within the overpopulated housing projects of Caracas, Pelo Malo observes a young boy, Junior (Samuel Lange Zambrano), whose constant obsession with straightening his curly black hair elicits a torrent of irrepressible panic from his mother (Samantha Castillo) - who fears he might be gay.

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Film Review: 'Au Revoir Les Enfants'

28 January 2015 1:01 AM, PST

★★★★★ William Faulkner once made the sage point that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." Louis Malle's Golden Lion winner Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) is a Second World War-set film very much guided in spirit by the Us novelist's musing on the febrile relationship between memory, time and individual and collective histories. For years the director only ever discussed a childhood experience with an older brother, who was also there to bear witness. As with Roman Polanski's The Pianist (2002) or even Spielberg's Schindler’s List (1994), filmmakers tackling the Holocaust have acknowledged that these delicate projects needed to be made at what felt like the appropriate moment.

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- CineVue UK

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Film Review: 'Inherent Vice'

27 January 2015 4:34 PM, PST

★★★★★ There Will be Blood (2007) gave us the birth of American capitalism, The Master (2012) doused us in the uncertainty of post-war malaise and now Inherent Vice (2014) takes us to the crossroads of the modern Californian ethos. This is Paul Thomas Anderson's American history trilogy - how the West was won, bought and sold. Gore Vidal called his own series of historical novels the Narratives of Empire; it would be an apt title for PTA's trilogy, which serves as a document of the 20th century incarnation of that pioneer spirit. Daniel Plainview, Freddie Quell and Doc Sportello may initially seem like a disparate group of characters, but that spirit connects them. Each is a pilgrim staking his place in the New World.

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- CineVue UK

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DVD Review: 'Wish I Was Here'

27 January 2015 3:06 PM, PST

★★★☆☆ Zach Braff's second feature, Wish I Was Here (2014), was famously - or perhaps infamously - financed partially through the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Braff's reasoning for this was to spare his project from the compromises that would come with a studio production. That Braff got to do exactly what he wanted is very evident in the resulting film. Aidan Bloom (Braff) is a struggling actor, supported by his loving wife Sarah (Kate Hudson), while his father, Gabe (Mandy Patinkin), pays for Aidan and Sarah's two children - daughter Grace (Joey King of White House Down (2013) and TV's Fargo) and son Tucker (Pierce Gagnon of Looper (2012)) to attend an expensive private Hebrew school.

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- CineVue UK

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DVD Review: 'What We Did on Our Holiday'

27 January 2015 8:37 AM, PST

★★★★☆ The debut feature from BBC veterans Andy Hamilton and Guy Jerkin, What We Did on Our Holiday is one of 2014's most big-hearted, surprising and thoroughly likable films. While in many ways essentially the big screen version of an acclaimed, subtly developed sitcom - In this case, Outnumbered - it skips around the traps that befell the likes of The Inbetweeners (2011) or The Simpsons Movie (2007). Those films most resembled out of control episodes of their parent television shows, where jokes were allowed to repeat, fester and wear thin on even thinner story arcs. This feature uses allows the themes of the show to crystallise; the writers pushing the boundaries of the classic British family film.

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Blu-ray Review: 'Shoah'

27 January 2015 4:16 AM, PST

★★★★★ Claude Lanzmann's monumental Holocaust documentary Shoah (1985) took 12 years to make. Compiling over 350 hours of footage, including interviews with individuals in 14 countries, the final cut - released anew on Blu-ray for Eureka's Masters of Cinema Collection - clocks in at over 9 hours. It's fascinating how the mind's immediate reaction to this seminal piece of filmmaking tends towards the numerical. Dehumanisation was a vital facet of the Final Solution, often through consideration of the 'Jewish problem' in mathematical terms. That intrinsic human coping mechanism, towards the empirical, adds just another layer of psychological and emotional complexity to this staggering work.

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Blu-ray Review: 'Thief'

27 January 2015 2:00 AM, PST

★★★★☆ Fuelled by a pulsing synth soundtrack by Tangerine Dream, and rife with colourful dialogue and Chicago locals, Michael Man's masterful thriller Thief (1981) convincingly pursues its eponymous antihero to the desperate limits of his talent. "Raised by the state," Frank (James Caan) is an uncompromising loner and professional thief who is making up for lost time, stealing back from society after a lifetime of cheated dreams. The opening sequence - a thing of taughtly paced, neon-illuminated, and rain-slicked beauty - reveals Frank drilling through the walls of a steel vault meant to shut out, as well as within; like the prison where he wasted over a decade of his youth for stealing 40 dollars.

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DVD Review: 'Stage Fright'

27 January 2015 12:56 AM, PST

★★★★☆ There's an eerily effective collision of genres happening in Stage Fright (2014). Horror, comedy and musical are all at play and, under the masterful hand of writer and director Jerome Sable, make for deliciously gory fun. While it hearkens back to the canon of 1980s "summer camp slasher" films , there's a refreshing tongue-in-cheek comedic tone here. Viewers can get the all-knowing wink as well as some guts on the side. Camilla Swanson (Allie MacDonald) is having a rough time: ten years ago, her mother, Broadway diva Kylie Swanson (Minnie Driver), was murdered. This unexpected death leaves Camilla and her brother Buddy (Douglas Smith) in the care of their mother's manager, Roger McCall (Meat Loaf).

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DVD Review: 'Jimi: All Is by My Side'

27 January 2015 12:39 AM, PST

★★★☆☆ Breaking the mould and making fresh material out of things that have been around for decades is, arguably, one of Jimi Hendrix's most enduring traits. Reshaping the jazz, blues and rock music of his peers, he spent much of the late 1960s burning up everything in his wake. Fueled by his electric riffs and eclectic approach to life, he stands as an instant cultural reference point and undeniable power player of the 60s. Director John Ridley - perhaps best known for penning the 12 Years a Slave (2013) screenplay - approaches his Hendrix biopic, Jimi: All Is by My Side (2013) in a similar manner and, in doing so, breathes new life into the currently bloated genre of biopics.

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