Movie Talk

Florence Foster Jenkins | Film review - Hilarious! Yet much more than a figure of fun

Wealthy New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins has gone down in history as the worst opera singer ever. Whenever she set sail on the high Cs, music lovers would be left feeling queasy while everyone else would be struggling to stifle hoots of laughter. Yet in Stephen Frears' tender, generously warm-hearted biopic starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant she proves to be far more than a figure of fun.

Indeed, while the film finds hilarity in Florence’s awfulness as a singer it also finds something admirable about her pursuit of her musical dreams in 1940s Manhattan - even if...

Ricki and the Flash | Film review - Meryl's bar-band singer is a blast

Bedecked in black leather jacket, ratty braids and bad tattoos, Meryl Streep is a blast in Ricki and the Flash, an engaging comedy-drama about a bar-band singer who gets drawn back into the lives of the family she abandoned to pursue her musical dreams.

Those dreams didn’t exactly work out for Streep’s ageing rock chick Ricki Rendazzo. She now works on the checkout of an upmarket California food-store and plays in a local bar with her band The Flash, alongside lead guitarist and long-suffering boyfriend Greg (Rick Springfield).

Then her starchy ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) calls her back...

The Black Cat (1941) | DVD release - The classic comedy whodunit

The family of wealthy, elderly Henrietta Winslow (Cecilia Loftus) gathers for an advance reading of her will. Believing Henrietta is near death, her nephew, Montague (Basil Rathbone), has brought along realtor Gil Smith (Broderick Crawford). Dismayed that the family anticipates her demise, Henrietta reads her will and stuns everyone by adding that no one can inherit until the estate guardian, Abigail (Gale Sondergaard), dies. When Henrietta is murdered, Abigail fears her own life is in danger…

This 1941 comedy horror whodunit is great fun, boasting a rare gathering of ghoulish character stars, including Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone....

1900 (Novecento) | Blu-ray release – Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu shine in Bernardo Bertolucci's socialist epic

After the international firestorm of Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci went on to create one of the grandest and most legendary epics in modern cinema. A stunning five-hour saga following the intertwined fates of two childhood friends born on the same day in 1901 at opposite ends of the social scale through five decades of class struggle.

Described by Pauline Kael as making most other films “look like something you hold up on the end of a toothpick”, Novecento finds Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu headlining an extraordinary cast, including Burt Lancaster, Alida Valli, Sterling Hayden, Stefania Sandrelli...

A War | Film review - Oscar-nominated Danish drama explores moral and physical perils of combat

Deservedly nominated for an Oscar, gripping Danish drama A War (Krigen) puts us in the combat boots of war-weary company commander Claus (Pilou Asbæk) as he is forced to make a life or death decision while under fire from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Director Tobias Lindholm (A Hijacking) uses hand-held cameras to ramp up the tension, but the film proves equally riveting away from the heat of battle back home in Denmark, where Claus’s embattled wife (Tuva Novotny) is struggling to raise their three young children on her own. There is no Hollywood heroism or sentimentality here, and the ethically...

The Timber | Film review - Bounty hunters Josh Peck & James Ransone go gunning for their dad

Set against the snowbound backdrop of the 1898 Yukon gold rush, dour Western The Timber finds two hardscrabble brothers (Josh Peck, James Ransone) becoming bounty hunters in a bid to save their homestead from foreclosure. Their quarry is their own outlaw father (William Gaunt), which raises the stakes for them but not, sadly, for the viewer. Indeed, despite the odd burst of bloodshed and the harsh beauty of the landscape (Romania’s Carpathian Mountains standing in for the Yukon), the brothers’ desperate quest proves something of a plod.

Certificate 15. Runtime 81 mins. Director Anthony O'Brien

The Timber is...

Man With A Movie Camera (1929) | The greatest documentary ever! Now restored

Voted one of the 10 best films ever made in the Sight & Sound 2012 poll, and the best documentary ever in a subsequent poll in 2014, Man With A Movie Camera (Chelovek s kinoapparatom) stands as one of cinema’s most essential documents – a dazzling exploration of the possibilities of image-making as related to the everyday world around us. The culmination of a decade of experiments to render 'the chaos of visual phenomena filling the universe', Soviet director Dziga Vertov’s masterwork uses a staggering array of cinematic devices to capture the city at work and at play, as...

Demolition | Film review - Jake Gyllenhaal's bereaved banker takes a hammer to grief

Sideswiped by the loss of his wife, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Wall Street banker takes a sledgehammer to his life in Demolition, smashing up pricey objects with methodical fury as a way of coping with his grief.

Director Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) and screenwriter Bryan Sipe are similarly heavy handed, bashing us over the head with symbol and metaphor long after we’ve grasped the point they’re trying to make. We get it. Protagonist Davis Mitchell has to take apart his life of empty privilege before he can put himself together.

Gyllenhaal, though, does a very impressive job as the bereaved...

Vault of Horror | Blu-ray release - Horror and humour combine in this starry British anthology

Having already mined EC Comics for 1972’s Tales from the Crypt, UK's Amicus Film Productions drew on five more tales for the following year’s Vault of Horror, Amicus’ latest horror anthology. Asylum director Roy Ward Baker was called in after original choice Freddie Francis declined to oversee a mixed bag of horror and humour, which upped the horror quota, and boasted a starry line-up that included cameos from Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies, who were best known at the time as doctors Duncan Waring and Dick Stuart-Clark in LWT's popular Doctor in the House sitcom series.

The wraparound...

Golden Years | Film review - West Country pensioners turn bank-robbing Bonnie & Clyde

Shopping trolley in tow, West Country pensioners Bernard Hill and Virginia McKenna seek payback for the loss of their life savings by turning bank-robbing Bonnie and Clyde in this sedate crime comedy co-written by director John Miller and DIY SOS presenter Nick Knowles.

That the duo’s robbery spree is such a gentle affair is the source of many of the movie’s gags – their getaway car is a Volvo with a caravan on the back and their bank targets chosen by their proximity to National Trust properties – but the geriatric pace means that the laughs are on the...