Movie Talk

Partisan | Film review - Vincent Cassel's cult leader rules the roost in enigmatic thriller

This enigmatically surreal thriller stars Vincent Cassel as a dangerously charismatic cult leader - a mix of Pied Piper, Fagin and Charles Manson - who rules over a commune of women and children, claiming he is protecting them from the evils of the outside world but training his young charges to become assassins.

Australian first-time director Ariel Kleiman offers few clues in Partisan to explain this bizarre situation, largely relating events through the eyes of 11-year-old Alexander (an outstanding debut by Jeremy Chabriel) as he comes to question this tyrannical father figure's authority.

The storytelling is possibly a little...

Captain America: Civil War | Film review - Extravagant action, chewy ideas and whip-smart quips

We’re a dozen films into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, even if your heart is sinking at the prospect of superhero movie following superhero movie until the crack of doom, it’s hard not to be impressed by the care, craft and sheer pizzazz with which Marvel Studios and its Disney backers are developing the series.

Canny picks of filmmakers has been a big boost, as sure-footed directing duo Anthony and Joe Russo prove with Captain America: Civil War. Picking up story threads from their last outing, 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo brothers deliver another round of...

Bad Words | Film review - Jason Bateman's spelling bee is made up of four-letter words

Slaughtering sacred cows with gleeful aplomb, Jason Bateman makes his feature film-directing debut with scathingly funny dark comedy Bad Words.

He takes the leading role, too, subverting his good-guy screen image to play a 40-year-old man who, for obscure reasons of his own, wriggles through a loophole in the rules and becomes a cutthroat contestant in a national spelling bee for children.

His foul-mouthed character, Guy Trilby, is thoroughly obnoxious, but we're compelled too keep watching, aghast at his antics but curious to learn his motivation.

Bateman handles the edgy material with confidence and gets excellent performances from co-stars...

Krampus | Film review - Dark version of Santa Claus lets rips in festive horror comedy

Conjuring up the tongue-in-cheek malevolence of Gremlins, family horror-comedy Krampus unleashes a cloven-hoofed monster and his evil minions upon a squabbling American family after a disgruntled 12-year-old boy rips up his letter to Santa on Christmas Eve.

Festive spirit is in short supply when the well-heeled Engel family’s redneck poor relations turn up mob-handed for the holiday, but things turn from bad to cursed after the aghast Max (Emjay Anthony), convinced Christmas is ruined, destroys his missive to Santa.

As Max’s wise Austrian grandmother (Krista Stadler) subsequently explains, his loss of faith in Christmas provokes the arrival of...

Jane Got a Gun | Film review - Natalie Portman's troubled Western finally reaches the screen

Western Jane Got a Gun finally reaches the screen following a turbulent production that saw the departure of original director Lynne Ramsay (We Need To Talk About Kevin) and successive male co-stars stars Michael Fassbender, Jude Law and Bradley Cooper, female lead Natalie Portman remaining steadfastly in place.

The vestiges of a lean, mean, feminist Western remain visible as Portman’s doughty frontierswoman, Jane Hammond, strives to preserve her wounded, bedridden husband (Noah Emmerich) from a remorseless outlaw gang but is forced to call on the help of the man who was once her fiancé, Joel Edgerton’s laconic Civil War...

Miles Ahead | Film review - Don Cheadle plays surreal riffs on the life of a jazz legend

“If you’re gonna tell a story, come with some attitude, man,” chides Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis at the outset of this offbeat biopic of the jazz legend.

A labour of love for Cheadle, director and co-writer as well as star, Miles Ahead has attitude to burn, but the riffs it plays on the trumpeter’s life prove as frustrating as they are fascinating.

The film’s conceit is that Ewan McGregor’s Rolling Stone journalist Dave Braden – an invented character - is trying to hustle an interview with the notoriously pugnacious musician in 1979. At that time, Davis has been living...

Bastille Day | Film review - Idris Elba goes gunning for the bad guys in Paris-set thriller

Bullets are sprayed around with abandon but it’s the plot that’s riddled with holes when Idris Elba’s maverick CIA agent teams up with an expat American pickpocket (Richard Madden, Game of Thrones’ Robb Stark) to save the day in this Paris-set action thriller.

Made by and starring Brits, Bastille Day is clearly a wannabe Bourne movie and, to be fair, director James Watkins (The Woman in Black, Eden Lake) does pull off a dizzyingly vertiginous rooftop chase early on as Madden’s shifty thief, Michael Mason, tries to evade Elba’s relentless Briar.

Mason has been put in the frame...

Who Saw Her Die? | Film review - Little-seen Italian giallo is bizarre, kinky and magnificently eerie


A film from the early 1970s set amidst the mist-shrouded canals of Venice, which features a dead child, two grieving, semi-estranged parents and a pervading atmosphere of unease – does this sound familiar? Surely I’m talking about Nicolas Roeg’s superb supernatural thriller Don’t Look Now, released in 1973?  Actually, these are also the distinctive elements of Aldo Lado’s little-known Italian chiller from the year before, Chi l’ha vista morire, known in English as Who Saw Her Die?

I don’t know whether or not Roeg had seen the earlier film, but the parallels between the two movies are uncanny....

Symptoms (1974) | The once lost British horror gets a world premiere restored BFI release on Blu-ray and DVD

A young woman (Lorna Heilbron) is invited to stay at the remote country mansion belonging to her girlfriend (Angela Pleasence). But the peaceful retreat is interrupted by the menacing presence of the local gamekeeper (Peter Vaughan)…

And so begins Symptoms, director José Ramón Larraz’s modern gothic horror story and the official British entry for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1974. Slipping into obscurity following its release, the film has long been considered lost, appearing on the BFI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list of 75 missing films. But with the negatives found and the film restored following a 2K remastering, Larraz’...

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971) | Roman Polanski's violent adaptation gets a timely restoration re-release

Roman Polanski's The Tragedy of Macbeth arrives on Blu-ray this week as part Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s launch of The Criterion Collection in the UK, which times perfectly with this month's 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death.

This 1971 interpretation of the Bard's 'Scottish play’, co-adapted by theatric critic Kenneth Tynan, is a bleak and unsettling one indeed, featuring graphic, gruesome violence. But the moody photography, the evocative improvised score, the striking use of the stark English and Welsh landscapes and castles, and Polanski's surreal imagery go a long way in capturing the essence of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.