Movie Talk

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...

Ratchet & Clank | Film review - Breezy sci-fi spin-off from the PlayStation games

A bright-eyed bushy-tailed space feline and a titchy big-brained robot become evil-foiling allies in Ratchet & Clank, a breezy cartoon sci-fi adventure based on the popular PlayStation games.

Ratchet (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) is a sparky young mechanic with dreams of joining the Galactic Rangers, the team of heroes tasked with defending the Solana Galaxy, while Clank (David Kaye) is a defective robot who has slipped free from the production line of mechanical soldiers being assembled by megalomaniac villain Chairman Drek (Paul Giamatti) and mad scientist Dr Nefarious (Armin Shimerman).

The ensuing adventure lacks the storytelling smarts of...

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...