Wednesday, December 31, 2014


ASK ME ANYTHING is a coming of age drama starring Britt Robertson (TOMORROWLAND) as Katie, an 18 year old girl who takes a year out after school, works as a nanny and starts a ruthlessly honest anonymous blog about her life.  At first she seems like your average mixed-up teen, smoking and drinking too much and making bad decisions about her sex life. But as we progress we realise that Katie has real emotional issues to do with her childhood and her family. These play out in her relationships with five men:  her alcoholic father (Robert Patrick); an old bookshop owner she worked for until her stepdad found out he was a sex offender (Martin Sheen); the married man she nannies for (Christian Slater), her older guys she's sleeping with (Justin Long), the college boyfriend she's also sleeping with, oh and yes, a sixth - the clinically depressed  friend she serially lets down.  To say that her relationships with men are highly sexualised is an understatement but what's interesting about writer-director Allison Burnett's film is that while other people try to put labels onto her - she's a whore, or in need of therapy - the film portrays a more nuanced picture.  I really liked Britt Robertson and found that even though her character often does unlikeable things, we are always sympathetic toward her - and that's a hard trick to pull off. Burnett also manages to make a film about a girl who is highly sexualised and vulnerable without making the film feel exploitative or voyeuristic. And unlike many films, the final twist doesn't feel cheap and unearned, but necessary and intelligent and genuinely thought-provoking. I can't wait to read the book, Undiscovered Gyrl, upon which this was based. 

ASK ME ANYTHING has a running time of 100 minutes and is a straight to video release.


BIRDMAN is a laugh-out loud satire on the insecurity of the actors and bitter negativity of critics that also plays as a tragic tale of mental illness.  It's also a technical tour-de-force of cinematography that's meant to take you right inside the claustrophobic mania of its lead character - a device that both impressed and alienated me and made the experience of this film less visceral than it should be.  It's a great film and a failed film all at once - ambitious both in its subject matter and style - way beyond anything Hollywood is currently giving us.  Noble in its pitch and flawed in its final act. 

Michael Keaton riffs on his own past to play Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood star who used to play a superhero called Birdman.  Today, he's old, divorced, with a daughter just out of rehab and a legacy he's unsure of.  Still beloved by the public, Riggan wants more - he wants artistic credibility.  He wants to literally be the star who makes the front page when he goes down in a plane crash with George Clooney.  The fine line the movie walks is whether Riggan is just another insecure Hollywood star or whether he's genuinely unwell - is he really seeing Birdman and the musicians who form the backing track to this film?  Does he really think he has superpowers?  The evidence in favour of the first theory is that everyone else in the theatre is as insecure as he is, from the ageing starlet played by Naomi Watts to the self-parodying method actor played by Ed Norton. In fact, it's arguably Ed Norton who cuts closest to the bone in his portrayal of the gifted actor who can't be real in real life, and self-sabotages every project he's in.  You have to wonder at the psychology behind Norton - the real Norton - who is so willing to portray himself as a vulnerable douchebag on film. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Listen to a ten-minute podcast review of the film here:

EXODUS: GOD AND KINGS isn't a good or a bad film but rather a collection of films that may or may not hang together as a sweeping biblical epic of the Charlton Heston kind.  It's long, uneven in pace, and takes too few chances to be really memorable. 

In its first act the movie feels like GLADIATOR.  The dying king is transposed from a Roman emperor to a Pharaoh played with surprising majesty by John Turturro. His jealous, power-hungry and paranoid son is transposed from Joaquin Phoenix to a shaven-headed and bejewelled Joel Edgerton.  And the rival for power who will lead a down-trodden people to freedom is transposed from Russell Crowe to Christian Bale.   This section is the most satisfying of the film - literally awesome in its lavish costumes, Egyptian cityscapes, jewels and vistas.  It feels like an old-fashioned big-budget epic of imperial power-politics, pitting two alpha males against each other.  Ben Mendelsohn is superb as the effete toady who reveals Moses' Jewish origin to both Moses and Ramses and I love the genuine conflict as Moses struggles to come to terms with his true identity. The only sadness was seeing Sigourney Weaver as Ramses mother use an anachronistic broad American accent and then become sidelined for the rest of the film.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pantheon Movie of The Month - LA REINE MARGOT - Podcast edition

Bina007 is joined by Beric175 for a DVD commentary of the classic 1994 Patrice Chereau film La Reine Margot, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas.   Starring Isabelle Adjani, Virna Lisi and Daniel Auteuil, the film is a beautifully filmed exploration of the power politics that led to the St Bartholomew's Day massacre in sixteenth century France.

Bina and Beric discuss the 2hr 17 minute version of the film and make reference to George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.  Naturally, the commentary contains spoilers for both the film and the novels.

[MP3] Download or play this episode directly
[Archive] View this episode’s page on
[IMDb] La Reine Margot at IMDb
[Ebert] The Roger Ebert review
[Beric] More podcasts from Beric
[iTunes] Subscribe to Bina007 on iTunes

Sunday, December 21, 2014


THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES picks up in media res, with the wicked dragon Smaug laying waste to the good fisherfolk of Laketown, having been usurped of his treasure by the dwarf-king Thorin Oakenshield and his fellowship of adventurers.   In the pre-credit sequence our erstwhile hero, Bard, famously shoots the dragon in his one vulnerable spot: a spectacular CGI battle of epic scope that we have come to almost take for granted in Peter Jackson's interpretations of Tolkien's oeuvre.  But as we enter the main body of this two hour movie, we realise that Smaug casts a long shadow, and that his "dragon sickness" has corrupted King Thorin, who sits brooding jealously over his treasure, in paranoid search for the Arkenstone.  This corruption belittles Thorin, who looks on indifferent as a great battle wages outside the walls of The Lonely Mountain.  The Laketown men, led by Bard have come for their share in the treasure, as has an Elven army led by Thranduil.  They face Thorin's kinsman, led by Dain, and all in turn must put aside their petty rivalries and unite against the armies of Orcs (goblins in the books) until a fifth army makes a late in the day appearance.  The story of the movie is thus the blow by blow story of this battle, but really it's the story of Thorin throwing off the corruption of the treasure and becoming a king worthy of the name. And in the background, as Peter Jackson broadens his scope from The Hobbit, we see the more important battle, as Galadriel banishes proto-Sauron into Mordor, and an already tricksy Saruman prevents Elrond from warning the men of Gondor or going immediately to vanquish him there.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

ANNIE (2014)

I love big Hollywood musicals - everything from the deeply sinister OKLAHOMA! to the modern glitz of CHICAGO via the genius that is CABARET.   I have a fundamental respect for hoofers - old fashioned song and dance entertainers right back to Vaudeville.  Nothing pleases me more than seeing a musical theatre artist in their prime - not least Ann Reinking in pretty much everything she did, and Liza Minelli in Cabaret.  So despite my reverence for the original 1982 John Huston ANNIE - I was really looking forward to this remake. I didn't quite see the point of it, but I figured the original Strouse-Charmin-Meehan musical could take the reinterpretation. All the best texts can.

I guess I realised something was off with this new movie with the opening number - now, as then, "Maybe" - a song that should be poignant and emotional.  Instead it was delivered by a bunch of apparently well-fed and well-dressed kids doing this kind of finger-snap dance ripping off the "Cups" song from PITCH PERFECT.  Worst of all, I'm not sure if I'm right, but it felt like the lead actress Quvenzhané Wallis didn't have a strong voice and/or was being heavily auto-tuned.  Worse still, her lip-synching was off.  Things got worse with Cameron Diaz' outsized but somehow messy performance as the modern-day Miss Hannigan - now a drunken foster mom - and the STOMP rip-off choreography for "Hard Knock Life."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Overlooked DVD of the month - HEIDI FLEISS: HOLLYWOOD MADAM

I thought I'd pretty much seen every Nic Broomfield documentary - this despite the fact that I'm not a fan of his style of putting himself in front of the camera lens - until I saw this old TV movie on my  streaming service.  Being obsessed with all things seedy and sordid and Hollywood confidential I couldn't resist.  

The movie was shot in the mid-1990s at the height of the Heidi Fleiss scandal.  She was a young attractive woman who'd apparently been making millions running a string of high end prostitutes in Hollywood.  She herself would get involved, charging $40,000 a night for fantasy scenarios where she'd talk dirty.  And she has a certain professional pride. When quizzed by Broomfield about whether the service was really worth it, she says "it takes some skill to keep that up for a few hours."

The first half of the film is a kind of investigative journalism hunt for Heidi, complete with hidden cameras to prove that "off-screen" negotiations for an interview are actually happening. The money shot is the final half hour of an apparently very candid, sympathetic and charming interview. Heidi comes across as smart witty and remarkably self-aware. She thinks the business she's in is horrible and full of sleazy people but she has not qualms about the true needs of people and servicing them.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Two years ago, the rejuvenated Hammer studio put out what became the most commercially successful British horror movie in history: THE WOMAN IN BLACK. It starred Daniel Radcliffe as a Victorian lawyer, terrified by a vengeful ghost in a haunted house. My review at the time suggested I was none too impressed by the film  although I seem to remember it more fondly. At any rate, I was sufficiently interested to watch the sequel, ANGEL OF DEATH.  Wisely, the studio has gone with a new production team taken mostly from the British TV show Peaky Blinders, including director Tom Harper and cinematographer George Steel. They have created a genuinely scary movie, with a sinister, menacing style, psychological depth, and a satisfying emotional core. It feels like this is exactly where the WOMAN IN BLACK franchise needs to be, and I hope the studio sticks with this set-up for the inevitable threequel.

This movie is set during the Blitz with two schoolteachers taking their class of evacuated schoolchildren to the now deserted Eel Marsh House on a barren island cut off from the mainland by a perilous causeway. Helen McCrory's headmistress represents the British stiff upper lip: determined not to admit that something is horribly wrong in the dilapidated house but her young colleague Eve (Pheobe Fox) is immediately on edge.  It's her relationship with the haunted child Edward (the deliciously named Oaklee Pendergast) that anchors the film, as well as her incipient romance with pilot Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine).  As the horror builds and the death toll mounts, the film - as all the best horror - begins to deal with very complex psychological issues around motherhood, grief, trauma and guilt, culminating in a really satisfying ending. Not only do we feel thoroughly scared but also that we've got to know fully rounded characters rather than stock horror tropes. This is also one of the most beautifully shot, dreamily misty haunted house horror movies since THE OTHERS. Overall, a beautiful, petrifying and deeply moving film and a massive improvement on the original.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH has a running time of 98 minutes and is rated PG-13 in the UK. It will be release in the UK, Ireland and USA on January 2nd 2015, in France on January 14th, in Greece and Singapore on January 15th, in Spain on January 16th, in the Czech Republic, Malaysia and the Netherlands on February 12th, in Argentina and Germany on February 19th and in Brazil on March 12th.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU is a brutally unfunny and deadly dull dramedy from director Shawn Levy (DATE NIGHT) and writer-novelist Jonathan Tropper (BANSHEE). The high concept is that four adult siblings are forced by their mother to sit shiva for their recently deceased father, and that in the course of those seven days of mourning they will explore their relationships.

The movie stars and is told from the perspective of Jason Bateman's character Judd. His secret is that his wife has left him and over the course of the week he's going to have a kind of mid-life crisis and resolution with the help of the conveniently available and understanding hometown girl (Rose Byrne.)  Next up is his sister Wendy (Tina Fey) trapped in an unhappy marriage. Then comes Judd's brother Paul (Corey Stoll - HOUSE OF CARDS) who's wife is struggling to get pregnant, raising tensions with Judd who is her ex.  Finally we have youngest brother Phillip (Adam Driver - GIRLS) who's widely regarded by the rest of the family as feckless and irresponsible but who actually turns out to be the most grounded and self-aware, even in his relationship with a much older women (Connie Britton - NASHVILLE).  

This is that kind of gentle middle-class dramedy in which all problems involve marriage and can be fixed with a simple bonding session over a mildly subversive drug and tied together with a politically correct bow at the end.  There's no deep emotional truth here, only an attempt at pretending to be interested in it.  The acting is fine, the lens-work workmanlike, and the characters utterly unmemorable. I imagine this film might appeal to the kind of people who enjoyed EAT, PRAY, LOVE.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated R. The movie played Toronto 2014 and was released earlier this year in the USA, UAE, Slovenia, Chile, Singapore, Bahamas, Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Switzerland, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Austria, Panama, Paraguay, Spain, Finland and South Africa. It opened this weekend in the UK, Ireland, Latvia, Turkey, Australia, Croatia, Israel and New Zealand. It opens in November in India, Czech Republic, Portugal, Brazil and Italy; in December in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Cyprus, Poland, Romania, Argentina, Uruguay, Bulgaria, Philippines, Peru and Serbia; in January 2015 in Denmark, Norway and Belgium.


The HORRIBLE BOSSES sequel reunites our three downtrodden men (Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Batemen) in their mission to go into business for themselves producing a MacGuffin-like shower attachment.  Early  on they get screwed over by unscrupulous billionaire played by a hilarious but typecast Christoph Waltz (DJANGO UNCHAINED) and decide to reap their revenge by taking his son (Chris Pine - STAR TREK) hostage.  The son decides to go in on the plot in a twist reminiscent of the brilliant 1980s comedy RUTHLESS PEOPLE.  From there it gets iteratively more complicated as we get backstabbing and double crossing also involving Jamie Foxx's Jones and Jennifer Aniston's sex addict dentist. 

I didn't like the original movie and I like this even less. The plot is overly complicated and derivative.  The humour is cheap and I didn't laugh out loud once.  It just felt like the whole thing was a convoluted exercise in allowing Oscar winning actors the opportunity to do cameos beyond their comfort zone.  It's also a dumb concept. Whatever success the original movie had was in seeing three ordinary guys deal with a relatable if exaggerated real life situation - having a horrible boss. By turning these schmo's into master criminals you put them in an un-relatable and absurd situation. You take away the franchise's USP.

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 has a running time of 108 minutes and is rated R.  The movie is on global release.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


The late Philip Seymour Hoffman as show producer Plutarch Heavensbee
and Julianne Moore as rebel President Coin.

MOCKINGJAY is a dirge of a film. Two hours of hackneyed dialogue, J-Law stumbling around debris with PTSD interspersed with the occasional attempt at a rousing speech for rebellion.  The movie has no pace, no flow, no excitement, largely because it's basically pre-amble to the final showdown between the oppressed masses and the ruthless President of this dystopian future dictatorship.  I'm not sure how the young fans of Suzanne Collins' wildly successful books will react to the style and content of this film but I found the shift in tone from the gladiatorial action of the first two films to the attempt at earnest commentary on war jarring.  Which isn't to say it isn't an honourable attempt at engaging with contemporary politics, but my god it isn't entertaining either.  

As the movie opens, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been rescued from the Hunger Games and wakes up traumatised in District 13 - an austere military bunker run by the sinister President Coin  (a typically steely Julianne Moore).  Coin decides to pimp Katniss out in much the same way as her nemesis President Snow (a 2-D villain played with mustache-twirling glee by Donald Sutherland) did.  Instead of schmaltzy TV interviews for the state, Katniss now does supposedly impromptu Churchillian speeches urging the rebels to rise up - all of which have been expertly stage managed by Coin and her on-the-ground director Cressida (Natalie Dormer).  The movie cruises toward the inevitable showdown contrasting the "propos" with the terrorist/freedom fighter acts in various districts. And all the time, in the background, there's Katniss' demand that Peeta be rescued, culminating in an extraction that is clearly inspired by the Navy SEALS raid on Abbotabad.  All of this is fine, except that it gets undercut by the hokey dialogue and plot turns.  Of COURSE, when Katniss rescues her sister's cat we just now there's going to be some perilous plot moment when rescuing the cat places Katniss in jeopardy.  And the scenes near the end when President Coin commands her troops against a state bombing campaign reeks on the final scenes in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.

Overall, I'm not sure whether they really needed to cut the final book into two films. This first part could easily have been much shorter - just one propo - just one montage of the people rising up - because what we want to get to is the final fifteen minutes of Part 1 and then all of Part 2.  I applaud the good intentions to get gritty and real but once again, I'm just not sure how this constitutes any kind of credible storytelling in a world of such outlandish fantasy costumes and hokey dialogue and cartoon villains. 

MOCKINGJAY has a running time of 123 minutes, is rated PG and is on global release.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


LIFE PARTNERS is a stealth movie. It starts off so quiet and banal and forgettable and then suddenly you realise you are engrossed in the characters' lives and when they get into arguments they feel lifted from your reality. This is the kind of observational dramedy that is harder to pull off - to truly make authentic - than it seems.  Accordingly, it probably should've gotten more attention than it did.  

Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) starts as a twenty-nine year old girl struggle to reconcile herself to the fact that she hates her life. A dull secretarial job was meant to compensate for writing music, but she never really did that, and now she's just stick with no money, no idea of what to do with her life, and to cap it all, a best friend who is no longer available to her.  Why? Because that best friend Paige (Gillian Jacobs) has started her first serious relationship.  Paige wants good things for Sasha but mistakes her relationship misfires for a genuine career crisis - something which her new boyfriend actually gets.  

It feels so slight to say that this is a movie about two best friends growing up and growing apart before realising that their different life choices are okay.  But this is some of the most real stuff I've seen depicting twenty-something female friendship. It's also refreshing to see a lesbian character as the lead, and that her sexuality isn't the focus of the film. Yes, she's flaky at relationships but it accepts Sasha for who she is.  More films should do that. So kudos to director and writer Susanna Fogel & Joni Lefkowitz.  Can't wait to see what they do next.

LIFE PARTNERS has a running time of 93 minutes and is rated R. The movie played Tribeca 2014 and is now available on streaming services.

Sunday, November 02, 2014


CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN is a strange and fascinating film that feels like it has too many good ideas clashing with each other and shouldn't work and yet somehow does.  It stars Shia Labeouf, but don't let that put you off. His big-eyed naivety plays well here, as the directionless romantic sent to Romania by his dying mother (Melissa Leo).  While there he gets into all sorts of random scrapes, some of which involve taking large quantities of drugs in a youth hostel with Ron Weasley and Jay from THE INBETWEENERS. But the meat of the story is Charlie falling in love with the grieving daughter of the man Charlie sat next to on the  plane. Played with a perfect accent by Evan Rachel Wood, the character of Gabi is perfectly aware that she is a movie trope - immediately asking Charlie if he wants to fall in love with her because she is vulnerable and exotic. She also has that most cliched of movie tropes - a nasty violent ex-husband, played with mordant wit  by Mads Mikkelsen (HANNIBAL).  

It's a movie that can be schmaltzy but is aware of that, and so is undercut by incredibly dark humour. The scenes in the youth hostel are genuinely laugh  out loud funny - I mean, I've never spent time thinking of porn names for Rupert Grint, but Boris Pecker is a work of genius. And some of the exchanges between a completely deadpan Mads Mikkelsen and Shia Labeouf were fantastically funny - just wait for the scene citing Dizzy Gillespie. So kudos to screen-writer Matt Drake for penning such a self-aware, daringly random, and funny script. As for the direction from first time feature helmer Fredrik Bond, it's elegant and particularly good in its use of music. The soundtrack featuring Deadmono is superb.

Like I said, this is an odd film that defies genre descriptions but if you go with it there's more than enough pay off.  Shia is at his most likeable (low baseline I admit), the music is great, Mads Mikkelsen is truly superb and Evan Rachel Wood is heart-breaking. 

CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN aka THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated R.  The film played Sundance and Berlin 2013 and was released last year in Norway, the USA, Denmark and Israel. It was released earlier this year in Singapore, Belgium, France, Portugal and Hong Kong. It is currently on release in the UK and Ireland.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


So I suppose when you earn shedloads of cash for a major studio as Iron Man, you get to create whichever vanity project you like.  And for Robert Downey Junior, it's this polished but ultimately overlong and unexciting thriller, THE JUDGE.  The self-consciously quality product start RDJ as a flash lawyer in a mid-life crisis who returns to his home town, where his cranky dad, the titular judge, is suspected for a hit-and-run murder. Naturally, the super-smart son, John Grisham-like in his smarmy brilliance, reconnects with his estranged father through the medium of sun-dappled flashbacks with trite piano music. There are two points when I thought the movie would pick up its pace and intensity. The first is when Grace Zabriskie, famous to Lynch fans as the hysterical mother of Laura Palmer, turns up as the enraged mother of the victim. At the point, the movie had the chance to do something new and off the charts, but no. The second point was when Billy Bob Thornton turned up as the prosecutor.  But not this was just high polish high profile stunt casting, and BBT just phoned his performance in.  So here's where the movie jumps the shark. About an hour in, the mid-life crisis lawyer meets his old flame, the wonderful Vera Farming, and she turns out to be the mum of the teenage waitress (Leighton Meester) he just banged.  It's not just that this is a cheesy and skeezy plot line but that it shows a complete lack of directorial judgment on the part of David Dobkin (THE WEDDING CRASHERS). Why try so hard to make a sleek, serious courtroom drama and then just kill its tone with a cheap and awkward gag?  The only ONLY time I've ever seen a successful and funny courtroom drama was MY COUSIN VINNY and this ain't that.

THE JUDGE has a running time of 141 minutes and is rated R.  The film is on global release.


This  movie is a workmanlike and mildly entertaining adaptation of the children's book by Judith Viorst.  It's got a high concept not unlike the Jim Carrey vehicle LIAR LIAR, in which a put upon schoolboy wishes the rest of his family would understand his pain, and so wishes them a terrible day. The next day, of course, happens to be one of a critical work task for his mother, a job interview for his father, his brother's junior prom and his sister's high school musical.  Naturally all these things go belly up, but being a heart-warming tale of family, they emerge from it more appreciative of each other than ever.  Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner play the parents and let's face it, it's hard to think of two more likeable and harmless actors in contemporary cinema. They imbue the film with good intentions and the rest of the film just trails in their wake.  I found the whole thing unutterably dull, and given how clever modern animated movies are at keeping all ranges entertained, this is a real problem. That said, I am sure the kiddies will relate, even if there is no real message to the film.

ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY has a running time of 81 minutes and is rated PG. The movie was released earlier this month in Argentina, Aruba, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Israel, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mexico, Russia, Canada, Estonia, Romania, the USA, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines and Latvia.  It is released this weekend in Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Uruguay, the UK, Ireland and Lithuania. It will be released in Greece, Peru Paraguay, and South Africa on October 30th; in Portugal, Spain, Poland and Turkey on November 7th; in Taiwan on November 14th; in Norway on November 21st; in Australia, Denmark, Malaysia, New Zealand,  and Singapore on December 4th, and in Germany on April 9th 2015. 


Unsurprisingly, I did not have a good time watching this latest live action feature film in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise.  I came to it neutral, having enjoyed the cartoons as a kid, but finding the previous films dull and the so-called witticisms of the turtles grating.  This reboot does little to change that diagnosis.  The best that can be said about it is that after the "alien origins" scare, the story is faithful to its source materials.  The four turtles, named after Renaissance painters, are mutated into humanoid ninja-fighting vigilantes who live in the sewers with their jedi master mutated rat-father Splinter.  They have a female friend and accomplice called April O'Neil, who's a pretty journalist and an evil nemesis too. In this film, that's a corporate greedy bastard who wants to infect the city so that he can sell it a cure and become massively rich - and of course, that cure comes from stringing up the turtles and extracting their mutated genes.

I found the relentlessly-alecky banter from the turtles really grating and there's none of the charisma that, say, Corey Feldman brought to the original voice-cast. Megan Fox does her standard pretty girl in distress thing as April O'Neil and it's not so much her fault that the part is woefully underwritten. But even weirder, we have Will Arnett, fifteen years her senior, playing her goofy cameraman. There's meant to be sexual tension between the two but it just comes across as creepy and icky.  Finally, we've got Whoopi Goldberg as April's editor - utterly wasted.

The movie is made in a very workmanlike way. You've got all the martial arts scenes and special effects and loud music and the compulsory sprinkling of "kowabungas". There's nothing to get excited about and the final thirty minutes just descends into a loud and rather dull working through of gears.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES has a running time of 101 minutes and is rated PG-13.    The film is on global release.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


NORTHERN SOUL is a fab British independent film from writer-director Elaine Constantine that captures something of the manic absurdity of the 1970s provincial British Northern Soul clubbing movement. This basically consisted of working class kids in unlikely places like Wigan and Wolverhampton getting revved up on speed and dancing all night to high tempo B-sides of obscure American soul records from the 1960s.  Being a movement that entirely bypassed London, it's not had as much coverage or recognition as it probably should've done, but that's been redressed over the past couple of years with a great documentary (KEEP ON BURNING: THE STORY OF NORTHERN SOUL) and now this fictionalised retelling. 

The film focusses on two kids in a miserable town who escape into the world of Northern Soul - first attending dancehalls but then trying to put on events of their own - only to find that after a temporary respite it brings with its own problems: the drugs, the police, the perils of trying to party all night and still hold down a job.  But along the way the things that they want out of life - the narrow scope of their beaten-up ambition - is touching - when all of life is concentrated in wishing for a wooden dance floor rather than concrete.

The cast is amazing.  Lisa Stansfield as the mum in curlers and a headscarf and Christian McKay as the dad with horn-rimmed specs; Steve Coogan as the vain schoolteacher with a bowl cut and sideburns.  The costumes and sets, the sweaty stripped bodies on the dance floor, are absolutely authentic. And for the first time ever, a training montage isn't a complete waste of time - when we see the kids try out their dance moves to this fantastic music you just don't want it to stop!

NORTHERN SOUL has a running time of 102 minutes and is rated 15 for strong language, drug use and sex. It is currently on release in the UK.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

FURY - LFF14 - Day Twelve

FURY is a movie that probably gives us the most realistic depiction to date of what is must have been like to be inside a tank in World War Two - the claustrophobia, dirt, fear, and almost obsessive need to trust in your fellow soldiers to get you through.  It's because of this realism and grit that you remain captivated despite the somewhat hyperbolic set-up of the film, in which a single US tank attempts to hold off of an entire Nazi regiment.  

The set-up of the film is hackneyed through and through. Brad Pitt plays the war-hardened, uber-experienced tank commander, "Wardaddy" contrasted with Logan Lerman's nervous rookie Norman Ellison. This is exactly the set-up we've gotten from director David Ayer's own TRAINING DAY as well as movies like GRAVITY. The other three members of the tank crew comprise Shia LaBeouf's religious Gunner Swann, slack-jawed yokel Travis (Jon Bernthal) and dips driver Garcia Michael Pena.  In Act One we see our boys and their Yankee brethren retake a German town.  Act Two sees our boys share a dinner with a pair of German ladies.  I think the director wanted it to be full of menace and tension and unsaid meaning but instead it just feels too contrived, patronising and ultimately getting in the way of the real story - which is the relationship between the men and their tank.  In Act Three, the men are sent behind enemy lines by their commander (Jason Isaacs) and we get into the claustrophobia and extreme peril of tank warfare.  This is what we've paid to see - the utter commitment of the production to show us the horror of war in genuine World War Two tanks with the highest quality of military advisor. 

The resulting film isn't perfect but it is affecting and gives us something genuinely new in war films.  It also gives us Shia LaBeouf in his most winning performance in quite some time - a hopeful thought in a film so devoid of hope. 

FURY has a running time of 120 minutes.  The movie played London 2014 and is on release in the Bahamas and the USA. It goes on release on October 22nd in Belgium, France and Singapore; on October 23rd in Australia, Hong Kong, Croatia, Hungary, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal and Thailand; on October 24th in Estonia, the UK, Ireland, Iceland, Cambodia, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway and Sweden; on October 30th in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine; on November 13th in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy; on November 14th in Spain, India and Vietnam; on November 29th in Greece; on December 5th in Kenya; on January 1st in Germany; on January 15th in Argentina; and on February 5th in Brazil and Peru.

3 HEARTS / 3 COEURS - LFF14 - Day Eleven

3 HEARTS is a rather dull French romantic comedy featuring a meet-cute, a surprise re-meet and many other cliches of Hollywood banality.  The fact that it's a French movie has somehow elevated this workmanlike film into the realms of being selected for the London Film Festival. Don't be fooled. There's nothing to see here.

Benoit Poolverde (COCO BEFORE CHANEL) plays a dull tax inspector called Marc who misses a train home and meets a charming woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg's Sylvie) with whom he walks the streets of a provincial town in the manner of BEFORE SUNRISE.  No matter, they separate, their planned meeting never happens.  Later, Marc meets a lovely antiques dealer called Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni) and they marry and start a family.  They never meet the enigmatic sister, because hey, she lives in the US and they just never get round to skype-ing. These contrivances continue until the the necessary confrontation of all three lovers as supervised by Catherine Deneuve's matriarch.  

The resulting film is banal, predictable and oddly uninvolving.  Charlotte Gainsbourg's trademark froideur just doesn't work in a movie where we're meant to sympathise with all three sides of this thwarted love triangle.  A misfire on all counts.

3 HEARTS aka 3 COEURS has a running time of 90 minutes.  The movie played Venice, Toronto and London 2014.  It opened earlier this year in Belgium and France and opens in the Netherlands on November 6th and in Italy on November 27th.


THE CALLING is a deeply derivative second-rate thriller directed by Jason Stone and based on the novel by Inger Ash Wolfe.  Susan Sarandon is wasted as small-town detective Hazel, on the trail of a serial killer who takes pictures of his victims' mouths enunciating words. She's helped by recently transferred deputy Ben (Topher Grace), who in a moment of gonzo wackiness uses his mom's donated airmiles to go chasing leads on his own and getting into trouble.  Naturally it all turns out to be linked to religious nutters, with Donald Sutherland playing a wise old Catholic priest who turns the cops onto the fact that the killer is harvesting victims to power a resurrection.   

The problem with the film is not the plot or the acting which are just fine as police procedural's go. It's the fact that everything echoes other, better, more unique works.  So when we see Sarandon is one of those hurry cop hats riding through the country to investigate a murder it immediately recalls FARGO.  And the scene of Ben going to investigate a spooky house on his own resembles SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.  Moreover, while the atmosphere is suitably sombre and some of the emotional content genuinely moving, the film lacks pace.  For a thriller, and one chock-full of outlandish material no less, it's not that thrilling.  

THE CALLING has a running time of 108 minutes and is rated R.  The film opened earlier this year in the US and Canada and is currently on release in the UK and Ireland. 

HONEYTRAP - LFF14 - Day Eleven

You can listen to a podcast review of this film here or subscribe to Bina007 Movie Reviews on iTunes.

HONEYTRAP is a British film based on the true story of a gang murder in South London.  15 year old Samantha Joseph was labelled a honeytrap killer by the tabloid press for having lured a boy called Shakilus into following her into a cup de sac where gang members killed him.  She's now facing life in prison.

Writer-director Rebecca Johnson's film has changed the names of the lead characters in her film out of respect, but the set-up is clearly the same.  A young girl wants to impress her gangster boyfriend by offering up a sacrifice.  What's different is that the film is shot from the perspective of the girl - in this case called Layla and played by Jessica Shula.  Layla has come from Trinidad to live with a mother who is clearly uninterested her in a community that is savage in its bullying and gang affiliations.  Initially a shy conservative girl, Layla quickly becomes obsessed with Troy, a handsome gang member, perhaps to the point of delusion once he sleeps with her, dumps her and moves on.  Shula is an enigmatic actress and perhaps frustratingly so - we never really understand what Layla is thinking in allowing herself to be so used, and for sacrificing her sweet best friend Shaun, but Johnson makes plenty of subtle arguments.

The world of South London inner city black teenagers is portrayed as one of parental neglect, educational impoverishment, crime and bullying.  The value system is so far out of whack - so misogynistic, so corrupt in every sense - that it's no wonder that Layla loses her anchor and ends up a complicit murderess.  One wonders quite whether the real Shaun's family will see it this way, and what reaction the film will provoke.  To my mind, it's an affecting and fascinating film - because it's a type of life that I have no experience with and to which most people in England only read stories mediated by low-rent tabloids like the Daily Mail. It's fantastic to see someone actually try and show the story from the inside. I've got no way of knowing if it's nearer the truth of that particular story, but as a comment on the kind of pressures facing kinds in contemporary London it's tragic and important.

HONEYTRAP has a running time of 90 minutes.  It played London 2014 and will go on very limited release in the UK on May 8th 2015.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


I felt really sorry for the director of THE WHITE HAIRED WITCH OF LUNAR KINGDOM, who was in the audience for this screening at the LFF.  In his own country, this film must be seen as a stunning and lavish depiction of earnest myth - much in the way that the LORD OF THE RINGS films might be watched here.  But to Western eyes and ears, while much of the costume design and martial arts was fantastic, some of the hokey dialogue (no doubt not helped by poor translation) as well as the cursory if not arbitrary way in which plot is handled, was at times laugh out loud funny.  It's the big budget lavish version of watching that old MONKEY TV show where everything is just ridiculous and entrancing at the same time.

So the movie is based on Liang Yusheng’s apparently classic novel ‘Baifa Monü Zhuan’ and stars Fan BingBing (a massive star in China) as the White Haired Witch of the title.  She's an awesome warrior and called Jade Raksha who stands against the corrupt rulers of the late Ming dynasty and finds her reputation and fortress under threat from armed factions too numerous to keep a track off.  When the movie sticks to beautifully choreographed fight scenes it's impossible not to love it.  But when it switches into high romance, it simply loses its grip on us.  And there were so many armies showing up seemingly at the snap of a finger, and plot twists on a hairpin, I pretty much lost interest after the first half hour.

THE WHITE HAIRED WITCH OF LUNAR KINGDOM has a running time of 103 minutes.  It opened earlier this year in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Cambodia.

Friday, October 17, 2014


You can listen to a podcast review of A LITTLE CHAOS here or by subscribing to Bina007 Movie Reviews in iTunes.

A LITTLE CHAOS is a charming amuse-bouche - a witty historical fantasy - gently telling us much about the perils of court life. It stars Kate Winslet as a gardener, Madame Sabine de Barra, in the court of Louis XIV.  We watch her charm Power by speaking Truth, triumph over court intrigue and create a little chaos in the carefully ordered gardens of the newly built Versailles. In all this she is aided by her frank and simple manner and the kindness of many aristos - not least the King’s brother and sister-n-law - a delightfully flamboyant and honestly dutiful couple played by Stanley Tucci and Paula Paul. Sabine also falls for the married Master of the gardens, André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), who throws off a typically cynical court marriage to pursue the affair. And what of the king himself? Alan Rickman plays Louis XIV as weary, conservative but willing to listen in a handful of charming cameo scenes.

The movie is so very dripping in charm and liveability that it’s easy to forget that the basic concept of a gauche outsider finding favour in surprising circumstances in lifted from many a genre movie. Alan Rickman’s direction is stylish, elegant and all elements combine so gracefully that it may seem a more frivolous thing than it really is. For behind the sumptuous clothes and reawakening of life are a handful of delicately played scenes about the reality of court life - trapped, bending to the will of the king, discarded as beauty fades, and unable to show public grief. I think the approach Rickman takes is superbly judged and best summed up in a brief scene where Sabine meets the discarded King’s mistress (Jennifer Ehle). It’s not the grandstanding scene with the king that I like, but rather the one that precedes it - as women of all ages meet in secret intimacy to discuss their figures, their loves and their children.

Praise then to Rickman, his cast and perhaps particularly to debut screenwriter Alison Deegan for giving herself the license to go off-piste with history. My only criticism, if criticism there must be, is that I was rather disappointed with just how formal and hard Sabine’s garden was. After all, having spent the opening scenes in debate with Le Nôtre about formalism vs organic beauty it might’ve been nice to see something of that in her final creation.

A LITTLE CHAOS has a running time of 116 minutes.  The movie played Toronto and London 2014 and will be released in the UK on February 6th and in Portugal on March 5th.

SERENA - LFF14 - Day Ten

Sweet tap-dancing Christ, SERENA is so bad people were laughing at the movie at the screening I attended.  In fairness, this final act hilarity was a massive improvement on the sheer tedium, implausibility and banality of the first hour of the film.  God knows what Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Copper were thinking of in signing up to this garbage and I'd love to hear from anyone who read the book upon which the movie is based as to whether it's better/different/other to what landed on our screen.  What's equally bizarre and shocking is that the film was directed by Susanne Bier, whose A SECOND CHANCE is also screening at this year's London Film Festival and is possibly one of the best films this year.  One cannot imagine the distance between A SECOND CHANCE's quiet intensity, closely observed emotion and tense climax and SERENA.  Both films are about the powerful emotions prompted by parenthood but they are otherwise like chalk and cheese.

So, let's take a step back. SERENA is set in depression era North Carolina. Bradley Cooper plays George Pemberton, the indebted owner of a lumber yard. Rather than marry for money he marries a hard-headed businesswoman called Serena (Jennifer Lawrence). A double threat hangs over the couple. Their business is in hock, and their land threatened by its potential forced purchase to create a national park. Second, Pemberton is hiding an attachment to his illegitimate son, something Serena finds intolerable once she loses her own child.

The characters begin as tough and cynical - unwilling to let anyone get in the way of their success. This makes it hard to sympathise for them when they meet tragedy - and all the soupy orchestral scores and dreamy photography can’t overcome this central problem in the film - it’s hard to care about the fate of people we hate. Moreover, as the movie progresses we see the cracks show in the screenwriting, direction and acting. As Serena becomes more unhinged the movie tips over the edge of heightened drama into cheap melodrama, and the attempted reformation of her husband seems automatic and unconvincing. Of course, by this point we care so little about their fate that it’s just a mad dash to the end. And wow! what an ending. I don’t think we’e seen such an absurd and literally laughable denouement to a male protagonist in quite some time. It’s the stuff of Razzies and spoof fan service.

I would simply repeat: it’s hard to see how so many actors and a director of quality went so wrong. I guess it sometimes happens with movies: good intentions just get out of control and the end result doesn’t look like the storyboards. At any rate, this is a film to avoid at all costs. The good news is that the stars are so big, their careers are unlikely to be dented by a small fall.  

SERENA has a running time of 102 minutes.  The movie played London 2014 and opens in the UK and Romania on October 24th, in Spain on October 31st, in New Zealand and Finland on November 6th, in France on November 12th, in Portugal on November 20th, in Australia on November 27th, in Italy on November 30th, in Lithuania on December 5th, in Germany, Greece and Singapore on December 18th, and in Ukraine and the Netherlands on February 5th.


You can listen to a podcast review of this film here:

FOXCATCHER is an extremely slow building true crime drama, based loosely on the murder of wrestling coach Dave Schultz by the incredibly wealthy wrestling patron John E Du Pont in 1996.  The tone of the film is wintry cold - one of repressed emotion, deep insecurity and resentment set in rural isolation.

As the movie opens we meet naive and hard trodden wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum).  He's living in the shadow of his elder brother Dave, another Olympic champion, and receives little in the way of adulation or financial support. Accordingly, he's absolutely ripe to fall for John E Du Pont's sales pitch - to live and train at his palatial Foxcatcher ranch - to move out of the shadow of his brother and achieve greatness on his own terms.  But as we move into the second half hour of the film we realise that Du Pont (Steve Carrell) is not just eccentric but deeply disturbed. Utterly resentful and yet still needing the approval of his contemptuous mother (Vanessa Redgrave), Du Pont has a fantasy image of himself as mentor and guru to Mark - one that he pays to make real by creating motivational videos and fake wrestling championships. At one point he criticises his mother by buying him a childhood friend, but his whole adult life is predicated on that same corruption.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


WHITE BIRD IN A BLIIZZARD is the latest Gregg Araki movie after his brilliantly crazy over-the-top half-disastrous KABOOM which played the London Film Festival back in 2010. This movie seems far tamer and more contained - is equally hit and miss - but as ever contains just enough surprising good stuff to keep you in your seat.

The film plays as a kind of did-anyone-do-anything turned whodunit. As it opens, we’re in late eighties suburbia and Kat (Shailene Woodley) seems like a remarkably well-adjusted confident girl even as her depressed mother (a typically deliciously unhinged Eva Green) goes missing. Kat’s assigned a therapist and whatnot but seems utterly unfazed by her mother’s disappearance, using it as an opportunity to bang the hot cop assigned to the case. Fast forward a couple of years and she’s at college, and still looks really well adjusted. Until she goes home and everyone else seems to be telling her that they told her something was odd about her mum’s disappearance, only she was in denial. And so we work our way back through the events of the disappearance until we see Kat accept how deluded she was.

As a mystery thriller, the movie doesn’t work particularly well, with at least one major plot hole. It isn’t suspenseful, although I suppose part of the point is how Kat isn’t suspicious - hence the title. But what Araki does well is showing with a casual intimacy relationships between teenagers and young college students.  He talks about sex without flinching or judging and it's a pleasure to see Shailene Woodley break out of her far more conventional goodie two-shoes heroine roles to play a far more self-absorbed equivocal and sexually confident character.

WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD has a running time of 90 minutes and is rated R.  The movie played Sundance and London 2014.  It opened earlier this year in Brazil and France. It opens in the USA on October 24th, in Iceland on November 7th, in Belgium on November 12th and in the Netherlands on November 20th.

MOMMY - LFF14 - Day Nine

MOMMY is Xavier Dolan’s greatest film and indeed one of the best in this year’s festival. It’s brutally authentic, emotionally captivating and technically astonishing. It rightly one the Special Jury Prize at Cannes this year and confirms him as one of the emotionally literate and astute directors of his generation. I’ve had issues with Dolan before - in terms of his pacing, repetition, bagginess and over-use of cinematic technique - but none of that ill-discipline is evident here. Rather he has honed his craft, pared down his view (quite literally) and delivered an unforgettable unique and vital film.

The film stars Dolan regular Anne Dorval as Diane - the exuberant, feisty mommy who is desperate to keep her son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) out of juvenile detention and ultimately a mental institution. Society may have branded her son a troublemaker and a reject but she is a mother, with all the tenacity, sacrifice and fierce love that this entails. She matches Steve’s energy and joy - and despite any judgments we may make about her appearance, manners and language - she is utterly at peace with herself. And that in itself is a rarity on screen these days. The second strong woman in the piece is Kyla (Suzanne Clement) - at first a hesitant, nervous and compromised personality who is brought to life through her interaction with Steve and Diane. It’s almost as though she abandons her conventional family (husband, daughter - who we never see) to become the third player in the weird set-up across the road. Diane becomes breadwinner, Steve the child, and Kyla home-schooling him, the mother. And so the relationship blossoms, but always with the threat of Steve’s extreme ADHD in the background, forcing Diane and Kyla to make tough choices about what is truly best for him.

As ever Dolan has a keen visual style and a particular sensitivity for setting key melodramatic set pieces to music. He doesn’t disappoint here, but keeps the number of these set pieces in check. Moreover he pulls off a neat conceptual trick by the filming the movie in 1:1 aspect ratio - a tight boxed close-up of character that literally cuts out any peripheral distractions. In a couple of astonishing moments, utterly in synch with the emotional journey of the characters, this concept is over-written, and the result is absolutely breathtaking and immersive. It makes movies that are content merely to put a story on screen in a conservative and obedient manner (TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, I’m looking at you) seem completely passé and redundant in a festival of this calibre. Kudos to Dolan and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

MOMMY has a running time of 134 minutes.  MOMMY played Cannes, where Dolan won the Jury Prize, Telluride, Toronto and London 2014.  It opened earlier this year in Canada, Belgium, France and Luxembourg. It opens in Germany and the Netherlands on November 13th, in Italy on November 27th, in Spain on December 5th and in Romania on January 23rd.


You can listen to a podcast review of this film here:

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH drips in heritage quality. It feels like it should be a miniseries shown on ITV before Downton Abbey. It’s all beautiful people in gorgeous costumes full of earnest good intentions. There aren’t any bad people or real arguments. And the misery of the trenches is only briefly shown. Rather, in these memoirs from the real-life pacifist author Vera Brittain show the experience of World War One through the eyes of a woman necessarily at one step removed from the horrors of the front line. And if we occasionally see a soldier suffering from the blisters of mustard gas or an amputation it is done with utmost delicacy. For this is war diary as romantic drama - all soft light and longing glances and thwarted love.

I don’t mean to belittle the subject matter but it’s hard to take it seriously when the director James Kent (tellingly a TV director) seems so loathe to truly engage with the substance of the film. He is keenly interested in the love story but blunts the radicalism. Vera Brittain was an intelligent woman who had to fight to gain entry to Oxford University at a time when women couldn’t formally receive a degree. But on the point of her firebrand feminist speech she falls for dreamy Roland Leighton - a schoolfriend of her brother’s - and abandons Oxford to become a nurse. At this point her politics and aspirations are shifted very firmly to the back of the film, where they appear in a short coda. They feel utterly out of character for what has turned out to be a rather conventional character. A nurse at the start of her training tells Vera that she may have joined the nursing corps with the romantic ideal of being a ministering angel. Well, that’s precisely what this movie shows.

I find myself trying to think how radical Brittain’s memoirs must have appeared at the time, especially if (as in the film) they hint at homosexual love, feminism and the sheer waste of lives that World War One entailed on both sides. We are told in the programme notes that her book was considered to be “the voice of a generation” and was immensely popular. One can’t imagine that such a radical generational voice was really depicting events in the manner of grand heritage drama. And that is a great shame.

Are we are going to go through the centenary of the First World War refusing to look it squarely in the eye - refusing to pull back from the individual love story to the wider view? Indeed I can sum up that hesitancy on the part of the director in one shot around half way through the film. Vera comes out of her nursing hut to the back of the building where many victims of a mustard gas attack have been laid out. It’s a scene crying out for the director to crane up from Vera’s personal fears to the wider context of immense human suffering. But James Kent doesn’t have the guts to pull back wide enough to make this visual and historic point.

In other words, this is a highly conservative film pandering to World War One nostalgia - brave and decent men and women thwarted by war. It seeks no greater insight nor any greater cinematic style.

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH has a running time of 130 minutes.  The movie played the London Film Festival and opens in the UK on January 16th, and in Denmark on April 30th.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WHIPLASH - LFF14 - Day Eight

You can listen to a podcast review of this film below, or subscribe to Bina007 Movie Reviews in iTunes.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle's second feature, WHIPLASH, is a tour-de-force that's getting all the buzz at this year's London Film Festival and should, if there's any justice, clean up at Awards season.  The lead performances from JK Simmons and Miles Teller (THE SPECTACULAR NOW) are astounding in their commitment and intensity - the photography and editing push forward the boundaries of how we capture the energy and intensity of live performance - and the score is just sensational.  This movie works on so many levels - in front of and behind the lens - that I left the screening wanting to watch it again and really get under its skin beyond the initial reaction of just Wow.

The movie is basically a two-hander between Teller and Simmons as music student Andrew and teacher Fletcher.  Teller is at an elite music school and wants to be a legendary jazz drummer to the exclusion of all else. Simmons is the man to impress - his band the one to get into - but he runs that band as a dictator and cruelly abusive bully.  The first hour of the movie sees Andrew punished mentally and physically, drowning his bleeding hands in ice water to practice to the level that'll impress the impossible to impress game-player Fletcher.  This culminates in a set-piece so thrilling it could be in a David Fincher where each of them pushes each other to breaking point. In the final stretch we see the ultimate bait and switch that results in an on-stage concert that plays like a shoot em out between two obsessive characters.  What's spectacular about this is that so much is communicated between the two of them merely by virtue of who's giving the other cues and recognition via the eyes and hand movements.

The resulting movie is high octane, engrossing and memorable.  JK Simmons' Fletcher has to be the most charismatic and quotable bully since The Thick Of It's Malcolm Tucker. And you have to admire Miles Teller's work in being able to play the virtuoso jazz pieces. One final point to make is that I watched this film with a friend who hates jazz but loved this film. You don't need to like jazz or indeed music to find this move compelling but if you do it'll add another layer of enjoyment to the experience.

Teller and Simmons at the press conf yesterday.
WHIPLASH has a running time of 106 minutes.  The movie played Cannes, Sundance, where it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize, and London 2014.  It went on release in the USA last week and opens this week in Hong Kong. It opens in Australia and New Zealand on October 23rd, in Thailand on October 30th, in the Netherlands on November 13th, in Sweden on November 28th, in Norway and Romania on December 5th, in France on December 24th, in the UK on January 16th, in Poland on January 23rd, in the Czech Republic on January 29th, in Portugal on February 5th and in Germany and Denmark on February 19th.


THE SALVATION is a beautifully made, powerfully acted, good old-fashioned Western. There's no meta-narrative, no post-modern reworking, no reimagining.  It's "just" an immensely satisfying  short, taught, austere tale of good, evil and justice served in the Wild West.  I loved every minute of it.

The film is set over a couple of days in a dirt town in 1871.  A Danish ex-pat soldier called Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) greets his wife and young son from the train, reunited for the first time in seven years.  They travel by stagecoach to their ranch, but a couple of thugs rape and kill his wife and son, with Jon utterly powerless to protect them.  He quickly takes his revenge but this sets off a train of violence: the rapist was the brother of the local crime boss Delarue (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).  The townsfolk, led by the callow Sherriff and Minister (Douglas Henshall) and undertaker and land speculator (Jonathan Pryce) are caught in a bind.  If they don't hand over the Danish brothers Delarue will continue killing them instead.  

The movie plays out exactly as one would expect for a film in this genre.  There's cruelty and injustice, a steely damsel in distress (Eva Green), a nasty double-cross, and an epic set of climactic shoot-outs.  Mads Mikkelsen does stoic obstinate vengeance like no other and I rather liked Jeffrey Dean Morgan's charismatic bandit (side note - whatever happened to him after WATCHMEN?)  Eva Green plays the role she always plays - sultry, not to be messed with.  And even Eric Cantona doesn't offend in a minor role.  But what really sets the film apart is Kristian Levring's spare style and script and DP Jens Schlosser's stunning photography.  It just goes to show that sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel. You just need to do something simple really well.

THE SALVATION has a running time of 91 minutes.  THE SALVATION played Cannes and London 2014.  It opened earlier this year in Denmark, Iceland, Finland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany and Austria.  It opens in the Netherlands on November 6th.