Unbroken | Film review – Angelina Jolie’s rousing celebration of human resilience and courage

Unbroken

Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, her second film as a director, is a stirring biopic based on the remarkable story of Louis Zamperini, a delinquent teen turned Olympic athlete turned US air force flier who endured ordeals during World War Two that would have crushed most other men.  First he survived a plane crash in the Pacific and 47 days in a raft in shark-infested waters; and then he withstood a series of brutal Japanese prisoner-of-war camps where a sadistic guard (played by Japanese pop star Miyavi) singled him out for particularly savage treatment. Opening with a nerve-jangling bombing mission before flashing back to Zamperini’s scrappy Italian immigrant childhood and athletic triumphs, Jolie’s solidly old-fashioned film doesn’t probe particularly deeply into its hero’s psyche but striking Oscar-nominated cinematography and a compelling lead performance by Bafta rising star Jack O’Connell ensures it remains a rousing celebration of human resilience and courage.

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Certificate 12. Runtime 137 mins. Director Angelina Jolie.

Unbroken is released on DVD & Blu-ray by Universal Pictures UK.

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Exodus: Gods and Kings | Film review – Ridley Scott’s Biblical epic destined to go out of date

Exodus Gods and Kings

Retelling the story of Moses for biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley Scott doesn’t stint on the spectacle.

When it comes to the ten plagues of Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea he pulls out all the stops with entertaining gusto. The Nile here doesn’t simply run red; it has ferocious crocodiles snapping up the locals, too. It’s the stuff in between the set-piece scenes that’s the problem.

Christian Bale’s ardent Moses and Joel Edgerton’s decadent Ramses, his jealous adoptive brother turned bitter foe, are nowhere near as hammy as Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner in the same roles in Cecil B DeMille’s 1956 classic The Ten Commandments. But their rivalry is more turgid than gripping, and when Moses gets banished to the desert the drama runs into the sand.

This is where Moses encounters God, bizarrely personified here as a somewhat peevish English public school boy. The touch is bold verging on foolhardy. Even more contentious, however, is the suggestion that the encounter – and hence the entire justification for Moses’ divine mission – only exists in his unbalanced mind. Scott doesn’t linger on this, more’s the pity, and overall his approach lacks the daring conviction of Darren Aronofsky’s magnificently barmy Noah.

When Moses accepts his mission to free the Hebrew slaves from their Egyptian bondage things pick up, fortunately, with the desperate flight of the slaves and the Egyptians’ vengeful pursuit following hard on the heels of lively guerrilla skirmishes and those pesky plagues. The sequences are certainly eye-catching, but their over reliance on CGI-driven special effects will probably make the film seem horribly dated in a few years’ time and render Scott’s epic storytelling less durable than DeMille’s overblown showmanship.

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Certificate 12. Runtime 150 mins. Director Ridley Scott.

Exodus: Gods and Kings is released on DVD & Blu-ray by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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Campbell’s Kingdom (1957) | Blu-ray review – Dirk Bogarde cuts a rugged hero in the Hammond Innes adventure

Campbells KingdomRugged Wildcatters…Fighting the Treacherous Might of the Canadian Rockies!

Dirk Bogarde turns rugged adventurer in this colourful 1957 British adaptation of Hammond Innes’ best-selling novel, set in the Canadian Rockies.

As Bruce Campbell, a courageous, but terminally-ill, Englishman who believes there’s oil on his late grandfather’s land, the Rank matinee idol cuts a dashing and believable hero, but it’s Stanley Baker who really steals the show as the villainous contractor, Owen Morgan, when he threatens Campbell’s claim with his hydro-electric dam scheme. (He also sports the campest red shirt, similar to what Joan Crawford wore in Johnny Guitar).

Ernest Stewart’s Eastmancolor cinematography of the mountainous landscape (with the Italian Dolomites standing in for the Rockies) is gorgeous to look at, and Ralph Thomas’s brisk direction and well-staged action scenes keeps things moving – while the wholly British cast are a comfortable treat: with Barbara Murray playing Bogarde’s love interest (and bringing a tear to the eye in one very emotional scene), James Robertson Justice playing a burly Scottish driller with a weird accent, and Sid James appearing (he does very little) as an American trucker. Playing Bogarde’s kindly aunts are vets Mary Merrall (Dead of Night) and Athene Seyler (Night of the Demon) – they’re hysterical.

Campbells Kingdom_1

THE UK BLU-RAY
Campbell’s Kingdom is featured in a high definition transfer made from the original film elements (which comes off a little grainy at times), in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an original theatrical trailer and four image galleries, including behind-the-scenes and publicity shots.

Available on Blu-ray in the UK through Network Distributing

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Far From the Madding Crowd | Film review – Magnificent Mulligan dominates ravishing costume drama

Far From the Madding Crowd -  Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel Oak, Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene

What is it about Scandinavian filmmakers and Brit Lit period dramas? First Danish director Lone Scherfig unerringly evokes the drab pre-swinging-sixties suburbia of Lynn Barber’s An Education; then Swedish director Thomas Alfredson nails the clammy Cold War London of John Le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; and now along comes Scherfig’s fellow Dane Thomas Vinterberg to capture the lushness and cruelty of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, circa 1870.

Vinterberg’s superb adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd stars Carey Mulligan (the lead in An Education) as Hardy’s headstrong, independent young heroine Bathsheba Everdene, who entrances and entwines three very different suitors – ever-faithful shepherd Gabriel Oak, rich squire William Boldwood, and dashing soldier Sergeant Troy.

Far From the Madding Crowd  - Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene

Bathsheba is a fascinating mix of virtues and flaws. A poor orphan whose life is transformed after she inherits her uncle’s farm, she brims with poise and self-possession when she takes over the estate, telling her workers, ‘It is my intention to astonish you all.’

And what is truly astonishing, for the era, is her determination to take on a male-dominated world on her own terms, which includes whom and when she should marry. Yet when it comes to dealing with the men in her life, she is wilful and impulsive – with, typically for Hardy, fateful results.

Far From the Madding Crowd - Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, Tom Sturridge as Sergeant Troy

Bathsheba is definitely a woman ahead of her time, yet unlike some other recent period films there is nothing anachronistic about Vinterberg’s treatment of her – the boldness of her conception is all Hardy’s. When she says, ‘It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language made by men chiefly to express theirs,’ it is the book’s character speaking.

Mulligan is perfectly cast, and looks the part, which can’t exactly be said of Julie Christie’s unquestionably 60s Bathsheba in John Schlesinger’s 1967 film. Vinterberg’s film improves on its predecessor in other ways. Compared with Schlesinger’s languorously epic version, Vinterberg takes the events of the novel at quite a lick.

Far From the Madding Crowd - Michael Sheen as William Boldwood

Where Schlesinger took 167 minutes to tell Hardy’s tale, Vinterberg gets the job done in a brisk 119 minutes. But his version – scripted by One Day author David Nicholls – almost never feels rushed (its skimpy treatment of Juno Temple’s Fanny Robin, Troy’s tragic first love, being an exception). The richly nuanced performances give the action depth.

Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts, at first a surprising choice to play the resolute Oak (played by Alan Bates in 1967), exudes a slow-burn charisma, his solidity and dependability becoming more attractive as the story unfolds. And Michael Sheen is excellent, too, finding touching pathos in the figure of the repressed, awkward Squire Boldwood (previously Peter Finch). In Terence Stamp’s former role, Tom Sturridge’s gimcrack Sergeant Troy is possibly the cast’s makeweight, too meretricious by far, surely, to dazzle Bathsheba. Yet even his callowness comes to serve this telling of Hardy’s tale.

But it is the magnificent Mulligan – grabbing our attention from the moment she appears in a tight-fitting strikingly dashing russet leather jacket to gallop across the Dorset countryside – who rightly dominates this ravishing costume drama.

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Certificate 12A. Runtime 119 mins. Director Thomas Vinterberg.

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20,000 Days on Earth | Film review – Musical maverick Nick Cave gets a fitting portrait

20,000 Days on Earth - Nic Cave

Australian rock singer Nick Cave is a musical maverick so it’s only appropriate that intimate documentary portrait 20,000 Days on Earth should be resolutely idiosyncratic, too. Structured around a fictional day in its subject’s life (his 20,000th on the planet), directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s film stages revealing encounters in Cave’s adopted hometown Brighton with friends and collaborators, including Ray Winstone, Kylie Minogue and musician Blixa Bargeld, together with a visit to psychoanalyst Darian Loader and a trip to an imagined archive of his past. Along the way get insights into what makes Cave tick as we watch a song grow from the tiny germ of an idea into a full-blown musical number rousingly performed with his band the Bad Seeds on the stage of Sydney Opera House.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 97 mins. Directors Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard.

20,000 Days on Earth is showing on Film 4 at 11.05pm tonight.

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Win the 1950′s sic-fi classic The Blob starring Steve McQueen on Blu-ray

The Blob on Blu-rayTeenagers Steve (Steve McQueen) and Judy (Aneta Corseaut) raise the alarm when a meterorite falls to Earth containing an extraterrestrial organism starts devouring anything organic in its path, beginning with a farmer, a physician and his nurse. Mass hysteria soon results as the ever-growing red jelly people eater invades a supermarket and a movie theatre and then traps our heroes in a burning diner… Can anything stop the red menace?

The schlock 1950s sci-fi, The Blob, which helped propel Steve McQueen to stardom has been given a stunning 4K digital restoration is now being released by Fabulous Films on DVD and Blu-ray, along with some amazing extras. To celebrate its restored release, we have three copies of the Blu-ray to give away.

To enter, just answer the following question by emailing your answer and your details (with The Blob in the subject line) to movietalk@timeinc.com 

Q: Who wrote the catchy theme tune to The Blob ?

  • Simon & Garfunkle
  • Burt Bacharach and Mack David
  • Lennon-McCartney

Competition closes 12noon Friday 22 May 2015. Terms and Conditions apply.

The Blob is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Fabulous Films from Monday 4 May.

 

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Model for Murder (1959) | DVD review – Michael Gough and Hazel Court star in a fashionable vintage heist thriller

Model for Murder (1959)While on shore leave in England, American sailor David Martens (Keith Andes) seeks out his late brother’s fiancée, London fashion model, Diana (Julia Arnall), to return an engagement present of a ruby bracelet. But after Diana is murdered, David becomes the prime suspect in the theft of £60,000 worth of diamonds being held at the Mayfair fashion house of stylist Kingsley Beauchamp (Michael Gough).

With the police unwilling to believe his story, David seeks out smitten fashion assistant Sally Meadows (Hazel Court), her model sister Annabelle (Jean Aubrey), and fashion photographer George (Peter Hammond) to help him prove that Kingsley’s chauffeur Costard (Edwin Richfield) was behind both the murder and the theft. But what David doesn’t realise is the real mastermind is Kingsley himself, or that he’s planning on fleeing to Amsterdam with the jewels…

Model for Murder (1959)

Death, diamonds and double-dealings take to the catwalk in 1959′s Model for Murder, an Edgar Wallace-styled B murder mystery, amiably directed by Terry Bishop, who is best known for his 1950s dramas involving the heroic deeds of the likes of Sir Lancelot, William Tell and Robin Hood.

Apart from one very atmospheric and noir-esque murder scene, this British Lion thriller is pretty standard fare, and is saved only by the stalwart acting and occasional comic touches (especially Annabel Maule’s hospital sister and Charles Lamb’s lock keeper).

The legendary Michael Gough chews the scenery big-time as the camp, villainous Kingsley Beauchamp, and makes his catty dialogue purr: ‘I find me much more fascinating’ and ‘Sometimes one has to be vulgar for publicity’ being among my favourites, while an overly-cheery Hazel Court (fresh from Brian Clemens’ A Woman of Mystery and in between making her two best known British horrors, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Man Who Could Cheat Death) makes an engaging heroine, while US import Keith Andes cuts a believable hero. Together, their Sally and David come off as a mini-league Nick and Nora Charles.

Model for Murder (1959)

THE UK DVD RELEASE
Model for Murder is presented in a brand-new transfer from original film elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, as part of Network Distributing’s The British Film collection. The only extras are an image gallery and promotional material (pdf).

 

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Fellini Satyricon (1969) | Blu-ray release – Satire and spectacle collide in the visually-stunning fantasy adventure set in ancient Rome

satyricon cover 2Based loosely on Petronius’ classical (and fragmentary) late 1st-century AD Roman novel following student Encolpio (Martin Potter), his lover Ascilto (Hiram Keller) and young slave boy Gitone, as they engage in a series of bawdy, exciting and sometimes horrific mythical misadventures, Fellini-Satyricon plunges into ancient Roman society in its most debauched period, transforming the era of Nero into a landscape perhaps no more or less alien than the worlds the film’s director Federico Fellini himself inhabited… the 1960s. A dream tapestry with a rich palette of hues and virtuosic composition within the ‘Scope frame, Fellini-Satyricon merges aesthetic and sensual liberty into a boldly visionary epic.

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THE MASTERS OF CINEMA RELEASE
Featuring a brand new 4K restoration, provided by Hollywood Classics/Criterion Collection, Fellini-Satyricon gets its first-time UK Blu-ray release from Eureka! as part of their Masters of Cinema Series, with a host of special features.

READ MORE… if you want immerse yourself in Fellini’s visual feast

Trailer
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The Duke of Burgundy | Film review – Kinky folie á deux is a sensual, strange and utterly compelling romance

The Duke of Burgundy -  Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D'Anna

British director Peter Strickland’s follow up to his haunting film rape-revenge thriller Katalin Varga and art-house giallo Berberian Sound Studio is his most offbeat film yet, a sensual, strange and utterly compelling romance.

Opening with shots of a demure young woman cycling through leafy woods to the dreamy strains of alt-pop duo Cat’s EyesThe Duke of Burgundy appears to be taking us into decidedly kinky territory after the cyclist wheels up to the front door of an ivy-clad mansion and begins work as a maid for a chatelaine who is soon demanding foot rubs as well as dusting.

Duke of Burgundy - Chiara_D'Anna_as_Evelyn,_Fatma_Mohamed_as_The_Carpenter

Yet as the film unfolds, we discover that the relationship between these women – seemingly a haughty lepidopterist, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, best known as the Danish prime minister in Borgen), and her submissive maid, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) – is altogether more bizarrely perverse, a sadomasochistic folie à deux playing out in a timeless corner of Eastern Europe exclusively populated by women, all of them apparently engaged in the obsessive study of butterflies and moths. (The film’s title, incidentally, is the name of a rare British butterfly).

There are tonal echoes of the moody erotic cinema of 1970s Euro Sleaze auteurs Jess Franco and Jean Rollin and the twisted dream worlds of David Lynch, and playful touches all Strickland’s own, including a credit for Perfumes by Je Suis Gizelle. But at the film’s heart is a tender love story in which rituals of submission and dominance turn out to have much to say about the shifts and strains in any long-term relationship.

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Certificate 18. Runtime 105 mins. Directors Peter Strickland.

The Duke of Burgundy is released on DVD & Blu-ray by Artificial Eye.

Extras
Director’s Commentary

Interview with Peter Strickland
Stills Gallery
Deleted Scenes
Cat’s Eyes Promo
Short Film Conduct Phase
Mole Cricket
Trailer

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Win Tickets to a Special Advance Screening of Spooks: The Greater Good – In Cinemas May 8

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To celebrate the release of Spooks: The Greater Good, in cinemas May 8 (Special Advance Screenings Thursday April 30), we’re giving you the chance to be one of the first to experience the high octane espionage thriller by winning two tickets to a special advance screening at the Empire, Leicester Square, London which includes an introduction from cast members Kit Harington and Peter Firth.

When charismatic terrorist Adam Qasim (Elyes Gabel) escapes from MI5 custody during a high profile handover, the legendary Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), Head of Counter-terrorism, is blamed. Disgraced and forced to resign, no-one’s surprised when Harry disappears one night off a bridge into the Thames…

With MI5 on its knees in the wake of the Qasim debacle and facing controversial reform, former agent Will Holloway (Kit Harington) is brought back from Moscow to uncover the truth they feared – Harry’s still alive. He’s gone rogue, and needs Will’s help.

As Qasim prepares his devastating attack on the heart of MI5 in London, Will must decide whether to turn Harry in – or risk everything by trusting the damaged, dangerous master spy who has already betrayed him once before…

Watch the trailer

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To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets to this screening on the 30th April, simply answer the question below and email your answer and your details (with Spooks in the subject line) to movietalk@timeinc.com

What does Will Holloway (Kit Harington) say he was in the MI5 long enough to realise, ‘you can do good or you can do…’

1.    Bad
2.    Great
3.    Well

We have four pairs of tickets to give away. If you aren’t lucky enough to win yourself some tickets you can still get your hands on a pair by buying tickets for the Special Advance Screenings on Thursday April 30 at www.Spookstickets.co.uk

For further information on Spooks: The Greater Good join us here  www.facebook.com/Spooksthemovie or follow us https://twitter.com/Spooksthemovie

Competition closes 10am Wednesday 29 April 2015. Terms and Conditions apply.

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