Northern Soul | Film review – Blood, sweat and tears on the dance floor in 1970s England

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In grim and grungy 1974 Lancashire, restless teenager John (Elliot James Langridge) finds an escape from his dead-end life when he discovers American soul music, but his volatile friendship with cocky rebel Matt (Josh Whitehouse) threatens to derail his plans to become a DJ. Clearly a passion project for photographer turned writer-director Elaine Constantine, coming-of-age drama Northern Soul brilliantly captures the amphetamine-fuelled energy and sweat-soaked fervour of 1970s northern England’s soul music subculture, and while the story runs along familiar grooves the music and dancing is electrifying. Look out for cameos from Steve Coogan as John’s patronising teacher, Ricky Tomlinson as his ailing granddad and pop singer Lisa Stansfield as his bitter mum.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 102 mins. Director Elaine Constantine.

Showing on Sky Movies Premiere at 10.05pm tonight

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Interstellar | Blu-ray review – Stellar acting propels Christopher Nolan’s staggering space epic home

Interstellar_BDWith the world on the verge of ecological catastrophe, Matthew McConaughey’s former Nasa test pilot turned farmer ends up piloting a spaceship on a mission to find potentially habitable planets in Interstellar.

Christopher Nolan reaches for the stars with this staggeringly ambitious space epic, yet despite mind-blowing spectacle, even more mind-blowing ideas and occasionally heartbreaking drama, pulling off a timeless sci-fi masterpiece remains just beyond his grasp.

What keeps us strapped to our seats, though, is the human drama, above all the relationship between McConaughey’s widowed hero and his daughter, played as a 10-year-old by Mackenzie Foy and as an adult by Jessica Chastain.

The screenplay veers between the clunky and the corny, but the stellar acting of McConaughey, Foy and Chastain ensure it is human emotions not quantum physics that propels the movie to its destination.

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Certificate 12. Runtime 162 mins. Director Christopher Nolan.

Interstellar is available on Limited Edition 2-disc Blu-ray digibook, Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment from March 30.

Competition: Win Interstellar on Blu-ray

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Rollerball (1975) | Blu-ray review – Before The Hunger Games there was… Rollerball!

Rollerball (1975)In a corporate-controlled future, conflict is a thing of the past, but blood continues to be shed on the tracks of Rollerball – a violent gladiatorial spectacle that pits players in a televised battle of life and death. When Houston Rollerball captain Jonathan E (James Caan) becomes bigger than the game and the totalitarian government targets him for retirement, the icon decides to make a stand against his masters…

Based on the 1973 Esquire short story, Roller Ball Murder, by William Harrison (who also wrote the screenplay), this big-budget United Artists sci-fi action directed by Norman Jewison was a flop in the US, but ran for almost a year in French cinemas and remains, amongst fans of 1970s sci-fi, one of the best of the era.

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Intended to be a condemnation of brutality as entertainment, this surprisingly violent ‘future sport’ flick came out just two months after Death Race 2000, Roger Corman’s live-action Wacky Races-styled exploitation drive-in movie, which ended up trumping Rollerball at the US box office (well, it was made for the fraction of the cost).

Rollerball‘s chilly Bafta-winning art direction and clinical cinematography was wholly inspired by European arthouse cinema and Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 sci-fi A Clockwork Orange, especially in its use of Munich’s modern architecture (like BMW’s HQ, the Olympic Audi Dome basketball park, and the athlete’s village) as a symbol of souless dystopia; while the use of classical music was another steal – and another reason to put off the popcorn crowd, but excite cineastes.

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Jewison’s sci-fi certainly has some well-executed action sequences, but US audiences just didn’t ‘get’ its political agenda – as they were far more interested in actually playing the made-up game itself. Today, however, Rollerball‘s central themes are freakishly prescient, especially with regards to the power of corporations and the media on our way of life; the unreliability of digital information (I still think cloud storage is suspect); and our growing desensitisation towards violence. There’s certainly a lot going on outside Jewison’s roller track, which only makes this is one of the smartest sci-fi’s of the 1970s and a ‘future sport’ flick that the likes of The Running Man and The Hunger Games remain indebted to. It’s also far superior to that mis-guided, soulless 2002 remake.

Rollerball (1975)

THE UK BLU-RAY RELEASE
The Arrow Video Blu-ray presentation features a raft of special features including audio commentaries with director Norman Jewison and writer William Harrison, an interview with James Cann; and featurettes on the Munich location and the film’s motorcycle stunts, as well as a host of archive bonus material.

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The Device (2014) | DVD review – This alien abduction sci-fi thriller is Rosemary’s Baby meets The X-Files

The Device (2014)While scattering their mother’s ashes at a lake, estranged sisters Abby (Angela DiMarco) and Rebecca (Kate Alden) discover a sphere in the woods that exerts a strange effect as Rebecca recalls a terrifying trauma from her past and Abby’s fiancé Calvin (David S Hogan) begins to obsess over it. But for Abby, her recurring nightmares of an alien presence soon becomes all too real…

The Device (2014)

Impressed by director Jeremy Berg and writer John Portanova‘s cerebral indie mystery The Invoking last year, I was expecting their alien abduction sci-fi, The Device, to be just as twisty and inventive. But this odd melding of mental health and a marriage in meltdown drama with an X-Files-styled conspiracy is a talky affair that’s seriously lacking in the action and scares departments.

The Device (2014)If you pick this up on the basis of the poster or DVD cover, you’ll be expecting some exciting Species-styled transformation sequences. Disappointingly, there’s nothing like that on offer here, except one rather tall alien who uses its fleshy claw-like fingers to prod and paw at its human incubator (Abby). What’s really creepy, however, is actor David S Hogan’s weird eyes – has he had ‘work done’? They are very distracting, especially during one supposedly emotional scene in which Abby informs him she’s pregnant and he hits the roof telling her he’s sterile. There’s no expression on his face – just a frozen visage. Could he be a real extraterrestrial in disguise?

The Device is out on DVD in the UK from Image Entertainment, and features an audio commentary by Tracy Tormé, the screenwriter of the 1990’s alien abduction movies, Intruders and Fire in the Sky.

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Cinderella | Film review – Lily James’s fairytale heroine comes up sparkling with a wave of Branagh’s magic wand

CINDERELLA - Lily James is Cinderella and Cate Blanchett is the Stepmother

Hollywood filmmakers are no slouches these days when it comes to subverting or sending-up fairy-tale conventions. But Kenneth Branagh does something much more daring. He plays things straight.

There’s nothing the least bit glib or snarky about his live-action adaptation of Cinderella. In place are all the fondly familiar elements you remember from Charles Perrault’s 18th-century tale and Disney’s 1950 animated version – including the magically transformed pumpkin and mice, and the glass slipper that slips from the winsome heroine’s foot at the stroke of midnight – but a deft wave of Branagh’s directorial wand ensures they come up looking fresh.

CINDERELLA - Cate Blanchett,Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera

Lily James’s radiant Cinderella sparkles, too, even under a coating of soot as her downtrodden orphan endures the spiteful regime of a cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett, magnificently haughty) and snooty stepsisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger, a gleefully ghastly double act).

But her Cinderella is no wet rag. She’s far from limp when she first encounters the prince (Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden) in the midst of a woodland hunt and it’s her lively wit as much as her beauty that makes her so alluring.

This non-canonical episode, contrived for the film, is a good example of the way Chris Weitz’s screenplay nimbly tweaks tradition to make the story work for a contemporary audience. In another nice detail here, Weitz has Madden’s charming prince – preserving his true identity from Cinderella – claim to be an apprentice at the palace, learning his father’s trade.

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So Branagh’s film has the human touch, but it doesn’t stint on the magic and spectacle, either. Sandy Powell’s costumes and Dante Ferretti’s production design are suitably ravishing, and the eye-popping CGI – relatively sparingly used – comes into its own during the story’s big transformation scene, when Helena Bonham Carter’s delightfully dotty fairy godmother, an amused twinkle in her eye, turns pumpkin, mice, lizards and goose into carriage, horses, footmen and driver.

Finding the enduring enchantment in the age-old tale, Branagh’s own accomplishments as director are no less dazzling.

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Certificate U. Runtime 113 mins. Director Kenneth Branagh.

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Competition | Win Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar on Blu-Ray – Out on March 30

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From Christopher Nolan, the director of The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, Interstellar is yours to own on Limited Edition 2-disc Blu-ray™ digibook, Blu-ray™ and DVD on March 30. To celebrate the release we’re giving you the chance to win the epic space adventure on Blu-ray!

With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history: traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars.  Interstellar features an all-star cast led by Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine and Mackenzie Foy.

The two-disc Blu-ray™ with UltraViolet™ contains three hours of in-depth, behind-the-scenes bonus content detailing the epic shoot, the scientific realities explored in the film, a look at creating the stunning visuals, plus an extended cut of “The Science of Interstellar” broadcast special and much more.

Pre-order Interstellar on Limited Edition 2-disc Blu-ray™ digibook,  Blu-ray™ and DVD: http://po.st/BuyInterstellar or watch on Digital HD now: http://po.st/InterstellarDigitalDownload

We have three Blu-ray™ copies to give away. To be in with a chance of winning of this incredible prize simply answer this question and email your answer and your details (with Interstellar in the subject line) to movietalk@timeinc.com

Q: Name the Interstellar actress known for her Oscar-nominated performance in Zero Dark Thirty

  •   Jessica Chastain
  •   Anne Hathaway
  •   Mackenzie Foy

For further information on Interstellar join us here www.facebook.com/Interstellar  or follow us @InterstellarUK

Pre-order Interstellar on Limited Edition 2-disc Blu-ray™ digibook, Blu-ray™ and DVD: http://po.st/BuyInterstellar

© 2015 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved.

Competition closes 4pm Monday 13 April 2015. Terms and Conditions apply.

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Outlander | Diana Gabaldon’s time-travelling historical romance makes its debut on UK TV

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Get ready to binge watch! Amazon is streaming the first eight episodes of time-travelling romantic fantasy adventure Outlander on Prime Instant Video from today, with the remaining episodes launching weekly from Sunday 5th April, just hours after broadcast in the US.

Based on the best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander tells the gripping, passionate tale of a married World War Two nurse called Claire (played by Caitriona Balfe) who is thrown back in time from 1945 after stepping through an ancient standing stone circle while on a second honeymoon with her husband.

Finding herself in the Scottish Highlands in the midst of Jacobite Rebellion in 1743, she is saved from assault by a sadistic royal army captain who happens to be her husband’s ancestor (Tobias Menzies) by Scottish rebel Dougal (Graham McTavish). As if being an out-of-time Sassenach wasn’t discombobulating enough, she then finds herself torn between two men in different centuries after falling for dashing Highlander Jamie (Sam Heughan)…

The first eight episodes of Outlander are available on Amazon Prime Instant Video from Thu 26 Mar, with further episodes available each week from 5 Apr.

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Next Goal Wins | Film review – Stirring soccer documentary hits the back of the net

Next Goal Wins - Jaiyah 'Johnny' Selua (defender)

Even folk who don’t give a hoot about football will find their hearts warmed by inspirational documentary Next Goal Wins about the tiny Pacific island soccer team that’s been dubbed the worst in the world. Opening with footage of America Samoa’s record-breaking 31-0 drubbing by Australia in 2001, the film chronicles the national team’s herculean struggle to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Thomas Rongen, the hard-nosed Dutch coach they recruit, is one of the film’s most striking personalities, but its most charismatic is undoubtedly defender Jaiyah ‘Johnny’ Saelua, a member of Samoa’s third gender, the Fa’fafine, and the first transgender player ever to compete in a World Cup qualifier.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 98 mins. Directors Mike Brett, Steve Jamison.

Showing on Sky Movies Premiere at 6.15pm tonight

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Competition | Win a Paddington merchandise pack, including Blu-ray, luggage bag, stickers and balloons!

BD_PADDINGTON_BUNDLE_BThe UK’s most beloved bear, PADDINGTON, is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on 23 March 2015 – and to celebrate – we have three merchandise packs up for grabs, which includes a Blu-ray, lunch bag, water bottle, luggage tag, stickers and balloons!

PADDINGTON is the magical adventure of a polite young Peruvian bear, who travels to London in search of a home.  Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, it seems that city life is not all he imagined- until he meets the Brown family, who kindly offer him a place to stay.  But little do the Browns realise just how much chaos one small bear can cause- and they soon discover that their lives will never be the same again.

Based on the best-selling series by British author Michael Bond, PADDINGTON brings together an all-star cast, with Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) and Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham) as Mr. & Mrs. Brown, Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge) as the evil taxidermist, Julie Walters (Billy Elliot) as Mrs. Bird the housekeeper, Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter) as Mr. Gruber the owner of the antiques shop, Peter Capaldi (Dr. Who) as the Browns’ neighbour, Mr. Curry, and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.

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

Q: Paddington gets his name from a famous London…?

  • Station
  • Museum
  • Airport

Competition closes 4pm Friday 10 April 2015. Terms and Conditions apply.

Paddington is available on Blu-ray, DVD & download from Studio Canal from Monday 23rd March.

“A delightful outing for the marmalade-loving bear from darkest Peru” Read the review

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Girl in Progress | Film review – Troubled teen Ansiedad tries to be the heroine of her own coming-of-age tale

Girl in Progress - Eva Mendes, Cierra-Ramirez

Troubled Hispanic teenager Ansiedad (Cierra Ramirez) tries to speed up her progress from child to adult by casting herself as the heroine of her own coming-of-age tale, ticking off the genre’s typical rites of passage beneath the nose of her neglectful single mom, Grace (Eva Mendes), as she transforms herself from chess-playing nerd to sassy rebel. Teen comedy-drama Girl in Progress is too self-consciously quirky for its own good, but Ramirez brims with sparky charm as the wilful Ansiedad, while Mendes gives a core of likeability to the dismayingly wayward Grace, whose own immaturity is clearly the source of her daughter’s problems.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 89 mins. Director Patricia Riggen.

Girl in Progress is released on DVD by Lionsgate UK.

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