Unfinished Business | Film review – Vince Vaughn’s comedy of embarrassment is simply embarrassing

Unfinished Business - Vince Vaughn

Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco team up for Hangover-like hijinks as three hapless salesmen in the woeful Unfinished Business, a would-be comedy of embarrassment that is simply embarrassing.

Led by Vaughn’s harassed family man, the trio are on a make-or-break business trip to Berlin to keep their fledgling company alive and there’s a similar air of sweaty desperation about the movie itself as its characters fumble and flop from one unfunny situation to the next.

Vaughn conducts a business deal in a mixed sauna, surrounded by naked (mostly female) flesh; Wilkinson’s sexually frustrated sad sack mistakes a dumpy hotel maid for an escort-service ‘French maid’; and Franco’s naïve simpleton has implausible sexual adventures of his own.

Writer Steve Conrad (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and director Ken Scott (Delivery Man) pile one raunchy mishap after another on their luckless heroes, but when it comes to eliciting laughs they fail to seal the deal.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 91 mins. Director Ken Scott.

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Appropriate Behaviour | Film review – Tall, dark and drily funny, Desiree Akhavan stands out from the crowd

Desiree Akhavan - Appropriate Behaviour

Tall, dark and drily funny, bisexual Iranian-American Desiree Akhavan is a striking screen presence in Appropriate Behaviour, her fearlessly frank, quasi-autobiographical feature film debut as writer, director and star.

Standing out from the crowd isn’t difficult for her character, Shirin, even amid the denizens of Brooklyn’s achingly cool hipster scene; fitting in is harder, though, as she struggles to deal with her bitter breakup with girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson) and wrestles with the issue of coming out about her sexuality to her conservative family.

As Shirin throws herself into a series of haphazard sexual encounters with both sexes (sometimes at the same time) in a bid to make her ex jealous, it’s easy to detect echoes of Lena Dunham –fittingly, Dunham has cast Akhavan as a character in the fourth season of ‘Girls’ – but Akhavan is very much her own woman. Her film has its flaws (the story does rather peter out inconclusively) but her deadpan humour and offbeat sensibility definitely make her a figure to watch.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 86 mins. Director Desiree Akhavan.

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Shivers (1975) | David Cronenberg’s high-rise horror makes for a hair-raising rediscovery on HD

Shivers (1975)

SYNOPSIS
The modernist Starliner Towers apartment complex on Nuns’ Island in Montreal becomes the perfect incubator when a medical professor, engaged in organ transplant research, genetically engineers a parasite that turns its human hosts into sex fiends.

As the escaped parasite crawls through the high-rise’s air ducts infecting the inhabitants (who are, at first, excited and enthralled by their new-found hedonism before turning into flesh-hungry zombies), resident doctor Roger St Luc (Paul Hampton) and Nurse Forsythe (Lynn Lowry) attempt to find a way to stop the epidemic from spreading beyond the walls.

Shivers (1975)

THE LOWDOWN
Shivers (aka The Parasite Murders/They Came From Within) was Canadian writer/director David Cronenberg‘s debut full-length feature, his springboard to cult horror/sci-fi auteur status, and one of the controversial films to come out of Canada in the 1970s. It was also the film that set the blueprint for the director’s dark delving into body horror in his latter work, particularly Rabid, The Brood, and Scanners. Yes, it is raw and naïve (even Cronenberg admits that), but the film’s subversive themes (attacking the bourgeois existence for one) still unnerves 40 years on – while its nightmare scenario of an epidemic wiping out humanity remains a popular fixture in contemporary culture, from TV’s The Walking Dead to reality shows like I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse. READ MORE…

Shivers (1975)The Arrow Films Release
Shivers was digitally restored by the Toronto International Film Festival at Technicolor with supervision by director David Cronenberg, and was delivered to Arrow Films by Lionsgate for its 2014 dual format (Blu-ray and DVD) release in the UK. Also available in SteelBook format.

The extras features the new documentary, Parasite Memories, the archive Canadian TV episode, On Screen!, about the film’s release, and From Stereo to Video, a featurette charting Cronenberg’s career. The collector’s booklet features an essay by Paul Corupe on Medical Terror in Cronenberg’s Shivers, an extract from Cronenberg on Cronenberg (1992), a reprint of the 1975 Saturday Night magazine article by Robert Fulford (as Marshall Delaney) and a 1975 Cinema Canada article. The reversible sleeve features new cover art by Nat Marsh.

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West 11 (1963) | Michael Winner’s dissolute crime thriller puts a seedy-looking Notting Hill centre stage

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22-year-old Joe Beckett (Alfred Lynch), a seasoned citizen of London’s bedsitter belt, is the renegade son of middle-class parents and, to use his own description, ‘an emotional leper’. He decides that he needs a violent shock to shake him back into life. As a result, he accepts a commission to carry out the murder of a total stranger for an ex-army con man (Eric Porter) he meets in a coffee bar…

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And early feature from Death Wish director Michael Winner, this gritty crime thriller sets its story of alienation and amorality amid the faded grandeur and seedy clubs of early-1960s Notting Hill (looking authentically decrepit).

Scripted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall (Billy Liar, Whistle Down The Wind) from the novel, The Furnished Room, by Laura del Rivo, Alfred Lynch (The Hill, Manhunt) leads the starry cast that includes Diana Dors (looking fabulous), Finlay Currie, Freda Jackson and Patrick Wymark, while the excellent jazz score is composed by the legendary Stanley Black and performed by Acker Bilk.

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West 11 is available on DVD as part of Network Distributing’s The British Film collection, and is presented in a new transfer from the original film elements, in its as exhibited theatrical aspect ratio. The special features include original theatrical trailers, alternative scenes made for the overseas market, image gallery and promotional material PDFs.

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Love, Rosie – DVD review – Buoyant stars Lily Collins & Sam Claflin keep filmsy romantic comedy afloat

Love, Rosie - Lily Collins

Based on Cecelia Ahern’s bestselling chick-lit novel Where Rainbows End, Love, Rosie is a very slight romantic comedy that is almost sunk by its messy plot and some icky, ill-judged moments but stays afloat thanks to buoyant leads Lily Collins and Sam Claflin.

They play Rosie and Alex, lifelong pals whose friendship is clearly destined – à la When Harry Met Sally – to blossom into love. Yet before they can finally admit their true feelings for one another, each has to be put through the romantic wringer by other people, with Rosie becoming ensnared by Christian Cooke’s slick cad Greg, while Alex gets entangled with Tamsin Egerton’s leggy controlling Sally and Suki Waterhouse’s stuck-up, self-absorbed Bethany. The hurts and heartaches all take place, however, in a glossy feelgood fantasy world more reminiscent of a Richard Curtis rom-com than real life.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 99 mins. Director Christian Ritter.

Released on Blu-ray & DVD on Monday 2nd March by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Special Features
-    Interviews with Lily Collins, Sam Claflin and Cecelia Ahern
-    Making of… Love, Rosie
-    Music Video: Mimi and the Mad Noise Factory “Get me Back”

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Mr Turner | Blu-ray review – Timothy Spall’s warts-and-all portrait of a master in Mike Leigh’s daring biopic

Mr Turner Blu-raySnubbed at the Baftas and Oscars, Timothy Spall deservedly won the best actor award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for his portrayal of JMW Turner in Mike Leigh’s magnificent biopic Mr Turner, which depicts the 19th-century painter in the last 25 years of his life.

Earthy, boorish, single-mindedly devoted to his art, Spall’s Turner grunts and growls, gurgles and wheezes, but the performance could not be more eloquent, revealing the artist in all his contradictions and genius. And Leigh’s is an astonishing achievement, too, daringly upending the timid conventions of most period biopics to create a compelling and convincing cinematic portrait.

When Turner upstages his fellow artists on varnishing day at the Royal Academy, brazenly daubing a blob of fresh red paint on his seascape canvas, it’s easy to detect shades of the director’s own audacious confidence.

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Certificate 12. Runtime 147 mins. Director Mike Leigh.

Released on Blu-ray & DVD on Monday 2nd March by Entertainment One.

Special Features: Making of: ‘Many Colours of Mr Turner’ (directed by Mike Leigh), Mike Leigh’s vision for Mr Turner.

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Cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner gets a limited-edition soundtrack release

The Prisoner OST

Fans of The Prisoner and Gideon’s Way

 might like to check out two new soundtracks to be released in the UK from Network.

prisoner-the-soundtrack-white-vinylThere will also be two versions of The Prisoner OST: white vinyl, presented in an overprinted transparent plastic sleeve limited to just 500 copies (£27); and black vinyl, presented in a gatefold sleeve, limited to just 1,000 copies, (£22).

They will be 180g ‘virgin’ vinyls featuring new transfer from original analogue tape elements. Ray Staff (who has worked with the likes of Muse, The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin) and John Webber worked on the production of these vinyls at the world famous AIR studios.

Available to pre-buy now.

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Catch Me Daddy | Film review – Gritty British thriller pits fugitive lovers against honour-killing threat

CATCH ME DADDY - Sameena Jabeen Ahmed

Set amid the sweeping moors and scruffy urban edgelands of West Yorkshire, gritty and unsettling British thriller Catch Me Daddy pits a fugitive pair of young lovers against remorseless pursuers. Right from the start, you fear things won’t turn out well for runaway Asian teenager Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) and her white boyfriend Aaron (Conor McCarron), being hunted by two teams of thugs – one Asian, one white – dispatched by her obdurate restaurateur father.

Out of this set up, writer-director Daniel Wolfe and his brother Matthew create an almost relentlessly grim mood, with the odd moments of tenderness and humour quickly cancelled out by bursts of sickening violence. Bleak to watch, certainly, yet impressively put together, with eye-catching cinematography (by Robbie Ryan) and an arresting score that makes striking use of songs by Patti Smith and Tim Buckley.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 112 mins. Director Daniel Wolfe.

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It Follows | Film review – Eeerily uncanny menace stalks suburbia, very slowly, in brilliantly creepy teen horror chiller

It Follows - Maika Monroe

More than 35 years after John Carpenter’s Halloween, the leafy streets of American suburbia remain perilous for teenagers. In writer-director David Robert Mitchell’s horror chiller It Follows, yet another bunch of youngsters find themselves under threat from an implacable menace but their dismayingly elusive foe is no knife-wielding maniac.

Instead, as 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe, The Guest) discovers after her date with new boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary) takes a hazardous turn, her pursuer can take the form of a succession of different people, mostly strangers but some familiar, who walk towards her at a slow but relentless pace. Only she can see her stalker and her only hope of survival is to pass on this curse to someone else.

It Follows - Jake Weary & Maika Monroe

There’s something eerily uncanny and uncannily eerie about the unnamed entity that is following Jay, and the fact that Mitchell doesn’t explain its origins only makes his film more unnerving. Jay’s curse has echoes of Japanese horror films, such as The Ring cycle, while her inhumanly human pursuers recall Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The way the curse is passed from one person to another inevitably suggests a form of sexually transmitted disease, but there is no suggestion of the retribution for sexual activity so often found in slasher movies. Instead, Jay and the teenage friends who come to her aid are portrayed with refreshing sensitivity and realistic nuance.

Above all, though, It Follows is scary. As the throbbing electronic score by Disasterpeace (alias of Rich Vreeland) ratchets up the tension, the remorseless antagonist becomes genuinely horrifying, all the more so because its malignity is seemingly motiveless. And with no escape or solace, all we can do is anxiously scan the artfully composed widescreen frame looking to see from where and in what form it will next appear.

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Certificate 15. Runtime 100 mins. Director David Robert Mitchell.

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The Other (1972) | The chilling Depression-era psychological horror gets a UK HD release

The Other cover

SYNOPSIS
Mysterious accidents befall a family on a farm in depression-era Connecticut resulting in the death of a beloved father and a cherished twin brother. But when nine-year-old Niles begins to see and speak to his twin, Holland, the remaining family members, including concerned grandmother Ada (Uta Hagen), can only wait in terrified anticipation for more tragedies to occur… as it slowly dawns on them that the accidents may not be accidental after all.

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THE LOWDOWN
Adapted for the screen by Thomas Tryon from his own bestselling 1971 novel, and beautifully shot by acclaimed cinematographer Robert Surtees (Ben-Hur) The Other is a genuinely chilling psychological horror from To Kill A Mockingbird director Robert Mulligan, which eschews gore in favour of richly detailed psychological horror in its depiction of a deeply disturbed child. Click here to read more about the film.

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SPECIAL DUAL FORMAT (BLU-RAY + DVD) EDITION:
Eureka! Entertaininment presents The Other on Blu-ray as part of a dual format edition in a new transfer of the film in its original aspect ratio, with optional English subtitles. A trailer and collector’s booklet featuring an essay on the film and an archive interview with the director is also included.

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