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The Drop (2014)

Directed by: Michaël R. Roskam

5 stars

Cousin Marv’s, a bar somewhere in Brooklyn. A neighbourhood where criminals still run the streets. It is not a place you escape easily, unless you have money. Marv (James Gandolfini) lives with his sister, is fat, jaded, has money problems and a history of crime. Bob (Tom Hardy), who is Marv’s cousin, is quiet, solitary, loyal, goes to church and is kind to animals. Read more

The Dead Lands (2014)

Directed by: Toa Fraser

4 stars

Two Maori tribes meet at the site of an ancient battle, ostensibly to allow the visiting tribe to honour the remains of their dead ancestors, and thus pave the way to peace between the clans. But the leader of the visitors, Wirepa (Te Kohe Tuhaka), desecrates the bones (in a scene of scatalogical graphicness that prefigures the gore to come) and blames his host’s son, Hongi (James Rolleston), for the insult. Read more

The Judge (2014)

Directed by David Dobkin

4 stars

Hot-shot criminal lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) leaves his Chicago law-practice, his long-suffering, newly-unfaithful wife, and his sweetly precocious daughter (Emma Tremblay) to return to his family home in small town Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Read more

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

3 stars

Continuing the story of the 95lb weakling who wished he was a 240lb hero, The Winter Soldier gives the good captain (Chris Evans) another semi-solo outing from his Avengers home. Read more

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Directed by Bryan Singer

2 stars

Like a 1970s fun-fair, X-Men: Days of Future Past comes lumbering into town, on to our screens and off pretty quickly, too, or there’s no justice.

The plot is both convoluted and simple: things are bad for the X-Men in the future, with a repressive regime soldiered by large flying robots called Sentinels hunting them down in their mountain-top hideaways. The only chance to get out of this predicament is to send the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 where he can get the younger versions of the X-Men to prevent naughty mutant Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating small, slightly evil scientist Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage, looking serious but never scary) to prevent him from perfecting said Sentinels. Read more

Unforgiven (2013)

Directed by Lee Sung-Il

5 stars

It’s hard to describe in words just how good Unforgiven, Lee Sung-Il’s remake of the 1992 Clint Eastwood movie of the same name, is. The earlier movie was no mean achievement, winning four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director. This Japanese remake won’t repeat that, because that’s not how the Academy works – and perhaps it’s fair in that Eastwood’s movie forms the very broad shoulders on which this film stands. But the new version climbs up there and doesn’t put a foot wrong. Read more

Bad Santa (2003)

Directed by: Terry Zwigoff

2 stars

Starring Billy Bob Thornton, and produced by, amongst others, Harvey Weinstein, and Joel and Ethan Coen – with all that talent, the real Christmas miracle on display here is that Bad Santa is so bad.  It veers between sentimental comedy and feel-bad film, with TV-movie lighting (its colour-palette spans the pastel-pink to muddy-brown gamut of the shopping-mall world in which it is set) and, sadly, generally weak acting.  Read more

Resistance (2011)

Directed by: Amit Gupta

3 stars

“I hope you understand”, the last words uttered in Resistance, express a sometimes futile wish. This first feature from director Gupta is at times very confusing – not because it tries to cram too much plot into its ninety-plus minute running time, but arguably too little. The story is economically told, which is often a virtue, and it quickly dispels any notion that it will be a conventional war movie. Instead, it unfolds in a leisurely but frequently elliptical fashion so that we struggle to piece together motivations and roles. Read more