LOVING VINCENT

Cert 12A 91mins Stars 4

Step into the mind of troubled maestro Vincent Van Gogh in this intriguing and masterful composition.

One of the founders of modern art, the Dutch post-impressionist painter had a history of mental illness and self harm.

On July 27 1890 shot himself and died two days later aged 37, in the Parisian suburb of Auvers-sur-Oise.

Animated in the style of his paintings, over a 100 artists painstakingly hand crafted each of the nearly 65,000 individual frames. The bold colour and brushstroke create a liquid kaleidoscopic effect which is dreamily trippy and hypnotic.

This dazzlingly feat of technical virtuosity explores Van Gogh’s life, art and the mysterious circumstances of his death, framing the story as a murder mystery.

We’re asked to consider whether his death was a cry for help, a crime of passion or an act of commercial aggression.

A cast which includes Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson from TV’s Poldark, ensures by the end you’ll be loving Vincent, too.

KALIEDOSCOPE

Cert 15 99mins Stars 3

Put yourself in a spin with this dark and twisted British thriller.

Toby Jones plays a seedy gardener who can’t see the whole picture when he wakes up on the floor of his low rent high rise home.

Carl has a hangover, broken furniture and a dead woman in the bathroom. Meanwhile the police are investigating a local murder.

Veteran Geordie actress Anne Reid creates a wonderfully opaque performance as his mother who arrives unexpectedly and is decidedly unwelcome.

With the focus is on mystery and a sense of dread instead of graphic shocks, the dated set design and technology further confuse the jumbled time frame. We begin to doubt our own perception of events.

With its fear of sex, mummy issues, spiralling staircases and threat of violence, the script could have been ghostwritten by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. 

But for all for all the glowing individual details, there’s less going on here than at first meets the eye.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (2017)

Cert 12A 112mins Stars 3

All aboard for a train full of trouble in this handsomely upholstered retelling of Agatha Christie’s venerable murder mystery.

It’s a grand tour across very familiar terrain populated by a host of famous faces.

Kenneth Branagh supplies a suitably stately air as the Shakespearean super-thesp steps into the well heeled shoes of Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot.

As the luxurious locomotive The Orient Express thunders from Istanbul to Calais, it’s derailed by an avalanche high up in the Alps.

Johnny Depp’s gangster is murdered and Poirot has to deduce which of the passengers committed the foul deed.

Branagh also directs and does with practised authority. He drives Poirot on a personal journey, where the detective’s immovable adherence to the truth collides with his irresistible sense of justice.

Plus Branagh enjoys mischievously mixing some minor heroics with Poirot’s eccentricity and vanity.

Considerable pride is taken in presenting an old fashioned sense of entertainment. Branagh’s careful maintenance of the source material ensures there’s barely a rattle to be heard from the creaking carriage of the plot as the story smoothly pulls into it’s destination.

An epic sweep from Israel to Asia and across Europe is balanced with the claustrophobia of the glamorous interiors.

Although never moving at full tilt the  gains momentum, powered by the anxious energy of many high class show-offs jostling for screen time.

A multi-generational team sees crowd pleasers Daisy Ridley and Olivia Colman rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars such as Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and Willem Dafoe.

Dressed in richly designed period costumes, they are appropriately photographed on old school film stock not modern digital cameras.

It’s questionable whether this will gain traction with a young audience who expect louder and flashier cinematic fireworks, or with an older audience who have possibly witnessed each of the previous three adaptations.

But there’s no doubt Branagh’s express efficiently delivers.

THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM

Cert 15 109mins Stars 3

Get lost in the gothic and grisly gloom of this blood curdling murder mystery.

This pea souper of fact and fiction sees real life Victorian characters mixed up in a fictional serial killer in London’s down market Limehouse district.

With more than a dash of Hammer House of Horror blood splashed about, it all resembles the case of Jack the Ripper as if it were being investigated by an ageing Sherlock Holmes.

With his cadaverous face and grave manner, the venerable Bill Nighy is well cast as Inspector John Kildare, in a role originally pencilled in for Alan Rickman before his sad death.

Wild rumours suggest the mythical Golem is responsible. When the ageing detective is sent to investigate, he stumbles across a second murder case which may be connected.

Former singer and dancer Elizabeth, the prime suspect in the poisoning of her playwright husband.

Oldham born actress Emilia Cooke is fabulous in the role and in a flashback to her stage routine, her incandescent vitality and talent outshines the limelights and is the best reason for watching.

Picking his way though a shroud of intrigue, corruption, exploitation, rape and of course, murder, Kildare is led to the music hall where the famous Dan Leno performs.

The real life drag artist, dancer and comic is played with a suitably theatrical flourish by Douglas Booth.

He’s part of a bawdy repertory of performers and trapeze artists who all have their secrets, allowing for a shoal of red herrings to be scattered.

Cursed with a limited budget which doesn’t stretch stretch to grand spectacle, the money has been spent wisely on the period costumes and interior design.

Filmed on location up north, Leeds and Manchester stand in for the capital and show how sinister they can be at night. 

So beware the danger lurking in the shadows when you slip out to see the Limehouse Golem.

 

 

 

 

CITY OF TINY LIGHTS

Cert 15 110mins Stars 3

This thoughtful British thriller takes the gloom of 1940’s Hollywood film noir, and illuminates it with the neon dazzle of contemporary London.

The likeable Riz Ahmed brings a streetwise soft spoken charisma to a long awaited and deserved lead role, which carries dominates the film.

As a whisky drinking downbeat private detective called Tommy, he begins a missing persons investigation which escalates into murder.

The fabulous Cush Jumbo plays a prostitute concerned about her colleague. She seems to have more screen time than co-star Billie Piper, who is the more prominent in the advertising. The former star of TV’s Secret Diary of A Call Girl is a good match for the material, though we see less of her than we’d like.

There’s some snappy lines and the script doesn’t shy from the complexities or frictions of the modern metropolis. Regardless of the final scene being too bright, this is a nicely reflective piece of work.

 

 

 

A SIMPLE FAVOUR

Cert 15 117mins Stars 4

Deception is the key ingredient to the success of this breezy and hugely entertaining black comic thriller.

Tasty family secrets are revealed when a wholesome single mom investigates the disappearance of her outrageous best friend.

Anna Kendrick is best known from from the Pitch Perfect series, and knowingly trades on her girl-next-door persona as Stephanie, a paragon of domestic virtue who offers domestic cooking tips on her video blog.

This is in stark contrast to the AWOL power-dressing and martini swilling PR executive, Emily, a role in which Blake Lively is an absolute blast.

And direct from his swoony turn in romcom smash, Crazy Rich Asians, Henry Golding appears as Emily’s husband, who accepts Stephanie’s shoulder to cry on.

It’s confidently directed by Paul ‘Bridesmaids’ Feig who accentuates the sharp and funny dialogue by using French pop tunes and a bold colour scene, and creates a twisted delight which is as dark and delicious as one of Stephanie’s chocolate brownies.

BURNING MEN

Cert 15 95mins Stars 3

This paranoid rock ‘n’ roll road trip is a satanic jam of hypnotic trance-like rhythm and and in-your-face punk attitude.

Edward Hayter and Aki Omoshaybi take centre stage as a down-at-heel Deptford duo who steal a very valuable vinyl record and set off in their old banger to flog it.

From London to Newcastle via Norwich they experience drug induced hallucinations and new-nazi’s, as they’re pursued by Scandinavian bikers who want their Death Metal record returned.

There’s an enjoyably eclectic soundtrack stretching back to 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, while the film influences of Brit director Jeremy Wooding clearly include classic British burning man horror, The Wicker Man.

After a shaky-cam start it becomes more assured and offers a bleak views of life on the margins, with the US presented as an inspirational fantasy.

Coronation Street’s Denise Welch turns up on a high rise estate and Katie Collins rocks her role as a gun-toting leather clad hedonist.