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Film Reviews :Rosewater : Spooks - The Greater Good : Girlhood : Phoenix : Futuro Beach : Stray Dogs : Big Game

07/05/2015 19:47 BST | Updated 07/05/2016 10:59 BST

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Director: Jon Stewart

Cast: Gael Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Haluk Bilginer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Golshifteh Farahani

Genre: Drama

Language: English

Country of Origin: USA 2014 103 mins.

Certificate:15

Rating: ****

Gripping cinema verite. Jon Stewart's directorial debut is a tense and chilling triumph.

'Rosewater,' based on BBC journalist's Maziar Bahari's memoir 'Then They Came for Me : A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival' is a true life account of the Canadian-Iranian journalist imprisonment in June 2009 whilst covering the 2009 Iranian Presidential elections when reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi challenged the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. With Ahmadinejad's announced landslide victory before the polls closed on election day, Maziar submitted to the BBC footage of Mousavi supporters in street protests and was arrested at his mother's home by the Revolutionary Guards, placed in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison for 118 days, blindfolded, accused of being a spy and tortured by a man identified by the smell of the perfume of the righteous as 'Rosewater.' With the echoing memory of his father (Haluk Bilginer) imprisoned by the Shah in the 50s and his sister (Golshifteh Farahani) by the Ayatollahs in the 80s, Maziar Bahari ultimately survives by laughter and Leonard Cohen.

An international campaign led by Bahari's wife and supported by the Western media and Jon Stewart's 'The Daily Show,' saw Bahari released on bail on the proviso that he'd spy for the regime. There's humour in everything.

With mesmerising performances from Gael Bernal as Maziar Bahari, Shohreh Aghdashloo as Maziar Bahari's courageous mother, Moloojoon and Kim Bodnia who plays 'the Specialist.' The irony is that both their parents were tortured in the 50s by the Shah's secret police but 'Rosewater' was absorbed into the paranoia of Iran's authoritarian regime. Stunning cinema verite.

Released by Works Film Group

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Director: Bharat Nalluri

Cast: Kit Harington, Elyes gabel, Jennifer Ehle

Genre: Action Drama Thriller

Language: English

Country of Origin: UK 2015 104 mins

Certificate:15

Rating: ***

It's not an easy task to transfer an award winning TV hit to the big screen. 'Spooks: The Greater Good,' the big screen spin-off from the BBC BAFTA winning TV character driven series opens with a high octane hit mixed with intrigue and double-cross that shudders and creaks somewhat as it widens its scope onto the big screen.

Terrorist Adem Qasim (Elyes Gabel) escapes from MI5 custody during a hand-over to our American cousins. It was so much easier at Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie or a private swop away from prying eyes. Someone has to take the fall and it's dear old Sir Harry Pearce (Peter Firth), Head of Counter-terrorism. Disgrace and resignation means Harry's off into the shadows or has he had enough and topped himself. Dies MI5 have a mole ? Only one thing to do when it's a bit hairy with whispers above that our cousins might take over. Get ex-agent Will Holloway (Kit Harington) to do a Jason Bourne leap through a Moscow plate glass window, whisk him off to London HQ for a chat with the bosses and Will, old boy, go forth and find Harry.

Stylishly shot with a feel for the London back drop with splashes of Bourne, Bond and a tug at Le Carre but not quite the elegance of a George Smiley mole hunt but this is a high octane mover. Tim McInnerny surfaces as Oliver Mace, Director General of MI5, a 19th century character from the pages of Punch played for laughs or at least tongue-in-cheek, I assume. Harry Pearce resists death from the stomach heave school of MI5 sincerity and Kit Harington tries to fit the bill as Will Holloway, the loose cannon ex-agent with an edge but doesn't quite have the Harry Palmer, hang-free, flawed, doesn't give a s..., but push him and... or the Jason Borne tag that's self explanatory.

Released by 20th Century Fox 8th May

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Director: Celine Sciamma

Cast: Karidje Toure, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Marietor Toure

Genre: Drama

Language: French with English subtitles

Country of Origin: France 2014 113 mins.

Certificate:15

Rating: ****

Being black and living in the underprivileged suburbs of Paris isn't easy for shy sixteen-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré). Excluded from school for low grades and in fear of her brother Djibril (Cyril Mendy) she escapes into the comfort of a girl gang led by Lady (Assa Sylla). For Marieme, renamed 'Vic' for 'Victory' and with Adiatou (Lindsay Karamoh) and Fily (Marietou Toure), it's don't ask, just take what you want. They've got the edge.

Celine Sciamma presents a non-judgemental coming-of-age movie with an authentic feel. These are four girls who need to be cool but live with school, home and peer pressures and have to break out. Perhaps the defining moment of their attitude and bond is when they rent a hotel room, smoke a joint, drink rum and coke and enjoy the delights of wearing a designer dress still with it's anti-theft tag on and dance and lip-synch to Rihanna's 'Shine Bright Like A Diamond.'

Released by StudioCanal 8th May

A beautifully observed framing of the joy and fragility of youth stunningly shot by Crystel Fournier and backed up by a spot on electo-pop soundtrack.

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Director: Christian Petzold

Cast: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf

Genre: Drama

Language: English, German with English subtitles

Country of Origin: Germany, Poland 2014 98 mins.

Certificate:12A

Rating:****

With a film noir feel Christian Petzoid's follow up to 'Barbara' (2012) is a powerful and sensitive look at survival, guilt and compromise in post-war German society.

Germany's in ruins and an eerie unreality hangs in the air. Nelly (Nina Hoss), an Auschwitz survivor, her disfigured face covered in blood soaked bandages, returns to Berlin for facial reconstruction surgery with Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), her friend from pre-war days and an employee in a Jewish agency. Nelly wants herself back, she's the sole survivor of a Jewish family murdered in the Holocaust but the doctor suggests that a new face is an advantage. Although barely recovered from surgery, and desperate to find her husband Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) Nina tracks him down to the Phoenix club but there's no recognition beyond an unnerving resemblance. When Johnny reveals his plot to get his hands on Nelly's inheritance, she agrees to pose as her and split the 'dead' woman's fortune.

A powerful, sensitive and complex look at the confusion and fragility of a post-war psychologically scarred society. With it's film noir feel, Nina Hoss's restrained performance, the film noir feel, Stephen Will's mellow jazz score and Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash's constant use of the haunting 'Speak Low,' 'Phoenix' echoes a haunted past and an uncertain future.

Released by Soda Pictures 8th May

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Director: Karim Ainouz

Cast: Wagner Moura, Clemens Schick, Jesuita Barbosa

Genre: Drama

Country of Origin : Brazil, Germany 106 mins.

Language: Portuguese & German with English subtitles

Certificate:15

Rating: ***

Part a gay love story defined by the surroundings and landscape, Karim Ainouz's 'Futuro Beach' is divided into three chapters - The Drowner's Embrace, A Hero Cut in Half and A German-Speaking Ghost and looks at lives lost and found, identity, reinvention and displacement.

Brazilian lifeguard, Donato (Wagner Moura) saves touring German biker Konrad (Clemens Schick) from drowning, but his companion's lost. The two embark on an intense sexual and emotional affair with Donata leaving his ailing mother and younger brother Ayrton (Savio Ygor Ramos) who idolises him to start a new life with Konrad in Berlin. With time hopes are dashed and Donata's torn between family ties and the beach has a desire to return home. Eight years later, the lovers have separated and Ayrton (Jesuita Barbosa), a figure from the past forces them to confront and reconcile their past. Set against a Fortaleza and Berlin backdrop, Ali Olcay Gozcaya's camera captures and contrasts the defining colours of Fortaleza and Berlin's grey winter landscape to match the chapters in a story of three people's struggles with identity, displacement and reinvention.

Released by Peccadillo Pictures 8th May

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Director: Ming-Liang Tsai

Cast: Kang-Sheng Lee, Kuei-Mei Yong, Yi-Ching Lu

Genre: Drama

Language: Mandarin with English subtitles

Country of Origin: Taiwan 2013 138 mins.

Grand Jury Prize 2013 Venice International Film Festival

Certificate:12A

Rating: ****

Challenging, mysterious, sad and bleak and Winner of the 2013 Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Venice Film Festival, the visionary director Ming-Liang-Tsai who previously worked in experimental theatre offers a series of richly composed tableau framed with absolute formality, long takes and little narrative that watch a family, isolated and anonymous living on the margins of Taipei society. The 'Stray Dogs' a mother (Kuei Mei Yang), a middle aged father (Lee Kang-Sheng), his son (Lee Yi Cheng) and daughter (Li Yi Chieh). We see their past and ponder their future. Sad, bleak, bizarre and hypnotic. The most memorable scene is impossible to describe and sounds nothing. The father rolls over in bed, affectionately holds a cabbage with eyes and a mouth drawn on it, devours it and weeps uncontrollably. Art house viewing, mesmerising.

Released by New Wave Films 8th May

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Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Onni Tommila, Felicity Huttman

Genre: Action Adventure

Language: English

Country of Origin: Finland, Germany 2014 91 mins.

Certificate:12A

Rating: ***

Plenty of action, thrills and laughs set against a scenic backdrop to die with a 13 year-old all action hero in charge can't be bad and makes for easy fun-filled viewing that doesn't take itself seriously. Great fun.

13 year-old Oskari (Onni Tommila) with a bow and arrow needs to survive a day and night in the Finnish wilderness, bag a kill and emerge a man. What he didn't expect was to meet a battered and bruised American President (Samuel L. Jackson) in an escape pod that dropped out of Air Force One when it was hit by a surface-to-air missile. He maybe the US President but he's not up to action thrills in Finland. Lead on Oskari, you're the boy in charge, Azhari the hunting obsessed nutter and other baddies are on the loose.

Released by e One 8th May

Honey Trap

Director:Rebecca Johnson

Certificate: 18

Changing Trinidad for Brixton where 15-year-old Layla's (Jessica Sula) lived with her grandparents, a mother who's not exactly overjoyed at seeing her daughter and the destructive world of London's teen gang culture greets naieve and impressionable Layla. Swept off her feet by self-styled rapper and gang leader Troy (Lucien Laviscourt) offers status and she believes love but envy and the destructive fragility of teen gang culture leads to Layla agreeing to setting up a honeytrap for her only true friend, Shaun (Ntonga Mwanza). A good lead performance but the support cast came over as cardboard cut outs.

Released by 8th May

Still

Director:Simon Blake

A 'gritty atmospheric thriller' that lacks grit, atmosphere and thrills. Tom Carver (Aidan Gillan) holed up in his grotty flat carries a lot of angst and mixes it with a teenage gang which sets him off on an obvious spiral of self-imposed destruction. It maybe beautifully shot but it's dull and lacks originality and atmosphere.

Released by 8th May

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