The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Peter Jackson, 2014)

What began with An Unexpected Journey ends in an altogether expected fashion, as Peter Jackson wraps up his frequently misguided three-part adaptation of The Hobbit with basically no (pleasant) surprises and most of the same weaknesses that plagued both …Journey and The Desolation of Smaug. There is a smattering of fantasy fun amid the po-faced gloom, though. On a minute-by-minute basis, The Battle of the Five Armies – by far the shortest of Jackson’s Middle Earth films – is the most solid entry of this prequel trilogy…

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Youth of the Beast (Seijun Suzuki, 1963)

In 1968, Japanese director Seijun Suzuki saw his long-standing contract with the Nikkatsu studio terminated for repeatedly turning routine potboiler scripts he was given into increasingly surreal, visually uninhibited gangster movies, such as avant-garde masterworks Branded to Kill and Tokyo Drifter. 1963’s Youth of the Beast rarely reaches quite the same fantastic heights of kaleidoscopic imagery, but within it the seeds of Suzuki’s later, greater madness were sown…

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Horns (Alexandre Aja, 2013)

An adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel of the same name, Horns is a fantasy fable that works well for scattered stretches of its very bloated runtime, but is too tone-deaf everywhere else to fully satisfy. It tells the story of Ig Parrish (Radcliffe, doing some fine work with rage, despair, and an American accent), a man wrongfully accused of the rape and murder of his girlfriend, Merrin (Temple), but unable to muster much of a legal defence, or even sympathy. One morning, he awakens with a set of devilish horns upon his skull, which makes anyone in his presence compelled to reveal their own personal demons and act out sins. With his new powers, Ig goes gumshoe to try and solve Merrin’s murder…

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Aubrey Plaza and Jeff Baena discuss zombie comedy ‘Life After Beth’

“Yes, breaking shit was very interesting to me; I really wanted to break some shit.” Aubrey Plaza has just been asked whether the physical aspects of her role in horror-comedy Life After Beth were of particular interest. Her response also reflects the go-for-broke nature of director Jeff Baena’s messy but fun feature debut…

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Scotland Loves Anime 2014

With any hopes of Disney making a 2D feature animation again looking increasingly unlikely, and even SpongeBob SquarePants venturing into CGI territory for a forthcoming movie sequel, it’s primarily left to the East nowadays for more traditional animation to thrive. Returning to Edinburgh and Glasgow this October for a fifth year, the Scotland Loves Anime festival showcases some of the best of contemporary and classic Japanese animation, mostly of the hand-drawn variety, on the big screen where so much of it belongs but is rarely seen by Western audiences (unless it’s another Miyazaki masterpiece picked up by a big distributor).

The festival features many UK or Scottish premieres, and the most high-profile of these is Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, the first theatrically released spin-off in years for one of anime’s most well-known and commercially successful properties worldwide. Any twenty-something who came of age during the anime on UK TV boom of the early 2000s (thanks, Cartoon Network) will want to get themselves to either GFT or Filmhouse to catch the gloriously daft super-powered fights, slapstick and general shoutiness through cinema speakers…

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Grand Central (Rebecca Zlotowski, 2013)

Nuclear radiation provides the unusual backdrop for a love affair in Grand Central. Tahar Rahim plays Gary, a man with an unclear criminal background who begins work at a nuclear power plant, where several employees take him under their wing and advise how to stay safe and get ahead. One night after work, he meets Karole (Seydoux), the fiancée of co-worker Toni (Denis Ménochet). Following an immediate attraction, the two promptly fail to keep their passions and loyalties in check and begin romping on a regular basis…

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Stations of the Cross (Dietrich Brüggemann, 2014)

Stations of the Cross is made up of 14 segments, each filmed in a single long and often static take, where meticulous compositions and dry performances drive a biting look at fundamentalist Catholicism and domineering parenting, as well as the surrounding secular society that fails to properly intervene when one young girl takes the notion of sacrifice for following God’s will too far…

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Writing by Josh Slater-Williams