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A Patch of Fog (Michael Lennox, 2015)

Following Oscar-nominated short Boogaloo and Graham, A Patch of Fog marks the feature debut of Northern Irish director Michael Lennox. Belfast is the setting of this low-budget thriller, though with nary a reference to the Troubles in the film’s screenplay or geography, the two-hander drama could plausibly take place just about anywhere. It’s in the mould of thrillers like Misery and The Fan, where a symbiotic relationship begins between a media personality and an obsessive stalker, though any veers towards violence as a means of conflict resolution in A Patch of Fog come only after a considerably lengthy bout of mind games first. And in being set in the run-up to 25th December, it offers a new contender for the misanthrope crowd to declare as their favourite Christmas film – take that, The Proposition

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Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, 2015)

When it comes to the cinematic canon, certain films come to mind when thinking of particular stories. For example, when it comes to tales of the mafia, you’re probably going to think of The Godfather or Goodfellas; they have left a distinct enough imprint on the notion of a mafia story that they’ve become the go-to reference points for the concept.

Now, when it comes to stories about madness brought about by venturing into the jungle, a couple of key films will generally come to mind. There’s Apocalypse Now, there’s Fitzcarraldo, and, of course, the masterpiece that is George of the Jungle. Why bring this up? Well, it’s the case that Ciro Guerra’s new film, Embrace of the Serpent, offers a delirium-inducing drive into the dark heart of nature that feels like little else we’ve seen before – a distinctive experience worthy of becoming one of those titans…

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Ratter (Branden Kramer, 2015)

With Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended and Nacho Vigalondo’s Open Windows, tech-bound terror has become an increasingly popular source of inspiration for directors looking to thrill, while also keeping an eye firmly on the more problematic elements of society’s ever-developing relationship with the Internet. Joining this small but growing genre is writer-director Branden Kramer’s feature debut, Ratter

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Branden Kramer talks ‘Ratter’, hackers and the FBI

After last year’s Unfriended offered a vision of tech terror told entirely through Skype on a laptop screen, Ratter, the feature debut of writer-director Branden Kramer, ups the unsettling factor by placing viewers in the shoes of a stalker capturing someone’s life via elaborate hacking; a tale entirely visualised through the recording equipment within laptops, smartphones, and other web-connected devices.

Ashley Benson (Spring Breakers, Pretty Little Liars) is excellent as the unseen stalker’s target, whom we witness, to an uncomfortably intimate degree, going about her everyday life, none the wiser that she is perpetually being watched, until events escalate to a point where the threat is very much pronounced.

With the film now available on VOD in the UK, we sit down with Branden Kramer to discuss the creation of this unique thriller, as well as his own run-ins with hackers and, amusingly, the FBI…

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Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray, 2015)

The problem with most biographical dramas, particularly those concerning musicians, is that they can often play like greatest hits samplers rather than a cohesive, insightful character study. Some of the best music biopics are those that take a formally interesting approach that feels akin to the spirit of the artist/s in question, rather than trying to box their persona into a rigid formula; Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There is one example, as is the recent Love & Mercy, which offers a dual performance to depict two decades in the life of subject Brian Wilson, but also sonically innovative soundscapes to convey the troubled genius’ artistic process.

This is not to say that the traditional music biopic formula is of inherently dubious quality. As with any genre, execution is key. Straight Outta Compton, a portrait of N.W.A (though mainly members Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E) from director F. Gary Gray, is one such example of the formula done very well. Or, at least, up to a point…

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Love (Gaspar Noé, 2015)

For a good while, Love plays exactly like what most would imagine an unsimulated sex-featuring odyssey from enfant terrible Gaspar Noé to be. (No prizes for predicting that the very first shot involves a hand job.) His lead, Murphy (Glusman), is on an extended bad trip, muttering profanity-laden soliloquies in monotone voiceover, as recollections of his relationships with two specific women play in his mind – mainly the parts where they had sex…

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Fidelio: Alice’s Journey (Lucie Borleteau, 2014)

Undoubtedly the sexiest film set on a freighter since Captain Phillips, Fidelio: Alice’s Journey, the French feature debut of actress-turned-writer-director Lucie Borleteau, is a riveting exploration of sexual relationships, everyday sexism, and seafaring struggles (with a touch of sex)…

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