Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Critical Week: Rogues gallery

One of the more anticipated press screenings this past week was for The Raid 2, Gareth Evans' sequel to his surprise hit. Although this time he ditches the gritty, linear narrative for a Hong Kong-style corruption epic. There are spectacular moments, although at two and a half hours it's somewhat exhausting. Even bigger (but barely half as long), Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the next episode in Marvel's big-screen serial, with grittier action but less suspense.

Fan-funded mystery Veronica Mars will either give closure to the truncated TV series' cult following or spark a new franchise - it's a lot of fun. An all-star cast makes the Nick Hornby-based comedy-drama A Long Way Down watchable even though it's tonally all over the place. Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return is a weakly animated adventure with an A-list voice cast (Liam Neeson, Lea Michele, Patrick Stewart) and a surprisingly strong plot.

There were also two films from Ireland: John Michael McDonagh's Calvary has the same laconic wit as The Guard, but with even deeper themes, while The Stag is a surprisingly involving bachelor-party comedy with serious edges. The independent American black comedy How to Be a Man has its moments but tries to hard to be rude and wacky, while the German drama Lose Your Head has engaging characters, but never makes much of its intriguing plot.

This coming week, screenings include the franchise wannabe Divergent, the sequels Muppets Most Wanted and Rio 2, Ben Whishaw in the British drama Lilting, the Scandinavian thriller Pioneer and the notorious Canadian black comedy The Dirties. Thursday also sees the opening night of the 28th BFI Flare, one of London's biggest and most important festivals, which runs 20-30 March. Updates on the way...

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