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New Releases Monday 4 August 2014

Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway provide the voices in Rio 2

(image: 20th Century Fox)

Rio 2 (New to Rent)

Just as we turn our attention from the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro, we find ourselves brought back to Brazil with the sequel to 2011′s bird-based family adventure.

Since we last saw Blu and Jewel (two rare Macaws voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway), they’ve started their own little family in the belief that they’re the last of their species. But when evidence arises suggest that there are still other blue macaws floating about, it’s time for a family holiday deep into the Amazon jungle!

Iko Uwais in The Raid 2

(image: eOne)

The Raid 2 (Early Digital Release)

The sequel to the most explosive action film of 2011 had a lot to live up to. The original film was a masterclass in constructing action around a single setting – in that case, a tower block packed with gangsters. As promised, the Raid 2 is much more expansive affair with many times the number of characters and dazzling action sequences.

This film does not really require you to have seen the first Raid, working just as well as a stand-alone movie. The story is told through the eyes of Rama, our hero. He’s a young Jakarta policeman who gets tasked with a very special mission: to surrender his identity and go to prison. Once there, he must ingratiate himself with the son of the city’s biggest mob boss, with the plan of taking down police corruption from the inside out.

For a movie that only needed to deliver on the action, it handles the character scenes in a sure-handed and cinematic fashion. Welsh-born writer/director Gareth Evans is showing more and more promise with every film he makes.

But in the end, there’s only one true reason to watch this movie – and that’s for the tremendously inventive action scenes. Highlights include a young woman beating the occupants of a train carriage with a pair of hammers, a fight that takes place during a car chase, and brutal showdown in a kitchen.

This is unquestionably the best action movie since… well, The Raid.

Jared Harris and Olivia Cooke in The Quiet Ones

(image: Lionsgate)

The Quiet Ones (Early Digital Release)

The recently revived Hammer Horror label hasbeen doing a decent job making good ol’ fashioned ghost stories over the past few years. Small film like The Woman in Black and The Awakening have shown that you don’t need a wealth of blood and gore to make a really good horror movie.

The latest of their films stars Mad Men’s Jared Harris as an Oxford professor in the 70s, seeking to debunk the idea of ghosts and demonic possession. This scientific pursuit take him a group of students to an isolated house, where they run experiments on a young woman (Olivia Cooke)  who’s believed to be possessed.

Like all good ghost stories, The Quiet Ones is a creepy and unsettling slow-burner. Dim the lights and press play, if you dare.

 

Brendan Gleeson in Calvary

(image: eOne)

Calvary (Early Digital Release)

John Michael McDonagh was in danger of being just known as the brother of Martin McDonagh, the award-winning playwright and director of In Bruges. After all, both brothers are fascinated with small-town Ireland and the people who live there. But with the one-two punch of The Guard and Calvary, John Michael is really stepping out of his brother’s shadow.

This new film stars Brendan Gleeson as a local parish priest. He’s one of those good priests, so you don’t need to worry there. In confession on day, he’s told by an anonymous parishioner that he’s going to murder Gleeson a week later, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. But even though he only has a few days to come to terms with his own impending doom, he spends his time reaching out to troubled locals – played by Irish all-stars like Aidan Gillen, Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran.

While it’s a very often funny, Calvary opens up into a meditation on the idea of forgiveness: a rather lofty theme that’s tackled rather well here.

Highly recommended!

 

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in Labor Day

(image: Paramount)

Labor Day (New to Rent)

At the age of just 36, director Jason Reitman has already amassed a fantastic back catalogue of comic-dramas. His previous movies Thank You for SmokingJunoUp in the Air and Young Adult are the kinds of smart, crowd-pleasing films that are much too rare these days. With his latest effort, Reitman has taken a step in a more serious direction.

Set in the late 80s, Kate Winslet plays a single mother who befriends a convicted killer on the run from the authorities (played by Josh Brolin). As the convict hunkers down and lays low with Winslet, a complicated romance sparks between the pair of them.

Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska in The Double

(image: StudioCanal)

The Double (New to Rent)

With both this new move and Rio 2, you can get double your Jesse Eisenberg fix this week. Or should we say triple?

Eisenberg plays an anonymous and meek office drone who secretly covets his co-worker (Mia Wasichowska). His pointless existence gets thrown out of sorts with the arrival of a new colleague: a cocky, super-confident man who looks and dresses exactly like him. The only trouble is that no-one sees this resemblance apart from him.

This strange and dark film comes from writer/director Richard Ayoade (Moss from The IT Crowd), whose debut film Submarine caught the attention of film fans everywhere. Based on a novella by Dostoyevsky, The Double is a Kafkaesque journey into madness – one that’s truly worth taking.

Kellan Lutz in The Legend of Hercules

(image: Lionsgate)

The Legend of Hercules (New to Rent)

As it happens, there are two Hercules movies you can watch right now. And just to be clear, this one isn’t the one that stars The Rock. Instead, it features Twilight’s Kellan Lutz as the legendary demigod.

In this version, Hercules is a mighty soldier who gets sold into slavery and is forced to become a gladiator. You can see that the makers of this movie have been heavily influenced by a certain Russell Crowe movie, not to mention the recent TV version of Spartacus. In fact, Liam McIntyre (Spartacus himself) has a supporting role in this!

The Legend of Hercules is directed by Renny Harlin, whose previous credits include bona fide blockbusters like Die Hard 2.

 

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