dead man down (15) 3/5 danish director Niels Arden Oplev was showered with plaudits for his work on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, starring Noomi Rapace as a brilliant hacker with a dark past.
Now he's made the switch to Hollywood, and Dead Man Down reunites the film-maker with his fearless leading lady for a slow-burning revenge thriller punctuated by explosions of outlandish violence.
There are holes in JH Wyman's script which are never plugged, and the tightly-coiled tension of the opening hour isn't unleashed with the devastating force we anticipate.
However, Oplev's cool direction and strong performances paper over the cracks, adding lustre to a satisfyingly serpentine genre piece which combines the emotional intimacy of the arthouse with the pyrotechnics of the multiplex.
The film opens with crime kingpin Alphonse Hoyt (Terrence Howard) viewing the corpse of a henchman, whose body conceals the latest cryptic message and fragment of a photograph from a madman who has been threatening Hoyt's operation. 719. Now you realise, reads the scrap of paper clenched in the dead man's fist.
Hoyt places his trust in sharp-shooter Victor (Colin Farrell, left). Little does the kingpin know Victor has wormed his way into the operation and befriended henchman Darcy (Dominic Cooper) to avenge his murdered wife and child.
Having set his trap, Victor returns home alone to his apartment.
He stares into a neighbouring block and makes eye contact with a young woman, Beatrice (Noomi Rapace), who lives with her mother Valentine (Isabelle Huppert).
The beautician engineers a meeting with Victor and they embark on a nervous first date.
At the end of the evening, Beatrice tells Victor she has evidence of him killing a man and will happily withhold the video footage from police if Victor agrees to kill the drunk driver who badly disfigured her. And all is set for a gripping neo-noir.
Sexual chemistry between the leads simmers thanks to a spirited performance from Rapace.
Oplev takes time fleshing out the characters and their motivations, but he invariably has to deliver slam-bang thrills to justify the $30 million budget.
These include a hare-brained denouement which relies on a video playing at just the right moment to draw two characters into the line of fire.
byzantium (15) 3/5 long before Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart sank their pearly whites into the Twilight saga, British director Neil Jordan was entertaining A-list bloodsuckers on the big screen.
Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles paired Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as fanged fiends whose fortunes entwined in rivers of crimson on the streets of New Orleans.
Almost 20 years later, Jordan planted a stake back in the genre with Byzantium, an intelligent and moody thriller adapted by Moira Buffini from her own stage play, which largely avoids the campy conventions we have come to expect from the creatures of the night.
Luminous young actress Saoirse Ronan holds our attention with her tortured and mournful glances, which conjure memories of Tomas Alfredson's coming-of-age story Let The Right One In.
The plot: Ballsy single mother Clara Webb (Gemma Arterton) arrives in a rundown seaside resort with her daughter Eleanor (Ronan) in tow.
To make ends meet, Clara sells her body to residents and holidaymakers, earning just enough to keep the pair off the streets.
Every now and then, she sinks her teeth into an unsuspecting punter and we discover, in flashback, Clara is a vampire who was much abused in the 19th century by a libidinous captain (Jonny Lee Miller) and has wrought revenge on mankind ever since.
Eleanor is her equally bloodthirsty ward, who refuses to abide by the ancient code.
The vampires hit the jackpot when they meet a lonely misfit (Daniel Mays) who lives in the decrepit Byzantium guest house, which would make a perfect base of operations for Clara's illicit operations.
When Darvell (Sam Riley), a face from Clara's past, turns up at the guest house, battle lines are drawn.
Byzantium is a slow burn, with occasional explosions of violence when Clara or Eleanor sate their bloodlust.
The fractured chronology hampers dramatic momentum, but Jordan navigates a clear path between past and present, drawing us into his heroines' predicament.
populaire (12) taking its name from a brand of typewriter, this romantic comedy charts the rise of a beautiful secretary and her smitten boss in late 1950s Normandy.
Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) works in the grocery store owned by her father but she doesn't want to be stuck behind a till for the rest of her life.
When a secretarial position becomes vacant in an insurance office run by the debonair Louis Echard (Romain Duris), Rose applies and leaves Louis in a swoon with her typing skills.
He is so impressed he puts Rose forward for a regional secretary competition and then moves her into his countryside mansion where he can oversee her intensive training.
Romance blossoms between the couple, but Louis is conflicted because he still holds a torch for old flame Marie (Berenice Bejo).
stories we tell (12) in 2006, Canadian actress Sarah Polley made the seamless transition behind the camera with her debut feature, Away From Her, starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie about a longtime married couple, whose happiness is threatened by early Alzheimer's.
The film won critical kudos and awards including an Oscar nomination for Polley for best adapted screenplay. Her follow-up, Take This Waltz, with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen was also showered with praise.
For her third film, Polley chooses to move away from fiction into the realms of feature-length documentary, piecing together her family history through interviews with loved ones, home movies and specially shot segments, stylised to look like old Super 8 footage, which reveal she was born as the result of an extra-marital affair.
As Polley navigates past and present, she lays bare the web of secrets and explores her maelstrom of emotions about her biological father.
hawking (pg) during his final year at Oxford University, 21-year- old Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just two years to live.
Against overwhelming odds, he defied the doctors to become a pre- eminent mind in the field of cosmology and raised a family with his wife, Jane Wilde.
In Stephen Finnigan's life-affirming and inspiring documentary, Hawking tells his incredible story in his own words, granting unprecedented access to his private life, including tender and revealing scenes of the physicist with his personal assistant and carers.
Through testimonies from people, who have met and worked with Hawking, as well as dramatic reconstructions, his ascent through the academic firmament gradually comes into focus, revealing a brilliant yet flawed man who refuses to surrender to the disease. ? .M:
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