The Dinosaur Project (2012)

Though it’s desperate to be the next Jurassic Park, there’s little Spielbergian bite to this low-budget Brit flick.

Instead we get wobbly cameras and equally wobbly acting from a cast of unknowns as a group of explorers hunt dinos in the Congo.

The found-footage hook is starting to feel pretty ancient, and the human drama is patchy at best, but Dinosaur Project is entertainingly silly.

Its money shots generally impress, and the breakneck pace bounds over a multitude of sins – including Park’s deadly dilophosaurus getting a makeover as a cute little critter that’ll have the nippers cooing. 3/5

Via Total Film

In The Dark Half (2012)

Made on a microbudget with support from South West Screen’s iFeatures scheme, ITDH is a striking debut from director Alastair Siddons.

The engagingly bolshy Jessica Barden (Tamara Drewe’s gobby teen) stars as Marie, who’s consumed with guilt when a boy she’s babysitting dies.

Part kitchen sink-er, part pseudo-ghost story, this has a firm grasp on the genres it casually straddles, with creepy sound design fostering a dreamy, portentous mood.

Despite slack pacing, the final twist is so good comparisons with The Sixth Sense aren’t out of the question. 3/5

Via Total Film

The Imposter (2012)

Most documentaries are obsessed with truth. That is, getting to the bottom of it, uncovering hidden facts or exposing terrible deceits. Not so The Imposter. Under the sure hand of Brit director Bart Layton, it’s a film about truths, plural, Layton’s gorgeously-shot jaw-dropper of a documentary chipping away at the notion of subjective truth, and the lies we tell ourselves and each other.

Needless to say, this is brain food cinema. At the centre of it all is a case so bizarre that it’s almost the dictionary definition of ‘stranger than fiction’. In 1993, 13-year-old Texan boy Nicholas Barclay went missing. Three years later, his family received a phone call from Spanish authorities informing them that they had him in their custody. The teenager sent back to Texas, though, looks nothing like the Nicholas the Barclays remember – which doesn’t stop them welcoming him into their home as their long-lost son anyway.

It’s a story that boggles the mind. “It sounded like something that couldn’t possibly have taken place in the real world,” Layton says of the case. As remarkable as the story is, though, Layton’s delivery of it surpasses all expectations, because this is no ordinary documentary.

For a start, the reconstructions are masterfully handled, shot through a noir-ish haze and affording the film a vital thriller edge. Cleverly playing around with documentary conventions, Layton weaves the interview material (he speaks with all of the Barclays and the titular ‘imposter’) with this reconstruction footage, creating something fast-paced, slick and totally involving.

One half talking heads doc, other half gripping thriller, Layton’s stylised approach could easily have turned into a bubblegum conceit with little substance. Luckily, the director uses his impressive visuals intelligently, doggedly digging at those bigger issues – the ones regarding truth and lies. The result is as bright as it is entertaining.

To reveal any more about the film would spoil its numerous surprises. Suffice to say, it’s populated with a cast of memorable characters (hangdog PI Charlie Parker seems to have stepped right out of a ‘40s noir), and screeches toward a conclusion that will have you asking just as many questions as Layton’s film answers.

If it were a Hollywood thriller starring Nicolas Cage, we’d be writing The Imposter off as implausible rubbish. As it is, Layton’s film is one of the finest documentaries of the year – and one of the most riveting real-life thrillers you’ll ever see. 4/5

Via Grolsch Film Works

Weekend (2011)

There are certain things that pretty much all gay men agree on. Cher used to rock. The metrosexual male is a confusing creature. And coming out is one of the defining moments of your life. That last topic is broached early on in director Andrew Haigh’s sexy, agreeably gritty romance, though Weekend isn’t content with simply retreading the same beaten path as so many ‘gay movies’ – it’s a film packed with emotion and honesty.

Mostly it’s about love. Can two people fall in love in just two days? Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) meet in a bar on a Friday night, and end up spending the entire weekend together. They’re fundamentally different – Russell’s a damaged realist who hasn’t fully accepted his sexuality; Glen’s a fiery dreamer, actively controversial and championing gay equality – but that’s exactly what draws them together.

“You want everyone to think independently, but you want them all to agree with you,” Russell challenges Glen at one point. It’s just one of numerous stand-out moments in a film that never rests on its laurels. Weekend is constantly searching; exploring what it means to be gay in the modern world, and demonstrating how two people who are often (derogatively) reduced to a single adjective – queer – can be so utterly different, and so utterly perfect for one another.

Shining an intense light on Cullen and New’s relationship, Weekend’s shabby-chic aesthetic keeps it from devolving into a glossy gay romcom. And despite its themes, to call Haigh’s film a romcom would do it a disservice. With its naturalistic leads, frank sexual encounters and candid discussions, Weekend achieves that most important of filmic ambitions – relatability. In that way, it echoes My Beautiful Laundrette, centring its love story in a recognisable present where gay identity is ever evolving. If only all films about gay men were this good. 4/5

Via Out In The City

50 Coolest Britflicks

39 Steps (1935)

Cool Factor: They don’t call Hitchcock the master for nothing, and here he proves himself worthy of that title. Championing moody imagery and a keen sense of the absurd, Hitch is ridiculously creative – right down to that iconic train scream.

Made In Britain: The “awfully, awfully” dialogue elicits titters nowadays, but that stiff upper lip got us through two world wars, you know.

If It Was American: The FBI would be involved in some way. Party crashers.