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Now showing at ArtHouse Crouch End 159A,Tottenham Lane,London N8 9BT 020 8245 3099

  • Birdman
  • Catch Me Daddy
  • Ida
  • Love Is Strange
  • Selma
  • The Duke Of Burgundy

Birdman 5 stars

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Riggan Thomson rose to fame playing a superhero called Birdman in three blockbuster films in the 1990s. Twenty years later, his career is stagnant and he is determined to establish himself as a serious artist by directing, writing and starring in a Broadway staging of Raymond Carver's short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. As opening night approaches, petty squabbles between Riggan and his cast - including Broadway star Mike Shiner - threaten to derail the vanity project.

  • GenreComedy, Drama, Indie, Romance
  • CastMichael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough.
  • DirectorAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
  • WriterAlejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo.
  • CountryUS
  • Duration119 mins
  • Official sitewww.birdmanthemovie.com
  • Release26/12/2014 (selected London cinemas); 01/01/2015 (nationwide)

According to Konstantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg, two founding fathers of method acting, the best performers possess the rare ability to channel deeply personal recollections and emotions through their characters. These actors don't just play a role as written, they share every breath and straining sinew with their alter ego.

In Birdman, Michael Keaton inhabits the role of a middle-aged Hollywood star, whose glory days as a big screen superhero are long behind him. It's the role of a lifetime for Keaton - the role of his lifetime, no less, nodding and winking to his two stints behind Batman's cowl under director Tim Burton in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Art and real life playfully blur in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's technically dazzling comedy, which was shot on location in New York. In one of the film's bravura handheld sequences, Keaton strides purposefully through crowded, neon-lit Times Square in just his underpants as tourists clamour with their mobile devices. Literally and figuratively, he bares his soul.

Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who deservedly won an Oscar for sci-fi thriller Gravity, meticulously splice together each interlude to resemble a single, unbroken 119-minute shot.

If you look closely, you can see the joins but, as a feat of split-second timing, balletic choreography and directorial brio, Birdman is jaw-dropping - right down to the moment the camera casually pans to a drummer on the street playing the same beats and rolls of Antonio Sanchez's improvised jazz score.

Riggan Thomson (Keaton) rose to fame playing a superhero called Birdman in three blockbuster films. Twenty years later, he masterminds a comeback with nervy producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) by directing, writing and starring in a Broadway production of Raymond Carver's short story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

As opening night approaches and revered critics including Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) prepare to deliver their waspish verdict, petty squabbles between Riggan and his cast - popular Broadway star Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), leading lady Lesley (Naomi Watts) and current squeeze Laura (Andrea Riseborough) - threaten to derail the vanity project.

The leading man struggles to keep personal demons at bay, exacerbated by fractious exchanges with his spirited daughter Sam (Emma Stone).

Accompanied by a rambling voiceover from Riggan that reflects the character's mental unravelling, Birdman is a wickedly funny satire of a world of overinflated egos and barely concealed vices.

Performances are uniformly excellent, from Keaton's career-revitalising turn to Stone's fearless portrayal of a recovering drug addict and Norton's hilarious embodiment of an artist, who believes that, "popularity is just the slutty little cousin of prestige".

Peppered with affectionate verbal barbs aimed at Hollywood's current glitterati, Inarritu's picture is crammed to bursting with self-referential treats that demand a second and third viewing. Birdman is the post-Christmas gift that keep on giving.

Catch Me Daddy 3 stars

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Aaron is head over heels in love with a 17-year-old Pakistani girl called Laila. She leaves home and lives with Aaron in a caravan, earning a pittance in a local hairdressing salon, which just about tides the couple over from one day to the next. The girl's enraged father commands her brother Zaheer and a gang of men including Barry to kill his daughter for bringing shame upon the family. The hunters close in on Aaron and Laila.

  • GenreDrama, Indie, Thriller
  • CastGary Lewis, Sameena Jabeen Ahmed, Connor McCarron.
  • DirectorDaniel Wolfe.
  • WriterMatthew Wolfe, Daniel Wolfe.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration112 mins
  • Official sitewww.catchmedaddy.com
  • Release27/02/2015 (selected cinemas)

Shot on location in West Yorkshire, Daniel Wolfe's impressive directorial debut is a tense low budget thriller, which addresses the thorny subject of honour killings through the eyes of fugitive lovers across the racial divide. Aaron (Conor McCarron) is head over heels in love with a 17-year-old Pakistani girl called Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed), whose parents will be horrified when they learn their daughter is fraternising with a white boy. Laila leaves home and lives with Aaron in a caravan, earning a pittance in a local hairdressing salon, which just about tides the couple over from one day to the next. The girl's enraged father commands her brother Zaheer (Ali Ahmad) and a gang of men including Barry (Barry Nunney) to kill his daughter for bringing shame upon the family. The hunters close in on Aaron and Laila, determined the girl should make the ultimate sacrifice for her perceived betrayal.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

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Ida 3 stars

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Eighteen-year-old orphan Anna has been raised in a convent in 1960s Poland and she has devoted her life to the Lord under the watchful gaze of the Mother Superior. As Anna prepares to become a nun, Mother Superior insists that the young woman reconnect with her past by visiting her sole living relative. So Anna abandons the safety of the convent and travels to meet her aunt Wanda, who discloses that Anna's real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation.

  • GenreDrama, Romance, World
  • CastJoanna Kulig, Agata Trzebuchowska, Halina Skoczynska.
  • DirectorPawel Pawlikowski.
  • WriterPawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz.
  • CountryPol/Den
  • Duration82 mins
  • Official sitewww.ida-movie.com
  • Release26/09/2014 (selected cinemas)

Polish-born British director Pawel Pawlikowski, who won a BAFTA for My Summer Of Love, films in his homeland for the first time in this emotional 1960s-set drama. Eighteen-year-old orphan Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) has been raised in a convent and she has devoted her life to the Lord under the watchful gaze of the Mother Superior (Halina Skoczynska). As Anna prepares to become a nun, Mother Superior insists that the young woman reconnect with her past by visiting her sole living relative. So Anna abandons the safety of the convent and travels to meet her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a cynical Communist Party insider, who discloses that Anna's real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation devastates Anna and she embarks on a heart-wrenching journey back to her family's house in the countryside to unlock the secrets of her tragic past.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

Love Is Strange 4 stars

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Ben and his partner George have spent almost four decades together and they finally decide to legalise their union with a marriage in front of family and friends including Ben's nephew Elliot and wife Kate plus police office neighbours Ted and Roberto. Shortly after the happy day, George loses his job and the couple face the prospect of having to sell their beloved apartment. Unable to find lodgings together, George moves in with Ted and Roberto while Ben seeks shelter with Elliot, Kate and their teenage son Joey.

  • GenreDrama, Gay, Romance
  • CastJohn Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, John Cullum, Charlie Tahan.
  • DirectorIra Sachs.
  • WriterIra Sachs, Mauricio Zacharias.
  • CountryUS/Fr
  • Duration94 mins
  • Official sitewww.sonyclassics.com/loveisstrange/
  • Release06/02/2015 (London Curzon Soho); 13/02/2015 (selected cinemas)

Strange, enervating, toxic, miraculous, unrequited, redemptive: love exerts an irresistible hold on the human heart. Greek philosopher Plato professed love to be a serious mental disease, while Martin Luther King Jr believed it to be the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

Shakespeare poetically described love as a smoke made with the fume of sighs and as for songwriters Lennon and McCartney, it is the flower you've got to let grow or, most simply, all you need. For filmmaker Ira Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias, love is a long-term relationship between two gay men set against the bustling backdrop of modern-day Manhattan.

Underscored predominantly by Chopin, Love Is Strange is an elegant character study, which sketches these middle-aged soul-mates with tenderness and heart-breaking intimacy. Sachs' film is illuminated by two exquisite performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a married couple who are wary of relying on the kindness of family and friends because "sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to".

Familiarity breeds not just contempt but also disillusionment, suspicion and, ultimately, aching loneliness. Ben (Lithgow) and his partner George (Molina) have spent almost four decades together. They finally legalise their union in front of family and friends including Ben's nephew Elliot (Darren Burrows) and wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), plus police office neighbours Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez).

Shortly after the happy day, George loses his job as a music teacher at St Grace's Church and Catholic school in Manhattan because Facebook pictures of the honeymoon in Petra have been brought to the attention of the Archdiocese. "The Bishop wasn't happy," explains Father Raymond (John Cullum) sympathetically.

Without George's steady income, the couple face the prospect of having to sell their highly desirable apartment. George moves in with Ted and Roberto, while Ben seeks shelter with Elliot, Kate and their truculent teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan), who is far from thrilled about sharing his bunk bed with an elderly gay uncle.

The separation causes friction between family and friends. "All I know is that after 39 years it's hard to fall asleep without you," laments Ben to George.

Love Is Strange treats all of the flawed characters with a delicate and even hand although our hearts invariably belong to the leads. Lithgow and Molina perform as if they have been sharing the same space for decades, trading gentle touches or longing glances as their carefully ordered world unravels.

Tomei, Jackson, Perez et al offer strong support, enriching their own dysfunctional yet equally loving relationships. Love is a drug and regardless of the withdrawal symptoms, we all want to be addicts.

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Thursday 5th March 2015

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Selma 4 stars

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In 1960s America, political bureaucracy and prejudice deny the African-American electorate the chance to vote. Martin Luther King entreats the President to right this democratic wrong but Lyndon Johnson and his adviser Lee C White don't consider voting rights to be high on their list of priorities. So King and his team head to the community of Selma, Alabama to lead a peaceful protest march with their friends from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

  • GenreDrama, Historical/Period
  • CastCarmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Giovanni Ribisi.
  • DirectorAva DuVernay.
  • WriterPaul Webb.
  • CountryUK/US
  • Duration128 mins
  • Official sitewww.selmamovie.com
  • Release06/02/2015

More than 45 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, director Ava DuVernay honours the memory of the leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement with this impassioned biopic. While there are lingering doubts about the historical accuracy of Selma, the emotional wallop the film delivers is beyond question.

In particular, the recreation of the iconic march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge chills the blood. Oxford-born actor David Oyelowo delivers a breakout performance replete with Georgia accent as the activist. He is mesmerising and would surely have been in Oscar contention as Best Actor later this month had Paul Webb's script gifted him a few more barnstorming speeches.

DuVernay opens with a chilling act of violence that exemplifies racial tensions of the era. In 1960s America, political bureaucracy and prejudice deny the African-American electorate the chance to vote in the forthcoming election in which President Lyndon B Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) hopes to be returned to the White House by the people.

Martin Luther King Jr (Oyelowo) entreats the President to right this democratic wrong but Johnson and his adviser Lee C White (Giovanni Ribisi) don't consider voting rights to be high on their list of priorities.

So King and his team head to the community of Selma, Alabama to lead a peaceful protest march with their friends from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The President seeks a private audience with J Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), the first Director of the FBI, to discuss how to remove this thorn from his side.

"We can weaken the dynamic, dismantle the family," explains Hoover, referring to tensions between King and his wife Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo). In Selma, local police under the jurisdiction of Governor George Wallace (Tim Roth) attack protesters with batons as TV cameras capture the brutality for horrified viewers.

Consequently, pressure grows on Johnson to intervene while King takes temporary leave of his wife and family to spearhead a second march.

Selma skilfully ebbs and flows between events in Alabama and Washington, relentlessly cranking up the tension between figures on both sides of the debate. Oyelowo is supported by a terrific ensemble cast including Ejogo as the dutiful wife, who stands by her man despite his dalliances away from home. "Do you love me?" coolly asks Coretta in one of the film's most memorable scenes. "Do you love the others?"

Roth chews scenery as the Governor who believes resistance should be met with extreme force, while Wilkinson brings a touch of desperation to the most powerful man on Capitol Hill. Luther King Jr had a dream and through the lens of DuVernay's film, we are minded that we must all continue to chase it.

The Duke Of Burgundy 4 stars

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Imperious butterfly collector Cynthia lectures at a local institute, where she is held in high esteem. Behind the closed doors of her modest home, Cynthia terrorises her pretty maid Evelyn, forcing the skivvy to wash her underwear by hand, pick up discarded sweet wrappers and other indignities. It transpires that this kinky relationship of domination and submission is masterminded by Evelyn, who stokes her lesbian lover's fantasies and constantly pushes the boundaries of their mutual desire.

  • GenreDrama, Romance
  • CastChiara D'Anna, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Monica Swinn, Eugenia Caruso.
  • DirectorPeter Strickland.
  • WriterPeter Strickland.
  • CountryUK
  • Duration104 mins
  • Official sitewww.facebook.com/TheDukeOfBurgundy
  • Release20/02/2015 (selected cinemas)

A twisted romance, far more intense and kinky that the softcore histrionics in Fifty Shades Of Grey, underpins this stylish drama from British writer-director Peter Strickland. Imperious butterfly and moth collector Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) lectures at a local institute, where she is held in high esteem. Behind the closed doors of her modest home, Cynthia terrorises her pretty maid Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna), forcing her skivvy to wash her underwear by hand, pick up her discarded sweet wrappers and other indignities. It transpires that this kinky relationship of domination and submission is masterminded by Evelyn, who stokes her lesbian lover's fantasies and constantly pushes the boundaries of their mutual depravity. With each passing day, emotions churn and intensify, forcing the two women to find new ways to achieve mutual satisfaction.

Showtimes (Click time to book tickets)

Thursday 5th March 2015

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