Paul Greenwood's movie reviews - Only Lovers Left Alive; Stalingrad; Glasgow Film Festival choice

Only Lovers Left Alive (15, 123 mins)

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Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play the vampire lovers
Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston play the vampire lovers

Only Lovers Left Alive (15, 123 mins)

Director: Jim Jarmusch

4 stars

Jim Jarmusch's witty, thoroughly unique vampire tale stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as centuries old vampires trying their best to survive in our modern world.

When we first meet them, she's in North Africa, he's in the States, in the aptly chosen Detroit, a decaying and dying city.

Even though they call humans zombies, and believe that they're destroying the world, they're unwilling to kill and are forced to buy blood.

Blood is the drug and the life, and they go to great lengths to get it.

The dangers of modernity in a world that's consuming itself around them is the backdrop to their ancient love story, one rich with pungent metaphors (they're called Adam and Eve for heaven's sake) and the sorrow and the weight of centuries.

They just seem to exist for each other, and for their music and literature, and this is done with enough panache and interest to keep us going for a while.

But there's a need for a bit more, plot-wise, and this comes with the arrival of Eve's sister (Mia Wasikowska), a young and easily bored vampire who shakes up their comfort zone with her antics.

It could also be the case that Adam is suicidal, and he asks his supplier (Anton Yelchin) for a wooden bullet.

Though it gets by as much on atmosphere as incident, Eve and Adam are commanding characters, and the casting of such spectral actors as Swinton and Hiddleston is perfection.

Languid but never dull, passionate but ice-cool at the same time, this is a stylish and wickedly funny take on the vampire movie that's quite unlike any other we've recently seen.

See it if you liked: Byzantium, Let the Right One In

Stalingrad (15, 131 mins)

Director: Fydor Bondarchuk

2 stars

Imagine if World War II was directed by Zack Snyder and you'll be on your way to visualising this really rather strange Russian war movie.

A thoroughly redundant framing device set in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake of 2011 has one of the rescuers deciding to tell a trapped woman the story of his five fathers, which takes us back to the city of Stalingrad in 1942.

As the Russians try to retake the city from the Germans in the bloodiest battle of the war, we spend most of the film inside a house that sits between the Germans and the Volga, where a young woman is protected by five Russian soldiers.

The sporadic battles that break out in between many dull moments inside the house are done with a stylised sheen that almost makes this look like a fantasy film.

The fights aim for 300 and it looks like Sucker Punch, which is frankly not a comparison any film should aspire to, and it's an odd look to have for such a gritty story.

Handsomely put together, with clearly a lot of money up on the screen, but with nothing to hold on to in terms of character or content, this is turgid stuff.

See it if you liked: Enemy at the Gates, Stalingrad (1993)

Glasgow Film Festival 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

GFT, Thursday 20th, 19.30 and Friday 21st, 15.45

4 stars

The festival couldn't have chosen a better opening film than Wes Anderson's latest, another of his trademark exercises in wit, quirkiness and visual panache. He has the content to back it up this time too, with Ralph Fiennes starring as the imperious concierge at the titular hotel in a fictional East European country in the 1930s who gets mixed up in a mystery involving a murdered countess and her crazed family. Perfect performances from Fiennes and an amazing cast that includes Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton and many more combine with a sly script and Anderson's eye for detail to deliver a funny and entertaining delight.

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

GFT, Friday 21st, 18.30 and Sunday 23rd, 18.30

4 stars

Fans of the documentary on Carol Channing that played at Glasgow Film Festival a couple of years ago should enjoy this profile of legendary singer and actress Elaine Stritch and her near-70 year career on Broadway and beyond.

Candid observations about her distaste for the phoniness of showbiz combine with recollections from many of her friends and colleagues in a lovely portrait of a feisty old dame who isn't afraid to show us her vulnerable side.

The Golden Dream

Cineworld, Saturday March 1st, 18.00 and Monday 2nd, 13.15

3 stars

Three young Guatemalans, one of them a girl disguised as a boy, head north for the promise of America in this leisurely paced but uncompromising drama.

Riding the rails and evading the authorities and bandits, it's often as much about their personal interactions as the bigger picture. The wider story offers several harshly compelling developments, but the relentless grimness can become taxing after a while.

Salvo

GFT, Friday 21st, 20.15 and Cineworld Saturday 22nd, 13.00

2 stars

Though it begins with urgency and the promise of a rattling thriller, this Italian hitman drama turns somewhat ponderous when a Palermo mafia trigger-man encounters the blind sister of the gangster who tried to kill his boss.

Low on dialogue but heavy on unnecessarily protracted scenes in the mistaken belief they're building tension, this is more interested in brooding angst than action and suffers as a result.

Yves Saint Laurent

GFT, Tuesday 25th, 20.30 and Wednesday 26th, 15.45

3 stars

Legendary fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent is the subject of this sometimes slightly stiff French drama detailing his working life and tumultuous personal life. It could be accused of covering a lot of the same ground over and over, but Pierre Niney is very good in the title role, and it certainly packs in a lot of incident over the span of 50 years or so, even if for the most part it follows fairly conventional biopic lines.

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