As Scots, we do glorious failure better than most. Be it conceding a last minute goal against Poland or a last minute try against Australia (there’s a pattern developing here), we sort of have the whole ‘just coming up short’ act down to a T. Having said that, there is at least one man out there whose self-inflicted disappointment exceeds even ours: Lance Armstrong.

Having conquered serious illness and gone on to achieve unprecedented triumph in his sport, the cyclist’s sublime track record came under severe scrutiny when it was revealed in 2012 that Armstrong had been extensively using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. In The Program, we see the latter part of that story come to fruition.

High-volume director Stephen Frears helms this one, a tonal shift from his previous outing, the Oscar-nominated Philomena. While the success of that film lay in its poignancy and charm, don’t expect to see much light-heartedness in The Program; intensity and cynicism are more likely to fill the screen on this occasion.

Chris O’Dowd is Irish sports journalist David Walsh, the man whose investigative reporting played a critical role in uncovering the truth about Armstrong’s unsavoury habits. But the actor currently receiving the most acclaim is Ben Foster, who plays the disingenuous road racer in question.

Based not on a true story but instead on events preceding Scottish writer J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play, Pan is the latest origin reboot to hit the silver screen. It follows a young Peter as he discovers the magical world of Neverland, summoned there to fulfil his destiny and take down the autocratic Blackbeard.

Levi Miller plays the former, and you’ve probably already seen an eccentric Hugh Jackman – withered moustache, goatee and all – on posters and in adverts as the latter.

The film fatally bombed at the box office on its opening weekend, and looks set to cost Warner Bros. a cinema-load of cash. But financial intake isn’t always an indicator of quality and Pan has been better received here in the UK than elsewhere. 

For something completely different, seek out The Lobster. Set in a dystopian landscape where a person’s ability to find love has a direct impact on whether or not they’ll spend the rest of their life as a human or an animal, Yorgos Lanthimos’ movie appears to be bathing in dark satire and probing comedy.

Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, and John C. Reilly make up part of an impressive-looking cast. Léa Seydoux and Ben Wishaw are also involved, though both will have bigger fish to fry (and guns to shoot) next week when Spectre makes its highly-anticipated cinematic bow.


This week’s big release, though, emanates from a world that superspies such as James Bond will likely never see. A 19th century Gothic nightmare steeped in doomed romance, Crimson Peak is the latest offering to emerge from the magnificent mind of Spanish filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.

Mia Wasikowska stars as Edith Cushing, a talented writer whose penchant for breaking tradition clashes with the contained societal structure that surrounds her. The film struggles to accommodate both Edith’s steadfast singularity and the infallible trust she places in new lover Thomas Sharpe, (Tom Hiddleston).

Hiddleston is very good as the inventor seeking investment; he successfully juggles empathy and deceit, helping to establish a character whom we want to approve of but can’t quite muster the justification. However, it is Jessica Chastain who subtly dominates the screen – and movie – as sibling Lucille Sharpe, her demeanour icy and stare searing.

Crimson Peak doesn’t bear the same beating heart as the director’s magnificent Pan’s Labyrinth, but it does share that film’s stunning production design: spooky halls, seeping walls, and lavish garments all add to an eclectic visual spectacle. Del Toro and co. certainly know how to dress a movie set. Looks like there’s only one place to be this Halloween.