mon 16/01/2017

Film Reviews

Manchester by the Sea

jasper Rees

There is an event at the heart of Manchester by the Sea that cannot be spoken about, either here or by any character who is a witness to it. But it explains why Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) has withdrawn into a state of catatonic frigidity. He is so cut off from the world around him he can barely persuade a muscle on his face to twitch. Only if he sinks enough beers is he roused to start thumping people in bars before returning to his dingy one-room apartment. We’re a long way from...

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Live by Night

adam Sweeting

The aura of Ben Affleck burneth bright. It only seems about 10 minutes ago that he starred in The Accountant, and now here’s Live by Night, his fourth outing as director, and the second movie on which he’s been writer, director and star.

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La La Land

matt Wolf

An increasingly fractious America could take a leaf from the ravishing opening sequence of La La Land. A cross-section of drivers caught in LA freeway gridlock forsake their vehicles to become a dizzyingly frolicsome community that look capable of leaping their way to the stars. Road rage and rancour? Not for a second, just a shared belief in the buoyancy that happens when your body simply needs to dance. 

That overriding vivacity proves an apt point of departure for...

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Zero Days

David Kettle

A computer virus – even one as apparently malevolent and unstoppable as the infamous Stuxnet – would make an unlikely subject for a feature-length documentary, you might think. But New York documentary maker Alex Gibney’s Zero Days is a remarkable achievement – and in so many ways. As an edge-of-your-seat, real-world thriller; as a sobering investigation of shadowy US foreign policy; and...

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Best (and Worst) of 2016: Film

theartsdesk

Prepare to disagree. 2016 has been getting bad reviews all year long, but for film it was actually pretty strong. So strong, in fact, that there are big omissions from this list of our best films from the past 12 months. Our method of selection was arbitrary: each of the theartsdesk’s film reviewers was invited to volunteer one film each as their favourite of the year. No one was allowed to choose two.

So there is no place in our top seven for the film which was this...

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Silence

tom Birchenough

Audiences cannot fail to register the enormity of Martin Scorsese’s achievement in Silence. At 160 minutes, it hangs heavy over the film: adapted from the 1966 novel by Japanese writer Shusaku Endo, Silence has been close on three decades in the director’s preparation. It raises questions that are usually approached with Capital Letters. There are moments that are visually enthralling, landscapes of nature that dwarf the sufferings – visceral, in the literal sense,...

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Crash and Burn

adam Sweeting

Not all racing drivers are created equal. New world champion Nico Rosberg is the son of a former F1 champion, grew up in Monaco, speaks five languages and turned down an offer to study aeronautical engineering at Imperial College, London.

On the other hand, 1980s racer Tommy Byrne was a working-class chancer from Dundalk who was permanently skint and got nicked for stealing. Yet the evidence suggests he was one of the fastest natural drivers who ever sat in a racing car, and who even...

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A Monster Calls

adam Sweeting

It's not often you hear the sound of film critics sobbing quietly to themselves, but this really happened at the screening I attended of A Monster Calls. Having seen the trailer, with its scenes of a giant tree stomping around a spooky-looking rural landscape, I'd marked it down as one to avoid. How wrong can you be.

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Why Him?

matt Wolf

One hardly expects a film like Why Him? to be high art, which is another way of saying that if you approach it in the right spirit (and with enough drink inside you) this well-timed holiday release should provide guiltily entertaining fun. Most easily described as a coarsened Meet the Parents redux, John Hamburg's generation-gap comedy pits the decent but fundamentally square Ned Fleming (Bryan Cranston) against the spectacularly badly behaved Silicon Valley...

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Christmas Book: When Broadway Went to Hollywood

david Nice

Tinseltown's relationship to its more sophisticated, older New York brother is analogous to Ethan Mordden's engagement by Oxford University Press. The presentation is a sober, if slim, academic tome with an austere assemblage of black-and-white photos in the middle; what we get in the text is undoubtedly erudite but also racy, gossipy, anecdotal, list-inclined, sometimes camp and a tad hit and miss.

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Passengers

adam Sweeting

Despite being kitted out with a full-scale intergalactic spaceship and all known computerised effects, Passengers is essentially a two-hander for its stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Or you could maybe stretch that to a two-and-a-half-hander, if you include Michael Sheen's oily and obsequious bar-tending android.

Perhaps it's part of director...

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

nick Hasted

Whether you use its optional subtitle A Star Wars Story or not, Rogue One arrives with a diminutive air.

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The Eagle Huntress

David Kettle

Thirteen-year-old Aishopan desperately wants to be an eagle hunter. The problem is, she’s a girl. And in the traditional Mongolian nomadic community where she lives, rearing a golden eagle chick to hunt foxes for their fur is very much the preserve of men.

British director Otto Bell’s sumptuous film is certainly an inspirational story of struggle and triumph, and it’s set against an arrestingly unfamiliar context – the icy peaks and frozen rivers at the crossroads between Mongolia,...

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The Pass

tom Birchenough

John Donnelly’s play The Pass scored a slate of five-star reviews when it ran at the Royal Court early last year – theartsdesk called it “scorching” – and plaudits for Russell Tovey’s central performance were practically stellar (“a star performance from onetime History Boys student that this actor's career to this point has in no way suggested,” we raved). For those who missed that sell-out, small-stage, seven-week run, Ben A Williams’ film adaptation...

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The Birth of a Nation

adam Sweeting

DW Griffiths's 1915 silent epic, The Birth of a Nation, became notorious for its pejorative portrayal of black people and its heroic vision of the Ku Klux Klan. For his directorial debut, Nate Parker has appropriated Griffiths's title and whipped it into a molten onslaught against America's history of slavery and racial prejudice.

Arriving in an America outraged – yet again – by police violence and the rise of Black Lives Matter, Parker's The Birth of a Nation was...

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Snowden

adam Sweeting

As an old Sixties lefty brought up on paranoia-infused thrillers like The Parallax View or All the President's Men, Oliver Stone loves ripping open great American conspiracies. However, in contrast to his earlier labyrinthine epics Nixon and JFK, this account of CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden keeps clutter to a minimum as Stone fashions a tense, fast-moving drama which will leave you pondering over what's really justifiable for the greater good.

It...

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