fri 17/01/2020

Film reviews, news & interviews

Just Mercy review - soul-stirring true story about race and justice in America

Jill Chuah Masters

Just Mercy, the latest film from Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12), is based on a New York Times bestseller. It has a star-studded cast. It’s emotionally moving as well as intellectually accessible. But it’s no easy film to watch.

Waves review - pulsating, rapturous, devastating

Markie Robson-Scott

Trey Edward Shults’s extraordinary, music-driven third feature, set in a sparkling south Florida, stars a wonderful Kelvin Harrison Jr as 17-year-old Tyler, an African American high-school wrestler with bleached blond hair.

Bombshell review – powerful, to a point

Demetrios Matheou

With Harvey Weinstein about to go on trial, the timing is particularly apt for a film that outlines the fall from grace of another media giant who...

DVD: The Cakemaker

Tom Birchenough

The Cakemaker is Ofir Raul Graizer’s debut feature, and the film must somehow reflect the parabola of the Israeli-born director's life: it’s set...

Uncut Gems review - relentless tale of gambling...

Saskia Baron

The Safdie brothers, Josh and Benny, once programmed a season of films entitled Emotional Sloppy Manic Cinema, and if sloppy is subtracted from that...

Seberg review - lightweight script, heavyweight performance

Joseph Walsh

Kristen Stewart dazzles in this glitzy, puddle-deep account of Jean Seberg

1917 review – immersive, exemplary war film

Demetrios Matheou

Sam Mendes makes his most personal film to date – and one of his most accomplished

The Runaways review - a road trip worth taking

Owen Richards

Charming British flick carried by three children's bravura performances

DVD/Blu-ray: The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On

Tom Birchenough

Extraordinary 1987 documentary upends expectations of Japan - and of the genre itself

In the Line of Duty review - brazen absurdity

Nick Hasted

Lazy, loopy entertainment as Aaron Eckhart races against time

The Gentlemen review - it ain't woke but don't fix it

Adam Sweeting

Guy Ritchie's rambunctious caper movie is just like old times

Jojo Rabbit review - a risky balancing act

Demetrios Matheou

Decidedly novel approach to a tale of a 10-year-old German boy obsessed with Hitler

Liam Gallagher: As It Was, BBC Two review - no expletives deleted in exhausting rock-doc

Kathryn Reilly

Is Liam the last great rock'n'roll singer or just tedious in the extreme?

Long Day's Journey into Night review - Chinese art-house stunner

Graham Fuller

Director Bi Gan's hallucinatory sophomore drama is a thing of beauty and daring

Best of 2019: Film


The hits and misses in cinema this year

Little Women review - a beguiling adaptation

Demetrios Matheou

Greta Gerwig and a sterling cast return Louisa May Alcott's timeless classic to the screen

DVD/Blu-ray: Buddies

Tom Birchenough

The first feature to address evolving AIDS pandemic retains real laconic power

The Courier review – lacklustre hit job goes bad in every way

Tom Baily

Gary Oldman and Olga Kurylenko breed no life into bland chase thriller

Cats review - feline freakiness

Nick Hasted

A high-wire theatrical folly pays off in its uniqueness

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker review – a fittingly nostalgic send-off

Demetrios Matheou

J.J. Abrams helms the final instalment of the nine-film, 42-year space saga

Blu-ray: A Fistful of Dynamite

Thomas H Green

Sergio Leone's glorious Mexican revolution epic receives a suitably opulent new release

Citizen K review - real power in Russia

Nick Hasted

Putin and Mikhail Khodorkovsky are equally sphinx-like adversaries in Alex Gibney's revealing doc

Pink Wall review - scattered scenes from a tortuous relationship

Markie Robson-Scott

Actor Tom Cullen's directorial debut contains intense performances but lacks clarity

Jumanji: The Next Level review - raising their game

Demetrios Matheou

Dwayne Johnson and the gang return to the enjoyably goofy video game adventure

Sons of Denmark review - political thriller stirs cauldron of hot-button issues

Adam Sweeting

Ulaa Salim's debut feature asks pointed questions about racism, terrorism and fascism

DVD/Blu-ray: The Holly and the Ivy

Graham Fuller

A repressed middle-class clan gathers for Christmas in rarely seen British gem

The Cave review - heroic Syrian hospital workers

Graham Fuller

A pediatrician's view of indiscriminate slaughter in Eastern Ghouta

Lucy in the Sky review - Portman falls from orbit

Joseph Walsh

Space drama struggles to answer its own questions

So Long, My Son review - an intimate Chinese epic

Nick Hasted

Four decades of loss and love, scarred by the state

Footnote: a brief history of British film

England was movie-mad long before the US. Contrary to appearances in a Hollywood-dominated world, the celluloid film process was patented in London in 1890 and by 1905 minute-long films of news and horse-racing were being made and shown widely in purpose-built cinemas, with added sound. The race to set up a film industry, though, was swiftly won by the entrepreneurial Americans, attracting eager new UK talents like Charlie Chaplin. However, it was a British film that in 1925 was the world's first in-flight movie, and soon the arrival of young suspense genius Alfred Hitchcock and a new legal requirement for a "quota" of British film in cinemas assisted a golden age for UK film. Under the leadership of Alexander Korda's London Films, Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) is considered the first true sound movie, documentary techniques developed and the first Technicolor movies were made.

Brief_EncounterWhen war intervened, British filmmakers turned effectively to lean, effective propaganda documentaries and heroic, studio-based war-films. After Hitchcock too left for Hollywood, David Lean launched into an epic career with Brief Encounter (pictured), Powell and Pressburger took up the fantasy mantle with The Red Shoes, while Carol Reed created Anglo films noirs such as The Third Man. Fifties tastes were more domestic, with Ealing comedies succeeded by Hammer horror and Carry-Ons; and more challenging in the Sixties, with New Wave films about sex and class by Lindsay Anderson, Joseph Losey and Tony Richardson. But it was Sixties British escapism which finally went global: the Bond films, Lean's Dr Zhivago, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music made Sean Connery, Julie Christie and Julie Andrews Hollywood's top stars.

In the 1970s, recession and the TV boom undermined cinema-going and censorship changes brought controversy: a British porn boom and scandals over The Devils, Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange. While Hollywood fielded Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese epics, Britain riposted with The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, but 1980s recession dealt a sharp blow to British cinema, and the Rank Organisation closed, after more than half a century. However more recently social comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full Monty, and royal dramas such as The Queen and The King's Speech have enhanced British reputation for wit, social observation and character acting.

As more films are globally co-produced, the success of British individual talents has come to outweigh the modest showing of the industry itself. Every week The Arts Desk reviews latest releases as well as leading international film festivals, and features in-depth career interviews with leading stars. Its writers include Jasper Rees, Graham Fuller, Anne Billson, Nick Hasted, Alexandra Coghlan, Veronica Lee, Emma Simmonds, Adam Sweeting and Matt Wolf

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