sat 21/07/2018

Film reviews, news & interviews

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again review - sweet, silly, and, best of all, Cher

Matt Wolf

Mamma Mia! has a habit of bursting upon us at crucially restorative moments. The Broadway production opened just after 9/11 and provided necessary balm to a city in shock.

The Receptionist – London’s underground sex industry laid bare

Owen Richards

When director Jenny Lu graduated from university, the promise of a big city career quickly turned into a series of rejections. Around this time, a close friend of hers committed suicide by jumping off a bridge – unbeknownst to their circle of friends, this girl was working in the sex industry.

DVD/Blu-ray: The Piano

Graham Rickson

The first words we hear in The Piano are the thoughts of Holly Hunter’s Ada, and they set up the film’s premise perfectly: “I have not spoken since I...

First Reformed - faith fights the eco-apocalypse

Nick Hasted

Father Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) calls himself one of God’s lonely men. The term given to Paul Schrader’s anti-heroes since Taxi Driver’s Travis...

Summer 1993 review - the tenderest fabric of...

Tom Birchenough

Carla Simón’s debut feature Summer 1993 is a gem of a film by any standards, but when you learn that its story is based closely on the...

DVD: New Town Utopia

Graham Rickson

Off-beat celebration of post-war British town planning

Incredibles 2 review - worship these superheroes

Saskia Baron

Brad Bird's long awaited follow-up to his cult kids' film pulls out all the stops

The Best Films Out Now


theartsdesk recommends the top movies of the moment

DVD/Blu-ray: Woodfall - A Revolution in British Cinema

Graham Fuller

A box-set dedicated to the work of the film company that shook British cinema out of its middle-class, post-colonial torpor

Pin Cushion review - a twisted fable of daydreams and bullies

Owen Richards

Childlike fantasies and quirky visuals mask a dark heart in creative Brit flick

Postcards from the 48% review - wistful memorial to forgotten values

David Kettle

Thoughtful, polite Brexit doc serves to tell Remainers what they already know

Swimming with Men review - Rob Brydon and co sink

Jasper Rees

Midlife crisis synchro comedy forgets to include laughs

DVD: The Nile Hilton Incident

Owen Richards

A tale of murder and corruption on the eve of revolution

Whitney review - superstar's dismal demise revisited

Adam Sweeting

The authorised version of Whitney Houston's life and death, but do we really need it?

Blu-ray: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Graham Rickson

Wes Anderson's undervalued piscine romp returns

Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars, BBC Two review - blues, booze and dues

Adam Sweeting

The longer it lasts, the less it says about the inner Eric

The Bookshop review - lost in translation

Matt Wolf

Isabel Coixet adaptation of 1978 English novel feels like a subtle act of Brexit-era revenge

DVD: Al Berto

Tom Birchenough

A poet emerges in the sensuous aftermath of Portugal's 1975 revolution

Adrift review - lost at sea

Adam Sweeting

Oceanic epic of love, storms and survival

Sicario: Day of the Soldado review - violent, explosive and nihilistic thriller

Adam Sweeting

It's apocalypse now for the Mexican drug cartels

Leave No Trace review - intense off-grid drama

Jasper Rees

Debra Granik's follow-up to Winter's Bone tells of a father and daughter who don't fit in

DVD: Mansfield 66/67

Thomas H Green

Snappy, trashy and enjoyable poke around the life and death of a Hollywood bombshell

DVD/Blu-ray: Let the Sunshine In

Markie Robson-Scott

Slim pickings in Paris: Claire Denis directs Juliette Binoche in a quest for the right man

In The Fade review - twisty German courtroom drama

Saskia Baron

Diane Kruger stars in ambitious thriller tackling racism, terrorism and revenge

Enter theartsdesk / h Club Young Influencer of the Year award


In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club100 Awards, we're looking for the best cultural writers, bloggers and vloggers

Blu-ray: Force of Evil

Mark Kidel

Abraham Polonsky’s 1948 film noir assaults the American Dream

Ocean's 8 review – half-cocked caper

Adam Sweeting

All-female cast can't revive flagging franchise

The Happy Prince review - Wilde at heart

Jasper Rees

Rupert Everett's spirited and humane homage to Oscar is worth the long wait

The Ciambra review - supremely effective storytelling

Owen Richards

'This Is England' meets 'Gomorrah' in one boy’s passage into manhood

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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