fri 22/09/2023

Film reviews, news & interviews

Expend4bles review - last ride for the over-the-hill gang?

Adam Sweeting

Thanks to numerous arguments and disagreements over script, casting etc, nine years have elapsed since Expendables 3 hit the multiplexes, and Sylvester Stallone and his mercenary crew were perilously close to being over the hill even then. In Expend4bles, age has duly withered them even further, a fact wryly acknowledged by director Scott Waugh and his screenwriting squad.

R.M.N. review - ethnic cleansing in rural Romania

James Saynor

If you think we’ve got culture wars, then welcome to Transylvania. This rugged Romanian region is home to a bewildering overlap of ethnicities and tongues – Hungarian, a bit of German and Romanian itself – such that Cristian Mungiu’s new movie offers subtitles in different colours to get the idea across.

A Year in a Field review - exemplary eco-doc

Graham Fuller

A shot of a dead field mouse sets the tone for this sobering “slow cinema” documentary, narrator-director Christopher Morris’s response,...

Side By Side Ukrainian Film Festival, Curzon Soho...

Hugh Barnes

François Truffaut said that there is no such thing as an anti-war film because cinema inevitably glorifies the horror of conflict. The premise was...

A Haunting in Venice review - a case of Poirot by...

Helen Hawkins

You can imagine the thought processes that brought Kenneth Branagh’s latest adventure as Poirot, his third, to the big screen.“Memo to self: Find an...

Blu-Ray: Partie de Campagne

Mark Kidel

Unfinished gem from French master of cinema

AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T Rex review - musical doc falls between two stools

Adam Sweeting

Seventies glam-and-glitter king remains elusive

Bolan's Shoes review - good-natured film about the healing power of a pop idol

Helen Hawkins

Leanne Best and Timothy Spall excel as troubled ageing glam-rockers

Blu-ray: Three Ages

Graham Rickson

Buster Keaton's feature debut is daft but delightful

Fremont review - lovely wry portrait of an Afghan refugee looking for love

Helen Hawkins

Stunning debut from refugee Anaita Wali Zada gives Babak Jalali's film an inner glow

A Life on the Farm review - a fabulous eccentric gets neatly packaged

Sarah Kent

Put in context, the Spike Milligan of farming footage

Past Lives review - poignant story of a long-maturing love

Helen Hawkins

Celine Song's quietly powerful debut asks big questions about cultural difference

Mercy Falls review - horror in the Highlands

Hugh Barnes

A superb sense of atmosphere buoys this Scottish slasher flick

The Puppet Asylum & Otto Baxter: Not a F***ing Horror Show review - director extraordinaire exorcises his demons

Saskia Baron

Impressive horror debut by actor-director-writer with Down's Syndrome

Passages review - amusing, lusty, surprising Parisian love triangle

Demetrios Matheou

Whishaw, Exarchopoulos and Rogowski fight it out, in Ira Sachs' latest romantic drama

Apocalypse Clown review - going out with a laugh

Sebastian Scotney

The world ends not with a bang, but with three inept clowns in Ireland

And Then Come the Nightjars review - two farm friends

James Saynor

A pair of blokes bond amid a foot-and-mouth cattle cull down in deepest Devon

Cobweb review - family secrets, bad dreams

Justine Elias

A Halloween-themed horror movie gets lost in the details while losing the thread

Fool's Paradise review - unfunny stab at making fun of Hollywood

Helen Hawkins

Charlie Day's comedy is loaded with cameos but very low on laughs

DVD/Blu-ray: Gothic

Graham Fuller

Ken Russell's febrile fantasy about the night Mary Shelley conceived 'Frankenstein'

Mob Land review - familiar pulp fiction

Nick Hasted

Travolta graces a derivative but solid Southern noir

Scrapper review - home alone, but then Dad turns up

Saskia Baron

Director Charlotte Regan makes a promising debut with this tale of a motherless girl and her estranged father

The Red Shoes: Next Step review - teen dancer's crisis

Hugh Barnes

An Australian teen ballet movie marred by its ludicrous plot

The Innocent review - muddled French crime comedy

James Saynor

Tale of a caviar heist needs more than likable performances

Blu-ray: Thieves Like Us

Saskia Baron

Altman's elegy for the Great Depression - a tale of hapless bank robbers set in the Deep South

Blue Beetle review - radical rehash

Nick Hasted

Threadbare DC super-heroics allow a loving, subversive look at Latino family life

Lie With Me review - a bittersweet enchantment

Hugh Barnes

A middle-aged novelist recalls his clandestine first affair

Afire review - a moral reckoning by the Baltic

James Saynor

Christian Petzold delivers life lessons to a grumpy author as disaster looms

Blu-ray: Earwig

Justine Elias

Lucile Hadžihalilović's surreal drama is not for the dentally challenged

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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