fri 12/07/2024

Film Reviews

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

Sarah Kent

“There’s nowt so queer as folk”, they say, and Life on the Farm amply proves the point. A cassette slides into the slot; “play” is pressed and a middle-aged man appears on screen at the gate of Combe End Farm. “Follow me down”, he says to camera,”I’ve got something to show you.”

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

Helen Hawkins

In the mood for love? It’s over 23 years since Wong Kar-Wai’s swoony, bittersweet film of that name reset the bar for the art-house love story. Now comes Celine Song's Past LIves, an entirely different kind of bar-setter but with a similar tough-but-tender core. It’s an unshowy, slim film, but it takes on hefty topics: can love survive for decades, can it cut through cultural barriers? What does a relationship need to survive?

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Mercy Falls review - horror in the Highlands

Hugh Barnes

Mercy Falls isn’t the only Scottish film of the past year in which a young woman is haunted by childhood memories of a last summer holiday with her troubled father. And while Ryan Hendrick’s low-budget horror is unlikely to garner as much critical acclaim as Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun, at least it’s more eventful.

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

Saskia Baron

Otto Baxter is no stranger to the camera, ever since he was a small boy he’s been featured on television with his adoptive mother Lucy Baxter, an impressive campaigner for better understanding of people with Down's Syndrome. Archive footage shows him to be a cheeky, outgoing child with a keen sense of fun.  

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Passages review - amusing, lusty, surprising Parisian love triangle

Demetrios Matheou

From Forty Shades of Blue, 20 years ago, to Keep the Lights On and Love is Strange, writer/director Ira Sachs has proved himself to be a master at exploring romantic relationships – and the messier, the better. So, after the whimsical, inconsequential ensemble Frankie, he’s back to his best with a good old-fashioned love triangle. 

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Apocalypse Clown review - going out with a laugh

Sebastian Scotney

Here we are in rural Ireland and on the other side of bonkers. Apocalypse Clown is billed as an "end-of-the-world road movie with clowns". It’s hilarious, off the wall, beyond the cringe.

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And Then Come the Nightjars review - two farm friends

James Saynor

This modest British dramedy is billed as a “heart-warming story of friendship and survival set against the backdrop of the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak”. That’s perhaps not the first catastrophe we associate with that fateful year, but it was a grim event in its own way: a livestock epidemic that led to the culling of countless farm animals across Britain.

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Cobweb review - family secrets, bad dreams

Justine Elias

At first, eight-year-old Peter tries to wish away the strange midnight noises as bad dreams, but the persistent knocking against his attic bedroom wall keeps him awake. His querulous mother (Lizzy Caplan, pictured below), assures him that he’s got a “beautiful imagination”, and “that there are bound to be bumps in the night.”

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

Helen Hawkins

It must have looked like a funny idea on paper: a mute innocent stumbles into a Hollywood career, is mindlessly fêted by the industry and throws all its idiocies into stark relief. It’s an idea as old as the romances of Chretien de Troyes and Voltaire’s Candide, and was given an earlier Hollywood outing in Being There. But the lack of originality of the basic premise isn’t the problem here. 

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Mob Land review - familiar pulp fiction

Nick Hasted

Optimistically billed as John Travolta’s comeback, writer-director Nicholas Maggio’s debut is an effective Southern noir, with Travolta an authoritative but peripheral presence.

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Scrapper review - home alone, but then Dad turns up

Saskia Baron

It’s the summer holidays, and though Georgie (Lola Campbell) is only 12, she’s managing to keep her council house looking just the way her mum liked it. There may be a few spiders hanging around but they have names and personalities and there’s food in the cupboard, even if it’s been paid for from the proceeds of selling the bikes Georgie has stolen.  

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

Hugh Barnes

Fans of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's timeless classic The Red Shoes shouldn’t rush to The Red Shoes: Next Step expecting a sequel. This sentimental Australian teen drama is more of a step-change than a follow-up.

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The Innocent review - muddled French crime comedy

James Saynor

Thespians and thieves have often pooled their resources in movies, notably in the work of Woody Allen. Since acting is basically a form of lying, goes the joke, actors dine at the same Runyon-esque table as people who nick stuff, and this French comedy offers a new story of a crim who needs some muscle from the theatrical arts.

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Blue Beetle review - radical rehash

Nick Hasted

Blue Beetle is DC’s first screen Latino superhero, a recent development in the history of a D-grade character summed up here in his own film as “like the Flash… or Superman… but not as good”. Scraping the character barrel and first meant for cable, his debut also resists the grim “adult” gravitas routinely borrowed from Alan Moore and Frank Miller’s Eighties comics, popping with bright colours and breezy, communal humanity.

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Lie With Me review - a bittersweet enchantment

Hugh Barnes

The English title of Olivier Peyon’s new movie is a rather hackneyed pun that not only doesn’t work in the original language but also manages to convey exactly the wrong meaning. Arrête avec tes Mensonges is a faintly Almodóvarian love story about the importance (and sometimes difficulty) of facing up to the truth about yourself. However, instead of Stop With Your Lies, we get Lie With Me.

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Afire review - a moral reckoning by the Baltic

James Saynor

Experts in irony tend to see life as faintly absurd, relatively meaningless and usually circular. They’re too self-aware to be neurotic and live life in short bursts, letting out little private snorts of dry, amused exasperation at frequent intervals.

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