thu 22/02/2024

Film Reviews

LOLA review - stylish monochrome drama posits an alternative World War Two

Saskia Baron

Sometimes one admires a film without wholly loving it because the high level of craft displayed on screen holds at arms’ length emotional engagement with the story. LOLA is that kind of movie – an ingeniously devised tale of time-travel, set in 1941 and replete with World War Two newsreels that have been altered with all the digital skills its makers could summon.

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Hamlet, Bristol Old Vic On Screen review - faithful capture of a stage performance

Helen Hawkins

This is a Hamlet for fans of speed-dating. It comes in at just over the two-hour mark, which is standard for a feature film. But considering the uncut text runs to four hours, as it did in the 1996 Kenneth Branagh film (and his earlier stage production), big chunks of text have clearly gone missing.

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In the Middle review - the true grit of grassroots referees

Graham Fuller

In the Middle profiles 10 football officials who referee and run the line of lower-league games in south-west London and north-east Surrey. Pondering what drives these apparently sane individuals to do such an onerous job, director-producer Greg Cruttwell's documentary is a vibrant study in diversity and concomitant prejudice that benefits from his light touch.

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Law of Tehran review - visceral Iranian police thriller

Saskia Baron

Here in Europe we mainly see subtle, lyrical Iranian films, targeted at international festivals or art house audiences, so it’s great to get the chance to see Law of Tehran, a gritty and relentless police thriller that was a hit in its home country in 2019.  

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God's Creatures review - Irish drama with a touch of Greek tragedy

Demetrios Matheou

There’s something about the Irish coastal village that makes filmmakers see it as a perfect locale for tales of human emotion in extremis, from David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter to Martin McDonagh’s Banshees of Inisherin. Perhaps it’s the tension between political discontent, privation and the gorgeous landscape that unsettles people, makes them behave badly. 

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Riotsville USA review - a training scheme with a tragic legacy

Helen Hawkins

Sierra Pettengill has made the politest angry film I have seen. It has an incendiary quality that comes precisely from its calm stance towards its material. This is a polemic, but one that burns steadily under the surface and asks the viewer to take a measured approach to its material.

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Things to Come, LSO, Strobel, Barbican review - blissful visions of the future

Bernard Hughes

Last night at the Barbican was my first experience of a film with live orchestra, which has become a big thing in the last few years. The film in question was Alexander Korda’s extraordinary HG Wells adaptation Things to Come, from 1936, imagining a century of the future.

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Antidote review - two films in one that lose sight of their message

Sarah Kent

“I believe Ayahuasca is something very deep,” says spiritual leader José López Sánchez in the documentary Antidote. “It’s not like selling palm oil or rubber. How many gringos have been healed with Ayahuasca? How many have discovered things about themselves and made positive changes? We should create an alliance with the Westerners; it would be a new path.”

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The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future review - a sensually strange eco-fable

Nick Hasted

Francisca Alegría’s debut is an eco-fable about mourning and enduring love, for a mother and Mother Earth. We start by Chile’s River Cruces, where a mill pumps poison, and the fish hear a death-song in the previously “sweet and clear” water. Magdalena (Mia Maestro), who drowned herself here decades ago, breaks the surface, gasping and suddenly alive, and walks back into the world.

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John Wick: Chapter 4 review - is this the El Cid of shoot-'em-up movies?

Adam Sweeting

Since the first John Wick film from 2014 became an unexpected hit, the Wick franchise has blossomed into a booming business empire, also including comic books, video games and upcoming TV spin-offs. The title role has transformed Keanu Reeves, who remains guarded about his spiritual leanings, into the Zen master of action heroes.

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1976 review - dark, chilly Chilean thriller

Demetrios Matheou

It starts innocuously, with paint. A woman is sitting in a hardware store, studying a travel guide for colour ideas, while briefing the chap mixing her order. But then, amid the sound of the mixing machine, we hear a commotion on the street, a woman's voice cries “they are taking me”, doors are slammed. A dash of pink paint lands on the customer’s pristine blue shoe.

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Infinity Pool review - it's like The White Lotus on bad acid

Adam Sweeting

Director Brandon Cronenberg has inherited his father David’s eye for the twisted and the sinister. After the creepy mind-meld dystopia of 2020’s Possessor, Infinity Pool finds Cronenberg turning his attention to horror-tourism. It’s like The White Lotus on bad acid.

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The Beasts review - a countryside idyll loses its charm

Sebastian Scotney

The Beasts (As Bestas) is all of two hours and 17 minutes long, and yet to look away is never an option. Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen reels the viewer in masterfully as he builds tension and suspense.

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Allelujah review - Alan Bennett put through the blender

Matt Wolf

I'm proffering just a tad less than three cheers for Allelujah, the film version of Alan Bennett's 2018 Bridge Theatre play that is also that rare screen adaptation of Bennett not to be shepherded to celluloid by his longtime friend and collaborator, Nicholas Hytner.

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Marlowe review - Liam Neeson wearily treads those mean streets

Nick Hasted

Neil Jordan’s take on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe is the first since Bob Rafelson’s Poodle Springs (1998), itself a lone outlier after Michael Winner’s misbegotten The Big Sleep (1978). No one seems to have considered why, or what they might add.

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Rye Lane review - finding love south of the river

Saskia Baron

There’s a huge amount to admire in Rye Lane, a new romcom set in south London. It’s the first feature directed by Raine Allen-Miller, who has conjured up a love letter to the neighbourhoods she grew up in.

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