thu 02/07/2020

Film Reviews

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Emma Simmonds

Saying that seven-year-old Sally Hurst (Bailee Madison) is experiencing a nightmare childhood would be a whopping understatement. An anxious child, medicated into submission by her mother, she’s been sent to live with her father in a spooky mansion where tiny teeth-snatchers call to her from the shadows.

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Johnny English Reborn

Adam Sweeting

"Barclaycard? This man's in no state to go shopping!" Thus we remember the credit card commercials which formed the "origin story" of blundering secret agent Johnny English, then known as Richard Latham. Better name in fact, but no matter. Eight years after his big-screen debut, English is back, older and even more stupid.

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Melancholia

Nick Hasted

Lars von Trier wants us to see the big picture. When Terrence Malick similarly returned cinema to the cosmic with The Tree of Life, he tried to make us feel the terrifying wonder of creation as much as death. The prelude to Von Trier’s new film instead sees Earth smashing into an indifferent planet 10 times its size.

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The Debt

ASH Smyth

John Madden's mainstream remake of Israeli thriller Ha-Hov – The Debt – features three Mossad operatives despatched to Sixties Berlin on an Eichmann-style mission to kidnap a former Nazi and escort him to Israel for trial.

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Red State

Nick Hasted

It takes an ultra-liberal Catholic like Kevin Smith to tear into Christian fundamentalism with Red State’s ferocious accuracy. The writer-director’s 10th is being sold as a horror film, but the only demons to be seen are those of church and state.

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The Green Wave

Jasper Rees

Four years ago a film called Persepolis told the story of a young woman’s experience of revolution in Iran. There has been a modest abundance of Iranian films making their way west over the years, but this distinguished itself from the others by being a frank and unflinching account of recent historical events, told in the form of animation. So the concept of The Green Wave should not take anyone by surprise.

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Drive

Nick Hasted

Irene (Carey Mulligan) realises just how much the Driver (Ryan Gosling) loves her as his boot caves in a man’s face on the floor of her apartment building lift. They have just kissed for the first time, and she tumbles from him, shaken and repelled.

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Mademoiselle Chambon

ASH Smyth

After the international success of Not Here to Be Loved, Stéphane Brizé returns with a delicate, sentimental tale of small-town life disrupted when French builder Jean meets Véronique Chambon, his son's junior-school teacher.

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Crazy, Stupid, Love

Matt Wolf

"I'm going to help you rediscover your manhood," a self-described sexual "tomcat" called Jacob (Ryan Gosling) tells his new friend, and project, Cal (Steve Carell). And with that, the awkwardly titled Crazy, Stupid, Love sets off on its none too surefooted way. Might some equivalent to Jacob's confidence and expertise have been of use behind the camera, as well?

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Page One: Inside the New York Times

Nick Hasted

As an elegiac score plays, bails of early editions of the New York Times are bundled and tossed into a fleet of vans, which roll out into the dawn city streets, to distribute the news. The conviction shared by many in this documentary about the paper is that the vans will soon look as quaint as the last of the horse-drawn hackney cabs. The ritual of late-night editorial agonising over stories before the presses roll, and newspapers themselves, are equally under threat.

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Emma Simmonds

Tomas Alfredson’s riveting, stately adaptation of John le Carré’s classic spy novel is an immaculately measured teaser, delivered one carefully heaped spoonful at a time. Primped, polished and with the tension ratcheted up a notch for the big screen, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a high-wire tight introduction to a group of men who live their lives in guarded apprehension.

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Tomboy

Tom Birchenough

Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy tells a small-scale story that’s sensitive to its depiction of gender uncertainties. However, because its cast are pre-adolescents, the wider overtones of sexuality don’t really come into the picture (though it won the LGBT Teddy Award at this year’s Berlin Film Festival). It’s not exactly the tale of a “summer of love”, and is resolved in a finally benign way, but there’s much that is poignant in its heroine’s development to a greater self-awareness.

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The Story of Film: An Odyssey, More 4

Tom Birchenough

After the first two parts of Mark Cousins’s magisterial The Story of Film: An Odyssey, I’m still in two minds as to whether it’s fair to call the presenter a generalist. He has already managed to piece together details from the cinema cultures of almost every film-making nation on earth with the authority of a specialist – and that’s before his narrative has formally progressed beyond the arrival of the talkies, let alone colour.

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Friends with Benefits

Matt Wolf

A time-tested formula gets tantalisingly tweaked in Friends with Benefits, in which Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis attempt to confine their relationship to the purely sexual without the ick factor of emotions getting in the way.

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Jane Eyre

Emma Simmonds

As fresh and enchanting as the first flushes of spring, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s imaginative retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s 19th-century proto-feminist novel captures the thrill of attraction with rare perception, sweep and tenderness. It foregrounds the book’s Gothic elements and the lovers’ links to the natural world, showing love itself as both a benign and devastating force of nature.

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Troll Hunter

Nick Hasted

The Blair Witch Project’s found-footage horror formula finds an unlikely new ingredient in this Norwegian phenomenon. The monsters disturbed in the woods by an amateur film crew this time are trolls, fairy-tale staples corralled by a top-secret branch of the government’s Wildlife Board, the Troll Security Service, and more particularly by hangdog chief troll hunter Hans (top Norwegian comic Otto Jespersen). “Who’s afraid of trolls?” someone asks.

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