tue 07/07/2020

Film Reviews

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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Post Mortem

Demetrios Matheou

Post Mortem is Chilean Pablo Larraín’s follow-up to the extraordinary Tony Manero, and another, even tougher take on his country’s troubled past. While the first film was a blackly comic look at the dictatorship years of the Seventies, this one deals with the coup itself. It’s a harrowing experience, but one that confirms Larrain as a major talent.

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Days of Heaven

Nick Hasted

Days of Heaven made Terrence Malick’s legend. Released four years after his relatively conventional lovers-on-the-run debut Badlands (1974), it gave a similar story transcendental themes and images of painterly gorgeousness. Then he directed nothing else for 20 years. Choosing not to engage with interviews or celebrity, like Pynchon and Salinger he vanished into mystery and silence.

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Fright Night

Nick Hasted

After 10 minutes in the company of Fright Night’s vacuous US teens I was thinking, like Colonel Kurtz, “Kill them all!” One of the several virtues of this remake of the 1985 vampire horror-comedy is that its writer, Marti Noxon, feels the same way.

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Kill List

Nick Hasted

Ben Wheatley’s debut Down Terrace, about a Brighton crime family whose bickering resembles Abigail’s Party, then Macbeth, had almost no budget and was literally home-made. Many critics still realised that it was one of the best and most original films of 2010.

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Attenberg

Emma Simmonds

In Attenberg Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari illustrates that there is no species on earth more peculiar than man. A hit at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, where its lead Ariane Labed rightfully claimed Best Actress, it is on first inspection something of a hodgepodge. On the one hand it’s a quietly confounding and deeply moving study of a woman’s alienated (and almost alien) existence and, on the other, it’s a joyously infantile amusement.

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Children of the Revolution

Tom Birchenough

As well as recounting the stories of two of the women who would become figureheads for the revolutionary movements that grew out of the social unrest of 1968 - Germany’s Ulrike Meinhof and Japan’s Fusako Shigenobu - Shane O’Sullivan’s documentary Children of the Revolution intriguingly juggles the political and the personal.

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The Skin I Live In

Emma Simmonds

Cinematic virtuoso Pedro Almodóvar’s contribution to the body horror subgenre is a sumptuous nightmare with the precision and looming malevolence of its psychotic surgeon’s blade. His 19th feature is a film for our age – an age which has seen radical and sometimes grotesque surgical reinvention - concerned as it is with the troubling question: what actually lies beneath?

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R: Hit First, Hit Hardest

Tom Birchenough

You must have come across those “happiness quotient” surveys, which judge the relative achievements on the contentment front across a series of countries. The last one I recall gave Denmark the Number One spot, with a remarkable 96 per cent classing themselves as lykkelig, as the feel-good factor is known locally. If you were left wondering about the other four per cent, Michael Noer and Tobias Lindholm’s R: Hit First, Hit Harder offers some clues.

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One Day

Matt Wolf

Warning to hunky French jazz pianists: beware a slim, raven-haired Englishwoman who looks like Anne Hathaway but goes by the name of Emma and will up and leave you the second her long-standing chum, Dex, crosses la Manche to extend rather more than a main by way of welcome. Sound unfair?

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Conan the Barbarian

Adam Sweeting

The Conan yarns are familiar from novels, comics and TV series, but most of all from the early-Eighties Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. In this new remake, the title role is stretched around the pneumatic bulk of Jason Momoa, the half-Hawaiian and half-Irish veteran of the celebrated cheesecake opera Baywatch.

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In a Better World

ASH Smyth

It is easy to see why Danish director Susanne Bier’s latest movie would have scooped up all the Foreign Language gongs, made the festival selection lists and generally five-starred it all over the shop.

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The Guard

Adam Sweeting

Directing and writing his first full-length feature, John Michael McDonagh fully exploits the wild and windswept landscapes of Connemara, and similarly extracts maximum value from his leading man, Brendan Gleeson. Perhaps he picked up tips from his brother Martin, who directed Gleeson in In Bruges.

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Cowboys & Aliens

Nick Hasted

The title is the film. In a new low point for high concepts, producers Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg only needed to see the cover of the titular, unfinished comic book to give Cowboys & Aliens the green light.

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