tue 07/07/2020

Film Reviews

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Nick Hasted

This is ferocious popular cinema. The original Elite Squad (2007) was an iconic hit in Brazil, detailing the training, private lives and bloody ghetto raids of BOPE, the black-suited elite Rio police force led by charismatic Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura). Director José Padilha resisted offers to convert the film’s commercial clout into a TV franchise, instead expanding this sequel into a total indictment of Brazilian society.

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The Devil's Double

Jasper Rees

There are biopics and there are biopics. The process by which an actor is made up to look like the character he has been cast to play gets an intriguing twist in The Devil’s Double. Latif Yahia, who was often confused with Uday Hussein when they were at school, many years later found himself involuntarily drafted as the lookalike of Saddam’s son.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Adam Sweeting

Ever since the first Planet of the Apes film in 1968, in which astronaut Charlton Heston landed on a futuristic Earth being run by super-evolved apes, the idea has become a sci-fi staple, breeding a string of sequels, spin-offs and TV series. Tim Burton remade the original flick in 2001, but despite enjoying commercial success, it was viewed with contempt by Apes cognoscenti.

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Salt of Life

Nick Hasted

Mid-August Lunch (2009) was the most purely enjoyable of the welcome new wave of Italian films. Watching its writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio, then 59, star as a failed Roman rogue with a lived-in face, swigging wine while failing to corral his irascible mother (movie debutante Valeria de Franciscis Bandoni, 93) and her ancient cronies, this was la dolce vita lived amiably on the bottom rung.

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The Referees

Jasper Rees

Elbowings, buttings, anklings, maimings, studdings, anarcho-thespian handbaggings – the figure formerly known as the man in black is the thin line between the beautiful game and the collapse of civilised society as we know it. And what is his reward? Players abuse him. Crowds bay for his blood. Presidents call for his execution (Polish ones do anyway).

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Super 8

Adam Sweeting

Having masterminded the existential fantasy of Lost, reinvented Star Trek and served up the monster-on-the-loose rampage of Cloverfield, JJ Abrams now comes trampling all over Steven Spielberg's favourite turf of homely, nostalgic American suburbia. He can feel Spielberg's benign hand resting on his shoulder though, since the Big 'berg co-produced and brought aboard several of his favourite sound and visual effects specialists.

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Super 8

Adam Sweeting

Having masterminded the existential fantasy of Lost, reinvented Star Trek and served up the monster-on-the-loose rampage of Cloverfield, JJ Abrams now comes trampling all over Steven Spielberg's favourite turf of a homely, nostalgic America. He can feel Spielberg's benign hand resting on his shoulder though, since the Big 'Berg co-produced and brought aboard several of his favourite sound and visual effects specialists.

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Sarah's Key

Matt Wolf

History rears its harrowing head in Sarah's Key, a sometimes galumphing film that lingers in the mind not least because of the terrible tale it has to tell. Reminding us that the atrocities of the Holocaust weren't any one country's exclusive preserve, the film chronicles both the eponymous Sarah, a young girl who survives the French internment camps, and Julia, a Paris-based American journalist in the modern day whose life is taken over by Sarah's story.

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The Light Thief

Jasper Rees

You don’t tend to get many films from the breakaway republics of the former Soviet Union. And certainly not from Kyrgyzstan.

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Horrid Henry - the Movie

Veronica Lee

It’s perhaps best to start this review by stating that I miss Horrid Henry's target demographic by about, ooh, a decade or three. But it’s also right and proper to say that while I wouldn’t recommend it for grown-ups, those youngsters whose opinions I canvassed after the screening I attended gave it a huge thumbs-up.

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Captain America: The First Avenger

Adam Sweeting

Already shouldering the new Harry Potter off the top of the US box-office charts, this latest arrival from Marvel Studios harks back to a simpler America where the hero wraps himself in the stars and stripes and the bad guys speak with ridiculous German accents.

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A Better Life

Nick Hasted

A Better Life is Bicycle Thieves remodelled for modern LA. Vittorio De Sica’s iconic 1948 film about an Italian father and son living over a precipice of poverty sadly requires adjustment only in its details, the theft of a bicycle the father needs to seek work here updated to a stolen truck.

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Gilda

Graham Fuller

What would loving Gilda Farrell be like? I do mean Gilda, and not Rita Hayworth, who was 27 when she portrayed her. The flamboyantly seductive persona Gilda has adopted to drive men crazy obscures the true nature of a woman who learns it brings out the worst in them and that it's a heavy burden to carry. As the actress ruefully remarked of her husbands, “They all married Gilda, but they woke up with me” - a telling putdown of the erotic artifice in which she herself was draped. 

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The Lavender Hill Mob

Demetrios Matheou

One should never pass up an opportunity to revisit an Ealing comedy. Invariably arch, ingenious and wonderfully played, these dozen or so films made between 1947 and 1957 offer a lovely snapshot of a Britain long gone, while the films themselves still feel remarkably fresh. The Lavender Hill Mob isn’t quite there with the very best of them, but a digital restoration on its 60th anniversary is still irresistible.

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The Big Picture

alexandra Coghlan

There’s no denying that the French have a way with a thriller. Whether it’s the sleek noir of L’appartement, the corner-of-the-eye tension of 2006’s La tourneuse de pages or the altogether more brutal thrills of Cavayé’s recent Pour elle, there’s a quality to the films that sets them apart from even our finest English-language attempts.

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Horrible Bosses

Adam Sweeting

Wage-slave purgatory in three different flavours is the subject of Seth Gordon's comedy, as his trio of downtrodden leads decide that the only way to break free from remorseless professional abuse is by murdering their respective bosses. George Cukor this ain't - in fact, Gordon has succeeded in making Carry On up the Khyber look like a revered art-house masterpiece - but as long as you leave your brain in "Park", there are just enough laughs to drag you to the closing credits.

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