sun 05/04/2020

Film Reviews

Fire in Babylon

Adam Sweeting

To the relief of many an international batsman, there has never been anything to rival the stupendous West Indies teams which bestrode Planet Cricket with intimidating ferocity from the late Seventies into the Nineties. Fire in Babylon is the story of the side that Clive Lloyd built, and the way it became a formidable socio-political force in the Caribbean as well as a sporting global superpower.

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Third Star

Jasper Rees

A low-budget Britflick in which four middle-class young men go on a sentimental road trip to Pembrokeshire: doesn’t sound like much of a movie, does it? The twist is that one of them has terminal cancer. To prick your interest further, he’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Attack the Block

Jasper Rees

Several years ago the film career of Simon Pegg was launched by Shaun of the Dead, a comic tribute to the low-budget killer-zombie flick. Pegg has long since moved on to bigger, if not always better, things. Without him the film’s producers have returned to the same thematic patch, but with one crucial difference. This time the invading force is stalking not white middle-class slackers in their thirties but a tooled-up posse of teenage boys from the ‘hood.

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Love Like Poison

Emma Simmonds

Sensitive but unsparing, the debut feature from French writer-director Katell Quillévéré is a tender portrait of a shy, sweet teenager experiencing the first flushes of womanhood. Don’t be deterred by its somewhat sinister title; although Love Like Poison (or a Un Poison Violent, a phrase taken from a Serge Gainsbourg song) doesn’t dodge uncomfortable truths, it is distinguished and defined by its delicacy, insight and humanity.

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Amreeka

Jasper Rees

The traditional place for such films is below the radar. A low-budget portrait of an ethnic minority in America which has schlepped round the festivals, Amreeka could just as easily have been cold-shouldered by distributors. It tells of a family of Palestinians redomiciled in the Midwest just as America is invading Iraq and anti-Muslim prejudice infiltrates American streets and classrooms.

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Outside the Law

Adam Sweeting

Australia's cricketers used to call batsman Mark Waugh "Afghanistan", because (compared to his brother Steve) he was the Forgotten Waugh. It was a reference to the Soviet campaign against the Mujahideen during the 1980s. But few wars in recent-ish memory have been so deprived of the oxygen of damaging publicity as France's brutal struggle to hang on to colonial Algeria.

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Jig

ismene Brown

Can one enjoy watching a film supposedly about dance in which competition and being Number One is all and the word “artistry” is not mentioned once? And in which performers are nameless numbers? And the documentary-maker shows not a scintilla of curiosity about why this might be? One might, if it were handled with a twisted sense of humour and cutting observation.

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Hanna

Matt Wolf

Hanna begins with a bang, and there will be those for whom the excitement never lets up – especially if you like your action movies all but bereft of chat. The young assassin of the title scarcely needs words when her days are given over to taking careful aim. Sure, her father makes a case for the need for language, but determination and a good eye take the feral Hanna infinitely further than pleasantries such as “Hello”.

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Cedar Rapids

Adam Sweeting

The protagonist in a coming-of-age movie is usually an adolescent, but in Cedar Rapids it's a fully-grown adult. The hapless ingénu in question is goofy and naive Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), dedicated 34-year-old salesman for the Brown Star Insurance company of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. In Lippe (pronounced Lippy) world, insurance isn't another name for dirty sales tricks and finding ingenious ways to weasel out of paying claims, but more like a kind of social service.

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Thor

Jasper Rees

As genres go, it’s a broad church: the tale of the alien who visits our world (our world obviously being contemporary America) encompasses everything from The Man Who Fell to Earth to Galaxy Quest. The story tends to riff on the same tension: how our planet shapes up in the eyes of intergalactic visitors. It can be done for laughs, for thrills, even for tears (see, if you are indeed an alien and haven't already, ET).

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Farewell

Demetrios Matheou

Midway through Farewell, a civilian who is aiding a KGB spy is told by his nervous wife, “I married an engineer. Not James Bond.” In other films, this might be a cheap line, a postmodern quip; here it is spoken in earnest, and reflects the many nuances of a wonderfully retro spy drama.

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Upside Down – The Creation Records Story

Kieron Tyler

“I thought I was creating metaphysical history by running Creation,” says the label’s Alan McGee in Upside Down. Seconds later the meat-and-potatoes rock of Oasis blasts from the soundtrack. The drug-assisted disconnect between such lofty aspiration and the grounded music of Oasis was never going to be bridged. Even by the man billed as “the president of pop”.

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Sweetgrass

Graham Fuller

The monumental documentary Sweetgrass captures the back-breaking final sheep drives by the herders of the Raisland-Allestad Ranch, Montana, into the vertiginous heights of the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains, which lie north of the Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies. These herders’ purpose was to bring the huge flock to pasture on public land, a 19th-century tradition that became economically unviable in the 2000s.

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Arthur

Veronica Lee

Back in 2004, Russell Brand performed Russell Brand's Better Now at the Edinburgh Fringe, one of the best shows I have ever seen. In it he described his recovery from addictions to alcohol and drugs and how he had lost his job as an MTV presenter after one too many, er, misjudgments - coming into work dressed as Osama Bin Laden the day after 9/11, for instance.

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Pina 3D/ Giselle 3D

ismene Brown

Pina Bausch decided: “Words can’t do more than just evoke things - that’s where dance comes in.” Well, up to a point, Lord Copper. Only if they’re bad words and good dance - bad writhing instead of, say, Shakespeare’s words isn’t much of a swap.

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Upside Down: The Creation Records Story

Kieron Tyler

“I thought I was creating metaphysical history by running Creation” says the label’s Alan McGee in Upside Down. Seconds later the meat-and-potatoes rock of Oasis blasts from the soundtrack. The drug-assisted disconnect between such lofty aspiration and the grounded music of Oasis was never going to be bridged. Even by the man billed as “the president of pop”.

Read more...

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