mon 25/05/2020

Film Reviews

Kung Fu Panda 2

Nick Hasted

The appeal of fat, foolish, good-hearted panda Po (Jack Black) as a cartoon action hero is predictably diluted in this sequel. A fully trained and socially accepted martial arts master by the original’s end, he offers Kung Fu Panda 2 less pathos and originality. It compensates with spectacular 3D set pieces, cute and ferocious animals and gentle humour finely tuned to children’s tastes.

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Senna

Adam Sweeting

Notwithstanding legends of earlier generations such as Fangio or Jim Clark, it's Ayrton Senna whose name commands the most mystique in the annals of Formula One motor racing. Nor is his reputation limited merely to so-called "petrolheads". Away from the track, he became a kind of deity in his native Brazil, both for his racing feats and his charitable endeavours now continued by the Instituto Ayrton Senna.

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Mammuth

Emma Simmonds

In Mammuth the immense Gérard Depardieu hits the road, on both a practical quest and spiritual journey, his enormous form testing the metal of a motorcycle. He is flanked on his travels by the glorious French countryside, wind whipping through his golden mane. It’s an image of unlikely but undeniable beauty.

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X-Men: First Class

Adam Sweeting

If there's one thing Hollywood hates more than people bootlegging its latest blockbusters on mobile phones, it's letting a lucrative franchise go to waste. Thus, after the initial three X-Men films and 2009's Wolverine spin-off, you are invited to roll up for the prequel, skippered by Brit director Matthew Vaughn, of Layer Cake and Kick-Ass fame.

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Rio Breaks

Peter Culshaw

There have been stunning films about surfing, like Riding Giants, and also at least one masterpiece about the slums of Rio - City of God. This documentary combines both. It focuses on the lives of two teenage boys, Fabio and Naama, and their dream of escaping the violence of Rio’s slums by carving out a career as surf pros.

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Apocalypse Now

Graham Fuller

More phantasmagorically beautiful than it ever had any right to be given its subject, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now begins as a nightmare, or a delirium, with thup-thup-thupping helicopters ghosting in and out of the frame in front of the jungle and wisps of yellow smoke rising in the foreground. Cymbals, noodling guitar and a tambourine played by The Doors on the track preface the voice of Jim Morrison, who exhaustedly croons the opening lines of “The End”.

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Life, Above All

Jasper Rees

There was a time not long ago when British films and television dramas were shot in the Czech Republic and Hungary, where the studios were cheap and the landscape looked roughly analogous to our own. In recent years what feels like the entire film industry has migrated south, principally to South Africa, also for budgetary reasons (although the light is ideal).

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The Hangover Part II

Adam Sweeting

Warner Brothers are anticipating that The Hangover Part II will gross $100 million over the coming Memorial Day weekend, which would put it comfortably on course to trounce the $470 million earned worldwide by its 2009 predecessor. It might even deserve it.

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Le Quattro Volte

Demetrios Matheou

Last night Robert De Niro’s Cannes jury awarded the Palme d’Or to Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, described by one critic there as “a hymn to the glory of creation”. At last year’s festival another film fitted the same description, only it achieved its ends in a leaner, far quieter fashion; and unlike Malick’s film, Le Quattro Volte can be seen not only as dabbling with the profound, but as being delightfully and accessibly tongue-in-cheek.

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Win Win

Matt Wolf

Surely, any film called Win Win and starring Paul Giamatti is being deeply ironic? After all, you don't expect the hangdog star of Sideways and Barney's Version to do the feel-good Hollywood thing, and it seems of a piece with Giamatti's baleful, ever-defeated demeanour that a scene of him jogging along should end with the actor coming to a panting halt.

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Julia's Eyes

Emma Simmonds

Feminism it certainly isn’t, though it is bizarrely refreshing to observe that the heroine fleeing a maniac in a state of comely undress is in her mid-forties. It might be baby steps rather than huge strides of progress but nevertheless, The Orphanage’s Belén Rueda once again makes a cheeringly mature and cerebral, yet still hauntingly beautiful scream siren. It’s a shame that Julia’s Eyes as a whole lacks her class and consistency.

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Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides

Jasper Rees

Once more unto the beach, dear friends. Pirates of the Caribbean is back for a fourth raid of the world’s wallet. This time it’s in 3D. As in Dumb, Dumberer and Depp. Film scholars may also wish to note that Pirates 4 was actually shot 6000 miles away in Hawaii. Among those places closer to Barbados are Zimbabwe, Syria, Greenland and Antarctica.

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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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