mon 25/05/2020

Film Reviews

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”.

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How I Ended This Summer

Tom Birchenough

If ever there’s a film where the landscape itself seems to become a main character, it’s Alexei Popogrebsky’s How I Ended This Summer. Action, such as it is, unfolds in the remotest Arctic regions of Russia’s Far East, where the personal conflict between the film’s two protagonists develops as they come to understand the nature of their different conflicts with the looming mountains and rough seascapes by which they are isolated.

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Adèle Blanc-Sec

Anne Billson

BD, pronounced bédé, is short for "bande déssinée", the French equivalent of the comic strip or graphic novel, which has long been accorded a popular affection and cultural standing well beyond that of its anglophone equivalent. Luc Besson says he was weaned on BD, which comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with his films. The only surprise is that it has taken him so long to direct an adaptation of one.

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Meek's Cutoff

Emma Simmonds

Kelly Reichardt’s quietly radical vision of the Wild West is a slender, provocatively ambiguous work and the antithesis to the genre’s muscular action-packed epics. It’s a western which aligns us with those who don bonnets rather than Stetsons, and which favours quiet pluck over showy heroics. With a narrative shorn almost entirely of incident, its existential, quasi-religious minimalism recalls Waiting for Godot.

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Cold Weather

Veronica Lee

To describe this movie as slow-burn would be like saying snails live in the fast lane. The latest work from indie auteur Aaron Katz (Dance Party USA and Quiet City) who wrote, directed and edited, is 97 minutes long, but nothing happens for its first third and then when things do start happening - as the lead characters investigate the disappearance of a friend - the film abruptly ends. It may be layered with all manner of subtexts but they pretty much passed me by.

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