wed 19/02/2020

Film Reviews

Conviction

Adam Sweeting

The real-life story behind Conviction had a big balloon over its head saying “Hollywood screenplay!!!”, and sure enough here’s director Tony Goldwyn’s big-screen version, with Hilary Swank striding out front carrying the banner for truth, justice and the supernatural properties of sibling devotion. There’s no denying it’s an incredible story.

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BBC Symphony Orchestra, John Wilson, Barbican

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

Once upon a time, composers ran Hollywood. As conductor John Wilson reminded us last night, 44-time Oscar nominee and movie composer Alfred Newman became so powerful as second in command at MGM that he had two security guards posted at his office door. Any directors attempting to enquire how the score to their movies was getting along were told to clear off. Big, bold orchestral scores were Hollywood's crown jewels. At the Barbican last night we got a rare chance to inspect them close up....

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The Next Three Days

Jasper Rees

For a while back there, Russell Crowe was incapable of a false move. LA Confidential, Gladiator and The Insider all flagged up a thrilling talent for pugnacious individualism. Here was an actor with a bit of dog in him, a street-smart upgrade on Mel Gibson. Then he went and inherited Gibson’s gift for naff headlines. Maybe it’s an Aussie He-Man thing. Either way, the pictures got a bit smaller as tales of the incredible expanding ego did the global rounds.

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The King's Speech

Matt Wolf

"Only project!" That's not quite what EM Forster famously wrote, but it serves as the leitmotif of The King's Speech, as ripe a piece of Oscar bait as you are likely to see this year. Neither as visceral as The Fighter nor as resonantly and fully realised as The Social Network, Tom Hooper's film nonetheless fields the necessaries guaranteed to lead this true-life tale of the maladroit stammerer who would be king to many a film awards dais.

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127 Hours

Emma Simmonds

Made with the same furious energy which has characterised so much of Danny Boyle’s output, 127 Hours goes from the macro to the micro. It opens with a pounding split-screen assault of imagery depicting the frenetic, dehumanising nature of modern life, before closing in on one man’s five-day ordeal in a crack in the earth.

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Love & Other Drugs

Veronica Lee

It’s difficult to know how to categorise Love & Other Drugs; is it a rom-com, a biopic, a melodrama, a satire or a hard-hitting attack on the influence that mega pharmaceutical companies have on America’s healthcare system? The film’s makers, meanwhile, tell us in their press notes that it’s an “emotional comedy”. Nope, me neither.

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Year Out/Year In: Films to Remember and Forget

theartsdesk

Avatar or The Hurt Locker? Although the Academy Awards are by no means the only barometer of cinematic trends, at this year’s Oscars the two centrifugal strains in contemporary movie-making went head to head. For Best Picture and Director, James Cameron’s digitally created sci-fi-scape locked horns with Kathryn Bigelow’s visceral visit to Iraq. One demonstrated Hollywood’s ever-increasing capacity to wish away actuality as we know it.

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The Way Back

Matt Wolf

Whatever else one thinks of Hollywood, one can hardly accuse Tinseltown of overdosing audiences on good cheer this holiday season. Filmgoers States-side can at the moment choose between James Franco hacking at his flesh, Mark Wahlberg landing a blood-spattering punch or two, and a seriously grizzled Jeff Bridges going none too gently into the good night.

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Chatroom

Emma Simmonds

With its finger-on-the-pulse tagline, “Welcome to the anti-social network” and respectable credentials, Chatroom is an intriguing prospect. It’s based on an acclaimed stage play, directed by the visionary Hideo Nakata (Ringu, Dark Water), with a script by Enda Walsh (Hunger) and populated by a cast of bright young things including Aaron Johnson and Imogen Poots. However, this cyber-thriller offers precious few thrills and is hampered cringingly by an...

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Little Fockers

Veronica Lee

The third instalment of the Meet the Parents franchise, which began in 2000 and was followed by Meet the Fockers in 2004, moves the story on a few years. In Little Fockers Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are now married and have twins, Sam and Henry.

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Burlesque

alexandra Coghlan

“Show a little more, show a little less. Add a little smoke – welcome to burlesque.” The coy, wittier sister of stripping, and first cousin to musical theatre, the 19th-century art of burlesque is currently enjoying a revival. With comely champions in Dita von Teese and our own gloriously named Immodesty Blaize, the art has shaken off its cruder associations and shimmied into the diamante-studded mainstream.

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Film: Catfish

Adam Sweeting The 'Catfish' boys hit the road. Left to right: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost, Nev Schulman

Ever since Catfish appeared in the States earlier in the year, debate has been raging about its bona fides. On the face of it an ingenious documentary playing smartly with the potential and pitfalls of social networking and the nature of personal identity in the cyber age, the film has triggered cries of “foul” from a number of critics and viewers. Morgan Spurlock, who made the junk-food odyssey ...

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Loose Cannons

Jasper Rees

There is a climactic moment in Loose Cannons when one of the characters has rather more dolci than is good for her. For anyone without a sweet cinematic tooth, the two hours’ traffic of this soft-centred Italian melodrama may induce a similar kind of diabetic shutdown. For everyone else, it’s a dessert trolley to feast the palate. But there is one intriguing discrepancy between this and other entertainments blown up from the bottom of Europe on warming southerly thermals....

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In Our Name

Veronica Lee

Suzy, a private in the British army, has just returned from a tour of Iraq, back to the loving embrace of her close family in Middlesbrough. There are a couple of flies in the ointment, though; her nine-year-old daughter is distraught at her absence and refuses to speak to her, and her husband, Mark, a squaddie in the same regiment who has not been on the same tour, wants his loving embrace immediately and frequently.

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The Tourist

Neil Smith

One would like to think a great deal of thought goes into which leading man pairs up with which leading lady in a big-budget Hollywood product. Yet the practicalities of Hollywood movie-making – scheduling, financing, availability and so on – mean it’s far more likely you cast whoever you can get, and afford, and hope for the best.

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Enemies of the People

Emma Simmonds

Two members of Thet Sambath’s immediate family were murdered during the Khmer Rouge’s time in power in Cambodia. His father was killed when he objected to the organisation's seizure of his property, while his mother was then forced into marriage with a Khmer Rouge militia. She died soon after following complications in childbirth. His older brother, who had witnessed the brutal murder of his father, was also later executed. Enemies of the People, a documentary made with Rob Lemkin,...

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