mon 30/03/2020

Film Reviews

How Do You Know

Jasper Rees

Just to fill in that blank left by the title, how do you know when you’re in love? It’s the question posed by every romantic comedy ever made, satisfactorily answered only by the good ones.

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Barney's Version

Neil Smith

Canadian writer Mordecai Richler’s eclectic contribution to film includes uncredited work on Room at the Top, the screenplay for Fun with Dick and Jane and the original book behind Richard Dreyfuss’s early success The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Like that 1959 novel, his final tome, Barney’s Version, dealt with the colourful history of a Montreal Jew.

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Biutiful

Emma Simmonds

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s stunning, painfully sincere - if somewhat laborious - latest is a heartfelt paean to fatherhood, built around an agonising escalation of misery. It is bolstered by a mesmerising performance from Javier Bardem as a terminally ill man experiencing physical deterioration alongside spiritual elevation, who bridges the gap between this life and the next.

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NEDS

Veronica Lee

Actor/director Peter Mullan describes NEDS, his third film as director (after Orphans and The Magdalene Sisters), as “personal but not autobiographical”, although it undoubtedly draws heavily on his working-class upbringing in 1970s Glasgow.

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Black Swan

ismene Brown

They’re calling Black Swan BS on some of the dance websites, and while they’re right about the dancing, this is a whale of an enjoyable outing to the flicks: lush, Gothic, psycho and flavoursomely OTT. I don’t much care that Natalie Portman can’t dance for toffee - Tobey Maguire probably didn’t satisfy jockeys with his style in Seabiscuit, or Hilary Swank the boxing clubs in Million Dollar Baby.

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Get Low

Matt Wolf

Time, and a scruffy beard, can't dim the unshowy magnificence that is Robert Duvall, the actor's actor among American film stars who turned 80 earlier this month. That milestone might represent a cue in some quarters to hang up your cleats or, at least, to coast into old age via a kindly supporting role or two, of the sort Duvall essayed in Crazy Heart.

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Morning Glory

Matt Wolf

 

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Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

graham Rickson

The classical-music industry loves dead icons; witness the endless reissuing and remarketing of recordings by Kathleen Ferrier and Jacqueline du Pré. Canadian pianist Glenn Gould died from a stroke at the age of 50 in 1982 and his seminal Bach discs have never been out of the catalogue since. Françis Giraud told Gould’s story on screen before in his 1993 film Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, an imaginative series of vignettes depicting scenes from Gould’s life.

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The Green Hornet

Jasper Rees

The multiplatform franchise might sound like a modern concept - the film that leads parallel lives as video game, TV spin-off, T-shirt and toy. But no, ‘twas ever thus. Entertainment moguls have always known how to squeeze every last dime out of a popular hit, none more than The Green Hornet. Created in Detroit as a radio drama in 1936, it has buzzed across the decades and the genres, from film to comics to television to fiction and back to comics again.

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Blue Valentine

Graham Fuller

The American indie Blue Valentine was heralded in October by a sexy W magazine cover of its stars - Ryan Gosling smooching Michelle Williams’s temple as she parts her becrimsoned lips and gazes provocatively at us - and the restrictive NC-17 rating (the old “X”) granted it for “its shocking, gory depiction of a dying marriage”. Both cover and rating were wholly misleading...

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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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