mon 21/10/2019

Film Reviews

Peter and the Wolf, RFH

David Nice Just me and my duck: Suzie Templeton's lone wolf Peter with one of his friends

Even for a narratorless animation of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf like Suzie Templeton's obsessively detailed gem of a film, you probably only need 14 words before you can get on with the business of screening and playing. Peter: strings; bird: flute; duck: oboe; cat: clarinet; grandfather: bassoon; wolf: horns; hunters: timps. The savvy middle-class children gathered with their parents in the Royal Festival Hall yesterday afternoon had only two for actor/presenter Burn Gorman's...

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The Queen of Spades

Sheila Johnston

Family been bickering over games again this Christmas? Take the blighters to this fabulous supernatural melodrama and they'll learn soon enough what happens to a dirty card cheat. Long unavailable, Thorold Dickinson's 1949 adaptation of Alexander Pushkin's eerie short story, wherein a penniless Russian officer and crusty beldame sell their souls for the secret of winning at a simple game of chance,...

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Nowhere Boy

Adam Sweeting

It’s been a very good year for Beatlemania, with all the albums re-repackaged and the group going virtual in Rock Band. The BBC lobbed in their own Beatles season-ette, and one of the more striking images from their riot of documentary footage was of John Lennon escorting his Aunt Mimi up the steps onto the plane taking them to America, with her handbag and Sunday-best hat.

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Sherlock Holmes

Adam Sweeting

If James Bond could survive Roger Moore and George Lazenby, there must be grounds for optimism that Sherlock Holmes will eventually recover from this brutal mauling by Robert Downey Jr, under the gaudy directorial eye of Guy Ritchie. Holmesophiles are a doughty bunch, and will probably just carry on watching Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett as if Mr Madonna never happened.

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Avatar

Jasper Rees

There is a sequence in which a monstrous tree of otherworldly dimensions, its boughs as sturdy as oaks, its twigs as vigorous as saplings, crashes spectacularly to earth in roaring, creaking, shattering, time-expanding slo-mo. In a film that’s full of them, this is very much the premier-cru money shot. Remember the last time the director, deploying the computer-generated forces of a sound-stage deity, downed another very large object? Back then it was a boat.

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St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold

Veronica Lee

This film was never going to be nominated for any awards, but then it probably doesn’t need critical acclaim - the first reworking of the glorious 1950s Ealing Studios comedies (which were based on Ronald Searle’s cartoons), released in 2007, was the third-highest grossing independent UK film ever. St Trinian’s 2 is more of the same: loud, silly and rollicking good fun.

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Humpday

Sheila Johnston

Sixteen years ago, Tom Hanks was in Seattle, pining sleeplessly for Meg Ryan. In 2009, though, romantic comedy has a rather different complexion and, in another corner of the Space Needle city, two best buddies flirt with a gay affair, even though both of them protest, just a little too much, that they are straight.

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Nine

Matt Wolf

A funny thing happened to the movie musical of late: a genre thought to be moribund learned once again to sing, even if - as so often happens in education - there have been some truants along the way. In recent years, we've had Chicago and Hairspray, The Producers and Sweeney Todd, all of them adapted from Broadway shows familiar to UK playgoers as well. Now, along comes the riskiest of them all, Rob Marshall's Nine.

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The Limits of Control

Sheila Johnston

When the director Jim Jarmusch speaks of his new film, the discourse is jam-packed with cultural namechecks. One minute it's Rimbaud's Le Bateau Ivre, the next we're on to William S Burroughs, or Antonioni, or John Boorman's Point Blank. Joe Strummer is in the mix there too, and Jacques Rivette, and Boris, Sunn O))) and petenera flamenco and... well, you get the drift.

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Unmade Beds

Ryan Gilbey Animal magic: Vera (Déborah François) and Axl (Fernando Tielve) in Unmade Beds

Of all the film genres to flourish in recent times, mumblecore is both the most ethereal and, to date, the least profitable. But unlike, say, torture-porn or mockumentary, it has some distance to go before it outstays its welcome. For the uninitiated, mumblecore is essentially an offshoot of the rom-com, but instead of Kate Hudson, Sandra Bullock and/or Matthew McConaughey, you get an infinitely preferable...

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Mascarades, Ciné Lumière

Sheila Johnston Wedding breakdown: Mascarades, the feature debut of the Algerian film-maker Lyes Salem

It begins with a touch of brio: a sinuous, swirling tracking shot plunges deep into the daily chaos of a market place in a remote Algerian desert village. Signs are hoisted aloft and askew, mobile phones noisily bickered over, clapped-out bangers pushed out of the way. Eventually, the camera pauses on three old men as they, as one, clasp their handkerchiefs to their noses: a honking wedding cortege is about to roar past in a miniature dust-storm to set the seal on the mayhem.

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Where the Wild Things Are

Graham Fuller

Beware the ids of kids: Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze's film of Maurice Sendak's seminal children's picture book, centres on a hyperactive nine-year-old boy, Max (Max Records), who’s so angered and frustrated by the reverses of a winter's day that he destroys a keepsake he gave his adolescent sister and ends up biting his single mother (Catherine Keener) while she’s entertaining her boyfriend at home.

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Candy Gothic: Tim Burton, MoMA, New York

Graham Fuller

Though he has yet to make a perfect film, the director Tim Burton’s choice of Gothic and fantasy subjects and his deadpan, post-expressionist approach to them rightfully designate him an auteur of considerable genius. His 14 movies to date have earned him a cohesive retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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The Merry Gentleman

Sheila Johnston Lost souls: Michael Keaton and Kelly Macdonald find salvation, of sorts

It has hardly been a vintage year for Christmas movies so far (click here and here to read our respective reviews of Nativity! and A Christmas Carol). But Michael Keaton's absorbing first film as director, in which he also stars, finally nails the true spirit of the festive season: it is about a suicidal hitman....

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The Posters Came From The Walls, Clapham Picture House

joe Muggs German Depeche Mode fan in video re-enactment costume

In a pirate television (pirate television!) broadcast from 1992, a large group of Russian youths in flat top haircuts and leather jackets discuss Depeche Mode's appeal. “It's romantic style,” suggests one with absolute assurance, “it's music for the lonely.” It is just one touching, funny moment in a film packed with them, but it also sums up what The Posters Came From The Walls is...

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The Box

Anne Billson

Looks can be deceiving. The first thing you should know is that Richard Kelly's third film isn't really about the box at all. It's more about what's inside, which is a big red button. The place is suburban Virginia and the time is 1976, for no reason I can fathom other than this was the heyday of the paranoid conspiracy thriller and Kelly fancied giving us the heebie-jeebies with some truly terrifying 1970s wallpaper.

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