sat 29/02/2020

Film Reviews

Oil City Confidential

howard Male

Dr. Feelgood was the first band I ever saw live, and I can still remember that frisson of expectation queuing up outside the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 1975. I didn’t even know who they were or what they sounded like, I simply had some pals who were soon-to-be-punks who’d got wind of the fact that these Canvey Island ne’er-do-wells were the harbingers of something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

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Wet Weather Cover, King's Head Theatre

Sheila Johnston Unfair weather friends: Steve Furst (left) and Michael Brandon

"Plays about cinema tend to be written by people who have done some movies, come back and filled their fountain pens from their spleen," the Oscar-nominated screenwriter Larry Gelbart once told me. David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow is probably the best-known example, followed by such works as Christopher Hampton's Tales From Hollywood, Martin Crimp's The Treatment and, most recently, last week's ...

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Adoration

Jasper Rees

This isn’t Atom Egoyan’s first road accident. In The Sweet Hereafter he portrayed the agony of a small rural community after a school bus crash deprives almost every household of its young, like some disembodied edict from King Herod. This time it’s the other way round: in Adoration a child has lost his parents to a mysterious car crash, leaving him and the uncle who brings him up to live in its long dark shadow. But that’s not the main difference between the two films.

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Precious

Sheila Johnston Streetwise: Gabourey Sidibe in Lee Daniels's Precious

What an odd and provocative coincidence that black women - hardly a demographic over-represented in mainstream cinema - should be at the centre of two high-profile American films opening this week. One is The Princess and the Frog, also reviewed today on theartsdesk. The other is the multi-award-winning Precious. In the former, the princess is a brunette...

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The Princess and the Frog

Veronica Lee

For those of us brought up on classic Disney animation - from the first, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, through The Jungle Book and Lady and the Tramp to, more recently, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast - it’s sad to think that a whole generation of children have seen animated films only through CGI and Pixar. But now comes The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s first entirely 2D, hand-drawn animation since 2002, which, with its...

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Edge of Darkness

Adam Sweeting Mel Gibson as Detective Thomas Craven, on the hunt for his daughter's killers

If you were looking for a director for the movie version of Edge of Darkness, you'd have thought you couldn't do better than Martin Campbell, who made the original 1985 series for BBC television. He's now a bona fide Hollywood ace, with a string of major TV credits and hit movies like Casino Royale and the Zorro flicks to his name. But not even a Tinseltown budget can bribe lightning to strike twice, and whatever fortuitous combination of timing and...

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Brothers

Sheila Johnston

Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Sam Shepard and, in a tiny role, Carey Mulligan: yes, yet again the stars are lining up to live through the agony of America's presence in Iraq and (here) Afghanistan.

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The Boys Are Back

Matt Wolf Clive Owen gives us Father's Day in January

Boys will be boys, and, eventually, grown boys as opposed to men. That's the cheerful (depending on how you look at it) message of The Boys Are Back, in which Clive Owen pours on the not inconsiderable charm as a father suddenly left having to care for his two sons. That  women barely enter into the scenario - and when they do, emerge as so many killjoys - will appeal to the eternal adolescent in a movie that aims to make eternal roustabouts of us all. Let's face it:  wouldn't you...

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A Prophet

Anne Billson

A Prophet is a different sort of prison movie. Jacques Audiard's follow-up to The Beat That My Heart Skipped is another dip into the criminal underworld, and mostly takes place in a French jail. Nearly every other film or TV series I can think of which is set behind bars (Prison Break, The Shawshank Redemption, Papillon and so on) is concerned with escape.

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Film: Crude

Ryan Gilbey Don't drink the water: Crude explains why.

Far from being the premature biopic of Frankie Boyle that its title might suggest, Crude is the latest and subtlest in a run of environmentally concerned documentaries. To stand out in this newly lucrative genre, you must adopt an original tack: the celebrity-fronted lecture has been done (An Inconvenient Truth), as too has the thriller (The Cove) and the prankster...

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Up in the Air

Sheila Johnston

By trade Ryan Bingham is something called a Termination Facilitator. I'm not entirely sure if that's meant as a euphemism, but it sounds kind of scary and in fact, played by George Clooney with lubricated charm, Bingham is a hit-man contracted out to fire people from companies who don't have the cojones or the courtesy to break the bad news themselves.

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44 Inch Chest

Adam Sweeting

Startlingly, it’s 10 years since Sexy Beast, the infernally cunning gangster movie with a terrifying performance from Ben Kingsley at its core. Now Beast’s screenwriters Louis Mellis and David Scinto are back with their new brainchild 44 Inch Chest. That authorial pedigree is written all over the screen (and in the way the air is turned perpetually blue), but this isn’t Sexy Beast II.

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It's Complicated

Matt Wolf

Meryl Streep feasts once again at the shrine of foodie-ism in It's Complicated, this time playing a California caterer who juggles two men - one of them her ex-husband - in between rolling pastry dough. "Complicated"? Perhaps in terms of decision-making: what to bake? whom to bed?

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Mugabe and the White African

Sheila Johnston Mike Campbell on his mango farm in Zimbabwe, a target of Mugabe's Land Reform Programme

He thought he owned his property - he had the title deeds to it, after all - but suddenly the ground shifted under his feet and there came an aggressive bid to snatch his home away. His savings became worthless in the economic chaos; the social order was crumbling. The nightmare has become all too familiar over the last 18 months. But in Mike Campbell's case there was a further cruel turn of the screw: he lived in Zimbabwe....

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Exam

Jasper Rees 'Exam', in which 'Lord of the Flies' meets 'The Apprentice'

The list of plays that have successfully migrated from the stage to the screen is not so very long. If Exam doesn’t belong on that list, it’s not quite for the reason you’d expect. With only ten characters and one windowless set, it has the shape, size and claustrophobic intensity of something that began its life in the theatre. But unless it has kept its roots very well hidden, the screenplay by Stuart Hazeldine appears here in its original incarnation. A film which doesn’t go...

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The Road

Anne Billson

Hey-ho. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cinema, it's the end of the world again. Where mankind would once have contemplated the apocalypse and its aftermath by way of triptychs and frescos, now it's repeatedly faced with its own extinction in widescreen, with Dolby Digital sound. And if you thought the collapsing CGI cities of 2012 were frivolous, never fear.

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