sun 29/03/2020

Film Reviews

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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Did You Hear About the Morgans?

Matt Wolf Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as the off again/on again Morgans

The first movie in my experience to feature a Sarah Palin joke lends a glimmer of distinction to Did You Hear About the Morgans?, an otherwise excruciating romcom that finds Hugh Grant in tic-laden overdrive, his genuine charm jettisoned somewhere in the onscreen journey from New York to points west. Sarah Jessica Parker is on hand to trundle out her mightily-aggrieved-lover routine that she long ago patented on Sex and the City, but Marc Lawrence's film is probably best saved...

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Film 2009-10: Boo for Hollywood

Sheila Johnston

In 2009 Hollywood sank deeper into the trough that it has busily been colonising over the last decade.

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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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