sat 08/08/2020

Film Reviews

Chloe

Veronica Lee

“I guess I’ve always been pretty good with words,” says the eponymous character in the opening, voiceover line of Atom Egoyan’s Chloe - and with that clunker we know the Canadian director's move into the mainstream isn't going to be as gripping or original as any of his previous indie efforts. With a join-the-dots script by Erin Cressida Wilson and overwrought music, it is, unusually for Egoyan, a linear movie and one that ultimately goes nowhere.

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Nitin Sawhney and LSO, Yogoto No Yume, Barbican

Peter Culshaw

When I last met Nitin Sawhney, I’d heard that he was a whizz at mental arithmetic. I asked him, perhaps impertinently, what was 91 times 94? “8,827,” he relied, quick as a flash. Several hours later, I worked out he was probably right. “Vedic mathematics,” he said. What I can say about last night’s performance was there was some interesting mathematics going on. Some time signatures rubbed friskily against others in certain scenes in ways a mathematician would love.

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Everybody's Fine

Matt Wolf

For a  while, actually, it appears as if a dollop of irony might just be on the cards, and during those passages, at least, British writer-director Kirk Jones's road movie looks poised to be quietly revolutionary. But once the dictates of convention settle in, watch out!  At the press screening attended, a fellow near me was crying what seemed to be tears brought on by the helpless laughter that accompanies mockery. One can only assume he wasn't moved.

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Capitalism: A Love Story

Sheila Johnston

If Michael Moore's new film were a person, it would be diagnosed with a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder.

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The Headless Woman

Sheila Johnston A brittle precision: María Onetto as the headless woman

A merciless anatomy of the inner meltdown that follows a hit-and-run accident, The Headless Woman is as baffling, brilliant, demanding and utterly original a work as you're likely to see all year. Its themes are confusion, amnesia, disavowal. The director, Lucrecia Martel, by contrast is in vice-like control of her material. This film might be a real head-scratcher. But no-one seeing it can come out unconvinced that Martel is a world-class talent.

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The Last Station

Jasper Rees

The final days of Tolstoy are innately dramatic, as the American author Jay Parini intuited. The Last Station, published in 1990, was his novel about the novelist’s own denouement. Towards the end of his long and prodigiously successful life, Tolstoy chose to embrace the simple values of the fabled Russian peasant he had lionised in War and Peace.

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Crazy Heart

Matt Wolf

Jeff Bridges cranks his dude status up a notch or 10 or 20, and his payoff looks likely to be this much-loved actor's first-ever Oscar. So what if writer-director Scott Cooper's film plays out like the careful illustration of a Hollywood pitch: The Wrestler as filtered through the prism of Tender Mercies (with the Academy Award-winning lead of that Bruce Beresford movie, Robert Duvall, on hand here to make the connection complete)?

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The Lovely Bones

Graham Fuller

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold’s 2002 bestseller about a murdered 14-year-old who hovers in metaphysical limbo over her grieving family, was once to have been filmed by the Scottish director Lynne Ramsay. On the evidence of Ramsay’s Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar, her take on Sebold’s novel would have been a moodily lyrical but deadpan reverie that wouldn’t have skirted its engagement with evil.

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A Single Man

Sheila Johnston

Everything has been immaculately planned for the big event of the evening: the prized possessions arrayed like trophies on the desk, the chosen suit laid out ready to wear, the perfectly colour co-ordinated tie alongside it with a note specifying, "Windsor knot".  Yes, indeed: it will be a death in the best possible taste, a very British suicide.

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Letter from an Unknown Woman

Jasper Rees

They always used to say that the worst books make the best films, and that the best books don’t prosper so much on screen. But then there are always complicated exceptions. In another life perhaps Stefan Zweig would have made a matchless screenwriter. His facility for perfectly crafted tales of doomed love brought him global fame just when the silent movies were processing such fare as romantic potboilers.

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The Wolfman

Jasper Rees Return of the hairy cornflake: somewhere in there is Benicio Del Toro, star of The Wolfman

It was down to technological error that Spielberg couldn’t show you much shark. The mechanised rubber fish wasn’t working properly on set, but the studio told the director to carry on shooting anyway. Result: a genuinely terrifying film. Filmmakers have always known that the thing unseen is exponentially more unsettling that the unveiled object, there for all to gawp at. Filmmakers don’t always go by what they know. Hence Benicio Del Toro’s werewolf with its remarkable physical likeness to...

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Beyond the Pole

Veronica Lee Beyond the Pole: Mark and Brian meet their Norwegian opposition

Do the words “British film comedy” cause your heart to sink as deeply as they do mine? Thought so. I wish I could say Beyond the Pole, which is perhaps the first eco-comedy and was made with the intention of raising awareness about polar melting while making us laugh, was worth the effort. Sadly, it wasn’t. It may throw up the odd chuckle, but mostly it’s predictable and unoriginal. The scenery, however, is stunning.

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Ponyo

Sheila Johnston

Tucked away down a sleepy residential back alley in suburban Tokyo, Studio Ghibli, the headquarters of Hayao Miyazaki, is designed - by the visionary animator himself - in the shape of a boat. When I visited it five years ago, just before the release of his last film, Howl's Moving Castle, the team of young animators all had bowls of fish and terrapins on their desks. The result, Ponyo, is at last about to open in Britain: Miyazaki is a famously slow worker, and the delay...

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Invictus

Jasper Rees

There is a problem with Nelson Mandela. He is, it is universally agreed, a remarkable man. His profound humanity is undoubted. He is on first-name terms with saintliness. When eventually he shuffles off his mortal coil, every newspaper on the planet will hold the front page. The problem comes when you stick him in a drama. Drama calls for its characters to go on a journey, to be visited by doubts, to overcome demons, to keep an audience guessing.

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Youth in Revolt

Ryan Gilbey The kid is alright: Michael Cera as Nick Twisp

With a wackiness rating of 7.5 and a subject-matter (precocious teens coming of age over one long summer) that scores off the chart for over-familiarity, there seems every likelihood that Youth in Revolt will inspire audience revulsion. Luckily the film has on its side the unfussy directing style of Miguel Arteta (who has the warped buddy movie Chuck and Buck, as well as several episodes of Six Feet Under, in his favour), as well as a lively if not-as-smart-as-it-...

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Océans

Anne Billson

Who doesn't like watching funny-looking fish? There are some doozies in Océans, the new film from Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzard, the duo that brought us Winged Migration. There's one creature with a mug like the Elephant Man and another which disguises itself as a rock, all the better to leap out on its unsuspecting prey.

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