wed 24/07/2024

Film Reviews

360

Jasper Rees

In the end only Robert Altman really knew how to do it: to take a spread of characters and somehow knit their stories together into a satisfactory whole. When filmmakers have attempted it in recent years they’ve tended to self-importance – Paul Haggis in Crash, Alejandro González Iñárritu in Babel – or risibility – Richard Curtis in Love, Actually.

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Undefeated

Jasper Rees

There’s a lot of sport about at the minute, and those of us who get off on it are filling our boots. So it’s perhaps not the ideal moment to release a sporting documentary, however rousing, however laudable, especially one about that most unOlympic of team games, US football. If Undefeated makes a legitimate claim on the attention, it’s because it is all about legacy, that ubiquitous buzz word of London 2012.

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London: The Modern Babylon

Demetrios Matheou

Julien Temple’s new documentary is a timely accompaniment to the London Olympics. While the Games casts a spotlight on the capital, the film offers a wondrously dense and evocative, warts-and-all portrait of the city.

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A Simple Life

alexandra Coghlan

Plenty of great films have been made about old age, about the humiliations, emotions, fragilities and joys of the end of life. Wild Strawberries, Harold and Maude, Venus, Driving Miss Daisy, even Pixar’s Up probably has a claim on this category, but Asia, with its regard for the elderly, has always had a special cinematic affinity for the subject.

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Eames: The Architect and the Painter

Sarah Kent

A friend of mine has an Eames lounge chair that he treats with enormous reverence and claims is the comfiest seat ever made. I simply don’t get it; with its bent plywood shell and black leather upholstery, this 1956 American design classic looks to me dark, clumsy and uninviting – especially when compared with Eileen Gray’s Bibendum chair of some 50 years earlier or the delicate designs produced in the 1920s for the Bauhaus by Le Corbusier, Marcel Breuer and Mies van der Rohe.

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Ted

Emma Simmonds

Seth MacFarlane is the equal opportunity offender responsible for a trio of animated sitcoms: Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show. The hardest-working man in TV comedy is known for his colourfully un-PC style and agreeably obnoxious humour, marrying American brassiness with sharp satire, and for turning a baby into a maniacal genius.

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Woman in a Dressing Gown

Graham Fuller

The British new wave came ashore with its angry young men – foremost among them those played by Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top (1959), Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Tom Courtenay in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1962), and Richard Harris in This Sporting Life (1963), all but Courtenay’s rebellious Nottingham borstal boy bloody-minded Northerners.

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Searching for Sugar Man

Garth Cartwright

Cult figures from rock music’s golden age are numinous today but few are more obscure than Sixto Rodriguez. The Mexican-American singer-songwriter released two albums on Sussex Records in 1970 and ’71. In the US they were quickly deleted and he seemingly vanished. Only a handful of crate-digging acolytes valued these albums, the first of which, Cold Fact, opened with "Sugar Man", a haunting ode to a drug dealer.

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The Dark Knight Rises

Emma Simmonds

2012 has so far brought us a couple of notable surprises from the oft-maligned world of comic book adaptations: first came Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble with its boisterous banter and then there was depth and pathos from Andrew Garfield in the title role of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man. With its key competitors faring well both critically and commercially, what of Christopher Nolan’s Caped Crusader?

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In Your Hands

Tom Birchenough

You might wonder whether Kristin Scott Thomas is doing Paris arrondissement by arrondissement. Last time we saw her was in Pawel Pawlikowski’s The Woman in the Fifth, where she was reincarnated in that district. In Lola Doillon’s In Your Hands (Contre toi in the original), she’s moved to the Eighth to undergo a bit of living hell.

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Swandown

Sarah Kent

It all starts so promisingly; film-maker Andrew Kötting and writer Ian Sinclair “liberate” a swan pedallo from its moorings in Hastings to launch it into the sea. Naming the absurd craft “Edith” after King Harold’s mistress Edith Swan-neck, they plan to pedal the vessel 160 miles from Hastings to Hackney via the rivers of Kent and the Thames, finally ending up at the site of the Olympic Games.

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Jasper Rees

In romantic comedy, the task of the leads is to overcome whatever obstacles are thrown in their way to find true love before the closing credits. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, that imperative takes on a particular urgency. A larger obstacle awaits than the mutual antipathy that usually keeps the hero and heroine apart: namely, the eponymously predicted End of Days. An asteroid is heading Earthwards.

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The Giants

Emma Simmonds

It’s hardly incredible for a film to focus on teenagers running wild, not least because teens are such reliably enthusiastic cinema-goers. US cinema in particular is riddled with youthful misbehaviour, with suburban kids coming of age whilst living large in films as variable in quality and tone as Thirteen, Youth in Revolt and Project X.

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Detachment

Adam Sweeting

The lugubrious soulfulness of Adrien Brody is not to all tastes, and in many cases is wholly inappropriate, but his casting in Tony Kaye's downbeat meditation on education, or the lack of it, is masterly. Brody plays Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher drafted in to plug a temporary gap in a failing school in some unspecified American city. He has a natural gift for teaching, but by never taking up a permanent post he's able to avoid painful emotional attachments.

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Magic Mike

Emma Dibdin

Having spent the last few years alternating deftly between high-profile, star-studded blockbusters (the Ocean’s trilogy, last year’s Contagion) and smaller, more niche projects starring largely unknowns (Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience), Steven Soderbergh may have found his perfect middle ground. Male stripping dramedy Magic Mike pairs big names (Channing Tatum,...

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Salute/Chariots of Fire

Jasper Rees

Apparently it’s the taking part that counts, which would explain why recent weeks have brought unseemly howls of protest and threats of litigation from British athletes who have failed to make it into the Olympic squad. You’d like to sit these people with their adamantine sense of entitlement in front of a couple of this week’s releases. One we know all about.

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