fri 19/04/2024

Film Reviews

Welcome to the Rileys

Graham Fuller

As supremely silly as they are, the Twilight movies are made watchable by Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan, whose combination of fidgetiness and aloofness puts me in mind of James Dean’s Cal Trask and Jim Stark.

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Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place

Adam Sweeting

Ken Kesey is one of these characters who gets filed under "Counterculture Legend", alongside the likes of Hunter Thompson and Abbie Hoffman, though his accomplishments are somewhat amorphous. His early achievements as a novelist are easier to quantify - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion put him pretty high up in the batting averages of modern American literature - but he gave up literature for film-making.

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The Awakening

Matt Wolf

Rebecca Hall gets slapped about - and more - during The Awakening, a putative ghost story that lands one of this country's most able and appealing actresses in many a tricky physical but also psychological spot.

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The Rum Diary

Nick Hasted

In later years, when callow reporters would be sent to interview the wrecked legend Hunter S Thompson in his Colorado compound, at some point in the weekend, in between the drugs, booze and random gunfire that punctuated his days, the Gonzo journalist would betray unaccustomed nerves, and point his guest to a pile of typewritten pages. This was The Rum Diary, an attempted novel from the early Sixties he picked at for four decades.

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The British Guide to Showing Off

Sarah Kent

A glittering egg cracks open and, waving a magic wand, Andrew Logan emerges riding his sculpture of Pegasus, the winged horse. He flies across London to waiting friends and relatives and, with one touch of his miraculous wand, transforms them into sparkling glamour queens.

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Wuthering Heights

alexandra Coghlan

You can forget “I am Heathcliff”. And abandon hope of “I cannot live without my soul” and “I love my murderer” while you’re at it. Andrea Arnold’s newest addition to the canon of Wuthering Heights adaptations is the story flayed so raw you can see bone. Jettisoning such fripperies as dialogue, fixed cameras and even for the most part avoiding professional actors, she takes period drama by the wing-collared throat and throttles it with gonzo relish.

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

william Ward

World cinema – like its cousin world music – is an awkward generic term that we generally apply to the output of those far-off countries or cultures about which we know (and perhaps if we are really honest, care) little.

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Oslo, August 31st/ The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)

Kieron Tyler

Oslo, August 31st and The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) share more than a release date. One is a melancholic existential meditation and the other ostensibly a horror film, but both openly draw from earlier films, focus on an outsider unable to connect with society and use capital cities as background noise rather than window dressing. One is wilfully unpleasant.

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Junkhearts

Jasper Rees

British film-makers tend towards bipolarity. Where French cinema is broadly speaking about the middle classes, we tend to get films about one thing or the other. The national fixation with the past supplies stories about how the nabobs of yore lived (and, as importantly, dressed).

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Straw Dogs

Nick Hasted

As this remake’s director Rod Lurie, a former film journalist, well knows, competing with Sam Peckinpah is a loser’s game. His films are no more replicable than a Fred Astaire musical, inseparable from their demonic creator.

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Weekend

Matt Wolf

Chris New’s nervy intensity is the big news in Weekend, an intermittently affecting British film that ought to bring this terrific theatre actor (he played Alan Cumming's lover in his breakthrough role in Bent) to a larger audience on screen.

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Jack Goes Boating

Jasper Rees

Actors who migrate between stage and screen are often asked in interviews to assess the different disciplines. The answers tend not to vary much. On stage, they explain, you have to make a gift of your performance. In front of the camera, that invasive piece of equipment, you have to be selfish, to hoard, and maybe send out depth-charged truths in the form of discreet flinches and flickers. That’s what’s meant to happen anyway.

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The Silence

Adam Sweeting

Having won early acclaim for his student feature film Under the Sun, Swiss-born but Germany-based director Baran bo Odar has taken a further leap forward with his commercial debut, The Silence. Based on a novel by Jan Costin Wagner, it's the story of the hunt for the killer of 13-year-old schoolgirl Sinikka Weghamm, whose disappearance uncannily mirrors that of 11-year-old Pia Lange 23 years earlier.

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Miss Bala

Jasper Rees

Miss Bala, just to clear it up at the start, does not concern itself with beauty pageants. Or not like Miss Congeniality. Beauty is indeed involved in the form of Laura, a pretty young Mexican woman from a poor family who aspires to win the crown of Miss Baja California. Never has the advice to be careful what you wish for been more apposite.

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Anonymous

Matt Wolf

Everyone is working against type, or so it would seem, in Roland Emmerich's deeply bizarre Anonymous, which asks us to accept a celluloid slob (Rhys Ifans) as an aristocrat, a vaunted republican (Vanessa Redgrave) as Elizabeth I and a highly successful action film-maker (Emmerich) as a putative man of letters: well, one has to have something to read between set-up shots on Godzilla and Independence Day, so why shouldn't it be a Shakespeare sonnet or two to the Earl...

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The Help

Veronica Lee

The source material for a film like The Help - a story about the black maids who worked for white families in the American South and raised their children as their employers busied themselves with making money and playing bridge - would normally be a memoir or a news archive. But The Help is adapted from the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, published in 2009.

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