tue 27/02/2024

Film Reviews

Fright Night

Nick Hasted

After 10 minutes in the company of Fright Night’s vacuous US teens I was thinking, like Colonel Kurtz, “Kill them all!” One of the several virtues of this remake of the 1985 vampire horror-comedy is that its writer, Marti Noxon, feels the same way.

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Kill List

Nick Hasted

Ben Wheatley’s debut Down Terrace, about a Brighton crime family whose bickering resembles Abigail’s Party, then Macbeth, had almost no budget and was literally home-made. Many critics still realised that it was one of the best and most original films of 2010.

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Attenberg

Emma Simmonds

In Attenberg Greek director Athina Rachel Tsangari illustrates that there is no species on earth more peculiar than man. A hit at the 67th Venice International Film Festival, where its lead Ariane Labed rightfully claimed Best Actress, it is on first inspection something of a hodgepodge. On the one hand it’s a quietly confounding and deeply moving study of a woman’s alienated (and almost alien) existence and, on the other, it’s a joyously infantile amusement.

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Children of the Revolution

Tom Birchenough

As well as recounting the stories of two of the women who would become figureheads for the revolutionary movements that grew out of the social unrest of 1968 - Germany’s Ulrike Meinhof and Japan’s Fusako Shigenobu - Shane O’Sullivan’s documentary Children of the Revolution intriguingly juggles the political and the personal.

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The Skin I Live In

Emma Simmonds

Cinematic virtuoso Pedro Almodóvar’s contribution to the body horror subgenre is a sumptuous nightmare with the precision and looming malevolence of its psychotic surgeon’s blade. His 19th feature is a film for our age – an age which has seen radical and sometimes grotesque surgical reinvention - concerned as it is with the troubling question: what actually lies beneath?

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R: Hit First, Hit Hardest

Tom Birchenough

You must have come across those “happiness quotient” surveys, which judge the relative achievements on the contentment front across a series of countries. The last one I recall gave Denmark the Number One spot, with a remarkable 96 per cent classing themselves as lykkelig, as the feel-good factor is known locally. If you were left wondering about the other four per cent, Michael Noer and Tobias Lindholm’s R: Hit First, Hit Harder offers some clues.

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One Day

Matt Wolf

Warning to hunky French jazz pianists: beware a slim, raven-haired Englishwoman who looks like Anne Hathaway but goes by the name of Emma and will up and leave you the second her long-standing chum, Dex, crosses la Manche to extend rather more than a main by way of welcome. Sound unfair?

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Conan the Barbarian

Adam Sweeting

The Conan yarns are familiar from novels, comics and TV series, but most of all from the early-Eighties Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. In this new remake, the title role is stretched around the pneumatic bulk of Jason Momoa, the half-Hawaiian and half-Irish veteran of the celebrated cheesecake opera Baywatch.

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In a Better World

ASH Smyth

It is easy to see why Danish director Susanne Bier’s latest movie would have scooped up all the Foreign Language gongs, made the festival selection lists and generally five-starred it all over the shop.

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The Guard

Adam Sweeting

Directing and writing his first full-length feature, John Michael McDonagh fully exploits the wild and windswept landscapes of Connemara, and similarly extracts maximum value from his leading man, Brendan Gleeson. Perhaps he picked up tips from his brother Martin, who directed Gleeson in In Bruges.

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Cowboys & Aliens

Nick Hasted

The title is the film. In a new low point for high concepts, producers Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg only needed to see the cover of the titular, unfinished comic book to give Cowboys & Aliens the green light.

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Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Nick Hasted

This is ferocious popular cinema. The original Elite Squad (2007) was an iconic hit in Brazil, detailing the training, private lives and bloody ghetto raids of BOPE, the black-suited elite Rio police force led by charismatic Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura). Director José Padilha resisted offers to convert the film’s commercial clout into a TV franchise, instead expanding this sequel into a total indictment of Brazilian society.

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The Devil's Double

Jasper Rees

There are biopics and there are biopics. The process by which an actor is made up to look like the character he has been cast to play gets an intriguing twist in The Devil’s Double. Latif Yahia, who was often confused with Uday Hussein when they were at school, many years later found himself involuntarily drafted as the lookalike of Saddam’s son.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Adam Sweeting

Ever since the first Planet of the Apes film in 1968, in which astronaut Charlton Heston landed on a futuristic Earth being run by super-evolved apes, the idea has become a sci-fi staple, breeding a string of sequels, spin-offs and TV series. Tim Burton remade the original flick in 2001, but despite enjoying commercial success, it was viewed with contempt by Apes cognoscenti.

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Salt of Life

Nick Hasted

Mid-August Lunch (2009) was the most purely enjoyable of the welcome new wave of Italian films. Watching its writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio, then 59, star as a failed Roman rogue with a lived-in face, swigging wine while failing to corral his irascible mother (movie debutante Valeria de Franciscis Bandoni, 93) and her ancient cronies, this was la dolce vita lived amiably on the bottom rung.

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The Referees

Jasper Rees

Elbowings, buttings, anklings, maimings, studdings, anarcho-thespian handbaggings – the figure formerly known as the man in black is the thin line between the beautiful game and the collapse of civilised society as we know it. And what is his reward? Players abuse him. Crowds bay for his blood. Presidents call for his execution (Polish ones do anyway).

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