tue 31/01/2023

Film Reviews

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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Oil City Confidential

howard Male

Dr. Feelgood was the first band I ever saw live, and I can still remember that frisson of expectation queuing up outside the Cambridge Corn Exchange in 1975. I didn’t even know who they were or what they sounded like, I simply had some pals who were soon-to-be-punks who’d got wind of the fact that these Canvey Island ne’er-do-wells were the harbingers of something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

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Wet Weather Cover, King's Head Theatre

Sheila Johnston Unfair weather friends: Steve Furst (left) and Michael Brandon

"Plays about cinema tend to be written by people who have done some movies, come back and filled their fountain pens from their spleen," the Oscar-nominated screenwriter Larry Gelbart once told me. David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow is probably the best-known example, followed by such works as Christopher Hampton's Tales From Hollywood, Martin Crimp's The Treatment and, most recently, last week's ...

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Adoration

Jasper Rees

This isn’t Atom Egoyan’s first road accident. In The Sweet Hereafter he portrayed the agony of a small rural community after a school bus crash deprives almost every household of its young, like some disembodied edict from King Herod. This time it’s the other way round: in Adoration a child has lost his parents to a mysterious car crash, leaving him and the uncle who brings him up to live in its long dark shadow. But that’s not the main difference between the two films.

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Precious

Sheila Johnston Streetwise: Gabourey Sidibe in Lee Daniels's Precious

What an odd and provocative coincidence that black women - hardly a demographic over-represented in mainstream cinema - should be at the centre of two high-profile American films opening this week. One is The Princess and the Frog, also reviewed today on theartsdesk. The other is the multi-award-winning Precious. In the former, the princess is a brunette...

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The Princess and the Frog

Veronica Lee

For those of us brought up on classic Disney animation - from the first, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, through The Jungle Book and Lady and the Tramp to, more recently, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast - it’s sad to think that a whole generation of children have seen animated films only through CGI and Pixar. But now comes The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s first entirely 2D, hand-drawn animation since 2002, which, with its...

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