wed 28/02/2024

Film Reviews

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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Edge of Darkness

Adam Sweeting Mel Gibson as Detective Thomas Craven, on the hunt for his daughter's killers

If you were looking for a director for the movie version of Edge of Darkness, you'd have thought you couldn't do better than Martin Campbell, who made the original 1985 series for BBC television. He's now a bona fide Hollywood ace, with a string of major TV credits and hit movies like Casino Royale and the Zorro flicks to his name. But not even a Tinseltown budget can bribe lightning to strike twice, and whatever fortuitous combination of timing and...

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Brothers

Sheila Johnston

Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Sam Shepard and, in a tiny role, Carey Mulligan: yes, yet again the stars are lining up to live through the agony of America's presence in Iraq and (here) Afghanistan.

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The Boys Are Back

Matt Wolf Clive Owen gives us Father's Day in January

Boys will be boys, and, eventually, grown boys as opposed to men. That's the cheerful (depending on how you look at it) message of The Boys Are Back, in which Clive Owen pours on the not inconsiderable charm as a father suddenly left having to care for his two sons. That  women barely enter into the scenario - and when they do, emerge as so many killjoys - will appeal to the eternal adolescent in a movie that aims to make eternal roustabouts of us all. Let's face it:  wouldn't you...

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A Prophet

Anne Billson

A Prophet is a different sort of prison movie. Jacques Audiard's follow-up to The Beat That My Heart Skipped is another dip into the criminal underworld, and mostly takes place in a French jail. Nearly every other film or TV series I can think of which is set behind bars (Prison Break, The Shawshank Redemption, Papillon and so on) is concerned with escape.

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