tue 27/02/2024

Film Reviews

BlackBerry review - the nerds versus The Man

Adam Sweeting

Nothing goes out of date like new technology. Who now remembers how plain old Alan Sugar brought word-processing to the masses with the Amstrad PCW 8256, or how the Psion 5 was for a moment the last word in personal organisers?

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The Creator review - bold, beautiful, flawed sci-fi epic

Demetrios Matheou

It has been seven years since Gareth Edwards directed, for me, the best of the new generation of Star Wars films, Rogue One. Having made Godzilla before that, it’s nice to see him return with a more personal project, a big, bold, beautiful, if flawed sci-fi epic. 

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The Old Oak review - a searing ode to solidarity

Graham Fuller

Ken Loach has occasionally invested his realist TV dramas and movies with moments of magical realism – football inspiring them in The Golden Vision (1968) and Looking for Eric (2009) – but magical spaces in them are rare. In The Old Oak, as affecting a movie as any the veteran director has made and his 14th with screenwriter Paul Laverty, three sacred spaces (but a single church) work on the characters in vital ways. 

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Surprised by Oxford review - wishy-washy romance ticks the sightseeing boxes

Markie Robson-Scott

The misty streets and lofty spires of Oxford star in this adaptation of Carolyn Weber’s 2011 memoir, Surprised by Oxford, in which she finds God while studying for an MPhil in English literature.

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Strange Way of Life review - Pedro Almodóvar's queer Western

Hugh Barnes

Less is more, except when it isn’t. Among the latest batch of overlong Oscar-tipped movies by celebrated auteurs such as Christopher Nolan (Oppenheimer with a running time of 181 minutes) and Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon, 207 mins), it’s a relief to find the iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar bucking the trend with a 31-minute short that doesn’t test the audience’s mental and physical stamina.

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The Nettle Dress review - a moving story exquisitely told

Sarah Kent

Lasting just over an hour, The Nettle Dress is like a fairy story. It builds very slowly, each beautifully framed shot contributing toward a perfect little gem that tells a moral tale.

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Expend4bles review - last ride for the over-the-hill gang?

Adam Sweeting

Thanks to numerous arguments and disagreements over script, casting etc, nine years have elapsed since Expendables 3 hit the multiplexes, and Sylvester Stallone and his mercenary crew were perilously close to being over the hill even then. In Expend4bles, age has duly withered them even further, a fact wryly acknowledged by director Scott Waugh and his screenwriting squad.

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R.M.N. review - ethnic cleansing in rural Romania

James Saynor

If you think we’ve got culture wars, then welcome to Transylvania. This rugged Romanian region is home to a bewildering overlap of ethnicities and tongues – Hungarian, a bit of German and Romanian itself – such that Cristian Mungiu’s new movie offers subtitles in different colours to get the idea across.

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A Year in a Field review - exemplary eco-doc

Graham Fuller

A shot of a dead field mouse sets the tone for this sobering “slow cinema” documentary, narrator-director Christopher Morris’s response, simultaneously aghast and philosophical, to the looming environmental catastrophe.

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A Haunting in Venice review - a case of Poirot by numbers

Helen Hawkins

You can imagine the thought processes that brought Kenneth Branagh’s latest adventure as Poirot, his third, to the big screen.

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AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T Rex review - musical doc falls between two stools

Adam Sweeting

Seeking to be both a documentary and a musical tribute to Marc Bolan, AngelHeaded Hipster doesn’t quite pull it off on either count.

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Bolan's Shoes review - good-natured film about the healing power of a pop idol

Helen Hawkins

Older fans of T Rex will get pleasure from hearing the band’s tracks and reliving some of the buzz of being a dino-rocker, but, despite the title, this isn’t strictly a fan film. Describing what kind of film it is, though, would involve a serious spoiler, which points to its wonky narrative ambitions. It expends a lot of screen time building up to an unsurprising reveal (more on that below).

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Fremont review - lovely wry portrait of an Afghan refugee looking for love

Helen Hawkins

A cameo by Jeremy Allen White wouldn’t usually excite interest, but the star of Disney+’s The Bear is big box-office now, so his presence in Fremont, however brief, will probably guarantee it an audience. There the curious will also find a gem from the Iranian-born director Babak Jalali and a serenely powerful debut performance by Anaita Wali Zada, who gives this simple-seeming project an inner glow.

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A Life on the Farm review - a fabulous eccentric gets neatly packaged

Sarah Kent

“There’s nowt so queer as folk”, they say, and Life on the Farm amply proves the point. A cassette slides into the slot; “play” is pressed and a middle-aged man appears on screen at the gate of Combe End Farm. “Follow me down”, he says to camera,”I’ve got something to show you.”

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Past Lives review - poignant story of a long-maturing love

Helen Hawkins

In the mood for love? It’s over 23 years since Wong Kar-Wai’s swoony, bittersweet film of that name reset the bar for the art-house love story. Now comes Celine Song's Past LIves, an entirely different kind of bar-setter but with a similar tough-but-tender core. It’s an unshowy, slim film, but it takes on hefty topics: can love survive for decades, can it cut through cultural barriers? What does a relationship need to survive?

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Mercy Falls review - horror in the Highlands

Hugh Barnes

Mercy Falls isn’t the only Scottish film of the past year in which a young woman is haunted by childhood memories of a last summer holiday with her troubled father. And while Ryan Hendrick’s low-budget horror is unlikely to garner as much critical acclaim as Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun, at least it’s more eventful.

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