sat 04/12/2021

Film Reviews

Verdict review - social realism and court procedural combine in powerful Manila drama

Tom Birchenough

There’s something of an anomaly in Filipino director Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s debut feature between its fast-moving dramatic opening, defined by an agile hand-held camera, and the much slower, more static scenes that follow.

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Wander Darkly review - bold psychodrama falls short

Tom Baily

Like the sun-happy LA of this film’s setting, there’s a hard-to-pinpoint sham quality to Wander Darkly. It feels like too much phoney dialogue crept in to the final script of this “serious” film by writer-director Tara Miele.

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The Columnist review - taking out the trolls

Graham Fuller

There aren't many unforgettable moments in The Columnist, but one occurs when the eponymous Dutch journalist Femke Boot (Katja Herbers) clambers from the skylight of her house and, unseen by her middle-aged neighbour (Rein Hofman), who's doing DIY on his roof, tips him to his death on his patio.

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Mouthpiece review - double entendre in Toronto

Markie Robson-Scott

Cassandra and her sister – or perhaps they’re friends or lovers – seem extraordinarily in tune. Like choreographed dancers, they move precisely in unison, down to tripping over their scarves at the same moment or flopping drunkenly into bed together while a cell phone buzzes beside them unanswered, on and on into the night.

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Berlinale 2021: Petite Maman review – magical musings on the parent-child relationship

Demetrios Matheou

Hot on the heels of her 2019 triumph Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma’s fifth feature continues a perfect track record; this is yet another gorgeous and perceptive film, told from a determinedly female perspective but with a wisdom that is all-embracing. 

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Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliche review - memorialising her mother

Saskia Baron

There was always something a little diffident about teenage Marion Elliott-Said, who created her on-stage persona Poly Styrene after putting together her band X-Ray Spex from a small ad in the back pages of the NME in 1977.

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Coming 2 America review - Eddie Murphy returns as African Prince Akeem

Veronica Lee

Eddie Murphy – one of the biggest stars of the 1980s – has taken his time in making a sequel to the enormously successful Coming to America, which was released in 1988.

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Into the Darkness review - disappointingly soapy Danish WWII drama

Saskia Baron

Can a film be both too long and too short? If so, Into the Darkness definitely fits the bill. Anders Refn’s long-nurtured family epic follows Karl Skov (Jesper Christensen, more famous as a Bond villain), a self-made Danish industrialist who struggles with his conscience when his country surrenders to Germany in 1940.

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Berlinale 2021: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn review – cheeky, timely and very provocative

Demetrios Matheou

The Romanian director Radu Jude invariably serves spicy satire that challenges his compatriots to face historical crimes and present failings. The latest is an erudite and daft, raunchy and knockabout, endlessly provocative film that, for sake of brevity, we’ll call Loony Porn.

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Moxie review - likeable if confused high school comedy

Matt Wolf

A teen comedy with a thematic difference, Moxie has enough memorable moments to firmly establish comedian Amy Poehler as a director worth reckoning with in what is her second film, following Wine Country in 2019.

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Judas and the Black Messiah review - powerful biopic

Saskia Baron

One of the sadnesses of covid is that films like Judas and the Black Messiah have been held over for release in the hope that cinemas will reopen. Immersive, intense features like this deserve to be seen in a darkened theatre with no distractions. But as the pandemic drags on in the UK, distributors are forced to debut big films on the small screen and it’s a real shame in this instance. 

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To Olivia review - Keeley Hawes rises above brainless biopic

Matt Wolf

Sure, Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but is that any excuse for a film quite so saccharine? He of all challenging and complex men, with a temperament to match, seems an odd subject for the sort of weightless, paint-by-numbers biopic that would be hard-pressed to muster much attention even as TV filler on a particularly dead night.

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Music review - a few music videos cobbled together

Tom Baily

What did Sia want to achieve with Music, her deeply confused first stumble into filmmaking? The reclusive Australian has enjoyed years of global fame for a successful music career. Was it never enough?

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PVT CHAT review - the cam girl who loved me

Graham Fuller

An initially off-putting erotic comedy thriller about the relationship between a webcam dominatrix, “Scarlet” (Julia Fox), and the Internet gambler, Jack (Peter Vack), who becomes obsessed with her, Ben Hozie’s sexually graphic PVT CHAT becomes increasingly resonant as it proceeds – and surprisin

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Simple Passion review – a case of female amour fou

Graham Fuller

Pushing 40, Simple Passion’s Hélène (Laetitia Dosch) lectures Paris college students on poetry and is single mother to pre-adolescent Paul (Lou Teymour-Thion).

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Rams review – softhearted bush-loving drama

Tom Baily

Kiwi and Aussie screen legends Sam Neill and Michael Caton have teamed up in this heartfelt and humorous remake of Grímur Hákonarson’s 2015 Icelandic original. The template of Hákonarson’s story has been transplanted but all the details and fillings have changed.

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