sat 04/02/2023

Film Reviews

Playground review - bleak but brilliant schoolyard drama

Saskia Baron

Nora is seven, and it's her first day at school. Big brother Abel, already enrolled in their local primary, promises to find her at playtime. Prised away from her father's embrace, tearful Nora is set up from the opening moments of Playground as a sensitive child.

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Operation Mincemeat review - Colin Firth and co practise the fine art of deception

Adam Sweeting

The story of the fictitious Major William Martin, whose waterlogged corpse washed up on the Spanish coast in 1943 bearing bogus documents designed to fool the Germans, was previously filmed in 1956 as The Man Who Never Was.

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The Lost City review - terrific odd-couple comedy

Veronica Lee

Sandra Bullock is on terrific form in this rollicking romcom in which she plays Loretta Sage, a historian who writes bestselling romance novels in which the heroine has adventures in exotic places with her lover, Dash.

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The Northman review - Robert Eggers's elemental Viking epic

Markie Robson-Scott

With its wild, windswept seascape and cliff-top settlement, the first scene of The Northman, Robert Eggers’s first big-budget movie (around $90 million in the making), harks back, a little, to The Lighthouse (2019), a one-of-a-kind black and white marvel with only two protagonists.

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Benedetta review - lesbian nuns' sex and faith collide

Nick Hasted

Paul Verhoeven’s latest provocation is an old-fashioned but vigorous 17th century lesbian nun shocker, based on eye-poppingly explicit testimonies at the Christian church’s sole lesbian trial. It’s his most sustained examination of faith and sex, a theme going back to the repressive Calvinist father and sexually anarchic teens of his wild Dutch hit, Spetters (1980).

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Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle review - three decades of hell in the Pacific

Adam Sweeting

Stories of Japanese soldiers who spent years in the tropical jungles long after the end of World War Two have always felt more like metaphorical illustrations of the lunacy of war than actual historical fact. Yet some of them were true, most notably that of Hiroo Onoda.

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Murina review - her father, her jailer

Graham Fuller

Murina, the suspenseful first feature written and directed by the Croatian filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanoviće, depicts a cruel dance that three of the four participants can't or won't stop. Its instigator, a father and husband in thrall to his ruinous machismo, is clueless. The steps – based on love, desire, avarice, jealousy, manipulation and anger – make for a discomfiting coming-of-age drama that won the Camera d’Or at Cannes last year.

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The Outfit review - threadbare tailor-gangster yarn

Nick Hasted

“A man walks in,” Leonard (Mark Rylance) begins. “What about him can you observe? What does a man like to be?

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Compartment No. 6 - strangers on a Russian train sweetly connect

Nick Hasted

Juho Kuosmanen’s Cannes Grand Prix-winner observes two strangers on a train, taking the arduous journey from Moscow to Arctic Murmansk in 1998. Laura (Seidi Haarla) is a Finnish student hoping to study ancient rock paintings, Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov) a skinhead Russian miner.

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DVD Special Feature: Abel Ferrara returns to the underground

Nick Hasted

Zeros And Ones’ poster alludes to Gerard Butler blockbusters (“The Vatican Has Fallen”), but Abel Ferrara’s name guarantees grungier fare. The sleaze of old Times Square still clings to the director, though he’s now a 70-year-old avant-pulp eminence living in Rome.

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The Audition review - love and hate at music school

Nick Hasted

If Roman Polanski had directed Whiplash, something like this study of music’s psychological cost might have resulted. Ina Weisse’s film is more incremental and naturalistic, as violin teacher Anna (Nina Hoss) gives special attention to teenage protégé Alexander (Ilja Monti), to the jealous resentment of son Jonas (Serafin Mishiev), while nervously returning to the stage herself.

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Morbius review – not so super

Daniel Baksi

Following the much-maligned Venom (2018) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), the third film in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe stars Jared Leto as Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr Michael Morbius. Suffering from a rare blood condition that threatens to take his life, Morbius self-enrols in an experimental cure, combining his DNA with that of a vampire bat and so destining himself for a future as a living vampire.

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Oscars 2022 - the smack heard around the world

Matt Wolf

What the [expletive deleted]?

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Ambulance review – Michael Bay in excelsis

Nick Hasted

Speed in an ambulance? Gone In 60 Seconds meets Heat?

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The Worst Person in the World review - confusion becomes her

Graham Fuller

Some British TV viewers who were in junior school in the mid-1960s will recall the imported Australian kids’ show The Magic Boomerang. When the adolescent hero, a sheep farm kid, threw the eponymous piece of wood, he stopped time and was able to thwart crimes and right other wrongs as long as it was airborne; once he caught it, life continued as before in his corner of the Outback.

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The Tinderbox review – a call for peace

Daniel Baksi

The beginning of the Israeli-Palestine conflict is officially dated to 7 June 1967, the occasion of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the Six-Day War, but its origins stretch back further.

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