thu 17/04/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Nick Hasted

Spider-senses will be buzzing alarmingly before the end, as deadly danger approaches Peter Parker and his loved ones - just the sort of danger, in fact, that some viewers may remember from the distant days of 2004, and Spider-Man 2, Sam Raimi’s superhero movie high-water mark. It’s the problem that won’t go away for the series reboot Sony’s budget and creative conflicts with Raimi required, when the series had only just begun. Everyone has done an excellent job on director Marc Webb’s exciting...

Celluloid Man: Preserving the heritage of Indian cinema

Tom Birchenough

This April is proving the kindest month for cinephiles. Hot on the heels of Mark Cousins’ engrossing A Story of Children and Film comes another documentary about cinema of captivating, encyclopaedic interest, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur’s Celluloid Man. The director’s immediate subject is PK Nair, the man who created India’s National Film Archive (NFA). It’s thanks to Nair that many early classics of that nation’s film heritage – India is as cinema-centred a country as any in the world, with many...

We Are the Best!

Kieron Tyler

For a teenager, a parent’s birthday party is never comfortable. As We Are the Best! opens, it’s worse than that for Bobo as she holds a torch for...

DVD: That Sinking Feeling

Graham Rickson

That Bill Forsyth’s 1979 debut feature is so polished shouldn’t be a surprise; he’d been working on documentaries and short films since the 1960s....

theartsdesk in Panama: Hubris, suffering and...

Demetrios Matheou

The contradictions and iniquities of Panama City were very much in evidence last week. The city opened Central America’s first subway system, which...


Adam Sweeting

How can you make a movie this good with just one man, a car and a mobile phone?

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

DVD: Violent Saturday

Kieron Tyler

Audacious Fifties hybrid of bank-heist caper and melodrama

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears

Kieron Tyler

Head-spinning Belgian take on Italy’s Giallo cinema of the Seventies

The Lunchbox

Katherine McLaughlin

This charming Indian rom-com contains a real depth of flavour

The Raid 2

Emma Simmonds

Gareth Evans delivers a fiercely exciting, expansive sequel

DVD: The Atom Egoyan Collection

Nick Hasted

Enigmatic Armenian-Canadian director's best work boxed


Emma Simmonds

John Michael McDonagh follows 'The Guard' with an unconventional, blackly comic whodunit

Half of a Yellow Sun

Jasper Rees

Too episodic transfer to the big screen for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Biafran bestseller

A Story of Children and Film

Tom Birchenough

Impressionistic meditations on a theme, presented by Mark Cousins with great verve

The Motel Life

Nick Hasted

Low-budget, all-star indie gem follows bruised brothers on the run


Karen Krizanovich

Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic couldn’t be better timed


Emma Simmonds

Neil Burger provides the dismal direction on a film which fails to stand out from the crowd

Tom at the Farm

Tom Birchenough

Queer, compelling dramas unfold in Canadian backlands

DVD: Wonderwall

Kieron Tyler

Hippy-era curio soundtracked by George Harrison and an inspiration for Oasis

The Double

Karen Krizanovich

A doppleganger turns our hero's life upside down in writer-director Richard Ayoade's comedic second feature

DVD: Le mani sulla città

David Nice

Uncompromising political drama about property-development horrors in 1960s Naples

20 Feet From Stardom

Matt Wolf

Oscar-winning documentary memorably foregrounds life as a backing singer

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Adam Sweeting

Can the Captain save SHIELD from the evil plans of HYDRA?

Dangerous Acts: filming Belarus Free Theatre

Madeleine Sackler

The director introduces her striking new documentary about making theatre under Europe's last dictatorship

The Past

Emma Simmonds

Asghar Farhadi delivers a typically thrilling family drama starring Bérénice Bejo

DVD: White of the Eye

Nick Hasted

Performance director's near-masterpiece about a possible serial killer's marriage

Muppets Most Wanted

Karen Krizanovich

A slow-burning comedy with stars and surprises in true Muppet fashion

The Unknown Known

Ellin Stein

Oscar-winner Errol Morris tries and fails to find Donald Rumsfeld's hidden depths

Footnote: a brief history of British film

England was movie-mad long before the US. Contrary to appearances in a Hollywood-dominated world, the celluloid film process was patented in London in 1890 and by 1905 minute-long films of news and horse-racing were being made and shown widely in purpose-built cinemas, with added sound. The race to set up a film industry, though, was swiftly won by the entrepreneurial Americans, attracting eager new UK talents like Charlie Chaplin. However, it was a British film that in 1925 was the world's first in-flight movie, and soon the arrival of young suspense genius Alfred Hitchcock and a new legal requirement for a "quota" of British film in cinemas assisted a golden age for UK film. Under the leadership of Alexander Korda's London Films, Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) is considered the first true sound movie, documentary techniques developed and the first Technicolor movies were made.

Brief_EncounterWhen war intervened, British filmmakers turned effectively to lean, effective propaganda documentaries and heroic, studio-based war-films. After Hitchcock too left for Hollywood, David Lean launched into an epic career with Brief Encounter (pictured), Powell and Pressburger took up the fantasy mantle with The Red Shoes, while Carol Reed created Anglo films noirs such as The Third Man. Fifties tastes were more domestic, with Ealing comedies succeeded by Hammer horror and Carry-Ons; and more challenging in the Sixties, with New Wave films about sex and class by Lindsay Anderson, Joseph Losey and Tony Richardson. But it was Sixties British escapism which finally went global: the Bond films, Lean's Dr Zhivago, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music made Sean Connery, Julie Christie and Julie Andrews Hollywood's top stars.

In the 1970s, recession and the TV boom undermined cinema-going and censorship changes brought controversy: a British porn boom and scandals over The Devils, Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange. While Hollywood fielded Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese epics, Britain riposted with The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, but 1980s recession dealt a sharp blow to British cinema, and the Rank Organisation closed, after more than half a century. However more recently social comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full Monty, and royal dramas such as The Queen and The King's Speech have enhanced British reputation for wit, social observation and character acting.

As more films are globally co-produced, the success of British individual talents has come to outweigh the modest showing of the industry itself. Every week The Arts Desk reviews latest releases as well as leading international film festivals, and features in-depth career interviews with leading stars. Its writers include Jasper Rees, Graham Fuller, Anne Billson, Nick Hasted, Alexandra Coghlan, Veronica Lee, Emma Simmonds, Adam Sweeting and Matt Wolf

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