fri 19/12/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

Big Eyes

Matt Wolf

The worlds of marital abuse and artistic fraud collide to eye-opening if also frustrating effect in Big Eyes, Tim Burton's film about the unmasking of an elaborate deception that ruptures a family along the way. The film has would-be Oscar contender written all over it, not least in pairing five-time nominee Amy Adams alongside two-time winner Christoph Waltz, but for all that fascinates about the real-life story on view, its walk to the podium is likely to remain as much a fantasy as the...

Dumb and Dumber To

Katherine McLaughlin

“Comedy is all about timing” quips Lloyd Christmas at one point, something this sequel to the Farrelly Brothers' crass, gross-out comedy from 1994 very knowingly mocks. Those who hold a fondness for Lloyd and Harry’s shtick may be amused by the huge number of in-jokes and the silly slapstick, but overall this instalment is more filler than killer and relies way too heavily on nostalgia.As part of a huge prank to fool his best friend Harry (Jeff Daniels), Lloyd (Jim Carrey) has been pretending...

Guys and Dolls

Adam Sweeting

This newly-restored version of one of MGM's most hallowed musicals is making the seasonal rounds with a run at the BFI and selected cinemas around...

DVD: Hockney

Fisun Güner

Since David Hockney entered his eighth decade (he is now 77), we seem to have witnessed an accelerated output of major exhibitions, biographies and...


Kieron Tyler

Nothing proves a theory better than practice, and this is exactly what Norwegian adventurer-archaeologist-ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl did in 1947...

The Circle

Tom Birchenough

Docu-drama movingly recalls early Fifties days of Swiss gay liberation

DVD: The Adventures of Antoine Doinel - Five Films by François Truffaut

Kieron Tyler

“The 400 Blows’” anti-hero Antoine Doinel lacks charm in the long run

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Graham Fuller

Peter Jackson's Tolkien pantechnicon ends with a bang

The Great Museum

Marina Vaizey

From politicians to polar bears, unexpected insights behind the scenes

DVD: Hercules

Thomas H Green

Frothy popcorn revision of the Hercules legend, lacking in fizz

The Green Prince

Tom Birchenough

The Israeli-Palestinian struggle explored through a single complex relationship

The Grandmaster

Tom Birchenough

Spectacular kung fu action ravishes visually in loose biopic of martial-arts master

DVD: The Possibilities are Endless

Kieron Tyler

Arty and emotive chronicle of musician Edwyn Collins’ recovery after a massive stroke

St Vincent

Matt Wolf

A priceless Bill Murray exerts his singular style yet again

Black Sea

Adam Sweeting

There's gold under them waves, and Jude Law and his crew aim to find it

DVD: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Nick Hasted

Andy Serkis excels in reboot's superbly realised, conceptually thin sequel

School of Babel

Kieron Tyler

Touching but narrowly focused French chronicle of immigrant children tackling their adopted language

Eastern Boys

Tom Birchenough

Tight, disturbing French gay drama of contact between outsiders


Marina Vaizey

Randall Wright's documentary reveals the sadness in Bradford's iconic blond

Sci-Fi Week: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Graham Fuller

The unassailable mother ship of science fiction movies is a sacred cow

DVD: Diary of a Lost Girl

David Nice

Louise Brooks lights up Pabst's melodrama of a young girl's road to ruin and redemption

Sci-Fi Week: Scoring the Impossible

Graham Rickson

How can music express the unimaginable?

Stations of the Cross

Tom Birchenough

Austere German drama of extreme religion packs a bleak punch

DVD: Mood Indigo

Katie Colombus

A subterranean film about the factory of the self

Concerning Violence

Tom Birchenough

Frantz Fanon’s decolonization seen through 1970s Swedish television Africa archives

Seven days of sci-fi

Simon Munk

A week celebrating the futuristic and fantastical on theartsdesk. Begin transmission...

My Old Lady

Matt Wolf

Three fine actors adrift in a highly pictorial Paris

DVD: Ida

Tom Birchenough

A return to his Polish roots, Pawel Pawlikowski's latest is a bleak, sacred masterpiece

Mike Nichols, 1931-2014

Matt Wolf

A chameleonic talent at home in the worlds of theatre, cinema, and comedy

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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