mon 16/01/2017

Film reviews, news & interviews

The Best Films Out Now


 A Monster Calls ★★★★ Director JA Bayona's fantastical fairytale packs huge emotional wallop

Interview: Marius de Vries, musical director of La La Land

Jasper Rees

La La Land needs no further introduction. A homage to the golden age of the movie musical, to Michel Legrand and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, it contains perhaps the catchiest score to come out of Hollywood in many years.

When Snowdon starred in Peter Sellers' home...

Jasper Rees

On screen, two hoodlums in macs and homburgs debate the best way to waste a victim. One of them, played by Peter Sellers, proffers a revolver. The...

Manchester by the Sea

Jasper Rees

There is an event at the heart of Manchester by the Sea that cannot be spoken about, either here or by any character who is a witness to it. But it...

DVD/Blu-ray: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Jasper Rees

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is the highest-grossing film produced exclusively in New Zealand, and yet it snuck into UK cinemas at the back end of 2016...

Live by Night

Adam Sweeting

Ben Affleck's Prohibition gangster caper is less than the sum of its parts

La La Land

Matt Wolf

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone will have you floating out of the cinema on a cloud

Blu-ray: Assault on Precinct 13

Kieron Tyler

John Carpenter’s classic second film still thrills

Zero Days

David Kettle

Alex Gibney's masterful doc charts the beginning of cyber warfare

DVD/Blu-ray: Hell or High Water

Mark Kidel

Echoes of the old West signal tragedy in Scottish director's new take on an old genre

Best (and Worst) of 2016: Film


theartsdesk's film writers choose their favourite movies of the year (plus a turkey or two)


Tom Birchenough

Scorsese's latest is a mammoth, more ponderous than profound

DVD/Blu-ray: Indochine

Tom Birchenough

Deneuve resplends in Régis Wargnier’s spectacular Vietnam-set saga

Crash and Burn

Adam Sweeting

The chaotic tale of Tommy Byrne, motorsport's nearly man

A Monster Calls

Adam Sweeting

Director JA Bayona's fantastical fairytale packs huge emotional wallop

Why Him?

Matt Wolf

James Franco and Bryan Cranston face off in a surprisingly genial gross-out

Christmas Book: When Broadway Went to Hollywood

David Nice

Ethan Mordden's latest opinionated guide has plenty of entertainment value

DVD: Three Wishes for Cinderella

Graham Rickson

Enchanting, big-hearted Czech fairy tale, ideal for children of all ages


Adam Sweeting

Intergalactic two-hander starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt leads us into a moral maze

DVD/Blu-ray: The Burning/Hell Comes to Frogtown

Kieron Tyler

Pair of rickety cult items fail to enthral

DVD/Blu-ray: Lo and Behold

Graham Rickson

Werner Herzog on the cons and pros of the digital age

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Nick Hasted

The Star Wars franchise detours down a side-turning to a raw new direction

The Eagle Huntress

David Kettle

Girl power Mongolian-style in a bewitching but problematic feature-doc

DVD/Blu-ray: Nine Lives

Saskia Baron

Feline groovy? If so, avoid this catastrophic cat comedy

The Pass

Tom Birchenough

Russell Tovey is man of the match in screen transfer of vibrant, poignant Royal Court drama about gay footballers

Blu-ray: To Live and Die in LA

Saskia Baron

Stylish 1985 thriller replete with car chases in a welcome restoration

DVD/Blu-ray: Theo & Hugo

Tom Birchenough

Paris-set gay two-hander hits home with highly explicit opening

The Birth of a Nation

Adam Sweeting

Nate Parker's fearsome fable of slavery and America's great divide


Adam Sweeting

Patriot, spy, hero or traitor? Oliver Stone directs Joseph Gordon-Levitt

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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