fri 04/09/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

American Ultra

Jasper Rees

The Bourne trilogy riffed on the idea of an undercover CIA operative who is so thoroughly brainwashed he no longer knows who he is. American Ultra mines that same scenario for laughs. Where Matt Damon looked the part, the weedy Jesse Eisenberg is very far from central casting. Indeed, nothing in his career so far has suggested that he could punch his way out of a paper bag.That includes the film’s opening scenes, which position Mike as a geeky stoner working the till at a convenience store in...

DVD: Abilene Town

Graham Fuller

Randolph Scott had ridden long in the saddle before Budd Boetticher directed him as a driven loner with a painful past in the six harsh “Ranown Cycle” Westerns (1956-60). His apprenticeship began with ten 1930s Zane Grey oaters, mostly made by Henry Hathaway, and concluded with the B-Westerns he starred in for Edwin L. Marin and André de Toth after World War II. Marin’s rousing Abilene Town (1946), newly released on Blu-ray, augured Scott’s becoming a genre icon.Though it lacks the melancholy...

Closed Curtain

Tom Birchenough

Any consideration of Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s Closed Curtain will inevitably be through the prism of how it was made, and the director’s...

Cartel Land

Tom Birchenough

Cartel Land opens with a group of crystal meth cooks at work somewhere in the dead-of-night Mexican wilderness. They boast about the quality of their...

Six of the best: Film


52 Tuesdays ★★★★ Sensitive handling of complex subject in impressive Australian debutThe Diary of a Teenage Girl ★★★★★ Sundance hit is quietly...

Miss Julie

Demetrios Matheou

Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell are the mistress and servant messing with each other’s heads in an airless Strindberg adaptation

DVD: Far From The Madding Crowd

Matthew Wright

Carey Mulligan sparkles but Thomas Vinterberg's Hardy is only a partial account

45 Years

Jasper Rees

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay shine in Andrew Haigh's wintry marital drama

DVD: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

Kieron Tyler

Arch reimagining of a gruesome 1976 proto-slasher film of the same name

En Équilibre

Kieron Tyler

Finely formed tale of battling the odds from the director of 'The Page Turner'

DVD: Around the World with Orson Welles

Graham Rickson

Uneven TV travelogue from the maverick director

Good People

Matt Wolf

James Franco nears rock bottom in London-set thriller

The Wolfpack

Demetrios Matheou

Outstanding documentary reveals how movies offered escapism and salvation for a family living in the shadows

DVD: Eyes Without a Face

Kieron Tyler

Georges Franju’s 1960 auteur horror feature remains fresh and still disturbs

The President

Tom Birchenough

Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's anatomy of tyranny in collapse

DVD: Timbuktu

David Nice

Aberrahmane Sissoko's essential reflection on the occupation of the Malian desert town

The Dance of Reality

Kieron Tyler

Alejandro Jodorowsky returns as a director after three decades with a wild take on his own childhood

DVD: Queen and Country

Mark Kidel

Autobiographical account of National Service days lacks fizz

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Adam Sweeting

Guy Ritchie's spy caper lacks the charm of the Sixties original

Mistress America

Matt Wolf

Noah Baumbach's latest is fun - up to a point

DVD: Glassland

Tom Birchenough

Raw performances from Jack Reynor and Toni Collette as mother and son in bleak Irish drama


Tom Birchenough

Naji Abu Nowar’s debut powerfully combines 'Arabian Western' with coming-of-age drama

DVD: Videodrome

Nick Hasted

David Cronenberg's vision of body horror and video sleaze retains its power

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Matt Wolf

Sundance hit is quietly shattering


Demetrios Matheou

Pacino is back to his low-key, simmering best as a lonely locksmith who resists one last chance at happiness

DVD: My Darling Clementine

Graham Fuller

John Ford's classic noir Western transcends its own mythmaking

52 Tuesdays

Tom Birchenough

Sensitive handling of complex subject in impressive Australian debut


Jasper Rees

Atmospheric Spanish crime thriller deserves its haul of awards

theartsdesk at the New Horizons Film Festival

Demetrios Matheou

A fledgling film festival in western Poland has quickly emerged as one of the most popular in Europe

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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