fri 28/10/2016

Film reviews, news & interviews

Six of the best: Film



Doctor Strange

Saskia Baron

Aiming for the trippy qualities of The Matrix and Inception, Doctor Strange is possibly the most enjoyable Marvel foundation story since the first Iron Man, mixing wit with visual pyrotechnics. Benedict Cumberbatch plays supercilious neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (wholly unrelated to the New Romantic singer responsible for “Fade to Grey”). A virtuoso of the scalpel, Cumberbatch’s Dr Strange has shades of Robert Downey Jr’s over-achieving Tony Stark – this is cinema art directed from the fantasy...

DVD/Blu-ray: Pioneers of African-American Cinema


The parallel universe of what was known as “race” cinema gets five packed DVDs here. Instead of cringing with sympathy at small, racistly conceived...

I, Daniel Blake


Most of the crime Ken Loach investigates with compassion and humour happens off-screen right at the start. As the opening credits roll, a woman’s...

Ouija: Origin of Evil


A prequel to Ouija (2014), Ouija: Origin of Evil zooms back to a mid-Sixties Los Angeles that's all miniskirts, white PVC boots, splendid chromed-up...

Blu-ray: Pool of London


Multi-level crime thriller documenting post-World War Two London and racism

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back


Tom Cruise returns as the rootless hero, but he still hasn't found a personality

LFF 2016: Their Finest / Brimstone


Britain goes to war in 'Their Finest', and the devil rides out in 'Brimstone'



In Dan Brown's dumbed-down Florence, Tom Hanks saves the world. But not the movie

DVD/Blu-ray: Dekalog and Other TV Works


Exemplary re-release of Kieślowski's Polish masterpiece, with earlier films

American Honey

Markie Robson-Scott

A playlist as important as the plot: Andrea Arnold's American road movie

LFF 2016: Snowden / The Birth of a Nation / Arrival


CIA secrets, a slave revolt and aliens speaking in tongues

On the road with Bob Dylan: the mother of all rockumentaries

Mark Kidel

DA Pennebaker’s 'Dont Look Back' created new myths for musicians

LFF 2016: Elle/Paterson


Verhoeven, Jarmusch and a double-dose of Huppert, as the London Film Festival continues

DVD/Blu-ray: The Lion in Winter

Graham Rickson

Pacy, wordy historical drama in a pristine restoration

LFF 2016: A Monster Calls / A United Kingdom


Fantasy, history and all points in between at London's 60th BFI Film Festival

Blood Father


Mad Mel delivers in a pacy slice of desert noir

DVD/Blu-ray: Cosmos


Absurdist, erotic farce in Polish master's last

My Scientology Movie

Markie Robson-Scott

Louis Theroux's eccentric take on the world's weirdest religion

The Sleeping Beauty, Australian Ballet, cinema broadcast

Hanna Weibye

A sparky, faithful rendition of a classic

The Girl on the Train


If you loved the book, don't see the movie

Blu-ray: The Emigrants/The New Land


Jan Troell’s two-part chronicle of 19th-century Swedish emigration is a cinema landmark

The First Monday in May

Markie Robson-Scott

The power of clothes: celebrity, fashion and art at the Metropolitan Museum

Under the Shadow


Strikingly original terror stalks wartorn Tehran

DVD/Blu-ray: Love & Friendship


Kate Beckinsale is effortlessly brilliant in Whit Stillman's witty take on epistolary Austen

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Saskia Baron

Tim Burton does the time warp again in a wordy but stylish gothic fantasy

Free State of Jones


Remarkable true story of Civil War renegades suffers from shagginess

Swiss Army Man


Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano go too far in self-indulgent indie two-hander

DVD: Fire at Sea


Poetic, prize-winning documentary brings the refugee crisis to life

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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