sat 01/11/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

Mr Turner

Matt Wolf

There's been much talk about Late Turner, to co-opt the name of the exhibition now on view at Tate Britain covering the last 16 years in the English artist JMW Turner's singular career. And as if perfectly timed to chime with those canvases in celluloid terms is Mr Turner, the ravishing film that stands as a testimonial to what one might call Late Leigh. The writer-director Mike Leigh has made period pieces before, most notably Topsy-Turvy in 1999, but even by his own exalted standards this...

DVD: Godzilla

Adam Sweeting

Never mind Alien vs Predator. Gareth Edwards's rumbustious earth-in-peril spectacular restores Godzilla to the top of the über-monster food chain. He's an indestructible force called from his sub-oceanic lair to combat hideous opponents fuelled by mankind's reckless abuse of Mother Nature.Edwards makes token efforts to give his story some human-scaled interest, though frankly it's futile. Bryan Cranston emotes doggedly as a scientist at a Tokyo nuclear plant, where the first signs of impending...

The Fall of the House of Usher, Sound Affairs,...

Stephen Walsh

At least three composers have set about turning The Fall of the House of Usher into operas, including most famously Debussy, whose abortive attempt,...


Adam Sweeting

Adapted from the cult novel by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) and directed by Alexandre Aja, Horns can't keep itself on an even tonal keel for more...


Katherine McLaughlin

“If it bleeds it leads”, proclaims crime news reporter Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) as he investigates the bloody remains of a car crash with his invasive...

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Kieron Tyler

Paranoid Fifties science fiction classic still packs a punch

The Overnighters

Tom Birchenough

The dark side of the American dream caught in searing US indie documentary

DVD: Sofia's Last Ambulance

Tom Birchenough

Outstanding observational documentary stalks the tired streets of Sofia

DVD: Maleficent

Katie Colombus

This dark re-imagining of Disney's wicked fairy delivers in style and effects

Jimi: All Is By My Side

Karen Krizanovich

Andre Benjamin is early Jimi Hendrix in John Ridley's alluring biopic

The Babadook

Nick Hasted

A story-book monster stalks a mother and son, in emotionally rich Aussie horror


Emma Simmonds

David Ayer and Brad Pitt take the war film by the scruff of the neck


Jasper Rees

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper reunite. What can possibly go wrong?

The Way He Looks

Tom Birchenough

Gentle Brazilian gay adolescent drama rings stronger than its story suggests

DVD: Blacula - The Complete Collection

Nick Hasted

Surprisingly straight Blaxploitation with fangs

LFF 2014: Germany, Pale Mother

Nick Hasted

A revelatory female perspective on Nazi Germany

This Is Where I Leave You

Veronica Lee

Amusing and truthful comedy drama about adult siblings

LFF 2014: Winter Sleep

Nick Hasted

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's monumental, Palme d'Or-winning study of self-deception

LFF 2014: Margarita, With A Straw

Karen Krizanovich

Margarita, With A Straw: Laila (Kalki Koechlin) doesn't let cerebral palsy stop her from being normal

DVD: I Clowns

Nick Hasted

Fellini's rarely seen circus special

LFF 2014: A Little Chaos

Matt Wolf

Pulpy costume drama is a visual feast

LFF 2014: Foxcatcher

Karen Krizanovich

Channing Tatum and Steve Carell in a must-see film that wrestles with the mind

LFF 2014: Mommy

Katherine McLaughlin

Xavier Dolan's latest is a blistering melodrama featuring exceptional performances

The Judge

Karen Krizanovich

This 'family drama with lawyers in it' pits Robert Downey Jr against Robert Duvall, with rollercoaster results

LFF 2014: Phoenix

Nick Hasted

The follow-up to Barbara explores post-war Berlin's emotional ruins with quiet power

Björk: Biophilia Live

Russ Coffey

Visually sumptuous record of Björk's landmark tour

LFF 2014: The Keeping Room

Katherine McLaughlin

Rousing feminist Western featuring a powerful performance from Brit Marling

LFF 2014: It Follows

Nick Hasted

An instant horror classic that's the stuff of nightmares

LFF 2014: Goodbye to Language

Nick Hasted

Godard goes 3D, dazzlingly

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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