thu 07/05/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

Spooks: The Greater Good

Adam Sweeting

The idea of a movie spin-off from BBC One's spy show Spooks has been lurking with intent ever since the tenth and final series ended in 2011. Finally it's here, helmed by director Bharat Nalluri (who shot the first and last episodes for TV) and with Peter Firth's Sir Harry Pearce at its centre. Where, as the Spookfather-in-chief, he had to be.Since Spooks stuck unswervingly to its grand tradition of bumping off leading characters – diehards will still be wiping away a tear at memories of Rupert...


Emma Simmonds

Confounding expectations from the first frames, Girlhood is the endearingly scrappy and staggeringly beautiful third film from French writer-director Céline Sciamma (Tomboy) and no relation to Boyhood. Intimate and exuberant, it's a coming-of-age story that takes us into the company and confidences of a quartet of teenage girls. They're part of a community of marginalised minorities living in the rundown Parisian suburbs, and have forged their own alternative family unit as a sanctuary from and...

theartsdesk Q&A: Spooks, the movie

Adam Sweeting

During its 10-season run on BBC One between May 2002 and October 2011, Spooks built a lasting reputation as a superior espionage thriller,...

Stray Dogs

Tom Birchenough

Whatever you make of Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs (Jiao you), it’ll likely have you looking at your watch. If you’re hypnotized by...

DVD: Turned Towards the Sun

Tom Birchenough

The phrase “improbable life” crops up more than once in Greg Olliver’s highly engaging documentary Turned Towards the Sun about the poet Micky Burn (...

Far From the Madding Crowd

Adam Sweeting

Superb interpretation of Thomas Hardy's novel by Thomas Vinterberg

DVD: The Duke of Burgundy

Jasper Rees

Kinkily unBritish pastiche Seventies lesbian erotica starring Borgen's statsminister


Jasper Rees

Charming French romcom tackles the absurdities of immigration

DVD: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Nick Hasted

Ridley Scott's Biblical epic is dourly, intelligently ambitious

Stonehearst Asylum

Nick Hasted

A superior, all-star Gothic melodrama, with more ideas than thrills

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Nick Hasted

Inferior but lively superhero sequel

DVD: Model for Murder

Nick Hasted

Knives fly in Mayfair, in a British Fifties curio

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Kieron Tyler

Lessons in how we treat each other from Roy Andersson, Sweden’s master of the absurd

Three Tales, Ensemble BPM, IMAX Science Museum

David Nice

Reich and Korot's dynamic reflections on 'progress' get new life from a young ensemble

The Falling

Kieron Tyler

Fainting, growing pains and the occult in Carol Morley’s seductive filmic waking-dream

theartsdesk Q&A Special: The Falling

Kieron Tyler

Director Carol Morley and actress Florence Pugh on a major new British film about mass schoolgirl hysteria

DVD: Still Life

Kieron Tyler

Sensitive rumination on decency and loneliness directed by ‘The Full Monty’ producer Uberto Pasolini


Tom Birchenough

Hidden feelings discovered amid bleak naturalism in Taiwanese debut

The Decent One

Jasper Rees

Documentary enters the toxic mind of SS Reichsführer Himmler

Child 44

Adam Sweeting

There's a killer on the loose in Stalin's Communist paradise

DVD: Traps/Fruit of Paradise

Tom Birchenough

Two rereleases from Věra Chytilová, master of the Czech New Wave

A Little Chaos

Ellin Stein

Kate Winslet has green fingers in Alan Rickman's second, overly languorous film as director

The Salvation

Emma Simmonds

Intermittently successful western from Danish director Kristian Levring

theartsdesk Q&A: Günter Grass

Kate Connolly

An unplanned encounter with the great German writer, who died on Monday

DVD: French Dressing

Nick Hasted

Ken Russell's cinema debut is a misfiring, fascinating seaside sex comedy


Katherine McLaughlin

Powerful and haunting drama starring Jack Reynor and Toni Collette

John Wick

Emma Simmonds

Keanu Reeves is flanked by HBO's finest in this impressive actioner

DVD: The Blob

Kieron Tyler

Surprisingly tense monster-from-space film which marked Steve McQueen’s lead debut

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

Close Footnote

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Starring Pitch Perfect's Anna Kendrick and Smash's Jeremy Jordan, THE LAST FIVE YEARS by Tony award-winning composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown is a musical deconstruction of a love affair and a marriage, taking place over a five-year period. Jamie Wellerstein is a young, talented up-and-coming novelist who falls in love with Cathy Hiatt, a struggling actress.

Their story is told almost entirely through songs, using an intercutting time-line device. Cathy’s songs begin at the end of their marriage and move backwards in time to the beginning of their love affair, while Jamie’s start at the beginning of their relationship and move forward to the end of the marriage.

Its beautiful pop music score portrays an honest, heart-breaking, often funny exploration of love, and its consequences on individual identity.

The Last Five Years runs at the Empire Leicester Square from April 17–May 1, and then is released on VOD from May 1 and on DVD from May 4. To book tickets click here.

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