sat 30/05/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

San Andreas

Matt Wolf

Time gets called on California in San Andreas, a bone-headed disaster movie that sends huge swathes of the West Coast toppling to its doom even as one particular family not only makes it through intact but is even enriched in the process. Who'd have thought that the demise of several cities full of unnamed people would act as a perverse sort of marriage counselling for a couple in nuptial distress? The real fault here isn't the tectonic one that gives Brad Peyton's putative summer blockbuster...

DVD: Wild

Graham Fuller

Wild is solid, but Reese Witherspoon wasn’t necessarily the best choice to play a woman who took a 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail – from the Mojave Desert to the Bridge of Gods, which links Oregon to Washington State – to banish her demons. Considering Witherspoon's chipper personality, can-do spirit, fabulous smile, and natural aura of resilience, her casting loaded the dice. Were we expected to believe her character would sobbingly abandon her trek a third of the way through, or,...

Man Up

Katherine McLaughlin

American actress Lake Bell turns in a rather charming performance in a romcom written by newcomer Tess Morris, who handles the insecurities of a...


Emma Simmonds

The imposition of a brutal jihadist regime is relayed with formidable articulacy and a surprising lightness of touch in this gut-wrenching drama from...

Danny Collins

Matt Wolf

Al Pacino gives it his barnstorming all as Danny Collins, an ageing, coke-rattled rocker who calls it quits in order to reconnect with his family and...

DVD: The Long Good Friday/Mona Lisa

Nick Hasted

London gangster greatness from Bob Hoskins

The New Girlfriend

Nick Hasted

A touching transvestite romcom from François Ozon

DVD: Germany Pale Mother

Nick Hasted

A rediscovered German classic about a mother and child's wartime bond

DVD: Birdman

Graham Fuller

Oscar champ stars Michael Keaton as a Hollywood Icarus braving Broadway heat

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Kieron Tyler

Style over substance in the supposed 'first Iranian vampire Western'

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

Only Angels Have Wings

Demetrios Matheou

Howard Hawks' airmen adventure re-released in a new restoration

Mad Max: Fury Road

Adam Sweeting

Long-delayed comeback displays appetite for self-destruction

Clouds of Sils Maria

Demetrios Matheou

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart reflect on ageing, acting and everything

DVD: Foxcatcher

Kieron Tyler

Stand-out performance from Steve Carell in potent Oscar-nominated psychological drama

A Fuller Life

Graham Fuller

Sam Fuller's journeys to hell supersede his movie career in his daughter's documentary

A Royal Night Out

Matt Wolf

Newcomer Sarah Gadon shines in film that is no royal flush

DVD: National Gallery

Jasper Rees

Frederick Wiseman's masterful portrait of an institution is made for piecemeal consumption

The Tribe

Tom Birchenough

Extraordinary sign language-only film catches bleakness of contemporary Ukraine

Lambert & Stamp

Kieron Tyler

Doc on the managers who steered The Who to world-wide success could be tighter


Ellin Stein

Satirist Jon Stewart gets serious with this true story of an Iranian-Canadian journalist

DVD: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

Nick Hasted

Ava Gardner and James Mason in a vivid, mythic romance


Graham Fuller

A woman who's lost her face rises from the ashes in postwar Germany

Spooks: The Greater Good

Adam Sweeting

First widescreen adventure for Harry Pearce and his MI5 crew


Emma Simmonds

Céline Sciamma takes a sympathetic and spirited look at marginalised teens

theartsdesk Q&A: Spooks, the movie

Adam Sweeting

How the popular MI5 drama finally made it to the big screen

Stray Dogs

Tom Birchenough

Mesmerizing or self-indulgent? Verdicts will be out on latest Taiwanese auteur fare

DVD: Turned Towards the Sun

Tom Birchenough

An extraordinary 20th-century life recalled in age

Far From the Madding Crowd

Adam Sweeting

Superb interpretation of Thomas Hardy's novel by Thomas Vinterberg

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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