wed 19/02/2020

Film reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: 8 ½

Mark Kidel

8 ½ is one of the classic films about the art of cinema. There is something about the make-believe of movies, and our buying into the dreams they foster, which suggests reflection and self-referencing, as if films offered a mirror to our inner lives and the stories we tell on the big screen. 

First Love review - Miike delivers thrills and spills

Owen Richards

He's one of Japan's foremost directors, and if you’ve witnessed one of his films before, you know what to expect from a Takashi Miike yakuza film. High-octane, boundary pushing fun from first frame to last. And that’s exactly what First Love is.

Sonic the Hedgehog review - stuck in first gear

Nick Hasted

An early trailer for this adaptation of the ‘90s games franchise caused Cats­-like horror at its overly humanoid Hedgehog. Rather than the former...

Emma review – lustrous but far from definitive

Demetrios Matheou

The decade is kicking off with the revisiting of old classics. That’s not a bad pursuit, with new audiences in mind, though these days there’s a...

Oscars 2020: a 'Parasite' love-in caps...

Matt Wolf

The 92nd Academy Awards saved its surprises for a final stretch that saw Parasite make history as the first foreign language film ever to win the...

Dolittle review - a star is bored

Nick Hasted

You'd get more sense from the animals than this monkey-typed script

Mr Jones review - a timely testament to journalism

Owen Richards

James Norton stars as the journalist who exposed Stalin's Ukrainian famine

Parasite review - a class war with grand designs

Demetrios Matheou

The have and have-nots go to war, sort of, in Bong Joon Ho's masterful social satire

Birds of Prey review - the DCU is back on track

Joseph Walsh

Margot Robbie steals the show in Cathy Yan’s irreverent Suicide Squad spin-off

Plus One review - charm, yes, but irritation too

Matt Wolf

Jack Quaid pushes romcom up a bumpy hill

Filmmaker Agnieszka Holland: 'Without journalism, democracy will not survive'

Owen Richards

'Mr Jones' director discusses why she's fascinated by Europe's darkest hours

Blu-ray: Black Angel

Graham Fuller

Dan Duryea stars as a sympathetic noir fall guy in director Roy William Neill's swansong

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood review - an emotionally honest biopic

Graham Fuller

Tom Hanks gives one of his finest recent performances as Mr. Rogers

Richard Jewell review - a portrait of duty and dignity in this true-life tale

Joseph Walsh

Clint Eastwood offers up a complex, but flawed, account of the real-life hero blamed for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Park bombing

Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall review - needles, guns and grass

Markie Robson-Scott

Alfred George Bailey documents rock photographer Jim Marshall's demons and genius

The Lighthouse review - shiver me timbers

Demetrios Matheou

Dafoe and Pattinson on top form as keepers struggling to keep madness at bay

Queen & Slim review - a stylish and raw tale of outlaws on the lam

Joseph Walsh

Melina Matsoukas’ potent protest drama is a heady road trip across modern day America

DVD/Blu-ray: Bait

Markie Robson-Scott

Mark Jenkin's acclaimed first feature: tensions spark within a Cornish fishing village

Talking About Trees review - friendships formed through film

Owen Richards

A tender documentary on returning cinema to Sudan

The Personal History of David Copperfield review – top-drawer Dickens

Demetrios Matheou

Armando Iannucci’s colour-blind Copperfield is a veritable feast of comic acting

The Grudge review - non-stop shocks wear out their welcome

Adam Sweeting

Rebooted reboot of Japanese horror hit turns terror into tedium

Blu-ray: Night Tide

Mark Kidel

Surreal sorcery from a Californian original, an early role from Dennis Hopper

A Hidden Life review - Nazism stoically refused

Nick Hasted

Terrence Malick's raptures find solid ground in a forgotten stand against fascism

The Best Films Out Now


theartsdesk recommends the top movies of the moment

Just Mercy review - soul-stirring true story about race and justice in America

Jill Chuah Masters

Biopic retells a powerful narrative about perseverance in the face of injustice

Waves review - pulsating, rapturous, devastating

Markie Robson-Scott

Teenage meltdown to a superb soundtrack: semi-autobiographical brilliance from Trey Edward Shults

Bombshell review – powerful, to a point

Demetrios Matheou

Drama charts an opening salvo in the fightback against predatory media monsters

DVD: The Cakemaker

Tom Birchenough

Israeli debut is a sensitive study of grief - and the joy of culinary creation

Uncut Gems review - relentless tale of gambling and the diamond trade

Saskia Baron

Adrenaline fuelled portrait of a gambler running out of luck

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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