wed 18/09/2019

Film reviews, news & interviews

The Kitchen review – more gangsters' molls taking over the reins

Demetrios Matheou

Three women decide to take over their husbands’ criminal activities, proving more than a match for the men who dominate the underworld.

For Sama review - besieged, bombed, and defiant in Syria

Graham Fuller

People who idly use the phrase “it’s like living in a war zone” when considering their domestic mess should see Waad al-Kateab’s documentary For Sama.

Phoenix review - Norwegian family tragedy with an...

Markie Robson-Scott

“You’re so meticulous,” says Astrid (Maria Bonnevie) to her teenage daughter Jill (impressive newcomer Yvla Bjørkaas Thedin) as they create a batik...

The Shock of the Future review - for the music...

Owen Richards

The Shock of the Future is for anyone who's watched a music biopic and thought "that's not how it works!" Directed and co-written by Marc Collin of...

Hustlers review - strip club crime pays

Nick Hasted

When did Dorothy (Constance Wu) really want to be a stripper? Maybe it’s when she looks with love at Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) during her strutting set...

Honeyland review - tipping nature's balance

Joseph Walsh

Insightful documentary on Europe's last wild beekeeper

Downton Abbey review – business as usual

Demetrios Matheou

The film version of the popular TV series is perfectly pleasant

DVD/Blu-ray: Amazing Grace

Mark Kidel

With Aretha: the best live music film ever?

The Shiny Shrimps review - worth the plunge

Owen Richards

Gay water polo comedy fishes some surprisingly deep waters

It Chapter Two review – time to stop clowning around

Demetrios Matheou

The return of Stephen King's killer clown is gobbled up by its own plotting

DVD/Blu-ray: A Kid for Two Farthings

Graham Rickson

Whimsical East End fairy tale, redeemed by handsome visuals

A Million Little Pieces review - addict's anaemic redemption

Nick Hasted

Sam Taylor-Johnson honourably emphasises rehab success, at cinematic power's expense

Blu-ray: The Ear

Graham Rickson

Fear and loathing in Cold War Czechoslovakia

Memory: The Origins of Alien review - a study of the sci-fi horror classic

Saskia Baron

In space no-one can hear you scream, but they can hear you being very reverential

The Souvenir review – Joanna Hogg's most emotionally wrenching film yet

Graham Fuller

Love is hell in Knightsbridge in romantic autobiographical drama

The Informer review - tough but tin-eared B-movie

Nick Hasted

A bracingly cynical but unconvincing crime movie leans on its fine cast

The Best Films Out Now


theartsdesk recommends the top movies of the moment

Hail Satan? review - the detail of the devil

Joseph Walsh

Documentary reveals the comedy and politics of America's satanists

A Faithful Man review - an atypical romance

Owen Richards

French romantic comedy that both follows and breaks the rules

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark review - mild-mannered nightmares

Nick Hasted

Campfire horror yarns favour character over fright

Pain and Glory review - masterful meditation on age and art

Nick Hasted

Almodovar and Banderas reflect on fading glories

DVD/Blu-ray: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

Graham Fuller

Mixed-race heritage condemns a striving youth in 1900 Australia

Transit review - existential nightmares for a German refugee

Saskia Baron

Christian Petzold eschews the conventions of Holocaust drama to create an edgy, unnerving thriller

Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood review – Tarantino’s mellowest film yet

Demetrios Matheou

Leo and Brad are an engaging double act as actor and stuntman facing the end of an era

JT Leroy review - pseudonym, avatar, literary hoax

Markie Robson-Scott

Revisiting the scandal of 2006: Kristen Stewart shines as Savannah Knoop/JT LeRoy

DVD: Are You Proud?

Tom Birchenough

A half-century of gay history recalled, with critical appraisal of the present

Playmobil The Movie review - resolutely kids' stuff

Nick Hasted

Lego rival finds contentment at the playbox's shallow end

Blinded by the Light review – flawed but feelgood

Demetrios Matheou

Bruce Springsteen's blue collar anthems fuel a novel addition to the music biopic

Gaza review - portraits of love and futility

Tom Baily

Sundance-screened doc shows locals' lives in close and troubling detail

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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