mon 02/10/2023

Film reviews, news & interviews

The Creator review - bold, beautiful, flawed sci-fi epic

Demetrios Matheou

It has been seven years since Gareth Edwards directed, for me, the best of the new generation of Star Wars films, Rogue One. Having made Godzilla before that, it’s nice to see him return with a more personal project, a big, bold, beautiful, if flawed sci-fi epic. 

The Old Oak review - a searing ode to solidarity

Graham Fuller

Ken Loach has occasionally invested his realist TV dramas and movies with moments of magical realism – football inspiring them in The Golden Vision (1968) and Looking for Eric (2009) – but magical spaces in them are rare. In The Old Oak, as affecting a movie as any the veteran director has made and his 14th with screenwriter Paul Laverty, three sacred spaces (but a single church) work on the characters in vital ways. 

Surprised by Oxford review - wishy-washy romance...

Markie Robson-Scott

The misty streets and lofty spires of Oxford star in this adaptation of Carolyn Weber’s 2011 memoir, Surprised by Oxford, in which she finds God...

Strange Way of Life review - Pedro Almodóvar...

Hugh Barnes

Less is more, except when it isn’t. Among the latest batch of overlong Oscar-tipped movies by celebrated auteurs such as Christopher Nolan (...

Blu-ray: Gregory's Girl

Graham Rickson

Gregory’s Girl stands alongside Kes as one of the few films offering a realistic depiction of state school life. Director Bill Forsyth’s surreal...

The Nettle Dress review - a moving story exquisitely told

Sarah Kent

A widower weaves his way out of grief

Expend4bles review - last ride for the over-the-hill gang?

Adam Sweeting

Sly Stallone's veterans franchise has seen better days

R.M.N. review - ethnic cleansing in rural Romania

James Saynor

Cristian Mungiu's tale from Transylvania has bite but may not be his best

A Year in a Field review - exemplary eco-doc

Graham Fuller

Filmmaker Christopher Morris keeps vigil near Land's End as the planet goes to hell

Side By Side Ukrainian Film Festival, Curzon Soho - cameras of courage and resistance

Hugh Barnes

The festival shows war-torn Ukraine in turmoil but unbowed

A Haunting in Venice review - a case of Poirot by numbers

Helen Hawkins

Kenneth Branagh and his cast have fun, but not enough narrative impact

Blu-Ray: Partie de Campagne

Mark Kidel

Unfinished gem from French master of cinema

AngelHeaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T Rex review - musical doc falls between two stools

Adam Sweeting

Seventies glam-and-glitter king remains elusive

Bolan's Shoes review - good-natured film about the healing power of a pop idol

Helen Hawkins

Leanne Best and Timothy Spall excel as troubled ageing glam-rockers

Blu-ray: Three Ages

Graham Rickson

Buster Keaton's feature debut is daft but delightful

Fremont review - lovely wry portrait of an Afghan refugee looking for love

Helen Hawkins

Stunning debut from refugee Anaita Wali Zada gives Babak Jalali's film an inner glow

A Life on the Farm review - a fabulous eccentric gets neatly packaged

Sarah Kent

Put in context, the Spike Milligan of farming footage

Past Lives review - poignant story of a long-maturing love

Helen Hawkins

Celine Song's quietly powerful debut asks big questions about cultural difference

Mercy Falls review - horror in the Highlands

Hugh Barnes

A superb sense of atmosphere buoys this Scottish slasher flick

The Puppet Asylum & Otto Baxter: Not a F***ing Horror Show review - director extraordinaire exorcises his demons

Saskia Baron

Impressive horror debut by actor-director-writer with Down's Syndrome

Passages review - amusing, lusty, surprising Parisian love triangle

Demetrios Matheou

Whishaw, Exarchopoulos and Rogowski fight it out, in Ira Sachs' latest romantic drama

Apocalypse Clown review - going out with a laugh

Sebastian Scotney

The world ends not with a bang, but with three inept clowns in Ireland

And Then Come the Nightjars review - two farm friends

James Saynor

A pair of blokes bond amid a foot-and-mouth cattle cull down in deepest Devon

Cobweb review - family secrets, bad dreams

Justine Elias

A Halloween-themed horror movie gets lost in the details while losing the thread

Fool's Paradise review - unfunny stab at making fun of Hollywood

Helen Hawkins

Charlie Day's comedy is loaded with cameos but very low on laughs

DVD/Blu-ray: Gothic

Graham Fuller

Ken Russell's febrile fantasy about the night Mary Shelley conceived 'Frankenstein'

Mob Land review - familiar pulp fiction

Nick Hasted

Travolta graces a derivative but solid Southern noir

Scrapper review - home alone, but then Dad turns up

Saskia Baron

Director Charlotte Regan makes a promising debut with this tale of a motherless girl and her estranged father

The Red Shoes: Next Step review - teen dancer's crisis

Hugh Barnes

An Australian teen ballet movie marred by its ludicrous plot

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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