thu 24/06/2021

Film Reviews

Blu-ray: Flowers of Shanghai

Daniel Baksi

Rounding out a decade of personal success – beginning with his Cannes Jury Prize-winning The Puppetmaster (1993), followed by a best director award for Good Men, Good Women (1995) – the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien travelled to the Japanese harbour city of Hirado as part of his research for Flowers of Shanghai (1998).

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In the Heights review - to life, Lin-Manuel Miranda-style

Matt Wolf

The general uptick of late in film versions of stage musical hits continues apace with In the Heights, which, to my mind anyway, is far more emotionally satisfying and visually robust onscreen than it was on Broadway, where it won the 2008 Tony for Best Musical.

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The Reason I Jump review - compelling and controversial

Joseph Walsh

Back in 2017, a non-speaking autistic teen, Naoki Higashida wrote and published The Reason I Jump. He hoped it would offer some insight into the minds of people with autism. The book was subsequently translated by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell. 

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The Father review - gripping dementia drama

Tom Baily

Florian Zeller: the name might not be familiar in the world of cinema. But watch this space.

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Nobody review - Bob Odenkirk reinvents himself as all-action dynamo

Adam Sweeting

Fans of Bob Odenkirk’s work in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul will be delighted to see him taking centre stage in Ilya Naishuller’s thriller, but perhaps bamboozled at the spectacle of Odenkirk taking the plunge into the blood-splattered territory previously the preserve of John Wick and Liam Neeson’s Bryan Taken Mills.

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Shiva Baby review - sex, lies and rugelach

Markie Robson-Scott

Comedian Rachel Sennott stars as Danielle, a conflicted, bisexual twenty-something college student who's taking money she doesn't really need from a sugar daddy who isn't who she thinks he is. Emma Seligman’s debut feature, which began as a short in her film studies degree at New York University, is full of energy in its exploration of the dynamics of sex, power and career, with lox and bagels on the side.

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Bank Job review - an inspirational look at finance

Sarah Kent

A fun film about finance – really? From the very first frame I was hooked on this can-do documentary; it’s that good. A young family – parents, Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell, two kids and two dogs – gather at the front door of their Victorian terraced house in Walthamstow and grin sheepishly to camera.

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Dark Days, Luminous Nights, Manchester Collective, The White Hotel, Salford review - a sense of Hades

Robert Beale

Did you wonder what all those creative musicians and artists did when they couldn’t perform in public last winter? Some of them started making films.

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A Quiet Place Part II review - noise abatement sequel

Graham Fuller

Fourteen months after the Manhattan premiere of John Krasinski's A Quiet Place Part II – and three years after his taut, spare original spawned the most suspenseful sci-fi horror franchise of recent times – the movie is setting post-pandemic box office records.

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Blu-ray: Jungle Fever

Saskia Baron

Thirty years since its original release, Jungle Fever appears on Blu-ray for the first time, courtesy of the British Film Institute. Some aspects of the movie have aged well – it’s electrifying to revisit Samuel L Jackson’s breakthrough performance as a crack addict plumbing new depths to feed his habit. But other aspects haven’t fared so well, primarily the script’s sexual politics and the casting of Wesley Snipes as the (anti) romantic male lead.

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First Cow review - beautifully realised frontier drama

Demetrios Matheou

Kelly Reichardt is one of America’s most distinctive directors, whose meticulously detailed, character and place-driven dramas have a lowkey vibe that belies their impact.

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Frankie review - dying for nuance

Graham Fuller

American filmmaker Ira Sachs excels at crafting throughtful relationship dramas in which middle-class characters confronted with crises or unanticipated realisations gain valuable emotional knowledge. His best works – Forty Shades of Blue (2005), Keep the Lights On (2012), and Little Men (2016) – demonstrate an evenness and maturity rare in the rough and tumble of indie cinema.

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Cruella review - fabulous fashions, creaky narrative

Adam Sweeting

Is Cruella the escapist blockbuster the Covid-blighted world has been waiting for? Well, it’s a feast for the eyes but 20 minutes too long, and for an origin story of the despicable Cruella De Vil of The Hundred and One Dalmations fame, it lacks the killer instinct when it comes to the crunch.

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My New York Year review - lacklustre portrait of an ingenue

Saskia Baron

This pallid chick flick limps out on release having changed its title since its Berlinale 2020 debut; in the US it's known as My Salinger Year, but perhaps market research in Blighty decreed that name-checking the author of The Catcher in the Rye wouldn't play as well here.

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Those Who Wish Me Dead review - Angelina Jolie battles baddies and blazes in Montana

Adam Sweeting

With a track record which includes both Sicario movies, Hell or High Water and Wind River, Taylor Sheridan packs some muscle in the action-thriller department, though Those Who Wish Me Dead can’t match those previous highlights.

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Nomadland review - on the road in the American West

Markie Robson-Scott

Fern (a luminous Frances McDormand) used to work in HR. Now, aged 62, she’s harvesting sugarbeets, hauling rocks, cleaning toilets in a trailer park and doing shifts in an Amazon warehouse. And she’s living out of her camper van, a shabby, lovingly restored RV she calls Vanguard. “I’m not homeless, I’m houseless,” she says, driving through vast Western landscapes under spectacular skies.

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