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Chyeon Jeon-myeong in Hansel and Gretel

6 April 2009-04-06

Out in the UK This Week Mike Leigh at the BBC (2 entertain, cert 12) Before heading off on his film career, auteur Leigh did some great stuff for TV. Here’s the pick of his 1973-84 output, including Nuts in May and Abigail’s Party, along with Leigh’s own audio commentary, intelligent interviews and a clutch of shorts. Mike Leigh at the BBC – at Amazon Twilight (Contender, cert 12) The movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s Young Adult novels starts here with smart, sylphlike Kristen Stewart falling for Byronically moody vampire Robert Pattinson in a swoony and chaste romance heaving with unrequited girlish longing. Twilight – at Amazon Hansel and Gretel (Terracotta, cert 15) … Read more
Jill Wagner in Splinter

30 March 2009-03-30

Ratings on the UK system – U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=Excempt Celia (Second Run, cert 15) Oz director Ann Turner’s classic 1989 rites-of-passage debut, about one girl’s amply furnished fantasy childhood. It’s the story of a child, from a child’s point of view, rather than adult looking back, and set in 1950s Australia overrun by rabbits and the Red menace. Celia – at Amazon Of Time and the City (BFI, cert 12) Back with a bang, grumpy, poetic old man Terence Davies’s elegy to his lost, native Liverpool, composed almost entirely of archive footage, brilliantly welded together by a master. Wait till you hear what he has to … Read more
Walt Disney's Pinocchio

9 March 2009-03-09

Ratings on the UK system (ie U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=excempt) Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Disney, cert U) From the days when the voice cast went uncredited, Walt Disney’s 1940 follow-up to Snow White gave us the Oscar-winning song When You Wish Upon a Star, a wooden boy with a Freudian nose and one of the studio’s darkest and finest animations. Pinocchio – at Amazon The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Disney, cert 12) The Holocaust through the eyes of a nice German lad (Asa Butterfield) whose dad just happens to be a death camp commandant. The everyday normality of the death camps and the mix of … Read more
Andrea Riseborough in The Devil's Whore

16 March 2009-03-16

Ratings on the UK system (ie U=universal, PG=parental guidance, 12, 15 and 18 are self-explanatory, E=excempt)   The Devil’s Whore (Lionsgate, cert 15) Having played Mrs Thatcher, Angela Riseborough is once more an iron lady in a proto-feminist TV series set during the English Civil War and laced with death and lashings of bodice-ripping and packed with a great cast (John Simm, Dominic West, Maxine Peak, Peter Capaldi).  The Devil’s Whore aka The Devil’s Mistress – at Amazon How To Lose Friends and Alienate People (Paramount, cert 15) Another gold star for Shaun Pegg, as a gauche, arrogant, bumbling Brit git in New York journalism in a version of Toby Young’s comic autobiography … Read more
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Gran Torino

Old grizzled Clint Eastwood plays Shirty Harry in a film about redemption, ageing, learning to live with others, sacrifice but most of all about the myth of Clint himself. The skimpy plot concerns a grumpy Korean war veteran whose neighbourhood has gone to the dogs, evidence of which he sees in his immigrant neighbours, who are Hmong people. A view reinforced when the young son tries to steal his 1972 Gran Torino and underlined later on when he sets about “teaching the youngster a lesson”, which of course teaches him a few things he didn’t know. Like Unforgiven the tensions comes from the question “when is Clint going to strap the guns back … Read more
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Tropa de Elite aka Elite Squad

Anyone who’s read a lot of film reviews will be familiar with the “redeeming features” style of reviewing. “Worth a look to see De Niro on fire”, “Ken Adam’s set designs lend it a style the script is struggling to equal”, and so on. Sometimes people pop round to my house to borrow a dvd and, as we whisk through a shimmering stack of them, I give it loads of “redeeming feature” bullshit – “you know the director of Consequences of Love, he made this one”, “Buster Keaton’s last film before he got booted out of his own production company” etc etc. When all the borrowing party wants to know is – is … Read more
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Batman: The Dark Knight

  Not having enjoyed the first Nolan/Bale Batman film (yes, he was traumatised by bats. I get it!) I wasn’t looking forward to the second. But, having been told how great it was, how awesome Heath Ledger was, how dark it all was, I was prepared to put prejudice to one side and settle back to watch it with an open mind. And I hated it. But no one else seems to feel this way. Why? My own lack of soul to one side, it’s possibly something to do with the death of Ledger, a good actor who generally did more than was necessary in whatever role he took on, was happy to … Read more
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Before Sunset

This 2004 follow-up to Richard Linlater’s 1995 Before Sunrise is a first-date movie for people who fancy themselves as having more going on upstairs. But grey matter to one side, do you need to have seen the first film to enjoy the second? Probably not, though it helps to know that in Before Sunrise Ethan Hawke had fulfilled every heterosexual male InterRailer’s wildest fantasy – by meeting the stomach-churningly beautiful, witty and, very important, French Julie Delpy on a train and having a night of flirtatious intellectual chat and wild adventure with her. By the end of Before Sunrise both parties are agreed – it’s love and they are absolutely definitely going to … Read more
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Norman McLaren: The Art of Motion

  Who? Those who have no idea who Norman McLaren is won’t be so nonplussed after the briefest glimpse of his work. Frequently working by drawing directly onto the film stock itself (as in Boogie Doodle), this Scottish-born wizard experimenter is the creator of an instantly recognisable style of animation, frequently set to jazz or electronic music, which now seems to define the meeting point between high and popular arts in the 1940s and 50s. Blobs splash and explode, red against pulsating yellow. Lines oscillate, coalesce, fly apart. An orange hen rotates as it vibrates against a green background, a fluid expression both of chicken-ness and of the possibilities of the line itself … Read more
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Kiss Me Deadly

Critics continue to argue over whether this is the best film noir ever made but all seem united on one point – Kiss Me Deadly is the best adaptation of one of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels. Now 50 years old, the film opens with a scene that still packs a punch – cynical private eye Mike Hammer picks up a girl hitchhiker who is wearing only a mac. Within minutes his car has been run off the road and a brutal gang is torturing the girl before killing her. The stage is set for Hammer, one of cinema’s great anti-heroes, to become avenging angel, visiting bad men in places high and low … Read more
Gael Garcia Bernal in Amores Perros

Amores Perros

The film which announced the rebirth of Mexican cinema in 2000, Amores Perros was adored not just by cinephiles but also those who “don’t do subtitles”. The reasons are many and continue to make it a film worth seeing, or seeing again. Shot on film which has been deliberately processed in the “wrong” chemical to produce distorted colours and bleached out highlights, it’s got a look which suddenly was everywhere – from hip adverts to films by old-schoolers such as Steven Spielberg (see 2005’s terrorist thriller Munich, for example). The multi-stranded plot which zips backwards and forwards from a pivotal moment – in this case a car crash – is now a Hollywood … Read more
Orson Welles in Confidential Report aka Mr Arkadin

Confidential Report

The prevailing wisdom on Orson Welles has changed in recent years. It used to be: “Poor Orson, his masterpieces (such as The Magnificent Ambersons, It’s All True, The Lady from Shanghai ) butchered by the studios”. Now it’s: “Lazy Orson, got most of the way through a film and then lost interest”. Certainly Welles subscribed to the former view, and broadcast it widely wherever he went in Europe during his exile (or extended flake-out, take your pick). Confidential Report fuels the debate. A shadow of both his masterpiece, Citizen Kane, and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (in which Welles played the similarly gnomic Harry Lime), the film jumps around the world excavating the … Read more

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