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Category: Film

Film Review: Truth or Dare

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Truth or Dare is such a bland, albeit efficient horror genre retread that its only conceivable raison d’etre is to keep risk averse mid-level studio executives employed. Entering a market that has been rejuvenated by the likes of Get Out, It Follows and A Quiet Place, this film deserves to get beaten to death at the box office and exiled to a remote corner of streaming portal hell.

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Film Review: Beast

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Francois Truffaut will never be entirely forgiven by some of the country’s film buffs for saying that British cinema was a contradiction in terms. For every bold visionary like Michael Powell, Nicolas Roeg, Derek Jarman or Lynne Ramsay, there are countless directors whose plodding efficiency and middle brow choice of subject can make one long for the personal signature of a Richard Donner (yes, he did churn out those Lethal Weapon films, but we did get The Omen and Superman). In recent years, the London Film Festival, doubtlessly for a complex of political reasons, often opens and closes its otherwise eclectic programme with the latest paint-by-numbers example of a homegrown literary adaptation, docudrama or biopic that is often the filmic equivalent of “please stand for the national anthem.”

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LFF 2017: Custody (Jusqu’à la Garde)

Reviewed by Lee Hill

The bitterness of separation, divorce and the all too common legal battles between former spouses has made for familiar terrain at the movies. Shoot the Moon, Kramer Vs. Kramer, The War of the Roses, Blue Valentine and Boyhood are a few titles that spring to mind and of course, television drama would be crippled without domestic strife as convenient narrative fodder. Given the countless variations on a theme, Xavier Legrand’s stunning first feature is even more of an achievement and will resonate with a wide audience.

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Film Review: Ghost Stories

Reviewed by Tom Rowley

BBC’s The League of Gentlemen was a hilarious pastiche of comedy stories that, at heart, had an endearing love for the hammer-horror genre. So it’s fitting that one of the show’s creators, Jeremy Dyson, has co-written and co-directed with Andy Nyman, a movie reminiscent of a Vincent Price platform, tying together horror vignettes throughout a mysterious overarching narrative. In his latest project, Ghost Stories, the horror-to-comedy ratio of The League of Gentlemen has been reversed to great effect. Genuine terror with a heart of theatrical comedy, Ghost Stories is born of the same formula Dyson has been working with since Royston Vasey first tormented our screens with exploding pets in 1999. But in his 2018 project, the screams far outweigh the laughs.

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Film Review: I Kill Giants

Reviewed by Luke Channell

An alluring strangeness fuels this debut feature from director Anders Walter which combines touching coming-of-age drama with eye-catching magical realism. Based on a graphic novel by Joe Kelly (who also adapts the screenplay), I Kill Giants follows the journey of high-schooler Barbara (Madison Wolfe) who envelops herself in a fantasy world to cope with her upsetting reality. While this premise is hardly thematically ground-breaking (comparisons with J. A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls are inevitable), I Kill Giants maintains a fresh, appealing energy thanks to its focus on almost exclusively female characters.

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LFF 2017: 120 BPM

120 BPM is a film you tend to admire rather than love. Robin Campillo’s film deals with the rise of Act Up in France in the late 80s and early 90s as the activist group tackled the complacency of government, medical and pharmaceutical establishments in dealing with the crisis. If the film veers towards being a polemic at times, it contains many scenes that remind one of the anguish and rage the early years of the epidemic unleashed across the LGBT community world-wide.

Anyone who thinks protestors just blindly show up to cause trouble will have their consciousness seriously expanded after watching this film. Campillo’s camera plunges the viewer into the centre of the practical and ideological debates that drive organisations like Act Up. Like Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom, 120 BPM features several scenes of young adults in meetings refining and discarding ideas and arguments as they move towards political action. When an intervention at a medical conference doesn’t go as planned, the activists hold a post-mortem to determine what went wrong.

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Film Review: A Gentle Creature

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Vladimir Putin may be looking forward to another six years of running the Russian Federation, but his country’s best filmmakers will not give him an easy ride. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan and Loveless have been recent state-of-the-nation molotovs lobbed at Mother Russia. Sergei Lotznitsa’s A Gentle Creature is a further reminder that, despite the monolithic philistinism that Putin embodies and revels in, dissident filmmaking is not just the province of one director of the moment.  

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Film Review: The Bachelors

Reviewed by Luke Channell

“I can’t stay here anymore” declares a mournful Bill (J. K. Simmons) to his teenage son Wes (Josh Wiggins) at the very beginning of Kurt Voelker’s indie dramedy The Bachelors. Attempting to move on from the sudden death of Bill’s wife, the pair relocate from their family home in San Francisco to a small rental property in Los Angeles. Despite this cookie-cutter premise – plus a host of other indie tropes – the film has its heart in the right place and it’s buoyed by a quartet of affecting performances.

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Coming Soon: Tony Richardson and Woodfall Films

Tony Richardson and Woodfall Films: A Revolution in British Film
A month-long season at the BFI Southbank, April 2018
Reviewed by Lee Hill

From 1959 to 1963, director Tony Richardson became synonymous with “kitchen sink realism”. That catchphrase simultaneously celebrated and dismissed a new wave in British film. The wave first came to attention when Richardson and Karel Reisz screened their documentary short, Mamma Don’t Allow, as part of the 1956 Free Cinema programme at the National Film Theatre, now BFI Southbank. Thanks also to a precocious amount of work in student productions at Oxford, Richardson became part of The Royal Court Theatre, where he directed John Osborne’s two most famous plays, Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer.

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