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Film Review: Swimming With Men

Reviewed by Luke Channell

Oliver Parker’s Swimming with Men turns the spotlight on the uncharted world of male synchronised swimming in this amiable yet slightly flimsy British dramedy. The film takes its inspiration from 2010 documentary Men Who Swim which followed a group of middle-aged Swedish men in their pursuit of synchronised swimming glory. But Swimming with Men is most indebted to a tradition of British feel-good films which see melancholic characters finding happiness and purpose through an unlikely source. The Full Monty, Calendar Girls and Kinky Boots are to name just a few, sadly, however, Parker’s film fails to match the sharp scripts and fully-fleshed out characters of these British classics.

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Film Essay: Yellow Submarine 4K Reissue

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Where did the time go? Fifty years ago, if memory serves, when Yellow Submarine first hit theatres, I was mesmerized by the Gold Key comic tie-in owned by one of my neighbourhood pals. My other Beatle memory of 1968 was seeing the fab four on The Smother Brothers when their promotional films for “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” aired. I didn’t get to see the film properly until it began airing on TV in the 70s; by which time The Beatles had broken up and the decade they shook up seemed impossibly distant. However, as much as Beatlemania and nostalgia go hand in hand, the Chekhovian vibe of better yesterdays is kept in check by two things: the music remains as alive and vital as it did in the 60s, and our unending wonder that four Liverpudlians could do so much that was not just good, but great, in the space of eight years.

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Film Review: Terminal

Reviewed by April McIntyre

Director Vaughn Stein has put his own spin on the classic genre in his gritty, neo-noir, Terminal. Margot Robbie heads up this impressive cast, which includes Mike Myers, Simon Pegg and Dexter Fletcher. Aesthetically Terminal does what a neo-noir should do; the chiaroscuro lighting, the anonymous big city, blaring neon lights and a deadly and seductive femme fatale. Unfortunately, that is where it stops and there’s only so far the superficial can take us until our interest begins to wane. Stein does, however keep the audience watching with various loose ends running through the narrative waiting to be tied. Several large twists present themselves, where one would suffice. The film promptly leaves noir territory and settles comfortably into a more routine and predictable Hollywood thriller narrative, that even its hardboiled script fails to anchor in its desired genre.

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Film Essay: Harlan Ellison Tribute

Harlan Ellison RIP: The Writer on the Edge of Forever

Essay by Lee Hill

Given that most of his books were out of print when he died, the widespread outpouring of love and admiration for Harlan Ellison belies the writer’s own cynicism about modern popular culture. During the heyday of his career in the 60s and 70s, Ellison dragged science fiction and fantasy (and legions of wallflower-like fans) kicking and screaming into the ferment of counter-cultural upheaval and experimentation. He did this not only as an award-winning short story writer, but through the anthology, Dangerous Visions, where he commissioned established and emerging writers, from Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Bloch to Samuel Delany and Philip K Dick, to explore themes such as sex, race, politics, the environment, the limits of technological progress, etc. with a revolutionary fervour that many in the parochial world of SF fandom were uncomfortable with.

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Film Review: The First Purge

Reviewed by Linda Marric

Back in 2013, James DeMonaco’s The Purge presented us with nightmarish vision of America in a near future in which crime has been made legal for 12 hours every year, leaving people free to commit the most unspoken atrocities without suffering the consequences. After two more lucrative sequels which failed to live up to the original film’s brilliant high concept premise, this week sees the release of a The First Purge, a prequel which is surprisingly far more engaging and politically sound than one might expect from a franchise which was in danger of losing its purpose. 

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Film Review: Time Trial

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Time Trial is a mesmerising documentary portrait of Scottish cyclist David Millar. He competed in the Tour de France and other world class cycling events with success through much of the late 90s to early naughties. His career coincided with the period when the consensus culture surround doping was coming under greater scrutiny from the press, whistle-blowers and legal investigators. In August 2004, he was banned from the sport for two years. Like many a top cyclist, Millar did not exactly suffer from low self-esteem when he was accused of taking EPO, the illegal performance enhancement drug. He went through various stages of denial and self-reckoning before reinventing himself as the anti-Lance Armstrong.

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Edinburgh Film Festival: L’Apparition

Reviewed by Lee Hill

The Catholic Church has seen better days at the cinema. During the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, The Church acted as gatekeeper and censor ensuring that both the Holy Spirit and Hays Code were affirmed. The clergy on film tended to come with a touch of the blarney a la Bing Crosby or as sympathetic, but ineffectual sounding boards like Karl Malden in On The Waterfront. More unorthodox or radical explorations of The Church, such as the work of Luis Bunuel or Robert Bresson, were relegated to film festivals and the art house Still every now and then faith would be explored with more than just good taste, but moral complexity in films like Fred Zinnemann’s A Nun’s Story or Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess.

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Sicario 2: Soldado Review

Reviewed by Wyndham Hacket Pain

Aliens was famously released with the tagline: This time it’s war. The same line could easily be used to describe Sicario 2: Soldado. Where the original concerned itself with a single drug cartel, the sequel imagines everything on a larger scale. For the franchise’s second outing the objective is to only not undermine the Mexican drug cartels but to have them raging war against each other.

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Film Review: Path of Blood

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Terrorism is so often framed as an “us” vs. “them” proposition – First World being attacked by everyone else – in mainstream media outlets that it is important to be reminded that the worst impact is still being felt in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South-East Asia. Jonathan Hacker’s documentary, Path of Blood, is an absorbing examination of one such front line, Saudi Arabia. Drawing on over 500 hours of propaganda footage shot by Al-Qaeda cells from 2003 through 2005 that was seized by the Saudi authorities, as well as more traditional news sources, Path of Blood takes us straight into the hearts and minds of young Al-Qaeda members as well as the unwieldy efforts of the House of Saud to check the former’s campaign of terror.

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