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Author: Lee Hill

Features, reviews and commentary to Cine-Eye (Iran), Sight & Sound, Resonance FM, Vertigo, SensesofCinema.com, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Cinemascope, The Times and others in the UK, Canada, US and Australia. I have also acted as a development consultant to Tiresias FIlm, the independent production company headed by Robert Chilcott.

Film Review: The Seagull

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Unlike Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams, the film adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s plays and short stories have not made much of an impact beyond festivals or art houses. While I still have vivid memories of watching Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson and Jonathan Pryce in a 1985 West End production of The Seagull, only Sidney Lumet obsessives are likely to remember the director’s curious 1968 version with Redgrave, James Mason and Simone Signoret. Lumet was probably more faithful to Chekhov’s themes of families and fading dreams in Running on Empty, his potent 1988 elegy for the idealism and myopia of New Left radicals on the run.

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Film Review: Hurricane

Reviewed by Lee Hill

World War Two is the safe space for a great deal of recent British film, television and theatre. Last year, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Joe Wright’s The Darkest Hour went mano a mano to prove that while our present Oxbridge brain trust in Parliament and other corridors of power may have difficulty deciding on a latte order, times were different during the Blitz. If you dash, you can also catch actor David Haig’s play Pressure in the West End, a reconstruction of the nerve-racking planning and brinkmanship that prepared Britain for D-Day. And pub bores, particularly those whose history of cinema often begins and ends with Pulp Fiction, would lose much of their material if Band of Brothers hadn’t nailed a certain type of haunted gaze/grace under pressure/male weepie to the mast.

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Film Review: Columbus

Reviewed by Lee Hill

It is one of the curious ironies of cinema history that many great films deal with characters in near static moments of transition. Something life changing has just happened or perhaps, more poignantly, characters are waiting for signs of the life they are meant to lead to finally appear. You could have a very provocative film season with such investigations of the space between (Tokyo Story, L’Avventura, The King of Marvin Gardens, Breaking Away, Diner, Kings of The Road or Lost in Translation come to this writer’s mind).  With his impeccably shot, sensitively acted and unapologetically meditative debut, Columbus, the Korean-American video essayist, Kogonada, would be a welcome participant in such a season .

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Film Review: The Heiresses

Reviewed by Lee Hill

While there is a lot of fun to be had with the new Mission Impossible installment, summer film going is also about counter-programming. And few films achieve this with such calm panache as The Heiresses. This quietly assured debut feature by Marcelo Martinessi won best actress and best film at the Berlin Film Festival, earlier this year. While it does not quite achieve greatness – in part because it captures aging and loneliness all too well to be dramatically satisfying at times – it never feels false thanks to the astute casting.

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Film Review: The Negotiator

Reviewed by Lee Hill

It’s never a good sign when a film first appears at a creative friendly place like the Sundance Film Festival and then undergoes a change of title when it surfaces at your local multiplex. This is the case of The Negotiator, a ripped from “today’s headlines” (well, 70s/80s Lebanon to be exact) thriller, with a hardboiled take on Middle East realpolitk. Originally called Beirut, The Negotiator stars Jon Hamm as Mason Skiles, an idealistic American diplomat in the city circa 1972, whose life is turned upside down during a terrorist attack on his adopted home. Not only does he lose his wife, but he also loses a near adopted son, 13-year-old Karim, who turns out to be the younger brother of a key PLO member on the run.

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The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

Reviewed by Lee Hill

It has become a critical truism in recent years to suggest that the most successful animated films appeal both to adults as well as children. Hasn’t this always been the case? Since Mickey Mouse appeared in Walt Disney’s debut short, Steamboat Willie (1928), Max Fleishman’s Popeye (from the comic strip created by EC Segar) and George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, cartoons have often had a cross-generational appeal tapping into our common need to laugh, indulge flights of fancy and escape into narratives that have the flow of dreams.

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Film Review: Heathers Reissue

Reviewed by Lee Hill

First released in the autumn of 1988, Heathers was the little teen suicide film that could. Produced by New World Pictures, a company founded by Roger Corman to nurture everything from Bergman’s Cries and Whispers to Slumber Party Massacre, Heathers was shot over 33 days for $3 million, and it made Winona Ryder and Christian Slater stars for much of the 90s. Focusing on a clique of beautiful high school girls, all with the same name, the “Heathers” use their good looks, popularity and penchant for sadistic pranks to terrorize their classmates.

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Film Review: The Racer and The Jailbird

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Flemish director Michael R Roskam is best known for his noirish debut, Bullhead (2011), a searing character study of a young farmer caught up in the black market for illegal beef products. Bullhead made Matthias Schoenaerts one of the latest stars of European arthouse cinema to cross over to a global audience. It also established Roskam as a director who could combine character driven drama with suspense. Roskam and Schoenaerts worked on James Gandofini’s last film, The Drop (2014), and have reunited for a third time on this thriller about two seemingly mismatched, but obsessive lovers.

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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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