Film reviews and more

Month: January 2021

Sundance 2021: Passing review

★★★★☆ The directorial debut of Rebecca Hall, Passing is an intoxicating, dreamlike adaptation of Nella Larsen’s novella of the same name. A deeply personal endeavour for the first-time writer-filmmaker, this tale of race, gender and social mobility in late 1920s New York is told with poise and a softly-spoken fervour. Stunning monochrome photography, striking visual metaphors and exquisite framing […]

Sundance 2021: At the Ready review

★★★★☆ Building bridges between the past, present and future of three Latinx teens in El Paso, Texas, Maisie Crow’s At the Ready investigates one of the US’s most contentious domestic issues – immigration across its southern border – from an unorthodox angle. Cristina, César and Mason (who came out as transgender after filming and is referred to in the […]

Sundance 2021: Prime Time review

★★☆☆☆ Jakub Piątek’s Prime Time is a claustrophobic chamber piece set in Warsaw on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Bringing his narrative feature debut to Sundance in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, the Polish writer-director harks back twenty years to an age of VHS tapes, analogue television and robotic Nokia ringtones. Co-written with Łukasz Czapski, the script pits lone gunman Sebastian (Bartosz Bielenia) against an unnamed […]

Sundance 2021: President review

★★★★☆ “This is a war room. I am here for a fight.” Under no illusion as to the scale of the task at hand, the deck is stacked against leader of the Movement for Democratic Change party and presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa. A follow-up to her 2014 film Democrats, Camilla Nielsson’s President tracks the rocky road to and from […]

Sundance 2021: Luzzu review

★★★★☆ Alex Camilleri’s Luzzu charts a course between the dispassionate neo-realism of the Dardenne brothers and Gianfranco Rosi’s keen but objective documentarian eye. It is a touching parable of fathers and sons, tradition and modernity, principles versus practicality. Set in Malta, this is one of very few films to have ever been made on and about the people of […]

Sundance 2021: Playing with Sharks review

★★★☆☆ A daredevil activity that for most would be considered the stuff of nightmares has, for diver and marine conservationist Valerie Taylor, been a lifelong passion. Dispelling myths and challenging preconceptions that humankind has of the ocean’s ancient selachian inhabitants, Sally Aitken’s Playing with Sharks is a loving biography of an indomitable, fearless pioneer and activist. “Maybe I’m a […]

Sundance 2021: The Pink Cloud review

★★★☆☆ Try as she might to refute any suggestions of prophecy, Iuli Gerbase’s The Pink Cloud will strike very close to the bone for audiences everywhere in early 2021. The young filmmaker’s debut is a dreamy, claustrophobic vision of modern life under strict, restrictive circumstances beyond its characters’ control. Sound familiar? Premiering at Sundance in the World Cinema Dramatic […]

Sundance 2021: Human Factors review

★★★☆☆ When is a house not a home? And how thinly stretched are the ties that bind together the people within their walls? Ronny Trocker’s Human Factors, a patient, brooding drama, peers through cracks in the brickwork of a family unit whose growing divisions may be beyond repair. “It was a good idea to come here,” says Jan (Mark […]

Sundance 2021: Programme preview

If the past year has taught cultural institutions the world over anything, it’s that the show can and must go on. The continuing Covid-19 pandemic means that the 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be – predominantly – a digital experience. Save for a select few satellite screenings set up across the US within strict health guidelines, this year’s festival […]

Film Review: Synchronic

★★★☆☆ Blending science fiction, crime drama and psychedelia, Synchronic is the wildly eccentric fourth film by American filmmaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless, Spring). New Orleans paramedic team and best friends Steve (Anthony Mackie) and Dennis (Jamie Dornan) find themselves working a series of strange jobs which involve some bizarre and extreme deaths: they find a […]

Film Review: The Capote Tapes

★★★☆☆ Cinema has a love/hate relationship with Truman Capote. On the evidence of The Capote Tapes, almost everyone did. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – a slim novella a cigarette holder away from plagiarising Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin – was made into an iconic film with a luminous Audrey Hepburn. The filmmakers schmaltzed Tiffany’s up, to Capote’s disgust and chipped […]

Film Review: Beginning

★★★★☆ Beginning is, in many respects, an astonishing film in its assured austerity, confidence and evident lack of compromise. More astonishing, perhaps, that it is Georgian director Dea Kulumbegashvili’s debut feature. There are hints of Kiarostami, Bergman and even Tarkovsky in its moments of psychological surrealism, yet rarely if ever does Beginning feel derivative of those masters. The film’s […]

Film Review: Assassins

★★★★☆ American filmmaker Ryan White, director of the acclaimed Netflix mini-series The Keepers, spins a web of riveting, murderous intrigue in his latest documentary Assassins. At its centre lies the killing of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 13th February 2017. Half-brother to the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, son to the former incumbent, Kim […]

Why Casablanca is one of the greatest movies ever

Although 1942’s Casablanca was an A-list picture with major stars like Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, no one involved with its production thought it would be anything more special than the hundreds of other movies Hollywood was producing that year. Casablanca went on to win three Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Since then, […]

Film Review: Quo Vadis, Aida?

★★★★★ In July 1995, during the final months of the Bosnian War, Bosnian Serb soldiers massacred 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men in what became known as the Srebrenica Genocide. The massacre happened on the watch of the international community and the UN, who supposedly were protecting the Bosniak civilians. In Quo Vadis, Aida?’s devastating retelling of the atrocity, […]

Film Review: 76 Days

★★★★☆ The coronavirus and its consequences have already become the subject of cinema. Aside from last year’s lockdown movies like Host and Songbird, Alex Gibney released his j’accuse against the Trump administration’s response in the form of Totally Under Control. In contrast, 76 Days focuses on the beginning of the outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Filming in […]

How do filmmakers use colour palettes

There are many nuances to a film that often go unnoticed. No, we are not talking about Easter eggs and references to pop culture or other movies. Though the end product is a cohesive structure a few hours long, a film comprises of numerous features and characteristics that must be synchronised to ensure an incredible viewing experience.  Not many […]

Film Review: Stardust

★★★☆☆ It’s been five years since David Bowie passed away and filmmaker Gabriel Range has acknowledged the anniversary with Stardust, an unauthorised biopic which commemorates the pop icon’s early struggles with stardom. The film stumbles between moods, caught between overt mythmaking and something closer to historical detail, which leaves an enjoyable but incomplete picture of the great musician’s life. […]