Category Archives: Drama

Cold November (2017)


So…guns, huh? I came to review Karl Jacob’s Cold November a few days after the mass shooting in Santa Fe, and viewing the trailer my kneejerk reaction was: “Oh great. A movie about gun nuts.” With the epidemic of school shootings ongoing in America, the prospect of a film about a young girl given a rifle for her twelfth birthday then taken out into the woods to kill a deer wasn’t terribly appealing. I guess that’s the problem with the climate these days – the dialogue between left and right has become so fraught that as soon as anything prickles against one’s political leanings even a little, there’s a tendency to reject it out of hand as belonging to the other side of the aisle.

Even without the current climate, I would’ve expected to find the film quite alienating anyway. I’ve never even held a gun, let alone fired one, so the idea of deliberately giving a rifle to a kid and showing them how to use it is totally nuts to me. Then there’s the whole wilderness thing they’ve got going on over there in the States – that’s completely incomprehensible to someone from England like me. It’s impossible to get lost in England. If you lose your bearings all you have to do is walk in any direction for about half an hour and you’ll come across a roundabout with a Burger King, Tesco and Currys superstore in the middle of it. Or if you don’t fancy walking, just stay still for long enough and you’ll get stumbled upon by walkers, doggers, or someone looking for a good spot to dump a stolen moped.

Anyway, I digress. Cold November introduces us to Florence (Bijou Abas) on her 12th birthday. When we first meet her, she’s playing with toy cars in the garage. A little while later at her birthday meal, her family will give her a gun as a present. The weapon is a cherished heirloom, having been passed down generation to generation. With it her matriarchal family will gently guide her through a rite of passage, taking her out into the woods to shoot her first deer.

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5 Essential British New Wave Movies…


saturday nite

The British New Wave of the ’60s had a profound impact on British culture. The films of that period focused on the ordinary lives of disaffected anti-heroes against a realistic, working-class backdrop—typically shot in stark black and white with terse dialogue in heavy regional accents. The themes and aesthetic are still visible in today’s film, TV, music, literature and art.

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Christmas Double Bill: It’s a Wonderful Life & Die Hard…


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On the face of it, the festive classic It’s A Wonderful Life couldn’t be more different to action masterpiece Die Hard. The former has become an enduring part of the holiday season in the US and UK, while internet debate still rages about whether Die Hard is actually a Christmas movie at all.

These days we regard the Christmas Movie as a genre all of its own, but it is a relatively new invention. Check out any list of top Christmas films, and almost every popular choice – i.e. movies modern audiences still watch today – was made after World War II.

It’s a Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a nice guy who finds himself standing on a bridge on Christmas Eve, contemplating suicide. He has sacrificed his dreams for the good of his family, friends and community, but circumstances have led him to the brink of ruin. Thankfully, the heavens are listening to the prayers of his loved ones and dispatch an angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) to show George that he really has a wonderful life. Clarence shows George what life would be like if he was never born, and what a positive impact he has had on everyone around him.

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Missing Child (2015) – What if you were the face on the missing poster?


Missing Child

In April 2012, UK police released an age progressed photo of Madeleine McCann, the little girl who disappeared from her holiday bedroom almost six years earlier, while her parents dined nearby. The high profile case captured the imagination of the public, and the new image prompted the question – if you were abducted at a young age, and saw an image in the media that you recognised as yourself, how would you react?

Brooklyn born director Luke Sabis at least partially attempts to answer that question in his debut feature, Missing Child. There are many movies following the tribulations of parents trying to track down missing children, so approaching the sad topic from the absent person’s perspective is an interesting spin on the subject.

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The Duke of Burgundy (2014) – A baroque S&M dreamworld…


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Like his characters in The Duke of Burgundy, writer-director Peter Strickland is a man with very specific tastes. Inspired by European exploitation flicks of the 60s and 70s, Strickland uses sleazy genre tropes as a jumping off point, creating his own peculiar world of heightened reality. Unlike Tarantino, who mashes all his influences together into a primary-coloured pop culture collage, Strickland’s vision is exactingly beautiful, highly strung, and very, very niche.

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Cesta Ven (The Way Out) – 2014 – an eye-opening look at Romani life in ČR…


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“It has been a long time since a film altered my view of the world I live in. Petr Václav’s Cesta Ven did just that, exposing the reality of life for the Czech Republic’s Roma community.

I’ve always been aware that this is a country where the gap between the wealthy and the poor is far wider and more visible than back in the UK, but I’ve been insulated from the harsher truths by my cosy expat bubble. The film also made me realise that it would take a bizarre and unlikely set of circumstances for me to ever come close to the levels of poverty and hopelessness experienced by the characters in this eye-opening slice of social realism…” You can read the full review here (opens in new tab.)

The Water Diviner (2014) – Crowe’s first directing gig is a big, soppy, enjoyable mess…


TheWaterDivinerPic#22“Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner is corny and ambitious, flirting with the epic while teetering on the brink of TV movie melodrama. Crowe directs his first film like a man worried that he might never get the chance again, painting a war drama, historical adventure and cross-culture romance with urgent, chunky brushstrokes. He also draws the most Russell Crowe-like performance since Gladiator from his leading man, Russell Crowe…” Read the full review here (opens in separate tab.)

Marketa Lazarová (1967) – Cinephiles will get their rocks off to Vláčil’s Bohemian rhapsody…


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“There’s a little seen film called The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, where some English miners from the Middle Ages tunnel through the earth and emerge in modern day New Zealand. Watching Marketa Lazarová feels a bit like that in reverse – you leave your comfortable 21st century life behind for a few hours and pop up in medieval Bohemia.

Director František Vláčil spent around two years filming on location, which meant his cast and crew were afforded barely much more luxury than the story’s characters. Few films have such a feeling of history – not in the studious sense of dates and places, but of deep dark waters of time rolling beneath the keel of the present day’s unsteady ship. Few films also match Marketa Lazarová‘s dazzling visuals with such authentic production values, so while the virtuosity of Vláčil’s film making often distracts from the story, the credibility of its setting is never in doubt.” Read the full review here (opens in a seperate tab)

The Breakfast Club (1985) – OBEY! CONFORM!


Like many people of my age, I loved a good John Hughes movie growing up, but never considered that there might be any subtext to his films. After all, he was a director who made a career writing, producing and directing frothy, fun, mainstream flicks aimed primarily at younger audiences.

However, I only saw The Breakfast Club for the first time recently, and the touchy-feely story of teen angst was instantly my equivalent of Nada’s special shades in John Carpenter’s They Live! – suddenly I saw the innate conservatism behind Hughes’ work, which is fine, and the hidden message behind his superficially rebellious pictures – OBEY and CONFORM!

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Battle of the brains: The Theory of Everything vs The Imitation Game…


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“It’s Oscar time again, and I really should know better. I’ve followed the Academy Awards for twenty years, and I realised about fifteen years ago that they aren’t a true reflection of the quality or scope of the year’s movies.

However, like a devoted WWE fan who knows deep down that the fighting isn’t really real, I still can’t stop myself going ape when the contenders start flinging themselves from the top rope come Awards season…” Read the full review here.

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