London

The Prancing Horse Unbridled

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Lorenzo Sisti/Elevation Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Ferrari (2023)

Somehow Michael Mann has made a biopic of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver) that nonironically hits many of the biopic tropes parodied in “Walk Hard” – a parent bitter the wrong kid died, an unhappy marriage, the main enemy of the subject’s success being the subject himself. But in “Ferrari” none of this is funny; and the way in which the movie ends, which is broadly true to life, is so disturbing it’s almost impossible to fathom. Proponents of the philosophies of Ayn Rand are going to love this, which is not really a compliment. We know things will work out for Enzo because the movie exists, as does the Ferrari organization, but it’s unusually disturbing to realize that its story is about how a man achieved his success as the expense of many, many lives.

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I See Dead People

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Parisa Taghizadeh/Searchlight Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
All of Us Strangers (2023)

It’s human nature to want to be loved, but it is unfortunately also human nature to reject that which seems repulsive to you. This can make life very hard for us homosexuals, who are often rejected by our birth families simply because of who we are. The greatest achievement of Western culture in this critic’s lifetime is seeing gay people be allowed to move from the margins into a blasé part of mainstream society, so average and ordinary that it’s often beneath comment. But that’s not to say this tolerance, which is not the same thing as acceptance, is consistent. And it’s also very important to remember this can’t be applied retrospectively. Older relatives are famous for not being understanding of the younger members of their families regardless of their sexuality, and as an adult you can spend a long time down a rabbit hole wondering if the relatives you loved and lost as a child would have loved you now.

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Bad Moon Uprising

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Clay Enos/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire (2023)

Is there anything more terrifying in a film’s title than the words “Part One?” Here it’s a serious threat. “A Child of Fire” is so bad it’s created a new level of awfulness. Thanks to some excellent C.G.I. it’s gorgeous to look at, but so empty of interest that the false beauty is meaningless. In the opening-night public screening this critic attended the only time the audience reacted to anything – anything – was Charlie Hunnam’s appalling Northern Irish accent. It is difficult to understand how a movie so carefully and expertly made could be so devoid of feeling. It’s like 134 minutes of trying to touch a fish by putting your hand to the aquarium glass, only not nearly as much fun.

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Commend Me to Satan

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Ben King/Pathé Distribution

MOVIE REVIEW
The Three Musketeers: Milady (2023)

In “The Three Musketeers: Milady” there’s a very early shot of Eva Green in chains, a standard of excellence it regrettably never achieves again. This follows an extensive recap of the complex plot of “The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan” which only came out in May. That movie was a better success than this one, in that it was about the merry gang of musketeers, Athos (Vincent Cassel), Aramis (Romain Duris) and Porthos (Pio Marmaï), becoming the best of friends with new recruit D’Artagnan (François Civil) through various complicated intrigues requiring their combined fighting skills. But those adventures are a bath-time book compared to this movie, which contains so many disparate elements our fab four barely have any screen time together. This is a mistake as great as the treatment of Milady (Ms. Green), who here is more weepy damsel in distress than world-class spy.

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Precious Metal

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DOK Leipzig

MOVIE REVIEW
Tender Metalheads (2023)

It is exceedingly difficult to make a movie about the friendship between two teenage metalheads without the ghosts of Beavis and Butt-Head spoiling things, but a setting of pre-Olympic Barcelona certainly helps. The kids in “Tender Metalheads” use music as an escape, both from their difficult daily lives but also their fears about the future. The political situation of the time is never discussed directly, but the state of the adults – including a neglectful alcoholic mother and a couple scenes set in a shooting gallery (the drug kind) – makes those points indirectly. But despite people often falling short, this extremely endearing film makes it clear how hard everyone is trying to be supportive of each other. “Tender” isn’t in the title for nothing. This personable sweetness despite a gritty setting is unusual in a story about friendship, which makes this movie special indeed.

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Slow Burn

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Martin Maguire

MOVIE REVIEW
That They May Face the Rising Sun (2024)

John McGahern is a titan of Irish literature who is perhaps less well known internationally. This is partially because his early books caused tremendous scandal – they dealt directly with violence against children, defiance of the Catholic church and the patriarchy, topics that Irish society was not prepared to face in the 1960s and 1970s. His last novel, “That They May Face the Rising Sun,” was a calmer book, published in 2002. It’s now been adapted into an excellent movie by Pat Collins, who cowrote the script with Eamon Little, and it stays true to the book’s calm heart while giving space for subtle character acting of the best kind.

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The Persistence of Documentary

Daaaaaali-movie-review-anaïs-demoustier-gilles-lellouche
Atelier de Production

MOVIE REVIEW
Daaaaaalí! (2024)

Quentin Dupieux is completely insane; and this is meant as an extreme compliment. His movies are utterly unpredictable, to the point where it’s permanently impossible to guess what will happen from one moment to the next, and generally acted in a deadpan style of extreme normality even in the most incongruous or hilarious situations. You can hear the glee of the people who decided to screen at this at the London Film Festival from here. On the surface, “Daaaaaalí!” is about the attempts of a young journalist named Judith (Anaïs Demoustier) to interview the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí (played interchangeably by Edouard Baer, Jonathan Cohen, Gilles Lellouche, Didier Flamand and Pio Marmaï) for her first documentary film. In reality, it is a surrealistic dreamscape about dreams coming true, priest-killing cowboys, car accidents, cowboy-killing priests and whether a former barista can ever leave her past behind. It is almost indescribably strange and that makes it wonderful.

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Moonlighting

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Brian Roedel/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Hit Man (2024)

In all my years of moviegoing I have never seen anything like “Hit Man.” I remember the choked surprise echoing around the cinema on sight of Catherine Zeta-Jones’s arse in “Entrapment.” Once a douche-bro military guy reduced himself to tears describing Emily Watson in “Breaking the Waves” to me. I’ve seen people hump publicity photos torn from magazines or write love notes to themselves from an actor to hang on their walls. The only other time I’ve experienced a cinema audience clapping a movie scene was for Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls,” but even that was nothing like this. Within “Hit Man” there’s a sequence where Glen Powell is so hot that the audience spontaneously burst into applause. We actually clapped because of how sexually attractive this man is. And we clapped after a scene – keeping in mind Mr. Powell cowrote and coproduced “Hit Man” with director Richard Linklater – in which two of his colleagues (Sanjay Rao and Retta) discussed how badly they want to fuck him. And – I cannot believe I am saying this because of how inappropriate it makes this review sound, but I also cannot tell a lie – even that fails to convey just how unbelievably attractive Mr. Powell is in this movie.

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Moving Target

The-killer-movie-review-michael-fassbender
Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
The Killer (2023)

The through line of David Fincher’s work is contempt. His characters display their contempt for the world around them through elaborately staged revenge plots of various kinds, usually murder. “Gone Girl” was an outlier in his oeuvre in that it was a woman expressing her contempt for her husband, her family and society at large. But with “The Killer” Mr. Fincher is back on home territory with this story of an assassin (Michael Fassbender) who is better than the world and everything in it. Except, of course, this is not true, but Mr. Fincher and his movie only understand one of the reasons why.

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Swim Against the Current

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Liz Parkinson/Netflix

MOVIE REVIEW
Nyad (2023)

“Nyad” is a movie about the body that has almost nothing to do with sex, so of course it’s about lesbians of a certain age; but the lesbianism at the core of this story is both utterly essential and completely irrelevant. Diana Nyad’s (Annette Bening) sexuality is very much a part of her, but it comes second to her frankly irritating self-belief; and she doesn’t worry about that because she has delegated her interpersonal skills to her best friend, Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster). The closeness of Bonnie and Diana is beyond sex, and almost beyond friendship, in that it’s two people who love and need each other without their bodies coming into it. But Diana’s body is at the core of the story – will she, a woman now in her 60s, be able to complete a 105-mile swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys without dying? – and the way in which the movie asks these questions without being weird about the body at its core is remarkable.

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