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Review: Hurt by Paradise

Hurt by Paradise 

Cert 12A ★★★

A whimsical debut feature and an ode to the modern-day city of London from multitalented director, writer, poet and actor Greta Bellamacina. She stars as Celeste Blackwood, a young mother trying to carve out a career as a poet. 

Her friend and neighbour Stella (played by co-writer Sadie Brown), dreams of hitting the big time as an actress, but spends much of her time babysitting Celeste’s son instead of pursuing her own dreams. There’s a brief – too brief – cameo from the brilliant Jaime Winstone, while Youtuber-turned-actor Tanya Burr also co-stars.

Bellamacina and her co-authors Sadie Brown and Robert Montgomery present a perceptive and often hilariously funny story about friendship and family ties in this glorious adventure. 

Understated and lo-fi, as a picture Hurt By Paradise has undeniable ambition. Although the storyline itself is not always entirely coherent, it is never boring, and is both handsomely acted and full of charming and surreal moments.

This review was first published in The Daily Mirror on 18/09/20

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Review: The Devil All The Time

Cert 18 ★★★★

Netflix

This engaging gothic thriller is set in the postwar American bible belt and is adapted from Donald Ray Pollock’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name.

produced by Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) and directed by Antonio Campos, the film features an impressive ensemble cast comprised of Tom Holland, Eliza Scanlen and Robert Pattinson amongst other current  Hollywood big hitters. It  follows a series of sinister characters who converge around a young man determined to protect those he loves. 

This is a genuinely thrilling, gorgeously acted and at times deeply unsettling story full of surprising twists and turns and featuring some genuinely thrilling performances all around. 

This review was originally published in The Daily Morror on 18/09/20

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Rising Phoenix

Directed by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui – former BAFTA nominees for McQueen – and executive produced by Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and Barbara Broccoli, this stunning docu-feature charts the history of the Paralympic games from their genesis to their place in global modern-day culture. 

Celebrating some of the most incredible and inspiring Paralympians, Rising Phoenix recalls, to name but a few, the Italian fencer Bebe Vio, the Aussie swimmer Ellie Cole, the French runner Jean-Baptiste Alaize and UK gold medallist Jonnie Peacock. All are on hand to tell their compelling stories of triumph over adversity. 

This lovingly made and deeply moving film highlights the sacrifices made by some of the best athletes of our lifetime. Footage from London 2012 is bound to trigger a certain twinge of nostalgia, but the film also carries a wider message about how disability is perceived in the world we live in. 

In absence of the 2020 Paralympics, which has been postponed to next year due to COVID19, Rising Phoenix presents a timely opportunity to revisit some of the most memorable moments of this extraordinary event down the years.

4/5

This review was first published in the Daily Mirror on 28/08/20

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Get Duked

This wickedly funny horror comedy marks the feature directorial debut of former music video director Ninian Doff. It follows a trio of wayward Glasgow schoolboys who, as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, embark on a character-building trip to the Scottish Highlands, alongside a strait-laced camper.  

Hilarity ensues as the boys find themselves hunted down by a shadowy figure (played rather brilliantly by Eddie Izzard). Hot on their trail, too, is a group of hapless police officers – played by Kate Dickie, Alice Lowe and Kevin Guthrie – who believe them to be a terror gang. 

Watch out for the presence of legendary Scottish actor James Cosmo, who delights as a hip hop-loving local farmer. 

4/5

This review was first published in The Daily Mirror on 28/08/20

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Matthias and Maxime

The prolific young Canadian director Xavier Dolan (MommyIt’s Only the End of the World) also takes a lead role in this tender gay drama about two friends from childhood, Max and Matt (played by Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas), whose passion for each other is reignited by a playful kiss for a dare. As a result, both men question their sexual identities.

Matthias and Maxime is a dazzling and intricate slice of French-Canadian life. Accessible and heartfelt, and full of perfect attention to detail, it is one of Dolan’s best films yet.

Stars 5/5

This review was first published in The Daily Mirror on 28/08/20

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Tenet Review

After endless delays and continuous doubt over it being released this side of Christmas, Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi juggernaut Tenet is finally here, and boy, was it worth the wait.

Star of BlacKkKlansman (and son of Denzel) John David Washington is fantastic as the unnamed Protagonist. He plays a CIA agent who finds himself caught in a world of ruthless arms dealers, hitmen and assorted criminals as he navigates a complex time-bending plot against humanity. 

In order to halt the start of World War 3, our hero teams up with the enigmatic CIA operative Neil – Twilight’s Robert Pattinson in his best role yet – and Kat (Elizabeth Debicki), the ex-wife of criminal mastermind Andrei Sator (played by Kenneth Branagh). 

Nolan mixes classic spy tropes and clever modern sci-fi to give us a handsomely made film packed with twists, turns and stunning action set-pieces. Those familiar with his other complicated narratives like Inception or even Interstellar will be relieved to know that Tenet is in the same vein. While the plot here might require more concentration, there is still much to enjoy even if you find yourself baffled by the highly complex premise. 

Composer Ludwig Göransson, who has taken the place of Nolan’s longtime musical collaborator Hans Zimmer, provides an oddly, but appropriately Zimmeresque score. 

Meanwhile, Dibecki and Washington both perform magnificently, she as the femme fatale willing to do anything to be free again and he as the man who hold humanity’s fate in his hands. For me, however, it’s Pattinson who truly nails it as Neil, impressive and beautifully measured. 

Tenet plays around with ideas of space and time, but at its heart is an oddly traditional spy thriller. The result is admittedly uneven, but by far Nolan’s most ambitious film yet. Just don’t think too much about it and enjoy the ride.

STARS: 4/5

This review was first published in The Daily Mirror on 28/09/20

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Little Joe Review

This first English-language film from acclaimed Austrian director Jessica Hausner reads like a fresh and wickedly smart riff on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers story. 

Daphne (2017) star Emily Beecham won the best actress prize at Cannes in 2019 for her impeccable depiction of Alice, a single mother working as a scientist at a lab engaged in developing new plant species. 

After engineering a new flower which appears to have therapeutic qualities, Alice takes one home as a gift for her son Joe (Kit Connor) who christens it ‘Little Joe’. As the flower grows, Alice starts to suspect that her new creation may not be as innocuous as first thought. 

Ben Whishaw is tremendous as Alice’s besotted and decidedly creepy colleague Chris, while Kerry Fox shines as a troubled scientist who finds herself on the receiving end of a disturbing New World Order.

Hausner and co-writer Géraldine Bajard present a nightmare in pastel colours in this breathtaking modern sci-fi. The film relies heavily on its minimalistic aesthetic to tell an inspired story about workplace politics.

This review first appeared in print in The Daily Mirror on the 21/02/20

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The Call of The Wild Review

This fabulous adaptation of Jack London’s 1903 novel of the same name features some less than perfectly rendered CGI canines, but still succeeds in being one of the most uplifting films of the year so far. 

It tells the story of Buck, a pampered St. Bernard Collie who’s abducted from his home in California and transplanted to the Yukon territories of Alaska during the Klondike gold rush of the 1890s. He is later sold to amiable French-Canadian mail worker Perrault (Omar Sy) who puts him to work pulling his sled. We follow Buck as he embraces his inner adventurer all the while attempting to be the best friend he can be to Harrison Ford’s taciturn grieving loner John Thornton.

This heartwarming tale is the first live action film from Lilo & Stitch Director Chris Sanders. He and writer Michael Green present an engaging adaptation that’s elevated by Ford’s wonderfully understated turn. Elsewhere, Downton’s Dan Stevens is exquisite as unhinged adventurer Hal. 

All in all, this shaggy-dog story is worth every minute of your time. 

This review was first published in print in The Daily Mirror on 21/02/20