Nicholas Barber


    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, October 2nd 2015

    The first thing to say about Robert Zemeckis’s new film, “The Walk”, is that it didn’t make me sick. That might not seem to be particularly noteworthy, given that most of us manage to watch films without having upset stomachs, but when “The Walk” was first screened in New York, not everyone was so lucky. Several viewers were dizzy, several felt their knees buckle, and, yes, one or two were reacquainted with the popcorn they had scoffed an hour earlier. You have been warned.

    You should be especially wary of “The Walk” if you’re afraid of heights. The film dramatises Philippe Petit’s unauthorised high-wire walk between the twin towers of the brand new World Trade Center in 1974. For 45 minutes on August 7th, he strolled back and forth, 1300 feet above the streets of New York, with no safety net and no harness, while policemen stood on either tower, wondering what the hell to do. No footage was shot of this astounding stunt, but Zemeckis has recreated it in crystal-clear 3D. You can appreciate why some viewers felt a bit queasy.

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    Short read: for his pick of the best new films, Nicholas Barber chooses “Macbeth”, in which Michael Fassbender delivers insanity with an impeccable accent 

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    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, September 25th 2015

    The sixth annual series of BAFTA and BFI Screenwriting Lectures is now underway at BAFTA’s Piccadilly headquarters, a short stroll from the Intelligent Life offices. This series exists partly so that its prestigious speakers can share their insights into the scriptwriting process, and partly so that everyone involved can have a good old moan about how unfairly undervalued they are in the film industry. It’s every screenwriter’s favourite subject.

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    Visual CV: she’s the English rose who has grown up to be a Hollywood action star. Nicholas Barber picks her best performances

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    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, September 8th 2015

    Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary, “Amy”, premiered at Cannes this year. But the Venice Film Festival has gone one better with “Janis”, which tells the all-too-brief life story of a music legend who is often spoken of as Winehouse’s spiritual forebear, Janis Joplin. Both were confessional singer-songwriters with preternaturally mature, rasping voices. Both were heroin addicts. And both died at the age of 27. “Janis”, which is produced by Alex Gibney and directed by Amy Berg, is a more conventional, less cinematic documentary than “Amy”. But its story of unfulfilled potential is even more poignant.

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    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, September 3rd 2015

    Anyone who makes a film set in a big-city newspaper office is required by law to include certain elements: the scene in which a reporter asks an editor for more time on a story, the thunderous rolling of the printing presses when that story is completed. And sure enough, those scenes are present and correct in “Spotlight”, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday. But, overall, it’s impressive how restrained and cliché-resistant “Spotlight” is. Thomas McCarthy, its co-writer-director, has made a streamlined docu-drama that’s as functional, well made and unshowy as the beige chinos its characters all wear. And even when he includes a moment that has been in 100 previous newspaper yarns, such as the one where a reluctant key witness finally agrees to come forward, he sneaks it in so quickly and quietly that you hardly notice it.

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    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, August 12th 2015

    Step aside, “Go Set a Watchman”. As exciting as it may be that Harper Lee has published her second novel in 55 years, it’s surely more exciting that another of America’s literary titans has a new book out 24 years after his death. The book is “What Pet Should I Get?” by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr Seuss. The genius behind “The Cat in the Hat” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, Geisel wrote and illustrated it some time between 1958 and 1962—just after Lee wrote “Go Set a Watchman”, incidentally. But rather than sending the manuscript to his publishers, he tucked it in a box, where it was discovered in 2013 by his widow, Audrey. She passed the yellowing black-and-white drawings and type-written text labels on to Cathy Goldsmith, who was Geisel’s art director at Random House. And Goldsmith’s team then burnished the pages into a glossy, full-colour hardback. It hasn’t been published in Britain yet, but in America “What Pet Should I Get?” sold 200,000 copies in its first week on the shelves, as people grabbed the opportunity to own a Dr Seuss first edition for $17.99. Getting my hands on an American copy felt like taking a wrong turn in an Egyptian pyramid and finding a roomful of undiscovered treasure.

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    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, July 16th 2015

    There has been a lot of talk this year about “superhero fatigue”—the idea being that we’re tired of all the films and television shows about caped crusaders. Having devoted much of my childhood to reading superhero comics, I assumed that I was inoculated against this condition, but it hit me halfway through the latest shiny Marvel Studios production, “Ant-Man”. Everything about it is exhaustingly familiar. The film’s director, Peyton Reed, has called it a “palate cleanser”, something light and easily digestible to give us a refreshing break from Marvel’s usual saving-the-universe blockbusters. But it’s more like third or fourth helpings of the same soggy trifle.

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    Short Read: for his pick of the films, Nicholas Barber spotlights a zombie drama which is surprisingly tender—and devoid of catchphrases

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    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, June 26th 2015

    “The Overnight”, like Noah Baumbach’s recent hit comedy “While We’re Young”, examines a dubious nascent friendship between two bohemian couples—one of them more bohemian than the other. The less cool couple are Alex (Adam Scott, above left) and Emily (Taylor Schilling), both in their 30s, who have just moved from Seattle to Los Angeles with their son, RJ. Alex, a stay-at-home dad, is worried that he won’t meet new people, so when RJ starts playing with another boy in the local park, Alex is happy to talk to the boy’s father, Kurt (Jason Schwartzman, above right). He is happier still when Kurt invites the family over for pizza. True, he seems a tad touchy-feely, and his hat is an even bolder fashion statement than Adam Driver’s was in “While We’re Young”, but, hey, that’s California.

    The evening begins promisingly. Kurt has an enviable gated mansion and a charming French wife, Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), and has apparently made a fortune from his water-filtration system. Without it, he explains, “You’re basically drinking liquid cancer.” Alex and Emily are so impressed that, after a few glasses of wine, they agree to let RJ sleep upstairs while the grown-ups keep the party going. Kurt then breaks out the marijuana, and proposes some naked swimming in the pool.

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