Nicholas Barber

  • RUSSELL BRAND'S HAZY AGITPROP

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 24th 2015

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  • TOM HARDY SHINES IN CHILD 44

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 16th 2015

    How do you catch a murderer in a country where murder, officially, doesn’t exist? That’s the question that keeps tripping up the characters in Daniel Espinosa’s grim, ambitious new thriller, “Child 44”, a film in which the oppressive institutional anti-logic of Stalin’s USSR is far more threatening than the serial killer on the loose.

    Adapted from Tom Rob Smith’s bestselling novel, “Child 44” features Tom Hardy as Leo Demidov (pictured), a ruthless secret-police investigator who is so efficient at snaring “traitors”, and so loyal to the Party, that he has earnt a swanky Moscow apartment and a beautiful wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace). His rise through the ranks stalls only when his best friend’s young son is found dead by a railway track. All the forensic evidence suggests that a Russian Jack the Ripper is picking off children, but Leo’s superior officer (Vincent Cassel) declares that the boy was hit by a train: murder, after all, is a “capitalist disease” with no place in Stalin’s socialist Utopia. If Leo asks to look at the autopsy report, he will be committing treason and inviting execution—especially if his envious lieutenant (Joel Kinnaman) has anything to do with it. But after a lifetime’s profitable obedience, not even Leo can keep ignoring the chasm between the real truth and the government-approved version.

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  • REALITY BITES IN FORCE MAJEURE

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, April 9th 2015

    The Swedish family in Ruben Ostlund’s sublime comedy-drama, "Force Majeure", could have strolled straight out of a holiday brochure. When we first see them posing for a photograph on an Alpine mountainside in designer ski togs, Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are as attractively sculpted and well dressed as models, and their adorable son and daughter complete a picture of wholesome Scandinavian health and harmony.

    There is a similar photogenic gorgeousness to the avalanche they see on the other side of the valley the next day, just as they’re sitting down to lunch on a restaurant terrace. Tomas explains that it is a controlled avalanche, set off by the resort managers, but when the thundering wave of snow gets worryingly close to the terrace, he panics and runs for cover, leaving Ebba clinging to their terrified children. The killer detail: he grabbed his phone and his gloves from the restaurant table before he bolted.

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  • TALES OF THE DISPROPORTIONATE

    Short Read: for his pick of the films, Nicholas Barber spotlights a wild Argentine portmanteau that has audiences cheering

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  • ALTMAN: DARINGLY EXPERIMENTAL

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, March 27th 2015

    When Robert Altman died in 2006, at the age of 81, he was location scouting for what would have been his 40th feature film. That’s a prodigious canon by anyone’s standards, but Altman didn’t even start directing for the big screen until he was a grey-bearded fortysomething with many, many hours of television under his belt. It’s inevitable, then, that any two-hour survey of his career will only skim like a pebble over its surface. But that thought doesn’t make “Altman” any less frustrating. The best thing about Ron Mann’s affectionate documentary is that it mentions so many fascinating incidents in passing. The worst thing is that it examines so few of them in detail.

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  • FROZEN FEVER: IT'S A DISNEY FRAUD

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, March 18th 2015

    Disney’s kitsch new live-action film of “Cinderella” is already a hit in America, and it’s sure to work its box-office magic in Britain, too, where it will be released just in time for the Easter holidays. But it would be interesting to know how many people buy tickets because they are aching to see Kenneth Branagh’s take on “Cinderella”, and how many have heard that a certain short film is being screened before it“Frozen Fever”, a seven-minute cartoon sequel to Disney’s blockbusting Oscar-winner, “Frozen”.

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  • THE FEARLESS JULIANNE MOORE

    Visual CV: she was a late starter, but now she's an Oscar-winner for her agonising portrayal of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's. Nicholas Barber picks her best performances

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  • A STATIC VIEW OF MARTIN LUTHER KING

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, February 4th 2015

    Why hasn’t David Oyelowo been nominated for an Oscar or a BAFTA? As the star of the new Martin Luther King film, “Selma”, Oyelowo (pictured) was tipped to win on both sides of the Atlantic, and his exclusion from the shortlists has prompted lots of outraged commentary—including from Oyelowo himself—much of it accusing the American and British film academies of racism. This seems unfair. “12 Years a Slave” cleaned up at last year’s awards, after all, so it is more likely that Oyelowo has been a victim of bad timing. Amanda Berry, BAFTA’s chief executive, noted that “Selma” wasn’t screened in Britain until the end of November, and that many BAFTA voters didn’t get around to seeing it. But there may be another reason for the dearth of acting nominations. It could be that the film simply doesn’t let Oyelowo go to the emotional and physical extremes that awards voters are looking for.

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  • EX MACHINA FAILS ITS OWN TEST

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, January 23rd 2015

    Films about artificial intelligence, from “Blade Runner” to “Her”, tend to pose two key questions: first, how can we prove that a machine has consciousness? And second, would a conscious machine have human rights? But once such films have posed those key questions, they usually move on to the issues they’re really interested in. First, will these machines decide to murder us all and take over the world? And second, will any of them look and sound like beautiful women? What’s disappointing about Alex Garland’s shiny new science-fiction mystery, “Ex Machina”, is that it seems genuinely fascinated by the first two questions, only to discard them in favour of the last two.

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  • SUFFOCATED BY INHERENT VICE

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, January 14th 2015

    Paul Thomas Anderson is probably the most revered writer-director of his generation. He was already loved for “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”, but when he made “There Will Be Blood” and “The Master”, he came to be regarded as a major American artist whose grand themes and experimental narratives made his contemporaries seem like lightweights. It’s an assessment I would go along with. But when the trailer for his new film promised that it would be a faster, sillier, sex’n’drug-fuelled detective comedy, I couldn’t stifle a sigh of relief. Anderson, it seemed, had got his sense of humour back.

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