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Film Reviews | John McDonald

Film Reviews

German Film Festival 2018

May 18, 2018
East German abundance.. 'In Times of Fading Light'

There have been occasions when the German Film Festival has chosen to kick off with an echte deutsche Komödie. This allowed many iterations of that lazy gag about German comedy being a contradiction in terms. This year the Germans have returned to more familiar territory: earnest dramas, with perhaps a touch of Olympian irony. This … More


Tully

May 11, 2018
Tully tries to stare the baby to sleep

Last time you saw Charlize Theron she was probably looking glamorous in tights and leather. Now, less than a year after her stunning, if slightly ridiculous, appearance as a secret agent in Atomic Blonde, she’s back! As a frumpy, depressed suburban mum. Theron has added 22 kilos in one of those body transformations that have … More


Breath

May 4, 2018
Sando, Loonie and Pikelet look out for another wave

With literature everybody has their blind spots. Tim Winton is one of mine. For decades I’ve listened to apparently rational people raving about his books but whenever I’ve dipped into a novel I’ve found it so banal, so relentlessly uninteresting, that I dipped right back out again. It reads like literature for underachievers, for those … More


Loveless

April 26, 2018
Boris and Zhenya share another happy moment in 'Loveless'

“Do you think the world is about to end?” one of the characters in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless asks a workmate. “Definitely!” comes the reply. It’s as close as this ruthless portrait of contemporary Russian life gets to comedy. Zvyagintsev’s enemies accuse him of taking a “negative” view of Russia, but what are the positives? Thirty … More


Spanish Film Festival 2018

April 20, 2018
Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in 'Jamón, Jamón', a blast from the past in this year's festival

A lot of agua has flowed under the bridge since 1992 when Bigas Luna made Jamón, Jamón, with the 22-year old Javier Bardem and 17-year old Penélope Cruz. The Movida Madrileña (The Madrid Scene) – a new wave of post-Franco art, film, music and literature – had been raging for more than a decade. Pedro … More


Isle of Dogs

April 12, 2018
Atari and friends ride the dumpster in 'Isle of Dogs'

It may be the Year of the Dog but the Japanese are definitely cat people. Until recently Fido held his own against Kitty as a domestic pet but now the cats are in the ascendency and are surging ahead. It could hardly be otherwise with the ubiquitous Maneki Neko (“Hello Kitty!”) waving its paw in … More


The Other Side of Hope & Paul: Apostle of Christ

April 6, 2018
Khaled meets the team, in 'The Other Side of Hope'

In pre-Enlightenment days ‘history’ was a mass of tall stories, myths and rumours. Authors were happy to recount tales of miracles and supernatural events, readers were happy to believe them. In the mid-1800s it was still scandalous when writers such as David Strauss and Ernst Renan began to challenge the historical basis of the Bible, … More


The Death of Stalin

March 30, 2018
What do we do now? The fallen idol & his disciples

It’s conservatively estimated that 20 million people were murdered during Joseph Stalin’s reign.“So why were they all killed?” asks Simon Sebag Montefiore, in his devastating book, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. Nadezhda Mandelstam, who lost her poet husband, Osip, gave a succinct answer: “for nothing”. Montefiore suggests that under Stalin the supreme offence … More


Mary Magdalene

March 23, 2018
From here to Eternity, with Jesus & Mary

Of all the figures in the New Testament, Mary Magdalene has been the most misunderstood. This is partly because early commentators found it hard to distinguish between Mary of Magdala, Mary of Bethany, and the ‘sinful’ woman in the Gospel of St. Luke, who anoints Jesus’s feet in Simon’s house and dries them with her … More


Human Flow

March 16, 2018
Ai Weiwei takes another selfie in 'Human Flow'

Human Flow is a relentless film about a relentless problem. There have always been refugees – people displaced from their homes by war, persecution or natural disaster – but we are living through an era when this activity has accelerated in many different parts of the world. Ai Weiwei takes us on a global tour … More