Much akin to his relationship of Wimbledon and tennis, this critic’s understanding and knowledge of the horse racing world begins and ends with the Grand National. As such, to my shame, I had never heard of trailblazing Australian jockey Michelle Payne prior to an experience Ride Like a Girl, the new biopic to tell her story. I confess to knowing less still about the sexism still at rage in contemporary equestrian circles. To this end, the film, which has this week made its home cinema debut, proves as educationally notable – if not quite analytical – as it is visually attractive.
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There isn’t a layer of emotional resonance within which Sam Mendes’ latest feature does not excel. A First World War thriller, boasting the dramatic surety Mendes nailed in Skyfall and all but lost in Spectre, 1917 quickly takes hostage of the heart and refuses release. It is electric, devastating and charged with a profound sense for the absolute horror of warfare. That the story comes from the original experience of Mendes’ own grandfather on the Western Front is paramount. This one matters to him sincerely.
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There may be a new sense of Hollywood swish and flick glamour to Guy Ritchie’s latest film but – make no mistake about it – The Gentlemen is a step to the reverse from the director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Forget Aladdin, this is cockney ensemble crime caper comedy through and through. Everyone has a riot, there’s language to make a sailor blush and marijuana at every turn. Not that our heroes touch the stuff. It’s all about the dosh with this gang of upmarket renegades and each one stands to make shed loads. As per his debutant days, Ritchie writes, shoots and produces to the lowest common denominator. Devotees will lap it up, while cynics wheel out that old sub-par Tarantino jibe. In the middle is a view that The Gentlemen is smutty fun, a tad offensive and undeniably fine tuned.
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