Ryan Gosling soars in Oscar-winning director Damian Chazelle’s subtle, poetic, nerve-racking retelling of the most dangerous, audacious mission in human history (in a Morris Minor of swiss-army-knife technology).
While still holding the grief of losing their young daughter, test pilot Neil Armstrong and wife Janet prepare for the upcoming Gemini space project’s rigorous training programme. Submersing himself deeper into it, Armstrong channels his ability to close off the lingering pain of loss to serve his unnerving capacity to focus. As Gemini moves into the legendary Apollo missions, Armstrong’s headstrong approach singles him out as the perfect candidate to lead NASA, America and mankind into an uncertain future.
Perfectly cast, Gosling and Foy carry the emotional weight of the film as a loving couple whose family tragedy has driven a wedge between them. He buries himself, finding refuge in his work, but she has no outlet for her growing anxiety in his increasing isolation. Their feelings both individually and as parents are beautifully expressed through outstanding, understated performances.
Chazelle, whose work on Whiplash and La La Land gave no indication of his ambition to make a space-race drama, has succeeded in thinking this big. It’s a thunderous, unmissable piece of filmmaking. (Research Chris Coetsee) Fantastic. Come.
Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively shine in this savagely entertaining thriller from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
Stephanie Smothers, a widow living in a posh Connecticut suburb of New York, counting out the days until her clueless husband Sean’s life insurance money runs out, and meanwhile attempting to make a go of it with her vlog where she offers helpful life hacks to busy mums.
After striking up a friendship with the seductive Emily (Lively) Stephanie and Sean find themselves turning amateur sleuths following their newfound friend’s sudden disappearance. Throughout their investigations, affection grows between the two but as strange events begin to pile up, they soon realise the bulk of them seem to be connected to Emily’s mysterious past.
Feig takes a deliciously dark turn into neo-noir by way of spiky social satire. Forget hard-boiled detective, here at the centre of his very unusual yarn is an enigmatic femme fatale to rival any from the golden age of Bogie and Bacall. A comic mystery that smacks of a wittier Gone Girl, A Simple Favour gradually ventures into more off-the-wall territory. It’s wildly funny, delightfully devious and an unanticipated joy ride. (Research Chris Coetsee) Anticipate an off-the-grid joy indeed. Don’t miss.
The directing duo who graced us with the loveable Rex classic Untouchable, has returned with this riotous ensemble comedy about the preparations for a chateau-set wedding.
At the centre of the action is Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri), the head of a catering company with wedding planner duties, whose motto is 'We adapt'. That phrase is tested to its limit with the impending nuptials of groomzilla Pierre (Benjamin Lavernhe) and his bride-to-be Héléna (Judith Chemla). Max's problems begin when egotistical wedding singer Etienne, aka DJ James (Gilles Lellouche) turns up as a last-minute replacement and quickly picks a fight with Adèle (Eye Haidara) Max's foul-mouthed second-in-command. Other disasters soon follow, including a bout of food poisoning, an unexpected power outage and the fact that one of the waiters is in love with the bride.
Like expert jugglers at a slapstick circus, the directors keep most of the characters and their faults and needs neatly in the air, with the rhythm hardly flagging and the tone buzzy and bustling throughout without becoming exhausting. C'est la Vie! relashies in its off-kilter characters, and has a sweet, sentimental heart, which builds to a good-natured, ludicrous high. (Jack Whiting) French and fabulous. Don’t miss.
Gaga and Cooper’s raw vocals invite you into the soundscape of their characters’ sweeping love story: luminous, thrilling, and achingly moving.
It’s the fourth remake of the 1937 original and an impressive directorial debut by Bradley Cooper, well-rounded by his own leading performance as Jackson Maine. A legendary country singer-songwriter, known for his deep Southern drawl and trademark rancher’s hat, we join him looking for another drink. He finds the only a drag bar open. The spotlight is on Ally (Lady Gaga) the only non-drag performer, giving a mesmerising rendition of ‘La Vie en Rose’. Lady G, known as a shapeshifter, here presents a new side to herself, one refreshingly natural. After the show they ‘connect’ by singing together in a car park, leading Jackson to invite Ally on stage before an arena of his adoring fans, where they perform her electrifying original song ‘Shallow’. Their natural and immediate chemistry takes you with them. This Star Is Born is born to be seen. (research Rachel Williams) Inseparable from the music they make, one beautiful two-part harmony is inevitable. Moreover and so rare, it is impossible, watching these two so naturally falling in love on screen, not to fall with them. Don’t dare miss.
Now here’s a first: a film based entirely on an Instagram feed (we must look forward to it being the last). A perfect amalgamation of fantasy and reality through the lens of a coming-of-age tale.
This sun-drenched story introduces Rachelle Vinberg as Camille, a lonely teen who just wants to skate. She struggles to forge a connection with her peers in the Long Island suburb she calls home, and so escapes to New York City to find an Insta-famous female skate collective: The Skate Kitchen.
Following on from her awards documentary, The Wolfpack, Crystal Moselle’s latest offering is based on her own 2016 short: That One Day, which features much of the same cast. Real members of The Skate Kitchen play thinly disguised versions of themselves. The years of chemistry between the crew and their familiarity with skater slang adds authenticity to the film’s dialogue, talked as naturally as an ‘ollie’?
New York itself becomes a skate park, beautifully filmed by Moselle. In her dedication to represent youth culture in an authentic way, she captures ‘teen angst’, insecurity and gender politics earnestly, so separating this from the rest. (research Jack Whiting) A welcome matinee experiment for teenage girls, none younger than 15 or older than19.
The fiery and occasionally controversial life of the Russian ballet giant is the subject of this immaculate documentary portrait from co-directors David and Jacqui Morris.
Tracing the dancer’s journey from poverty-stricken childhood in the Soviet Union to Royal Ballet behemoth, contemporary interviews with Nureyev and his friends and dance partners are laid over footage of the performer not just on stage but fooling around at home, always swarmed by paparazzi. The arrival of this footage at a cinematic level brings the physicality of the art form to life, the animalism and strength behind the structure of dance coming through alongside Nureyev’s wry sense of humour.
The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation gave the Morris’s access to a wealth of old VHS tapes, including unseen footage of his more avant-garde performances. His early years, meanwhile, are illustrated by interpretative dance sequences choreographed by Russell Maliphant. It’s a risky strategy, but it pays off.
Essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in ballet and dance, Nureyev chronicles the rise and fall of one of the last century’s greatest dancers and performers, an extraordinarily magnetic figure whose legacy continues to live on. (Research Chris Coetsee) Come, glimpse this extraordinary man and huge symbolic figure in the ‘60s Cold War circus.
An affecting adaptation of the bestselling novel, The Hate U Give explores a teen’s activist awakening after witnessing the horrors of police brutality.
Starr Carter (a powerful performance by Amandla Stenberg) finds her identity split between home life in her predominantly black neighbourhood, Garden Heights, and the wealthy (mostly) white private school she attends. Well-versed in code-switching, she presents different versions of herself to adapt. Yet when she witnesses the shooting of her childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith) the disconnect between Starr’s worlds shatters. Driven home from a house party by Khalil, the pair are pulled over. Remembering ‘the talk’ given by her dad (Russell Hornsby) instructing her how to survive when stopped by the cops, she puts her hands on the dashboard. When Khalil foolishly reaches for a hairbrush!? he is shot (of course!) and Starr is handcuffed next to her dying friend. As his death ignites national outrage, Starr is conflicted by the politics of speaking up. Stenberg praises the “timeless way the story portrays #BlackLivesMatter and brings empathy and humanity to these experiences.” Inflected with youthful romance and humour, it is both entertaining and deeply moving. (research Rachel Williams) An intelligent film, not cut and dried or over-cliched. Come.
Kelly Macdonald pieces together a perfect performance in Marc Turtletaub’s graceful drama.
Based on a remake of Rompecabezas, a 2010 Argentine film by Natalia Smirnoff, Puzzle presents a sympathetic character study of a sheltered, downtrodden Connecticut housewife, who finds a new lease of life in a 1,000-piece jigsaw.
Receiving the initially thoughtless and throwaway present from husband Louie and her two children, Gabe and Ziggy, it soon transpires, to the surprise of herself and her family, that she has a knack for puzzling.
As completing puzzles becomes Agnes’ burning passion, the pride she begins to feel knowing she’s best at something re-plants a smile on her face and puts a much needed spring in her step, neither of which have been there for quite some time. Through her newfound energy, Agnes begins to come into her own like never before.
A rare starring role for Macdonald, she finds the emotional complexity of Agnes without a second thought, like breathing. This is her film and she is outstanding, delivering one of the finest performances of her career, rounding off a charmingly modest piece of cinematic escapism. (Research Chris Coetsee) It is more than escapist. Kelly Macdonald is rare indeed, and here she finds that missing lost piece…
Writer/director Drew Goddard returns to pack in even more twists, turns, and subversons than he did with Cabin in the Woods in this all-star chamber opera.
Set in 1969, the film has an ace in the hole in its title character: The El Royale, a once-luxurious hotel on the border between California and Nevada which is now in near terminal decay. A group of guests arrive here for reasons which only very slowly become clear. Among them is a whisky-quaffing priest (Jeff Bridges) a fast-talking salesman (Jon Hamm) a soul singer (Cynthia Erivo) and a femme fatale (Dakota Johnson). None of them are what they seem. Chris Hemsworth even turns up halfway in, with a mean and violent streak (and no shirt).
Linear clarity gets shredded as Goddard - taking perhaps a few too many pages from the book of Tarantino - gleefully dabbles in forward-backward-sideward storytelling, but at 2 hours and 21 minutes, this can get heavy going. Thankfully, El Royale is still crammed with enough depraved delights to make you consider checking in. (research Jack Whiting) Must check running times more carefully. Come and see how far you get.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer, Freddie Mercury,
The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie (Rami Malek), surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie reunites with the band in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, he leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock. In doing so, Queen cements its legacy.
Those hoping for a deep dive into Freddie’s private life may be left feeling short changed; this is nothing more than a glorified Wiki entry - covering all the basics, yet with so much pizzazz, gorgeous set design and attention to the era, it’s easy to get swept up in its kinda magic. Forget the behind-the-scenes faffing with directors etc, although Dexter Fletcher picks up the pieces nicely. This is Malek’s film. (research Jack Whiting) Malek’s film through and through. He might raise it above expectations, but he can’t polish one of the most overrated, overplayed songs and over-haired cringe-pop videos - ever.