What happens when you cross Harry Potter with King Arthur? You get a wholesome, British-set fantasy adventure.
There aren’t many kids’ films that actually blank a sense of childlike wonder, yet Boy Who Would Be King does just that. Louis Serkis (son of Andy) plays Alex, a likable kid who’s running away from bullies when he pulls Arthur’s sword Excalibur out of a chunk of concrete on a building site. It takes the arrival of Merlin (Patrick Stewart) – ageing backwards, he’s now a teenager in a duffel coat played by Angus Imrie – to explain that Alex must defeat Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) - who draws some humorous Brexit comparisons as she proclaims Britain “lost and leaderless” - and her army of undead demon knights. With his best mate Bedders, Alex gathers a crew of knights to save the Earth.
Comedian turned director Joe Cornish returns seven years after Attack the Block, to direct a kind of film they just don’t make anymore: expansive live-action adventure tales, unabashedly aimed at young people, not the adults charged with taking them to the cinema. (Jack Whiting) Right. You’ve been told, no point in trying the duffel coat trick. 39 is 39. How old is writer: Joe Cornish btw...
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.
The world’s most energetic, enigmatic comedy duo attempt to reignite their film careers as they embark on what becomes their swan song; a gruelling theatre tour of post-war Britain.
Last year brought us Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, a glorious real life story of Hollywood star Gloria Grahame's waning years spent in the U.K. Stan & Ollie, an ode to British-American comedy joyfully skips through the lens of time, chronicling their rocky but ultimately loving friendship beyond being a world-renowned double act performance.
As their career enters its twilight years, the former comedy power-duo reunite for a tour of Britain in a last ditch effort to raise funds for a big-screen comeback. As Hardy’s health begins to falter, Laurel begins to accept their glory days may indeed be long gone.
Coogan and Reilly not only excel at creating convincing impressions of one of the most famous comic double acts of the last century, but they do an uncanny job of recreating a handful of Stan and Ollie’s famous routines, which today mostly play as mild yet expertly timed delights. Pretty much unmissable. (Research Chris Coetsee). Watch out for the comic fourway banter with their wives
(scene-stealers Shirley Henderson & Nina Arianda)
A shapeshifting Christian Bale delivers a (bald fat) Dick Cheney at his most ruthless in Adam McKay’s follow up to The Big Short.
McKay opens his tale in 1963, with a surprisingly hopeless and feckless Cheney being booted out of Yale and very nearly losing his marriage as a result of his drinking and fighting. Through sheer ambition, he gets a job alongside Donald Rumsfeld (Carell) in Congress, then in Nixon's White House. After a stint in Congress himself, he is settled into the private sector when George W Bush (Rockwell) asks him to be his vice president. Spotting a chance to grab real power, he returns to politics and makes a series of moves that changed world history.
Christian Bale and Amy Adams are astonishing as Dick and Lynne Cheney, with the latter offered up as the equal to her husband's Machiavellian scheming. Elsewhere Sam Rockwell makes for a crowd-pleasing George Dubya and Steve Carell is unlikely but effective as Donald Rumsfeld.
In an awards season crammed with contenders, it is one to keep an eye on. A highly entertaining look at an American tragedy which still resonates today. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Individual American/UK war-mongers who dragged the World into hell and closed the gates.
Director Karyn Kusama’s sour, noir-flecked police drama showcases an unforgettable tour de force from Nicole Kidman.
Kusama specialises in strong, often conflicted female characters. Between stints in television, she has delivered Jennifer’s Body, about a possessed cheerleader, the science-fiction drama Aeon Flux, starring Charlize Theron and 2000’s Girlfight, a first film both for Kusama and lead actor Michelle Rodriguez. Destroyer is no different.
To describe its story in a linear fashion doesn't do justice to the intricacies of its vision. Similar to Lynne Ramsay’s terrific You Were Never Really Here, the film relies heavily on flashbacks and meticulously deployed poetic imagery as it follows Detective Erin Bell, a ramshackle, stumbling, hungover wreck of a cop who must reconnect with people from a disastrous undercover assignment in her distant past in order to make peace..
Her barely competent police work seems to be motivated not by a thirst for justice or even revenge, but by half-crazed desperation. Kidman sells this masterfully, evoking a woman who is so used to being damaged that she's all but given up on being anything but entirely broken. An unmissable, career-best from Ms Kidman. (Research Chris Coetsee) Tough but worth seeing. Come.
In a year of exceptional foreign-language films (Cold War, Shoplifters, and Burning and more to come) Capernaum might get lost in the shuffle, but don’t let it; this heartbreaking film has an undeniable emotional pull.
Zain (Zain Alrafeea) is a 12-year-old boy in Beirut, deeply embittered by his poverty, by his parents’ failure to protect him from it and by the humiliatingly ineffective accommodations they have made to get money. They have effectively sold his beloved 11-year-old sister Samar (Cedra Izam) in marriage to their landlord’s creepy son. An arrangement that is bound to have consequences... Now arrested and incarcerated in Lebanon’s notorious Roumieh prison, Zain is launching a lawsuit against his parents, suing them for being born...!! This is a legal stunt apparently encouraged by a Current Affairs show on local television as a way of publicising the suffering of child poverty.
Nadine Labaki’s (Caramel) sensational drama, turns the plight into a social-realist blockbuster (Slumdog Millionaire is an obvious point of comparison). Fired by furious compassion and teeming with sorrow, yet strewn with diamond-shards of beauty, wit and hope, Capernaum is one you must see. (research Jack Whiting) Nadine Labaki’s fabulous Caramel is back at the Rex in April/May. Don’t miss either.
In a biopic which is both humorous and melancholic, Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant are partners in crime in this compelling tale of literary forgery.
An adaptation of Lee Israel’s confessional memoir, McCarthy’s nuanced performance makes a hero out of an otherwise abrasive, closed-off character with only enough love to give wholeheartedly to her cat. Having already written a few celebrity biographies, it’s 1991 in New York and Lee Israel’s writing is no longer in vogue. After being fired from her day job, an accumulation of unpaid rent and an ill cat in need of pricy medication results in a financial conundrum. In a fateful moment, Lee comes across an original letter by actress and comedian Fanny Brice. Stealing and selling the letter to a book dealer, Lee turns her hand to a different type of writing: forging letters by deceased stars. Forming a friendship over one too many shared whiskeys in a gay bar, with the flamboyant drug-dealer Jack Hock (Grant) they join forces in a scam which becomes increasingly risky. Tenderly conveying their shared loneliness, McCarthy and Grant’s chemistry makes the duo’s fascinating alliance all the more heartwarming.
(research Rachel Williams). Much hype. Come and see why?
A bow to Affleck’s real-life ingenious spy: Tony Mendez who died in February.
This beautifully drawn account of a real event, skilfully plays the truth against undoubted, delicious poetic license to make a riveting tale, of a catastrophic real-world moment and turning it in as a thrilling tight-lipped caper.
When Iran’s revolutionary guard seized Tehran’s US Embassy in 1979’ six staff managed to escape, finding frantic refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s official residence. Plotting their only hope of escaping alive, a hapless US black-ops committee ‘hire’ the best CIA extractor. Enter big Ben Affleck playing the real-life hero-huge: Tony Mendez.
Two ingenious contrasts. Tehran: a thriller so tense you'll be chewing every gasp. And a Hollywood sweet relief. Two jaded old-Hollywood ‘been-theres’ Alan Arkin and John Goodman take on Argo as the ‘best worst idea’. Big Ben’s stoic walk-on part is directorily squashed under the weight of these two mammoth supporting roles. Mr Arkin’s unequivocal verbal brush-off has become the occasional Rex maxim for absurd complaints. Won 3 fat Oscars (2012/13) And… today by happy chance, 26th March 2019 we celebrate the sharing of Alan Arkin’s, with my brothers’ birthday. One dead man celebrated, ‘two’ birthdays. Winning on points…
Yorgos Lanthimos is not like many other filmmakers. His projects have an off-kilter quality like no other; existing in their own little absurdist worlds.
Terrifying and wondrous in equal parts, Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster) infuses his oddball characters with deliberately stilted line delivery and a flat, emotionless demeanor. The Favourite - his first film not written by him and his partner - is his most accessible and yet surprisingly, most absurd one yet.
An outrageous satire (think Death of Stalin with frocks) has Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, a maudlin, largely bed-ridden monarch barely able to bathe and get dressed. Rachel Weisz plays her confidante and very, very close friend Sarah Churchill, who has her hand in more than just the queen’s political affairs. Their partnership is disrupted by the arrival of Abigail (Emma Stone), an opportunistic Lady fallen on hard times, who arrives at Anne’s palace in the hope of winning the queen over and restoring her own stature.
From the overt, modern sexuality to the fisheye camera shots; The Favourite is hardly typical period proceedings, and is all the more fabulous for it. (Jack Whiting)
Director Peter Farrelly uses the tried-and-true road trip formula to touching effect.
Based on actual events and set in 1962, Viggo Mortensen stars as Frank ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga, a New York bouncer. After his nightclub is closed for renovations, he lands a job as driver and security for the famed 50/60’s concert pianist Don Shirley. Together the two tour America’s deep south where Shirley faces repeated racist abuse. The title refers to the 20th century guidebook for black travellers to find motels and restaurants that would accept them.
The chalk and cheese relationship between Don and Tony is Green Book’s cornerstone. While most of the heavy lifting is left to Mortensen, who put on some 20 kilos to play Tony, Mahershala Ali is also perfectly cast as this incarnation of Shirley, a prodigy whose intellect and musical abilities alienate him from virtually everybody. It’s a role that just exudes dignity.
Winner of three Golden Globes and nominated for five Oscars, certainly it does feel at times like an old-school throwback to the feel-good comedy-dramas the Oscars used to reward. And there’s nothing wrong with that. (Research Chris Coetsee) eg Butch & Sundance 1969, The Apartment (1960). Critics have sniffed, blow them. Come. Its great.
So you’ve won an Oscar (only just) for best picture, what next? Well, if you’re Barry Jenkins, you carry on making the films close to your heart; and James Baldwin’s prose couldn’t be more personal.
Set to the backdrop of 1970’s New York, Fonny (Stephan James) and Tish (KiKi Layne) have known each other since toddlers before they fall in love in young adulthood. Fonny, a little older, plans to be a sculptor. She’s just become pregnant when he is arrested and falsely charged with rape. Left alone to tell her news to both families, Tish and her clan work together to clear Fonny’s name and get him back before their baby is born.
If proof were needed that his other directing achievement was far from a one-off, Beale Street pulses and dances through every frame, in all its gorgeous romantic melancholy and refined outrage; with characters staring longingly into the camera, like an open invitation into a characters’ soul; whether it be trauma, or pure longing, it’s there for all to see (oh dear). Together with a lush, sweeping score, If Beale Street Could Talk is both delicate, and powerful. (research Jack Whiting) Come, see what all the fuss is about.
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.
The final chapter in DreamWorks’ Dragon trilogy is a surprising tale about growing up, finding the courage to face the unknown, and how nothing can ever train you to let go.
Now village chief and ruler of Berk alongside Astrid, Hiccup has created a gloriously chaotic dragon utopia. But when faced with the darkest of threats to their peaceful village, Hiccup and Toothless must journey to a hidden world thought only to exist in myth. As their true destines are revealed, dragon and rider must fight together to the very ends of the Earth to protect everything they've grown to love and treasure.
Back on voice duty are Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett and Jonah Hill with F Murray Abraham bringing fresh talent as the villainous, dragon-hating Grimmel.
A fantastic, visually stunning and poignant way to end this beloved series. While the young characters remain joyously funny, this finale also adds mature notes to their story of friendship. The franchise has, like its audience, grown up, and to that end this film grapples with more complex themes than before, making for a truly satisfying yet bittersweet conclusion. (Research Chris Coetsee) Beautiful. Bring your Dad.
What an absolute delight this film turned out to be. Not content with just being the best animation of last year and this..? Spider-Man swoops in and claims its title as the best superhero film 2018 too.
Peter Parker aka Spider-Man, is killed in battle, leading New York to mourn such a superhero loss. Meanwhile, High-School teenager Miles Morales’ artistic inclinations don’t altogether please his cop - Dad. One night, Miles’ uncle Aaron takes him to a hidden tunnel in the subway system to spraycan a mural, where Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider. Soon, he’s developing spider powers of his own. But that’s just the beginning. The Kingpin has opened a portal to multiple dimensions, sending different variations of Spider-Man (multiple real-life iterations of the character) into Miles’ own universe.
Thanks in part to the kings of self-referential comedy eg 21 Jump Street and Lego Movie writing/directing duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller and their striking art style, Spider Verse is both a love letter to the Stan Lee & Steve Ditko character and a celebration of comics as a medium. (research Jack Whiting) Well said Jack. Wow! A lucky generation to enjoy cinematic ‘realism’ after imagining for themselves, from the page...
The rousing true story of the case that made Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s career.
In Mimi Leder's first significant feature since 2000’s Pay It Forward, Felicity Jones pitches Ginsburg as a funny, ambitious and very serious law student. Following her struggles to be taken seriously enough to get a job while juggling her home life with beloved attorney husband Marty, we begin with her college days as a young Harvard law student before marching through to the groundbreaking gender discrimination case that cemented her status as a champion for women’s rights.
On the Basis of Sex comes hot on the heels of January’s RBG, a comprehensive biographical piece that not only made the Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary but also proved potent at the box office. Shining brightest when conveying Ginsburg’s unrelenting drive to succeed despite the sexist obstacles thrust in her path, this is a dramatisation which lionises its subject, particularly throughout a closing act which provides a thundering account of this moment in the feminist movement.
With her stock at an all-time high, it seems the celebration of the Notorious RBG has reached its crescendo? (Research Chris Coetsee) Don’t miss.
This chronicle of reckless, outrageous human spirit is truly terrifying magic.
Co-directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi are both experienced climbers. Their skill gives Free Solo its intensity. The real credit lies in the sure palms of ambitious young climber Alex Honnold, boldly aiming to become the first to climb the 3,000ft sheer El Capitan Wall in Yosemite all by himself, with no equipment. As Alex commences his climb, he produces some of the most nail-biting cinema you will ever see.
Chin and his crew put themselves in precarious positions to get their footage and wrestle with the moral question of whether they should be filming it at all. Do they want to film their friend drop and die? Will their ever-present lense spoil Honnold's concentration to rise or fall…
Not to give away the end of this jaw-to-the-floor study in courageous, foolhardy, human endeavour, he dies…? This ridiculous adventure naturally lends itself to being supremely cinematic. (Research Chris Coetsee) Anchored by being edge of the seat throughout, Honnold is both sane and nuts. Yes, beautiful documentary filmmaking at its best. There’s no sign of a boot, a rope, a flask of something warm or a stout stick. Do try this at home children.
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in this tender, intelligent dramatisation of Shakespeare’s final years.
In 1613, a misfiring cannon during a performance of Henry VIII or ‘All Is True’ burns down the Globe Theatre, leaving Shakespeare bereft. He heads home to Stratford, where his wife Anne (Judi Dench) and unmarried daughter Judith live in the splendid home that his plays have funded. William is a distant figure, an absentee father who has spent 20 years managing his theatre at the expense of his family. Returning from his celebrated life as a playwright allows time for him to grieve for his dead son Hamnet and as scandal comes and goes around him, William wallows in Hamnet's memory, unprepared to face the truth.
Working on a relatively intimate scale after the extravagance of Murder On The Orient Express, All Is True sees Branagh benefiting hugely from dialling it down as both director and actor. Branagh’s lead provides a richly coloured, but personably modest focus, while elsewhere Dench and McKellen, as the Earl of Southampton, are quietly superb. A compassionate ode to a literary master. (Research Chris Coetsee) It will be a delight with nobody better than Branagh playing his hero ‘Shakerags’ (Kemps Jig).
Ding ding! Stepping into the ring as the two-time Divas champion Paige is Florence Pugh, showcasing a new side to her that confirms her as one of the brightest young women around.
It’s based on the true story of the British-born WWE wrestler Paige (Pugh) who started in the ring as a teenager for her mum and dad’s Norwich-based family promotion and got a heartstopping shot at glory in the American big league.
Her family’s knockabout tale was the subject of a likable Channel 4 documentary in 2012. Now, with the corporate blessing of Dwane The Rock and directed by Stephen Merchant, it is inflated to the status of inspirational comedy-heartwarmer.
And he has a terrific cast at his command (including Vince Vaughn and Nick Frost), pinpoint timing and a gift for visual japes and physical comedy, and for underlining everyday absurdity. Just like the sport itself, genre cinema strikes a balance between convention and innovation, between what the crowd knows (expects) and the surprises; the little deviations from the usual script, that can drive it to its feet. (Jack Whiting) Brilliant enthusiastic analysis Jack. Here’s hoping the yarn can live up to it.
Israeli writer-director and former tank gunner Samuel Maoz grapples with the true nature of war in this multi-genre masterpiece.
Since the British Partition of Palestine in 1947 to create a Jewish State, tensions have been high within the region. Whilst most filmmakers focus on the conflict or the plight of the Palestinians, the impact on ordinary Israelis rarely gets any coverage outside of Israel. Foxtrot tackles this head on.
When a wealthy Israeli couple, Michael and Dafna Feldmann, learn that their son Jonathan has been killed during his national service, they almost drown in their grief. Whilst Dafna is beside herself with despair, Michael refuses to accept that his son is dead. When it turns out that a terrible mistake has been made, he won’t rest until his son is sent home.
In 2009, Maoz blew away the competition at the Venice Film Festival with his searing, Golden Lion-winning debut, Lebanon. Ten years on, his second feature is nothing if not ambitious, challenging, and at times, difficult. An extraordinary thoughtful and insightful work of great subtlety. (Research Chris Coetsee) “Moaz employs a masterful box of visual tricks to unlock his philosophical puzzle” (Times) Come, see if claustrophobic interiors and lonely landscapes work for you…
As the Marvel universe steamrolls to its literal endgame, we’re taking a short pitstop to swiftly introduce the all powerful, all female, Captain Marvel.
It’s 1995 and Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot played by a stoic Brie Larson, is already possessed of superpowers when we meet her in the middle of an intergalactic battle between two alien races: the Krees and the Skrulls. Her Kree mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) has trained her to join his elite star-force to banish their green-skinned, shape-shifting enemies, led by Skrull master Talos (Ben Mendelsohn - who else).
In truth, Carol doesn’t know who she is, or rather, was. She’s lost her memory. It takes a trip back to Earth to get it back (crash landing in a Blockbuster Video shop - yes, it really is the nineties). That’s where she meets future Avengers boss Nick Fury (a ‘youthful’ Samuel L. Jackson).
The best reason to see the film is Larson. At full strength, her Captain Marvel is a goddess emitting her own light, an astral version of Liberty at the battlements, sublime and terrifying. (Research Jack Whiting) So... Come and be sublimely terrified.
Writer-Director Richard Curtis (Four Weddings… etc) returns from 2013 with this, his last film - ever?
Naïve, coming of age apprentice lawyer Tim (Domhnall Gleeson, Brendan’s son and a great presence, usually in tough grittier parts, but fab at this too) learns his big family secret… The men in his family tree: can travel backwards in time! Uh oh…
Enter the beautiful, timid Mary (Rachel McAdams) It is love at first sight (again!) for the hopeless Tim. Thus commences the battle to win her heart; over and over, until he stops getting it wrong!
“About Time’s deceptively light comedy about rewinding the imperfect past turns out to reminder us to relish the remarkable present” (Sight&Sound)
“Smart and sweet, funny and genuinely moving. Should probably come with a ‘there’s something in my eye’ warning”. (Empire)
The S.Times: Camilla Long:- “It exposes Curtis’s mediocre fantasies for what they are: mediocre.” Wrong Ms Long. Mark Kermode cried! So what? ‘We’ll always have Cornwall’. Come for the laughter, the heart-strings, tears and Mr Nighy, having his fabulous cake, eating - and sharing it. As for Tom (steal it with ease) Hollander, every glimpsed scene is his. Don’t miss this perfect Sunday afternoon choice - at the Pictures.
Back, for as long as it likes. From nowhere in 2005 A-list big man Liev Schreiber on a-day-off from tough-guy, turned in this extraordinarily beautiful piece of storytelling from script to made-look-easy directing. And what an timeless treasure it is.
Eugene Hutz’s perplexed Alex, our ‘guide’ and his gorgeous narration. Much of the haunting film-score is from him too, and his real-life band: ‘Gogol Bordello’ (see them at the station)
A heartstopping surprise from its first outing at the Rex in February 2006, Jonathan Safran Foer’s real family tale and best-seller.
Geeky ‘Jonfen’ (Elijah Wood) travels from America in search of Augustine the woman he believes saved his grandfather during the Nazis razing of Trachimbrod a now lost, Ukranian town wiped-out. Armed with a yellowing photograph, he begins his search with the unlikely Alex, grandfather (Boris Leskin) and his ‘seeing-eye bitch’. Alex’s butchery of the English language and passion for all things American is pure poignant/tragi-comic joy from the start. You will be glad to be in the presence of every word and gesture. It is as unexpected as it is beautiful. It will touch you now. Moreover, it will fill your heart long after you leave and for years to come…
In a suspenseful Spanish thriller about a teenage kidnapping, Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem’s sizzling chemistry elevates this sophisticated whodunit drama to another level
In the Iranian auteur’s first Spanish language film, Asghar Farhadi brings his fascination with intricate webs of secrets and lies to wine country Spain. Returning to her village after emigrating to Argentina, Laura (Cruz) is introduced as she attends her sister’s wedding - a lively and entertaining family affair. But all celebration abruptly comes to a halt once Laura’s teenage daughter Irene (Carla Campra) goes missing during the reception. Ominous newspaper clippings about past kidnappings are found next to her sleeping brother in their hotel room. When Laura is texted ransom demands by the kidnapper(s) and threatened not to tell the police, she must take matters into her own hands. Her husband still in Argentina, she turns to former lover Paco (Bardem) for help - a past romance, of which ‘everybody knows’. Exposing the fault lines within this deeply complex village, the film’s title (Todos lo Saben) runs throughout. The implications of what is exposed, are earth-shattering. Superb twists and turns. (Research Rachel Williams) A fantastic Spanish thriller. Come for those twists, turns and... Ricardo Darín.
Bruce Robinson’s nostalgic and semi-autobiographical (1st alert) debut quickly blossomed into a late night student ‘cult classic’ of the 80s, which is where it should have stayed.
However, it is lauded as one of the finest British comedies of its time, and heaven forbid, of all time!! The yarn concerns two unemployed actors (2nd alert) living in Camden in 1969. "I'' is Marwood (McGann) a drifter and Withnail (Grant) is his eccentric, selfish roommate. Fed up with London, they embark on a disastrous weekend in the country. “At times riotously funny, at others delicately understated and loaded with poignancy, this is a film to cherish again and again.” (Company hype)
Unemployed actors living in Camden are not interesting. Largely depressing and rarely funny. Nobody cares for actors who don’t became the stars they think they deserve. It has a sad and empty arrogance. However it has been hiked to cult status by that decade of boys who shared bedsits in the late 60s. And here we are, still celebrating it 32 years on. Luckily my ill opinion has never put an audience off. Come for the nostalgia ride. Who knows, on a big screen, you might see it for what it is. (JH)
James Kent (Testament of Youth) returns with another handsomely framed but dry melodrama that drops Keira Knightley quite comfortably into another period outfit.
World War II is over, and Germany is in tatters. In a rebuilding effort in Hamburg, British officers have repossessed better houses. But Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke) has a gentleman’s solution. He and his German-hating wife Rachael (Knightley) will share the large home they’ve requisitioned from local architect Stephen Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) and allow the widower and his resentful teen daughter Freda to share the place with them. In the attic, of course. There are limits to sharing.
It’s all an excuse, really, to allow Rachael and Stephen to get it on while the colonel is off doing what colonels do. The smouldering looks across the dinner table, hands not so subtly brushing shoulders; it’s all fluff we’ve seen before, but Knightley’s steely gaze is never a thing to take lightly. The aftermath of war is a resonant topic for any filmmaker willing to dig deeply into the strained relationship between the victors and the defeated, but Kent is too preoccupied with the hanky panky to care. (Jack Whiting) Weird casting to boot. You decide.
John Sturges’ wartime classic returns to the big screen for the 75th anniversary of derring-do.
Imprisoned in a German POW camp, a group of Allied servicemen are intent on breaking out, not only to escape, but to also draw Nazi forces away from battle to search for fugitives. Outwitting their captors by secretly digging tunnels: ‘Tom, Dick & Harry’, only to find themselves in a frantic scramble for freedom as the prospect of escape becomes reality.
Steve McQueen’s role as “Cooler King” Hilts has become iconic, just as speeding away from the chasing German platoon on his filched Gerry motorbike, has become one of cinema’s most enduring moments. If you've only ever seen this slumped in front of the box in a turkey-heap at Christmas, it’s a moment of motion picture history worth experiencing on the grandest scale.
2019 has seen the passing of the last two heroes involved in Stalag Luft III’s mass breakout. Two of two hundred. The Great Escape celebrates the intelligence and determination of these men. It does not just document a dramatic and enormously significant real event, it humanises it. (Research Chris Coetsee) Thanks Chris. Only ever thought of it in that ‘turkey heap’. Don’t miss.
This third Bond outing in 1964 was the first to truly hit home and stir the iconic cinematic giant it would become. It had to become iconic or lose its grip on that part of the vital mid-sixties. With Sean just coming into his own to make Bond unmistakably his own, it hit the psyche with phenomenal force. Now much copied, and surpassed here and there, it remains the hand-to-hand everybody wants to see. Goldfinger created a hit song that even now, 55 years later, won’t lie down and die. Oddjob is immortalised through his lethal, frisbee bowler, Gert Frobe had only to deliver one noteworthy line: “No Mr Bond, I expect you die”. An immortal reply, beautifully delivered. 60’s poster girl, Shirley Eaton ‘died’ naked painted in gold and the gorgeous Honor Blackman will forever be ‘Poosy Galore’. A finest hour all round. Now we have a brand new print to show on our big screen without crackle or blemish. So come, time to be shaken and stirred by Mr Connery’s immortal James Bond. An irresistible Easter Monday family treat. Don’t miss.
A touching portrait of a family affected by Alzheimer’s, What They Had delves into the difficulties of deciding what to do for the best.
Drawing from her own grandparents’ marriage, Elizabeth Chomko’s debut feature is a nuanced and compassionate exploration of how dementia affects the whole family. When Ruth (Blythe Danner) goes for a walk in the middle of the night, wandering around in a Chicago snowstorm wearing only a nightgown, her husband Burt (Robert Forster) is terrified when he can’t find her. Fortunately found unharmed in a hospital, the crisis prompts their children Nicky and Bridget (the ever reliable Michael Shannon and Hilary Swank) to come together. With Bridget’s sulky daughter Emma (Taissa Farmiga) in tow, a doctor advises the family to put Ruth into a care home - or what he calls a “memory centre”. Aware of the realities of care homes after Ruth’s own experience as a senior-care nurse, Burt is adamant that his wife should stay at home with him. A painful decision to make, the family grapple with Ruth’s future, while her past is cruelly fading from memory.
(Research Rachel Williams) A storyline now all too familiar, which luckily humour lifts, in just the right places.
A trailblazing female yachting crew are the focus of Alex Holmes's inspiring documentary.
The first Whitbread Round the World Race was held in 1973. Seventeen yachts and 167 crew took part in the gruelling challenge which encompassed 50,000 kilometres of often tumultuous ocean. Sailing itself was a very male-dominated world at the time but it was almost unheard of for women to crew, let alone captain, at the extreme end of the sport. In 1989 this all changed when 24-year old Tracy Edwards became the skipper of the first all-women team to compete.
Maiden follows their journey, both literally and metaphorically. Using interviews with the crew and archive newsreel, it tells the remarkable tale of a group of women who defied expectations. In an era dogged by institutional sexism, their achievements are all the more impressive; some of the clips demonstrate just how much they were up against before they even got out into the water.
It’s an incredible story, going well beyond the often sniffy old-school nature and macho narrative of sailing to focus on the dedication and devotion of these women; their intuition, skills and devotion to their vessel and to each other. (Research Chris Coetsee) Glorious. Don’t miss.
The White Crow has to walk a tricky line between period drama and dance movie – think Step Up 2: The Soviets. It’s all in the execution, and thankfully, this film is more graceful than that joke.
Following the rise of legendary danseur Rudolf Nureyev and his defection from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961, the film is sumptuous in its depiction of ballet during the time period. Of course, a plié is only as good as the performer, and thankfully, Oleg Ivenko turns between earnest charm and thoughtless arrogance on a dime. Most importantly, boy can he dance.
Ralph Fiennes' ambitious third directorial effort moves between three different timelines: Nureyev’s birth on a train and his deprived childhood in Ufa, Central Russia; his ballet training in Leningrad (Fiennes also plays his mentor) and early days in the Kirov Ballet; plus his time in Paris with the Kirov on tour. All three times are meticulously reconstructed, and all the settings and interactions feel truly authentic. It’s no mean feat, but Ivenko slips into Rudolf Nureyev’s slippers with ease. A joy to watch (Jack Whiting) So... Come and watch, come dancers, come all.
The original, and one that kick-started a new wave of Asian horror; Ring tells a chilling tale that, twenty years on, still leaves a mark.
A bizarre string of deaths begin to occur in the suburbs of Tokyo, and rumours say they’re linked to a deadly videotape (VHS, remember those?). This is a story too strange for journalist Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) to pass up, and so begins her descent into uncovering the dark secrets behind the cursed cassette. Ring is not so much a straight-horror as it is a slow-burn mystery; the ghost-delivery system could hardly seem more antiquated now than the use of carrier pigeons, but the notion of an urban myth, passed about eagerly by teenagers, oddly, makes even more sense in the social media age.
This stunning restoration upgrades Sadako, the ghostly menace who resides in the static of the video, to terrifying high-definition. She became one of the most instantly recognisable screen monsters - even casual film goers can picture her reaching out of the TV - and time has done little to diminish her chilling presence. (Research Jack Whiting) A truly astonishing, chilling classic, where your cold shivers are real, not dated. Don’t miss.
The unlikely but real-life tale of shanty-singing seafarers whose novelty debut album triumphantly sailed into the UK top ten.
British cinema is as well known for its charming tales of triumph over adversity as it is for the darkness of its kitchen sink grit. Just look at 2014’s Pride or last summer’s Swimming with Men and you get the picture. The latest entry to that underdog canon is Fisherman’s Friends.
When hotshot music producer and city boy Danny (Daniel Mays) arrives in the Cornish fishing Port Isaac on a stag do, a prank gone awry leaves him stranded alone in the village. Urged by his boss to try to sign the local sailors, who regularly perform in the harbour, a bewildered Danny tries to make the deal a reality. He’s unaware that this is yet another wind-up but when something in the music speaks to his romantic soul, Danny makes it his mission to bring the fishermen and their music to the world.
Director Chris Foggin’s lovely little film, while gleefully wallowing in its weirdness, smartly knows when to get serious and land some truly emotional blows. (Research Chris Coetsee) Come and see a bunch of old jumpers truly singing their hearts out.
Director Ali Abbasi ambitiously melds crime drama, mythological fantasy and art-house horror in this Swedish thriller.
Tina (Eva Melander) is a misanthropic customs officer with an extraordinary ability to literally sniff out criminals at a busy border checkpoint. When Vore (Eero Milonoff) a mysterious man with a peculiar maggot obsession, is selected for inspection, she detects that he is hiding something impure and unidentifiable. When their instant physical chemistry brings about a robust and strange animalistic connection, the two develop a powerful bond as they begin to explore the true meaning behind their strange, unique existence.
Both central performances are exemplary. Melander and Milonoff showcase the benefit of fully committing to a challenging role. They play their odd characters as if they’d lived in their skins forever, embodying both physical and emotional awkwardness, sincerely.
Border is a very difficult film to classify, walking the line between high-art and creature-feature. Drawing on Scandinavian imagery of folklore, at its heart it’s a touching fairytale about unexpected attraction, belonging and love, juggling the worlds of human dignity and magical realism with astonishing success. (Research Chris Coetsee) Astonishing indeed Chris. Where have the Scandinavians been, to emerge so profoundly on screen in merely five-ish years…?
Rosamund Pike is the sort of actor who can make semi-decent roles seem better than they are and great roles - in films like Gone Girl - feel positively bliss-inducing.
Taking its inspiration from a posthumous 2012 Vanity Fair profile, this narrative feature debut from celebrated documentary-maker Matthew Heineman casts Pike as journalist Marie Colvin, an American war correspondent who wrote for the Sunday Times from 1985 to 2012. It is not her story so much as it is a portrait of her late career, stringing a series of conflicts and assignments (some of them not so much assigned as actively discouraged, eventually tolerated, and finally lauded). There is not one “big story” here, but a series of them; the focus is not Colvin’s process but the psychology of a woman so magnetically pulled to shed a light on human loss and suffering that a colleague goes so far as to call it an addiction. The diagnosis feels apt.
Pike doesn’t just imbue Colvin with all of those qualities but also gives her a spine and a soul. (Research Jack Whiting) ‘Addiction to conflict’ sounds closer to just looking-for-a-fight than caring about ‘human loss’...? You decide.