Nighy steps into the shoes of Alan, a semi-retired tailor whose measured and debonair demeanour has driven his adult son, Peter (Riley) to the fringes. Alan has never fully come to grips with the disappearance of his son, Michael, two decades prior. Michael stormed out of the family home after an innocuous argument over a game of Scrabble, never to be seen again. Now Alan is obsessed with Scrabble; a walking dictionary partial even to hustling unsuspecting players he meets on his travels. Dealing with loss and searching for answers, he heads off to reconnect with Peter and together they embark on a life-changing journey.
Scripted by Frank Cottrell Boyce, the dialogue bristles with wry exchanges and throwaway wit while the central performances share an effortlessly charming, self-depreciating quality. Bill Nighy’s minimalist, deadpan delivery underlines Alan’s arrogance, which he wears like a perfectly tailored suit. Sam Riley is similarly excellent as Peter, a persistent source of dark humour throughout.
Sweet without cloying, it’s a quirky, quintessentially British affair. (Research Chris Coetsee) As Bill Nighy plays himself effortlessly, so why the effort for a distracting, and patchy mid-Mersey accent…?
Regina Hall excels in this heartfelt comedy about workplace sisterhood.
Lisa (Hall) is the general manager of Double Whammies, a Hooters-esque sports bar in Texas. Described by one of the characters as a fantasy fuelled by “boobs, brews and big screens”, the waitresses in Double Whammies are all attractive twenty-somethings reliant on tips to make a living. More a mother-hen figure than a manager, Lisa protects the girls from disrespectful customers, often going above and beyond to look out for her team. Mostly centered around one day, we first meet an exhausted Lisa crying in her car before starting a shift. A string of incidents follow which test her optimism, from finding the cook’s relative stuck in the air ducts after trying to rob the restaurant, to the TV breaking before a big fight night. It focuses on the sisterly bond the women cultivate, whilst subtly uncovering the nightly microaggressions they meet working in the service industry. With standout performances from Hall and Haley Lu Richardson as the bubbly Maci, the characters are not merely tropes but fleshed out characters with complex inner lives. An entertaining and revealing comedy. (research Rachel Williams) Picked from the hat of unlikely winners, this is a perfect mid-week antedote.
Todd Douglas Miller’s breathtaking documentary peels away the familiar to make one giant leap into the cosmos.
On the eve of the mission’s 50th anniversary, NASA’s vaults have opened for the first time to reveal this exquisite, never-before seen film footage of the Apollo 11 mission. There is no voiceover, no talking heads appear and on-screen text is limited to identifying the key players and a few tasteful info-graphics. This isn’t a testament to individuals and their psychologies; this is a story of process and progress.
From the opening images of Saturn V inching its way to destiny across Pad 39A to shots of thousands of Americans who camped out under a clear summer sky to witness it, the shimmering 70mm footage, beautifully captured on the ground by a team of NASA staff, captures a dreamy-eyed portrait of America as it stepped into the future.
As the voices of mission control calmly guide Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins from Cape Kennedy to the lunar surface, Miller’s Apollo 11 becomes a phenomenal historical time capsule that cements NASA’s first moon landing as a pivotal moment in our history. (Research Chris Coetsee) Priceless. Try not to have had-enough of it all before you see this.
Skepticism is only natural when confronted with an unwanted entry to a series that concluded perfectly with the third.
Fear not Woody and Buzz fans! Turns out Pixar knew what they were doing all along - Toy Story 4 is simply wonderful. It’s possibly the zaniest of them all, certainly the funniest.
Forky is a plastic spork with mismatched googly eyes, pipe cleaner for arms, and an existential crisis. Despite not being an official toy - young Bonnie Frankensteins him together herself - he steals her affections over the others, Woody does his best to persuade this tortured soul that being a toy can be as rewarding as being a disposable utensil, but he is distracted by the sight of a small-town antique shop. Sneaking inside in search of his lost love, Bo Peep, Woody falls into the clutches of Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), a damaged doll who has designs on his pull-string voice box. He escapes, but Forky doesn’t, which means that it’s time for one of the franchise’s signature rescue-missions.
Toy Story 4 reaffirms that Pixar, at their best, are like no other animation studio around. (Jack Whiting) You’ll have seen it by now, so come again and enjoy it properly here.
One of the best blockbusters of the nineties hits the reboot button, and after two disappointing sequels to the original, this is actually a welcome reset.
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are in the sunglasses this time, effortlessly carrying over the chemistry from their time together on Thor: Ragnarok (Tessa played fellow Asgardian warrior, Valkyrie). She has dreamed of joining the Men In Black since she was an astronomy-loving little girl. Once she talks her way into a job, the newly christened Agent M is assigned to the London branch, where she teams up with cocky, foolhardy Agent H (Hemsworth) to protect a benign alien. But their mission turns deadly, suggesting the possibility that there may be a rogue agent in the MIB.
The duo are clearly having an intergalactic blast (even if Hemsworth comes off a bit smug) and although they can’t possibly fill their respective Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones shaped holes, it’s MIB veteran Agent O (Emma Thompson) beamed over from the previous films, who steals every scene. (research Jack Whiting) Sounds okay. The first film was fab, this one may take its palce in the also-ran dept. Once more, critics sniffed, so come.
As three Minis rock from side to side in sewage tunnels, carrying £4 million in gold bullion in their boots, ask yourself this: is there a film - certainly a British film - that delivers a greater infusion of pure joy than this?
The answer, after 50 years, is No. The cast of this chirpilly patriotic movie is led by Michael Caine, reprising his Alfie persona as Charlie Croker, a smooth criminal who inherits a plan to rob the Fiat factory in Turin by causing the world's biggest ever traffic jam (then: 1969). But first he must get the go-ahead from ageing crimelord Mr Bridger, a dangerously camp prison Farage, gifted by Noël Coward, who Runs-Things from his cell. Charlie tells him it’s a patriotic attack on “Europe, the Common Market, Italy and Fiat... ”
The brio and ambition can’t be doubted and together with Caine’s enormous charisma and ‘that’ ending (which to this day delights and frustrates equally - and by only 2% - equally). As a metaphor for England at the dawn of the 70s, The Italian Job is hard to top. (research Jack Whiting) An empty robbery not worth “blowing the bloody doors off” for... 50 years later.
A solo sailor faces an agonising moral dilemma in Styx, a tense yet compassionate navigation of the refugee crisis
German doctor Rike (Susanne Wolff) flies to Gibraltar to fulfil a lifelong dream: single handedly sail a yacht to Ascension Island, located halfway between West Africa and Brazil. Weathering a ferocious storm en route, demonstrating her physical prowess as a sailor, we soon realise that this is merely the calm before the real storm. In the distance Rike spots a sinking fishing trawler, carrying too many passengers to save on her own boat. Sending out a distress signal, the coastguard warns her to stay put, promising that the authorities are on their way. Horrified by the helplessness this official response commands of her, she must face her sense of social responsibility head on. Director Wolfgang Fischer says Rike is “shown the limits of her importance and of the empathy of her cultural milieu.” Casting people who have done the perilous journey themselves to play the refugees, Styx aims to accurately portray the experiences people face, miles away from the debates had on land. (Wow). A thought provoking test of one’s moral compass. (Rachel Williams) Brilliant. Dont miss.
Guy Ritchie makes an unlikely addition to his directorial resume in this fun, yet standard addition to Disney’s live-action vault.
The cheeky street urchin Aladdin (Mena Massoud) has a problem: He yearns for Jasmine (Naomi Scott) a princess far beyond his pay-grade. You won’t recognize Jasmine from her cartoon origins. She no longer dreams only of love; she would like to succeed her father the sultan (Navid Negahban) and make (pay-grade?) decisions for her country. While a likable Will Smith can’t replicate the mad-cap energy Robin Williams brought to Genie (an impossible ask, in his defence) he does put his own fresh prints on the role.
If Marvel and Star Wars weren’t enough for the The Mouse House - who has now absorbed 20th Century Fox in its somewhat terrifying vie for world domination - then the ongoing remakes, or in some instances regurgitation, of its animated classics are sure to keep investors happy. This, though, thanks to the energy of Ritchie and Smith, is an Aladdin made with tremendous verve. What could have been a cynical exercise in repackaging an old hit turns out to be an invigorating ride. (Jack Whiting) Which indeed it is. Off with the critics, come for your own joy.
This Curtis and Boyle musical fairytale imagines a world without the Fab Four.
Jack (Himesh Patel) is a struggling singer-songwriter from Suffolk, ready to pack in his music career. After crashing his bike during a freak global power surge, Jack is the only one in the universe that can remember The Beatles and their back catalogue. Reconstructing their songs from memory, Jack is presented with a golden opportunity for him to pursue the kind of success he’s always dreamed of.
Elevated by two fine performances courtesy of Patel and Lily James, the film wears its heart on its sleeve from the get go. Patel, previously of EastEnders fame, is an excellent choice for Jack. He’s the millennial Hugh Grant character, mumbling and slightly more down-played, but much less self-consciously. He nails the everyman vibe and the panic of suddenly having the world at your feet.
Yesterday doesn't exactly rip up the rulebook but the new L&Mc, Curtis and Boyle. have gone to great lengths to subtly tweak the traditional romcom formula to create a genuinely touching, smart comedy, which will undoubtedly become the feel-good hit of the summer. (Research Chris Coetsee) As did the Beatles - for a few summers of their own. Fab. Come.
Now that the post-Endgame dust has settled, we can get back to telling more personal stories; and it doesn’t get more personal than a teenage love triangle.
Being in the shadow of Iron Man isn’t easy for Peter Parker (Tom Holland), so perhaps a much-needed holiday is in order; luckily for him a school trip to Europe is on the curriculum. Less fortunate is the sudden appearance of giant elemental beings (earth, water etc). With the trip taking him from Venice to Prague, there’s some fancy new architecture for Spidey to traverse as he battles the monsters with the help of Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio (a suitably unhinged Jake Gyllenhaal, channeling those Nightcrawler vibes) who may or may not be a threat himself (though the comics and cartoon aficionados will already know the score). It doesn’t help that he’s still trying to balance his world-saving antics with his crush MJ (Zendaya)
It’s a much needed breezy romp that ends in a climactic London Bridge face-off, but those hoping to see ol’ webhead swing through the city itself will be left disappointed (I know I was). (Jack Whiting)
Piper’s documentary offers an insight into the creative process of a renowned Dutch landscape designer
Not just for the horticulturist but intended for all interested in design and how we observe beauty. Piet Oudolf, the Dutch garden designer in his 70s, discusses how “beauty is in so many things you wouldn’t think of” in the documentary. He is best known for his project in New York, the High Line, which converted an abandoned rail line into ‘a hybrid public space where visitors experience nature, art, and design’ on Manhattan’s West Side. With ongoing work around the globe, we follow Oudolf as he plans and oversees the development of his projects. Observing him closely through the seasons, we witness his joy at Texas wildflowers and learn about his process of creating maps and prints for the layout of a new garden. Only discovering his medium in his mid-20s when he began work at a garden centre, Oudolf and his wife, Anja, later opened a nursery in 1982. Although the documentary explores how the relationships between people and nature is essential, it doesn’t quite dig deep enough into Oudolf’s roots - but is beautiful on a surface level.
Even the vivid animation and adorable array of corgis can’t quite save this children’s film, littered with tasteless Trump jokes and clichéd characters
In the opening, we see how cute pup Rex (voiced by Jack Whitehall) becomes the Queen’s most beloved pet, angering the other corgis. As Rex is crowned ‘Top Dog’ in a lavish ceremony and awarded a gold collar, bitter corgi Charlie’s (Matt Lucas) envy gets the better of him, and he plots to usurp Rex. After all, it grants endless tummy rubs from the Queen herself! Donald Trump (Jon Culshaw) and his wife Melania (Debra Stephenson) visit Buckingham Palace with Mitzi - a dog with perfectly groomed hair and heavy makeup. Mitzi chooses Rex as her ideal mate, chasing after him in a way that echoes Trump’s own sexual assault allegations, confirmed by a disturbing pun aimed at adults - “grab them by the puppy”. In his struggle to get away from Mitzi, Rex accidentally bites Trump in the crotch, angering the Queen and providing Charlie with the perfect opportunity to remove Rex from the palace. Alone on the streets of London, Rex must find a way back to his Queen.
By eschewing many of the standard tools of documentary filmmaking, Asif Kapadia takes an existential deep dive into Argentine football legend of the 1980s, Diego Maradona.
The film opens in breathless, bravura style – a frenetic car-chase through the crowded streets of Naples which snappily gets us up to speed with Maradona’s shooting-star career prior to his big-bucks transfer to Napoli in 1984. A head-spinning montage of sights and sounds plunge us into the melee of an overcrowded press conference, where this underdog city unveils its most expensive signing.
In visual terms, the film is composed almost entirely of existing TV footage, cleverly chosen and shaped. Kapadia uses voiceover commentaries from various observers to add context, including some reminiscence from the present-day Maradona.
Kapadi’s sticks to the same ‘tortured genius’ narrative template as his previous films Amy and Senna, the obvious difference being that Maradona is very much alive and kicking (with hands intact). He remains as unknowable as a figure from ancient myth. None of this dents the appeal of a film that makes brilliant use of his terrible, doomed momentum. A fair game played in extra time. Unravelling over 500 hours of unseen footage (in just over 90 minutes-ish) Kapadia’s film doesn’t go-to-penalties. Come
Laika is a name that absolutely needs to be remembered, the US cousins of Aardman are still chugging along, one painstaking stop-motion shot at a time. The degree of care that goes into every detail of these films is clear to see.
And Missing Link is no slouch. Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) plans to distinguish himself among London’s professional explorers, by procuring evidence that prehistoric beasties still walk among us. Upon receiving a letter off on spindly, stop-motion legs our hero goes, traveling to the woods where this behemoth resides. As it turns out, ‘Mr Link’ (or as he’s later called... Susan) turns out to be a very chipper mythical beast (Zach Galifianakis). He’s a gentle giant just looking for a home, and he’s surprisingly literal-minded.
This is one of those films where the destination is much less important than the journey, and the slower pacing of the third act allow us to savour the stunning vistas that establish each new setting. While not as grand or quite as exciting as Kubo and the Two Strings (their magnum opus) Missing Link is nevertheless a rare and wonderful specimen. (research Jack Whiting) Fantastic and very funny. Don’t miss.
The power of love is challenged by narrow-minds and deep-rooted prejudices in this tale of forbidden romance in 1950’s rural Scotland.
Told through the innocent eyes of schoolboy Charlie, the film unfolds over one of those summers that changes everything. Charlie’s English mother Lydia (Holliday Grainger) is a stranded outsider in this tight-knit community. Abandoned by her philandering husband, she struggles to pay the rent and put food on the table. Following a visit to town doctor Jean Markham (Anna Paquin), Charlie is fascinated by the bee colonies that Jean keeps and it is the start of a friendship that soon extends to include Lydia. As the bond between Lydia and Jean eventually blossoms into a romance that scandalises the town and threatens the lives of all involved.
As closely-guarded doctor Jean Markham, Anna Paquin conveys both her unwavering commitment to her career despite community disapproval as well as her shrewd conformity built for survival. Grainger captures the many faces Lydia puts on for those in her life while never losing sight of Lydia’s own personhood. It’s a perfect pairing at the centre of a compelling, naturalistic drama with genuine heart. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Just when the zombie sub-genre was shuffling back into the ground, hipster filmmaker Jim Jarmusch comes along and digs it up again.
Jarmusch stalwarts Bill Murray (Broken Flowers) and Adam Driver (Paterson) play Cliff and Ronnie, respectively. These two small town police officers banter amiably in their squad car and check in with their partner, Mindy (Chloe Sevigny), back at Centerville HQ. Their wake-up call happens when the globe takes a spin on its axis, night never falls and in a forever daylight the dead rise from the cemetery, demanding what they wanted most in life: coffee, WiFi and “especially chardonnay.” Two zombies, played by Sara Driver and Iggy Pop, make for stand out corpses.
The blood-filled carnage is good for business for the town’s undertaker, Zelda Winston, played by Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive) in the film’s most outrageously entertaining performance as a samurai from outer space.
The ever increasing in-jokes, and the smug, self referential, not to mention overtly deadpan tone doesn’t exactly ease in non-Jarmusch enthusiasts Undead aside, this is a Jarmusch film, for better or worse. (Jack Whiting)
For fans of talking domesticated animals, it’s been a long three years since we last got to spend time with Max, Snowball, Gidget, and the gang. The wait is finally over.
Max (a Jack Russell voiced by Patton Oswalt) faces some major changes after his owner Katie gets married and now has a child, up to the point he becomes overprotective. On a family trip to the countryside, Max meets a farm dog named Rooster (voiced by Harrison Ford) and both attempt to overcome his fears.
Meanwhile, Gidget (a cat) tries to rescue Max's favorite toy from a cat-packed apartment, and Snowball (a rabbit) sets on a mission to free a white tiger named Hu from a circus.
As with the first surprisingly fun installment - not just content with slapping on the animal related gags - the sequel attempts to further explore the question every pet owner has wondered: what are my pets really up to when I’m not at home? Whether it really answers that question is another matter entirely. For now just soak up the silliness. (Jack Whiting) There’s lot’s of it, you may need a towel. Fabulous fun. Come.
Like a lucid daydream you wish you could wake up from, Midsommar is a Wickerman for the new age. Let the festivities begin!
Whilst not strictly a horror, Ari Aster’s follow up to the haunting Hereditary does embrace some of the genre’s motifs to wonderfully delirious effect. Dani (Florence Pugh) is going through a severe personal tragedy. For consolation, she turns to her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). He says all the right things, but the guy lacks empathy. Dani nags him so incessantly about emotional withholding that he invites her along to a trip him and his friends are planning . It turns out that the guys, who all study anthropology, want to take part in a solstice festival that happens only once every 90 years in the remote Swedish settlement of Halsingland.
What follows is a slow descent into Pagan nightmare; as the visitors (including Will Poulter) begin realise there is something sinister is brewing under all the pleasantries and pretty white cloaks. Midsommar is a slow build to a haunting climax, but well worth the hallucinogenic trip. So raise a glass and embrace the terror. Skål!
If ever a film came from the heart, it is Giuseppe Tornatore’s nostalgic Cinema Paradiso (1988).
We are taken back to a Sicilian childhood with a scamp called Toto/Salvatore played to perfection by Marcus Leonardi.
Learning to love the magic of cinema, he gets in the way of the reluctant old projectionist, Alfredo (Philippe Noiret, France’s most faultless actor with the gentlest eyes. He died in 2006 aged 76).
In the dark confines of the Cinema Paradiso, young Toto and the other townsfolk escape grim post-war Sicily to crowd into the tiny cinema in the town square.
Funny, affectionate, nostalgic, heart-breaking, and winner of the ‘Best Foreign Language’ Oscar in 1989, Cinema Paradiso is a love letter to village life gone by, always in the top 10 best International films lists.
“It is a wonderful and open-hearted tribute to the beauty of cinema… one of the finest films about innocence ever made, a perfect picture of a time when cinema was a rare source of laughter and joy. The roaring, spitting, smoking, groping scenes in the old Paradiso might come from any culture at any time, but just not now, not ours…” (CL ST Culture)
Despite feeling like an age has passed (it has, fourteen years to be exact) in the film world we pick up mere seconds later as the spotlight falls squarely on the supermum.
The Incredibles’ blundering attempts to stop mole-like villain Underminer have left a trail of chaos. The Parrs end up living in a sleazy motel. It looks as if they will have to get ordinary, civilian jobs to pay the rent. A marketing tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) thinks the time is now to get the Incredibles back into the public’s good graces and he believes Helen, aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) is the perfect poster child, so he launches a campaign to make superheroes popular again. Mr. Incredible, aka Dad is stuck playing Mr. Mom at home, totally unable to cope with Violet’s boy problems, Dash’s adolescent rebellion and baby Jack-Jack’s rapidly increasing powers. Cue for the return of fashion guru Edna Mode to take the demon baby in hand for his very own super suit.
Incredibles 2 is a delight for all ages and may be the best superhero film since Big Hero 6. It is absolutely worth the wait. (research Jack Whiting) Find an excuse or a child, but don’t miss.
If Luciano Pavarotti ever had a bad day, you wouldn’t know it from this upbeat documentary, one that recounts the opera singer’s life, or at least its better moments.
Directed by Ron Howard, Pavarotti grounds itself in the artist’s childhood in Italy and winds its way through his career to his death in 2007. High points are the film’s forte, and they’re backed by extensive and well-assembled footage: the Three Tenors concerts, the celebrity friendships, the sold-out performances. Pavarotti’s attempts to broaden opera’s audience are rightly praised, and the featured audio recordings are superb.
Asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said “as someone who took opera to the people” – a cliché, of course, but in his case a justifiable one. His capacity to reach those with no other knowledge of classical music is unmatched. And his singing in his prime, from the Sixties to the Eighties, remains to the more expert ear miraculous in its clarity of projection and splendour of tone. Not even Bono and his astronomical ego can steal the limelight away from the great singer. (Jack Whiting)
Peter Strickland conjures the spirit of giallo horror classics in this riveting, offbeat tale of a demonic dress.
A winter sale in a hilariously yet disturbingly bizarre department store draws the attention of Sheila, a lonely, recently separated middle-aged woman searching for something to wear for an upcoming blind date. Captivated by a particularly eye-catching red dress, she's seduced by it, not knowing that the dress is possessed and that the shop itself may be some kind of gateway to something altogether more sinister. Sheila’s story is just an introduction to Strickland’s wardrobe strangler. As the garment changes hands, various other owners suffer similar fates as the tyrannical grip that the dress holds over its wearers is revealed.
Following The Duke Of Burgundy and Berberian Sound Studio, In Fabric is a deeply weird and dark fable that serves as a loving throwback to Euro-horror and ghostly British anthology films. It is both a dangerous fashion noir and a stylised piece of comic horror, cementing Strickland as one of this generation’s leading absurdist auteurs. (Research Chris Coetsee)
The scintillating true story of a literary love affair that fuelled the imagination of one of the 20th century's most celebrated writers.
Poet and novelist Vita (Gemma Arterton) and literary icon Virginia (Elizabeth Debicki) run in different circles in 1920s London. When the two cross paths, the magnetic Vita decides the beguiling, stubborn and gifted Virginia will be her next conquest, no matter the cost.
Chanya Button’s Vita & Virginia isn’t simply a cinematic dramatisation of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf’s passionate correspondence and extramarital romance. It’s also a meditation on the nature of marriage and a celebration of the liberating power of love.
It’s also the joy it is because of its leads. Since her breakthrough role in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, Gemma Arterton has developed into an an authoritative and compelling big screen performer. As Vita Sackville-West, she’s the psychologically fragile heart of London’s racy bohemian Bloomsbury set, and Elizabeth Debicki’s ethereal presence combined with Arteton’s earthy urgency laces their coupling with a genuinely erotic charge. A fitting supplement to both women's legacies and a thoughtful celebration of their complexity and their complex relationship. (Research Chris Coetsee)
An Icelandic eco-warrior with a difference is the unlikely heroine of this distinctive comedy-drama about our warring relationship with nature.
Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) is known to her friends as a quiet and upbeat choir mistress. However, her seemingly unadventurous life covers up a dark secret. Halla is also ‘The Mountain Woman’, an environmental activist waging a one-woman war on the local metal industry to protest and protect the breathtaking Icelandic rural landscape. When the chance to realise her dream of becoming a mother presents itself, she finds herself with a difficult decision to make.
Director Benedikt Erlingsson’s first film, Of Horses and Men, was one of the most startlingly original, audacious features of the past decade. While Woman at War isn’t quite as weirdly wonderful, its tremendous central performance and rousing theme offer a far more focused and driven story. Hot on the heels of the Avengers and Captain Marvel, Halla is the very opposite of the MCU’s ever-prevailing heroes. Yet clad in a her own knitting, running around Iceland with a bow and arrow, she’s just as much a force to be reckoned with. (Research Chris Coetsee). It is fabulous, so we’ve scheduled three evenings whether you come or not.
Hugh Jackman steps into the spotlight as 19thC impresario P.T. Barnum in this all-singing-all-doings rags to riches extravaganza.
2012’s Lez Miz was supposed to be the movie that showcased Jackman’s triple-treat talents as a singer, dancer and serious actor. It didn’t. Here debut director Michael Gracey deservedly hands him a better chance and this time around he smashes it out of the park.
Born the son of a poor cobbler, Phineas Taylor Barnum longs to rise and dazzle the world. Having conned his way to start a ‘museum’, he assembles the unfortunates and the bizarre of marginalised society, creating a showcase of oddities: a ‘Freak Show’ to break the ground for circus, sleight-of-hand and live derring-do.
But despite his flourishing success, he yearns to debunk arty critics. To get their attention and loosen the purse strings of high-art snob culture, Barnum risks it all, and his family…
Questions are raised over this sanitised telling of a rags to riches tale, but showbiz is showbiz and historical haziness aside, this is nothing short of spectacle and splendour. (research Chris Coetsee) Glorious big screen cinema trickery-pokery. You keep coming, so come here once more to lead into Christmas 2018.
John Wick’s days are numbered; a new assassin is in town and she’s faster, leaner and has cheekbones to die for.
Anna (Sasha Luss) is a Russian beauty who’s been living the swank parties-and-photoshoots life of a professional model. In reality, the svelte Eastern European twentysomething is an undercover killer for the KGB, because of course she is. Her handsome handler Alex (Luke Evans) and his boss, a perpetually agitated agency apparatchik named Olga (Helen Mirren), want to test her mettle. Anna is handed a gun. She must enter a restaurant, find an enemy of the state and shoot him through the head. The task has to be completed in five minutes, give or take. After that, she’s on her own.
All you need for a movie, Jean-Luc Godard famously declared, is a gun and a girl. His fellow French filmmaker Luc Besson has taken the maxim to heart, albeit with a few upgrades. Reaching back to his earlier works, specifically 1990’s Le Femme Nikita, Besson produces a spy thriller that is full of excess, but with its tongue (hopefully) firmly in cheek. Anna is sexy, trashy fun. (Jack Whiting)
If we’ve learnt anything from the insanely popular Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s that we should never take biopics for granted again.
Rocketman stars Taron Egerton as music legend Reginald Kenneth Dwight aka Elton John, Bryce Dallas Howard is Reg’s mum...!? Jamie Bell is Elton’s esteemed songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, and Richard Madden his manager John Reid. Director Dexter Fletcher, best known for taking over from Bryan Singer on the Queen biop: ‘Bo-Rhap’ (to us in the know) yet unlike the glossy Freddie parade, Dexter takes Rocketman in an audacious and unconventional direction, making it a far more satisfying and entertaining tale in the process.
Rocketman doesn’t shy away from Elton’s dark side of drug and alcohol abuse and depression, and treats his career as a surreal, out of body experience. The highlight is the piano-playing prodigy elevated high into the air during a rousing rendition of Crocodile Rock.
Egerton not only embodies Elton, but he does all of his own singing; it takes a moment to adjust your ears, but Egerton comes scarily close to the pop legend’s vocal range. I think it's gonna be a long long time before we see a biopic this flashy again. (research Jack Whiting) There is a god after all.
Tim Burton’s take on Disney’s doe-eyed elephant is sure to enchant audiences both young and old.
Following in the footprints of the massively successful Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book, Disney’s industrious mission to remake their most beloved animated classics continues. The first of three sparkling live-action reincarnations to be released this year, Dumbo opens in 1919 as the struggling Medici circus train winds its way through the small towns of the Deep South. When WWI veteran Holt returns to find his horses have been sold to pay the bills, he is demoted to the elephant pen where a big-eared outcast, soon to be known as Dumbo, lives with his mother. As Dumbo’s extraordinary ability to fly quickly captures the world’s imagination, hyper-ambitious and greedy entertainment mogul V.A. Vandevere plots to exploit Dumbo and the Medici circus for his own ends.
Burton is no stranger to the circus, every one of his films a carnival of colour and enchantment. “You put on a hell of a show,” someone says to Vandevere. When he replies “That’s what you pay me for,” it’s hard not to hear Burton talking about himself in the exchange. (Research Chris Coetsee) Critics have been sniffy, so come, it will be fantastic.
The life of painter Gerhard Richter is loosely adapted in this kaleidoscopic 30-year journey through every human emotion.
As a young boy, Kurt Barnert witnesses his aunt being taken away by the Nazis under suspicion of schizophrenia. It is she who nurtured his interest in art. After the war, whilst studying painting at the Dresden art school, he falls in love with Elisabeth, a beautiful fashion student. Unbeknownst to Kurt, her father, who is now an eminent gynaecologist, was responsible for his aunt’s euthanasia.
Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, the mind behind Oscar-winning The Lives of Others, has a gift for heightening and exploring that can range from harrowing to heartfelt, and he hits all the right beats here. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars, it’s yet another recent triumph of German cinema and Donnersmarck confirms a gift for mainstream storytelling that few contemporaries can match. Whilst Never Look Away is a film about art, and more precisely the process of its creation, there’s much, much more going on under its shimmering surface. A sumptuous and elegant drama. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Writer Mindy Kaling co-stars with Emma Thompson in this biting, feel-good satire of diversity and late night television.
After over thirty years at the top, late night’s only female host Katherine Newbury is being phased out by the network’s new president. Difficult to work for, Newbury is challenged to hire a female wordsmith to freshen up a white male-dominated writers room. When Molly Patel lands the dream job, her opinions about the show and its direction forward do not sit well with Newbury and her cohorts who initially refuse to welcome her modern approach. As the network moves to shift the show away from her, Katherine begins to embrace the bright personality and youthful perspective of her new colleague and the two women separated by culture and generation are united by their love of a biting punchline.
As Katherine, Emma Thompson is wonderful; commanding, imposing, casually cruel, she shows just enough of Katherine’s humanity for you to care. Kaling does a great job of conveying the neurotic, competitive rhythms of the writers’ room and the unique pressures of working for a demanding boss. An earnest and funny comedy, with very sharp teeth. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Sounds fantastic. Come
“Love is not a victory march,” Leonard Cohen swooned. Nick Broomfield’s haunting documentary is a lovely illustration of the twists and turns of a complicated relationship.
The film is about the enduring love between Cohen and Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian woman he met on the Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s. It’s a story that is at once simple and threaded with startling complexities. Its narrative twists can seem the stuff of fiction, one which resulted in broken hearts, cold shoulders and several unbelievably beautiful songs. He spent his days writing his novel Beautiful Losers, and she supported him.
Both a memento mori and the chronicle for how there ain’t no cure for love, the doc continually underlines Cohen’s finicky nature, and his shark-like need to keep moving or perish. As for Ilhen, we get a sense of her loneliness, her attempts to balance being a mother and a partner, the toll of wanting something she can’t have and someone who won’t be tied down. Even as things are coming to their conclusion, Cohen is still using their bond as the basis for his art. (Jack Whiting)
Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name, The Jungle Book is the 19th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, it was the last to be produced by Walt Disney, who died during the production. The plot follows Mowgli, a feral child raised in the Indian jungle by wolves, as his friends Bagheera the panther and Balloo the bear try to convince him into leaving the jungle before the evil tiger Shere Khan arrives.
“I thought you were entertaining someone up there in your coils” purrs nasty tiger, Shere Khan, (the glorious and unmistakable voice of George Sanders) while Kaa the Snake endeavours to squeeze Mowgli the Man Cub into his horrible clutches. This animated Disney/Kipling feature is the last to be supervised by Big Walt himself. It is chock full of laid back lines (with Phil Harris’s Baloo the bear, getting the best). Together with great early stop-frame knockabout animated gags and eternal songs… “It’s a slight tale with the characters and songs are pretty much perfect for viewing time and again.” (Empire) It is delicious from start the finish. Don’t miss a single beat… “Ooobe do…”
Writer-director Ritesh Batra captures working-class life through a personal lens in this study of two divergent worlds in one city.
In Mumbai, Rafi (Siddiqui) works as a photographer snapping tourists at the Gateway. When he takes a photo of Miloni (Malhotra), she gets away without paying, but something about her strikes a nerve. So when his grandmother Dadi complains once again that he's unmarried, he sends her Miloni's picture and tells her she's his girlfriend. When Dadi wants to meet her, Rafi manages to track her down and come along for lunch. Initially posing as his fiancée, the pair gradually form a powerful connection which transforms their lives over the coming days.
Quiet reflection is the key in which Batra works, a trait found in his previous international hit The Lunchbox, likewise exploring gentle, unexpected love. Siddiqui and Malhotra are superb as people who are mismatched on several levels, but still notice each other. Their pairing might be far-fetched, but that's the point, both actors adding weight to the internal journeys. It’s a film much more about individual experience than throwaway romance. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Aladdin has barely left our collective consciousness and already we’re being whisked off to the digital serengeti in Disney’s new ‘live action’ reimagining.
The most accurate, shot for shot remake since Gus Van Sant’s wholly unnecessary Psycho, this shiny new Lion King takes all the cues and hits all the beats from the 1994 classic. Elton John’s beautiful melodies and Hans Zimmer’s sweeping score remain intact. The Hamlet inspired story should be pretty well known by now, and here it’s largely unchanged: Lion cub Simba is set to inherit his father’s throne, but tragic (even traumatising) events leave Simba cast out and fending for himself.
Admiration towards the film lies with its astonishing level of detail; this technical marvel pushes pixels to their absolute limit, to the point where I half expected David Attenborough to chime in at some point. And that’s maybe film’s only real foil; the expressiveness of the cartoon is replaced with dead-eyed realism; so when Simba belts out that he can’t wait to be king, something feels a little off. Still, the template of the original is strong enough that this version still delights. (Jack Whiting)
From a bestselling book series by Terry Deary to a BAFTA-winning TV series, Horrible Histories challenges itself to a big-screen adaptation
Keeping the grotesque moments and toilet humour of the original stories, the film reiterates what Horrible Histories aims to do: explore the delightfully darker details of British history. The time is circa 54 AD, set after the death of emperor Claudius (Derek Jacobi, returning to the role again after the 1976 BBC series). Within the backdrop of a power-struggle between Nero (Craig Roberts) and his mother (Kim Cattrall), it focuses on our fictitious teenage protagonist, Atti (Sebastian Croft). After an unfortunate incident selling fake gladiator sweat, which turns out to be horse wee and is poured over the Emperor Nero, Atti is faced with a horrifying punishment: exile to Britain. Captured by Orla (Emilia Jones), the Celtic daughter of a chieftain (Nick Frost) who believes she is incapable of fighting in battle against the Romans, Orla uses her prisoner to demonstrate otherwise. Director Dominic Brigstocke took inspiration from Monty Python and Blackadder - believing in the “great tradition of the British making fun of their history”. Although not very cinematic, it’s certainly humorous.
Benedict Cumberbatch looks to get the sparks flying in this historical portrait of America’s greatest inventor.
The last thing cinema needs right now is another movie about a genius whose brilliance is expressed through being a stubborn jerk. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon manages however to get some great milage by taking such a setup and approaching it through a deconstructed lens. The brilliant jerk in question this time is none other than Thomas Edison. On the verge of bringing electricity to Manhattan with his radical new technology, Edison’s plans are upended by charismatic businessman George Westinghouse who believes he and his partner, Nikolai Tesla, have a far superior idea for how to rapidly electrify America.
Edison, that brilliant inventor and occasional thief, is played by an actor who has made almost an entire career playing brilliant jerks. It’s straight typecasting, but it also works. Cumberbatch brings an amusing, detached air to Edison, playing the genius as an overly competitive, short-tempered thinker who wants to slap his name on everything. An informative history lesson which may not break new ground, but finds inventive ways to make the old seem new. (Research Chris Coetsee)
What we have here is an action-comedy about an Uber driver named Stu. Hence the title, Stuber. In case you were wondering.
Stitching together every bromance action cliché this side of Jump Street, the concept is simple. Dave Bautista is Vic, a tough-as-nails cop, recovering from eye surgery; he is forced to hire a repressed, nice-guy Uber driver named Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) to escort him around as he chases down a ruthless drug lord. It’s basically Michael Mann’s Collateral reimagined as a gross-out comedy.
There’s a likably cartoonish juxtaposition between Bautista, best known as the hulking Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nanjiani (The Big Sick), who traffics in witty neurosis and beta-male banter. Since Vic can’t see well, Stu is left to serve as his eyes, resulting in a pantomime dynamic in which Bautista embodies brute force while Nanjiani nimbly tries to direct the aggro cop’s rage in the right direction. They make for a surprisingly effective team — resulting in a bloody series of henchman-dropping headshots. The action is blunt, and the humour is about as low-brow as you can get, but the sheer bravado of Stu makes it for one hell of a ride. (Jack Whiting)