Believe it or not, this delightful, high-concept comedy that puts its cast in a playground game taken one step too far, is based on a true story!
Tag follows a group of fortysomething man-childs (including Ed Helms and Jon Hamm) who meet up one month out of every year to play the infantile game they’ve been obsessed with since childhood. It’s a competition that revels unashamedly in the male need to compete as a way of expressing a bro-bond unable to be spoken. (uh oh! Oscar)
The film focuses on the group’s last attempt to tag Jerry (Jeremy Renner) the only remaining undefeated player. The quest brings the friends back to their Washington hometown, and Jerry’s wedding, an event they see as a golden opportunity to finally tag him. This may seem extreme for a game of tag, but the absurd opening scene immediately makes it clear just how far these friends will go.
Renner channels his one stint as a Jason Bourne stand in and physically throws himself into the roll; so much so the actor broke his arm during a sequence. Now that’s dedication (to a silly insignificant film?) Watch out Tom Cruise. (Jack Whiting)
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.
Tom Hanks is marvellously child-like in Penny Marshall’s pop culture classic from 1988.
What do you want to be when you grew up? It’s this simple idea that inspired this age-changing, fantasy.
In this pleasingly slapstick comedy, 12 year old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) turns into a 30 year old man (Tom Hanks) after being zapped by a fairground slot machine. He runs away to New York where he lands a job at MacMillen Toy Shop. Josh soon gets promoted, due to his child-like eye and enthusiasm. Josh falls in love with a fellow employee who is far too old for him, at least on the inside. He may be an adult in size, but intellectually, emotionally and socially he’s just an awkward, immature child. Adulthood overwhelms young Josh, and he longs to return to his simpler life as a boy.
Big is sprinkled with a movie kind of magic; a series of simple, heart-warming moments. Though playing the grown-up, you’ll see a very young, baby faced Tom Hanks as natural and unforced as he is now. It’s a pure Hollywood fantasy, wonderful old Hollywood escapism. Best seen through a child’s eye. (research Beth Wallman) An ironic ‘oldie’ not to miss.
Some may baulk at yet another male dominated franchise being handed over without a fight to a female ensemble. Yet Oceans 8 shows that girls can have just as much, if not more fun, with wafer thin material.
What else does the film prove? That Sandra Bullock is just as fit to front an Ocean’s film as George Clooney, if not, rather more so. That Anne Hathaway’s comic skills and self-parody are well worth showcasing in bitchy roles. That Cate Blanchett absolutely rocks in cheetah-print coats and biker leathers.
Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, the cheerily amoral sister of Clooney’s Danny. Thieving runs in the family it seems. She has been languishing behind bars, and the moment she is out, the high heels go straight back on as she begins to put together the crew for her biggest robbery yet: to pinch a $150m necklace at the Met Gala in New York.
Ignore the naysayers; Ocean’s 8 is slick summer escapism. Who wouldn't want to enjoy the company of eight actresses who make a zirconium plot sparkle like diamonds. (Jack Whiting). Who indeed, Jack. Come and see.
Agnes Varda’s stark and provocative tale of a free soul and a lost individual.
Presented as a loose flashback, Vagabond chronicles the fateful journey of young woman as she twists her way through the French countryside; the people she meets, the places she rests, the rejections she suffers, the impulses that make her move on.
Mona (Sandrine Bonnaire) has dropped out of society for reasons left unstated. Every hint why is greeted with a contradiction. She openly states that she lies to the people she passes by, to entertain herself. She isn’t just drifting through the world; she’s challenging it.
Bonnaire is remarkable, considering her task is to provide a window into a standoffish character, embracing and turning that quality into a point of fascination. Each and every minute expression conveys the loneliness, the waywardness, the stubbornness, and the rebelliousness of this drifter.
Compelling us to reassess our values concerning security, responsibility, and community, Varda’s masterpiece remains a haunting testament to French neorealism and begs a most disturbing question: is there anything that can be done for individuals who don't want to be helped? (Research Chris Coetsee) Come for Sandrine Bonnaire’s very clever non-acting. It is Mona you take on. At times you might even like her…
You may not be aware but Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders the last few years. That all changes with the stellar First Reformed.
Reverend Toller, played with chilling, muted, disintegrating fury by Ethan Hawke - whose great gift as an actor is that you can almost never see him acting - is the minister of a small church maintained more for its historical significance than its thriving ministry.
Mary (Amanda Seyfried) approaches the good Reverend hoping that he might be able to talk to her distant, spiralling environmental activist husband Michael (Philip Ettinger) and bring him some peace. But, predictably his meeting with Michael and Mary only leads Toller further into the darkness that has plagued him since the death of his son.
We don’t want to think of ourselves as powerless, but First Reformed confronts that possibility, and in cutting to the bone, toys with the possibility that even if God is listening, he might be past forgiving us. This Schrader film sits next to Taxi Driver/Raging Bull as a modern American classic. (research Jack Whiting) And… you wont have to wait too long to find Travis Bickle lurking here and there.
There are plenty of raunchy old men films, sclerotic efforts like Last Vegas or The Bucket List. It’s only fair that women of a certain age should be seen behaving badly too (aren’t they the only kind worth knowing). Uh oh.
Diane (Keaton), Vivian (Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) are lifelong friends who have discussed books and quaffed wine every month since the late 1960s. Then one of them suggests Fifty Shades of Grey and the women collectively get their mojos back.
But as it turns out, Book Club is only tangentially about Fifty Shades, and that’s what makes it quite smart. It uses E.L. James’s notoriously silly BDSM saga as shorthand for a kind of romantic adventurousness, but the four leads all quickly pick up the beat and explore that idea on their own. They never get around to picking up any chains or whips, but at least one of them sets up a dating app account.
The final product to come out of the deranged premise is a warm, often funny, film that has a lot in common with Something’s Gotta Give and is infinitely more relaxing than an evening in the red room. (research Jack Whiting)
Emily Blunt may be AWOL this time but the follow up to Denis Villeneuve's nihilistic, pitch-black drama ups the ante in the bang-bang department.
Leading with the visceral one-two punch of Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin, Soldado opens with the uncomfortably timely image of Mexican migrants crossing the Texas border and being surrounded by border patrol. It quickly doubles down on the slick brutality and gun-porn of the first to deliver an explosive ride.
The already feared and hated Mexican cartel border traffickers are now a funnel also for Middle Eastern terrorists. The nightmare of every xenophobe and hawk rolled into one conveniently missile-bait target. Brolin’s Matt Graver is summoned for a black-ops mission to set off a cartel war, and he quickly reunites with Alejandro (Del Toro.) Their plan is to stage the kidnapping of a drug lord’s teenage daughter (Isabela Moner) make it look like the work of a rival, and let the bullets fly. Meanwhile, a young boy is recruited by the bad guys for illicit border crossings. He is to be the soldado of the title. It is beautifully staged carnage. (research Jack Whiting)
Does The Rock ever get a day off? Sleep? Have hobbies? Jumanji and Rampage felt like only yesterday and here he is again saving the world from more disaster. And (apart from his ever-anxious face) making it look effortless.
Dwayne is Will Sawyer, a security specialist whose wife and kids happen to be inside the world’s tallest building after shady, sneering Euro-accented villains set fire to it as part of a needlessly complicated heist. He will risk life and limb. He will punch, kick and, if need be, throw a prosthetic leg at you. He will take a bullet. And when push comes to shove, Mr Rock will painstakingly climb to the top of a huge crane and sprint-leap into the 100th floor (see front cover!) which, to remind us, is on fire and infested with terrorists.
So it’s Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno but Will Sawyer is not a character; he’s video game muscle, the sort without moral inquiry. He is standard-issue American hero. We’re here to watch him do crazy things, and for the most part he delivers. Leave your brain on the first floor. (Jack Whiting) Get this: S.Times Culture gave it 4 stars! So who are we to dare miss…
Thomas is leaving Sodor to become the first engine to travel the world in this exciting new film. His adventures take him to five continents across deserts, though jungles and over dangerous mountains, seeing sights he has never seen.
In this new, correct feature, Thomas will leave his home for adventures abroad in stories that are specifically authorised to support the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals of quality education, gender equality, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, and life on land.
The changes look likely to be the biggest shake up to the children’s favourite since the stories were first adapted in 1984. Hope the fat controller is in there somewhere.
Thomas the Tank has been taken away by “black-shirted stern faced women of correct cottage-loaf proportions” to be loose hump shunted into the UN’s newly rushed, draconian inclusion of right-on subject matter. In this case, innocent Thomas is without his friends Gordon and Percy et al, in the pox’d jungle of ‘quality education’. The original scruffy hardbacks we read to our kids, were a delight. Endless tales of friendship, good will, shared rivalry and co-operation, with Ringo’s voiceover, perfect when it pulled-in to television. Come and see for yourself.
Now a restored print, Steven Spielberg's serial-killer masterpiece from 1975 was adapted from Peter Benchley's bestseller. A killer shark with the cunning of a U-boat commander is eating swimmers, and threatening to destroy the precarious prosperity of Amity beach over the 4th July weekend.
Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw are the three we know well, tracking down the shark and each with something to prove. Dreyfuss is oceanographer Hooper, who has to show he's man enough to take down the big fish. Scheider's police chief has to redeem himself after participating in that contemporary political phenomenon, a cover-up: To protect tourism he’s coerced to withhold information, resulting in a dead child, and Shaw's grizzled seadog Quint is haunted by a chilling wartime memory.
“Don't listen to the cynics who claim the shark looks plastic now. This is a suspense classic that leaves teeth-marks.” (Guardian)
“Steven Spielberg's 1975 box-office hit transposed Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy Of The People’ from 19th-century Norway to present day Long Island, turning the play into a group jeopardy thriller that launched Hollywood's new saturation distribution system and elevated Spielberg to the big time.” (Observer)
It became the film to create the term; ‘Blockbuster’ from its endless queues ‘around the block’.
And there I was thinking the first Mamma Mia mined all of Abba’s greatest hits; little did I know how monstrously extensive their catalogue is. Here we go again indeed.
Five years after the events of the last film, on the Greek island of Kalokairi, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is pregnant with Sky's (Dominic Cooper) child while running her mother's (Meryl Streep) villa. Her relationship with Sky has been turbulent for some time, giving her cause to doubt that she can survive without her mother, Donna. We then dive into Donna’s past, where the majority of the sequel takes place, with Lily James standing in for a younger Streep. We find out how her group, The Dynamos were formed as well as the handsome fellas in her life. The biggest draw for this sequel, fan or not, is Cher. Her mere presence elevates this musical considerably. Watching her sing ‘Fernando’ to Andy Garcia is one to remember. (Jack Whiting)
Thrill-seeking rebellion runs rife in Michaël Roskam’s sexy slow-burner.
Experiencing a broken life since he was a teenager, Gigi (Matthias Schoenaerts) has built a gang of thieves with his lifelong friends, selling themselves as businessmen while they plan out major robberies. When Gigi meets Bibi (Adele Exarchopoulos) a young racing car driver who captures his attention, their initial spark quickly blossoms into… true love.
Starting to sense a better life for himself beyond crime, Gigi passionately seeks a way out, but obligations to his partners must be met. Aiming for a large score to put an end to a lifetime of bad decisions, Gigi lands himself in deep, forcing a string of disastrous knock-ons and leaving Bibi caught between passion and confusion.
Roskam’s smooth, 70s-noir-triggered filmmaking divides the story into three chapters, the first two focusing on the main characters, the last containing the natural progression of their star-crossed romance as it faces inevitable, ill-planned challenges. All the while, Schoenaerts and Exarchopoulos have such a blistering on-screen chemistry, we buy the union of Gigi and Bibi. Genuinely and refreshingly original in all the right ways. (Research Chris Coetsee) And it’s been luke-warmed by sniffy crits, so bound to be fabulous. Come, get caught up.