Tailor made to both seduce and estrange; Paul Thomas Anderson’s deftly spun yarn of obsession is captivating and quietly alluring.
Before I gush over Anderson’s delicate framing and Jonny Greenwood’s swooning, orchestral arrangements; let’s unravel the story. It takes place in a newly decadent post-war 1950s London and follows esteemed dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) who compartmentalises his life so personal distractions can’t penetrate the bubble he builds around his obsessive work. Woodcock allows only two people into his space: his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who takes care of the day-to-day business of living, and his mother, who is dead but spookily ever present. It’s when he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps - stealing every scene from under Day-Lewis) that the seams of his obsessive life are revealed. Alma is not like the other muses he tires of. She has a confidence that surprises him, yet when the fascination that fuels his longing for her inevitably fades, she adopts a sinister method of reigniting his interest.
With Day-Lewis once again, and for the last time? on top form, Anderson has sewn together an otherworldly masterpiece. (research Jack Whiting)
See it before you too tire of the next thrill…
Three films in and we reach the (anti) climax of the most vanilla of erotic thrillers.
The story makes so little sense it borders on ‘Plot, what plot?’ is as follows:
We rejoin Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and her sadist prince Mr. Grey (Jamie Dornan) after a glossy honeymoon in France, complete with breaks for being blindfolded and worked over with her husband’s usual tools. Once they’re back in Seattle, Christian does, well whatever gazillionaires do, and she plies her trade as a fiction editor. But mild peril soon arrives in the form of Ana’s sleazy former boss Mr Hyde (Eric Johnson) who is obsessed with Christian for a murky (who cares) reason from the past. Oh and there’s some sex too, but don’t worry, it doesn’t spoil the ‘story’. They don’t even really behave like a couple. They’re more like co-workers, who sometimes have to lick each other’s nipples. If a married couple enacting slow bouts of missionary to Liam Payne from One Direction is deemed kinky, then eroticism in mainstream cinema is indeed doomed. May I suggest a new safe-sex word: ‘roll-credits’. (research Jack Whiting)
So nothing to dampen a seat, but there is a car chase! It too, all revs no thrust.
Mute janitor falls for fish creature isn’t one you’d peg for Oscar glory, yet Guillermo del Toro’s sumptuous fantasy romance is just that.
The Mexican filmmaker has made an honest-to-god B-movie creature-feature that’s also, somehow, a shimmeringly earnest and boundlessly beautiful melodrama. It’s Beauty and the Beast meets Creature from the Black Lagoon. Sally Hawkins is unforgettable as Elisa, an orphan who was abused as a child (her vocal cords were severed) and now makes a living as a cleaner at an underground government facility in Baltimore 1962.
Our aquatic friend (Doug Jones) known as “the Asset” was captured from its habitat in the Amazon, where it is said to be a revered god. Now, as a literal prisoner of US paranoia, is being tortured with a cattle prod. Agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) sees the monster as a freakish affront to God. Nasty experiments, which will allegedly give the U.S. an advantage over the Russians in the Cold War, await the hapless gill-man.
Del Toro’s unconventional and impassioned love story is brimming with his trademark flair for the weird – Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy are mythological wonders – and yet it all feels beautifully grounded. (Jack Whiting) Beautifully grounded indeed.
Director Richard Loncraine and his all-star cast
present what promises to be the breakaway hit
of the year. Imelda Staunton recently claimed that
ageing cinema audiences wished to watch films
with intelligent dialogue that deal with real people,
subsequently trash-talking a stream of recent
let-downs as ‘terrible’ blockbusters which gave
the impression that ‘millions’ were lavished on the
special effects and ‘£4.80 on the script’ (almost a
matinee seat). No finer example then in this delightful
comedy-drama. Here she plays self-proclaimed
‘Lady’ Sandra Abbott who, after forty years of married
middle-England life, discovers her husband has been
having an affair with her best friend. Ditching her
plush Surrey home, she traces her estranged, freespirited
older sister Bif (Imrie) to an inner-London
Reluctantly dragged along to a local community
dance class, she is introduced to her sister’s friends
Ted (David Hayman) Charlie (Timothy Spall) and
Jackie (Joanna Lumley). Gradually, she comes to
realise that retirement is in fact only a new beginning,
and that her impending divorce might just give her
a whole new lease of life and love. Unquestionable,
undeniable, unmissable entertainment. (research Chris
Coetsee) With this cast, fun, self deprecating, low key
British humour, is guaranteed. Come.
Heart and humanity are at the core of Pixar’s latest
creation, a vibrant celebration of Mexican culture.
12-year-old Miguel Rivera has just one passion in
life; to play the guitar. Unfortunately however, Miguel
belongs to a family of humble shoemakers where
music has been forbidden for generations. When
caught stealing the prized guitar of local singing
legend Ernesto de la Cruz, he unwittingly unleashes
a curse, forcing him to travel to the Land of the Dead
where he must seek not only his family’s forgiveness
but also their blessing before being allowed to return
home. Without question the studio’s finest output
since 2015’s Inside Out, Coco represents some of the
Pixar’s most colourful and culturally defined work to
date. A total delight with a sparkling intergenerational
message of family, heritage and the power of music.
“Effortlessly gliding between kid-friendly spectacle
and heart-tugging emotion by way of surrealist
touches and a hilariously specific recurring joke
about Frida Kahlo’s unibrow, Coco is a goofy joy from
start to finish.” (Time Out)
“A rousing, affecting, fun and much-needed return to
form after underwhelming Finding Nemo and Cars
sequels.” (Guardian) (research Chris Coetsee) It may
win gongs, but don’t let that put you off.
At the core of this indelibly moving film (Chile’s
entry in the Oscar race for Best Foreign-Language
feature) is a performance of unsurpassing beauty
A Fantastic Woman is a tough, touching story of
a singer ravaged by grief after the death of her
older lover. The wistful drama follows the journey
of a heroine who has rarely been positioned as a
screen protagonist: a transgender woman. Meet
Marina, played with fire and vulnerability by Chilean
transgender actress Daniela Vega. It begins with her
having to downplay the nature of her relationship
with Orlando and soon escalates into denying that
her dead lover paid her for her companionship.
Orlando’s ex-wife rejects Marina for being abnormal,
snidely referring to her as a “chimera”. Orlando’s
son does far worse, taping her mouth shut and
stealing her dog. Vega brings heart and soul to the
movie’s heroine as she navigates a difficult quest
to make the world accept her as she accepts and
validates herself, and director Sebastián Lelio’s
(Gloria) is with her every step of the way, delivering
a gripping, nuanced character study that humiliates
our ignorance. (research Jack Whiting) Tootsie it ain’t.
Come and see what…
In 1991, Tonya Harding became the first American
woman to perform the triple axel, a feat which
established her as one of the top ice skaters in
the world. But she was from the wrong side of the
tracks. In a move which stunned the sporting world,
she found herself embroiled in a bungled plot to
eliminate her chief skating rival, Nancy Kerrigan
(from the right side). Smartly and ironically penned,
it unfolds as a narrated biography with mock
interview interjections from its lead characters as
they reflect on, and often comically deny, both the
film and Harding’s version of events. A bold, and
surprisingly effective narrative choice.
Harding is presented as a frank, layered individual
rather than the one-dimensional villain we’ve been
sold; a masterstroke which pays off in spades,
largely due to Margot Robbie’s mesmerising
transformation into the skater. A remarkable story
of a woman who was never accepted in the skating
frat, but who, through a clawing struggle for love
and acceptance, surrounds herself with some of the
worst people possible. Villain or victim? After all,
truth is stranger than fiction. (Research Chris Coetsee)
How much of this film might be true, doesn’t matter,
it’s a riveting tale. Come for that.
“Does anyone even play board games anymore?” Chimed one studio exec as they wrote a blank cheque to greenlight Welcome to the Jungle.
How do you re-introduce a bizarre nineties fantasy starring Robin Williams to a new (mostly attention deficit) generation? Simple: video-games, and The Rock. This new digital landscape couldn’t be further from the dark fable of the original. Here it’s all fast paced action, explosions, and body-swap slapstick; that’s not a bad thing, mind you. Rather than having all sorts of scary things emerge from an ancient board-game; four teens get sucked into the Atari-esque computer and take the form of their in-game avatars: Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, and of course, Mr Johnson himself leading the pack. To get back home to the real world, the four avatars have to group together to complete the game. They have three lives each. This allows the filmmakers to indulge in a few enjoyably morbid gags in which characters fall off cliffs or are gouged by wild animals.
Sure, the video-game references feel out of date and there’s no replacing Robin Williams, but this Jumanji gets by on the self-mocking tone and the charms of its heroes. (research Jack Whiting)
Greta Gerwig’s offbeat sensibility is usually left
to her on-screen personas via indie ‘dramedies’.
With Lady Bird, we witness her full potential as a
filmmaker with a voice.
This coming-of-age story takes the broad details
of Gerwig’s own upbringing and uses them to
create moments full of spiky humour, all the while
sketching a family set-up loaded with struggle.
Saoirse Ronan’s characterisation of 17-year-old
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson has the forceful
momentum of a natural disaster.
Unlike the rich kids at her Catholic School,
Christine’s family is scraping by on mum’s nurse’s
salary. She has no interest in being defined by her
socioeconomic bracket and clashes with her mother
Saoirse Ronan whirlwinds through every scene,
bristling with a feral desire for experience. Lady Bird
is a small film making a lot of big noise; a hidden
gem that has been exposed in the Oscar spotlight.
It deserves the exposure because Lady Bird is
bursting with warmth, wit and melancholy; it is both
thrillingly real and deeply personal. Gerwig, Ronan,
take a bow. (Jack Whiting)
Come and see if it moves you too.