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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
Barney Douglas’ candid documentary explores the English Cricket Test team’s trials and success from 2009 until their dramatic fall from grace in 2013.
With the drama of England’s World Cup victory still fresh in the memory, Douglas digs into the human cost of a previous ascent, when England’s Test team rose to No. 1 in the early 2010s during Zimbabwean Andy Flower's tenure as coach.
Full of dressing-room banter from the likes of spinner Graeme Swann and paceman James Anderson, Douglas makes splendid use of off-field tour footage and images of a pre-Ashes extreme training camp in Bavaria. All the while, this chronicle of a team's relentless rise is balanced with troubling revelations from skipper Andrew Strauss, bowler Steve Finn and South African imports Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior and Jonathan Trott who reveal the strain players feel both out on the pitch and in the media spotlight.
Narrated by Toby Jones, The Edge is a tight rollercoaster narrative that offers refreshingly bold visuals, honest talking heads interviews, all alongside genuine humane insight into professional athletes’ mental states under pressure. (Chris Coetsee) sports films are the new seasons buses all at once. Two football films, one cricket and another about a (real…!) canine racing driver.
There’s a lot to say about Ella Fitzgerald that goes beyond the stock superlatives. And happily, Just One of Those Things addresses the lack of attention accorded Ella as a subject worthy of thoughtful chronicle.
Ella Fitzgerald was a 15 year-old street kid when she won a talent contest in 1934 at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Within months she was a star. This fascinating documentary follows her extraordinary journey over six decades as her sublime voice transforms the tragedies of her own life and the troubles of her times into joy.
Fitzgerald was aesthetically an unlikely star; a woman who didn’t fit society’s conventional idea of a traditionally glamourous, slender beauty. She rallied against sexism and racism in her day to day life. Marilyn Monroe is credited as demanding the prestigious Hollywood club, Mocambo open its doors to Ella. One of the film’s poignant moments witnesses Fitzgerald speaking out against racism on a radio show…the piece was never broadcast. There’s a thrill of hope for a future in which Ella Fitzgerald’s music lives on. We loved her as kids despite her being ‘parents music’. Her voice and style transcended, and does now will on and on.
You could probably choose a less conspicuous method of getting over the wall than floating across the border in what looks like a giant glowing lightbulb.
Yet a spectacular nocturnal breakout from communist East Germany by hot-air balloon is exactly what two families did on one chilly night in September, 1979.
Director Michael Bully Herbig tells the true story of the Strelzyks and the Wetzels, who built their balloon in a cellar. After sewing and tinkering for weeks, they make their first attempt. A few feet from West German freedom, their balloon suffers from the rain and crash lands. Luckily, they manage to avoid being caught by the nazi Stasi. However, the wreckage from their escape attempt is found and that triggers a desperate manhunt. The tension rises as the families determine to try again, and a race against time begins.
Besides being a fine thriller, Balloon also shows very well the effects authoritarian societies have on its people. It’s further proof that Herbig is one of the best directors his Country has to offer. (research Jack Whiting) I remember my own family’s joy at the international news of this fantastical escape. Miss everything else, but not this.
Two reasons why Blade Runner returns to The Rex. One: we’re now firmly in the year the film is set, and two: the passing of cult legend Rutger Hauer.
It’s 2019 and Harrison Ford’s Deckard is a former police officer tasked with hunting and ‘retiring’ rogue androids, or ‘replicants’. Existential android Roy Batty is, in fact, the real star of Ridley Scott’s slow-burn masterpiece; not least because Hauer’s presence dominates every inch of the frame, but his character is the one that goes through the most change; culminating in a tragic, yet satisfying arc. The Dutch actor even contributed his own infinitely quotable couplet to the film’s epochal “tears in rain” scene, a moment as iconic as Casablanca’s “Here’s looking at you, kid”.
Blade Runner (here in its ‘final cut’) is a mesmerising slice of neo-noir, with a rich, vibrant, but ultimately bleak world, one that has only now, finally, been matched by its stunning sequel. A misunderstood gem back in 1982, Blade Runner has now entered the pantheon of classic cinema, to become the definitive cult movie. (Jack Whiting)
After 46 years, Nicolas Roeg’s horror masterpiece still has the chilling power to frighten and disorient, to suggest a world perilous, cruel and out of control.
For a British couple in Venice, desperate to shake off the guilt and grief associated with the tragic death of their daughter, the collapsing of time serves as a poignant, terrifying reminder that such tragedies are not only inescapable, but can reverberate in devastating ways. As mysterious coincidences continues to haunt them, the most romantic city in the world becomes a twisted psychic space of despair and wintery isolation.
Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are simply exemplary in the lead roles, bringing real vulnerability to the characters, something which helps to sell the supernatural elements in play and bring together each critical component of their story; gothic horror, human psyche, religious iconography, loss and the afterlife.
Then at the peak of his powers, Roeg created an atmosphere thick with omens and subliminal clues, editing the film in a fractured manner that distorts both time and perception.
A landmark work in British cinema. (Research Chris Coetsee) featuring ‘that’ distracting, contrived, embarrassing sex scene, where ‘are they really doing it..?’ still tantalises audiences.
They’re not btw.
Devlin (Cary Grant) a U.S. agent tracking Nazis who have fled to Brazil in the aftermath of 1946. When an opportunity arises to infiltrate an infamous spy circle, Devlin persuades Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) to assist him and as they get deep into her dangerous mission, they fall in love. But she must carefully operate in enemy surroundings to unearth the truth behind this urgent and secretive curtain of espionage.
Featuring two of the most iconic screen presences of their day, a suave Grant and ethereal Bergman, their on-screen chemistry plays into Hitchcock’s thematic obsession with desire, creating a bristling dynamic, an erotic and tense melodrama.
Hitchcock's mastery is here in Notorious combining all his intrinsic elements: intrigue, suspense, treachery, suspicion and romance. It has all these, some good lines too. It is phenomenally rich and rewarding cinema, whether the first or umteenth time. (Research Chris Coetsee) It is very good indeed, despite Hitchcock’s use of backdrop. He hated location work, hence distracting audiences with irritating B-Movie backdrops, turning tension instantly to flaccid theatricals.
But watch out for that one fabulous long focused zoom from wide to the key in her hand.
David Kross stars in this charming true story set against a backdrop of top-tier football and postwar anger and intolerance.
In the history of the oldest cup competition in world football, the tale of goalkeeper Bert Trautmann is legendary. A Nazi prisoner of war, he would suffer years of abuse after becoming the first German footballer to play in the British football league after WWII. He had to convince teammates, supporters and Manchester’s Jewish community of his right to play. He went on to make over 500 appearances for City during his 15-years, including the 1956 FA Cup Final during which he broke his neck but incredibly continued to make vital saves until the final whistle. Trautmann would later be voted the club's best ever player. But this is just part of his remarkable story.
Stepping away from the pitch, The Keeper focuses chiefly on Trautmann’s relationship with his first wife, Margaret Friar and reconciliation with his time in the War and the will to become a British footballing hero. It’s a celebration of how forgiveness and persistence can bring home more than just a winner’s medal. (Research Chris Coetsee) Goal! Chris. As kids in Goodison’s ‘boys pen’, we saw Bert play, mostly his green jumper.
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)
Harry Wootliff’s sensual drama chronicles one couple’s desperate race against the biological clock.
Little does singleton Elena (Laia Costa) know when she sings Auld Lang Syne at her friend’s New Year’s Eve party that this is truly about to be a new beginning. A chance encounter on the streets of Glasgow leads to her sharing a taxi with marine biology student Jake (Josh O’Connor). With sparks flaring between them, they spend the night together at her flat. But as their romance gets more serious, she comes clean. Laia is actually 35 to his 26. He has no problem with the age difference and in no time they have moved in together and are trying for a baby. Unhappily, neither time nor conception is on their side and their entire life is soon reduced to a brutal battle against infertility.
Catalan actress Costa, brilliant in 2014’s Victoria, is a terrific choice for the role, crackling with a sensual energy that sparks wonderfully with O’Connor. The duo show intelligence and alertness and share a vital chemistry, giving a vivid ring of emotional authenticity throughout. Heartfelt and honest, Only You stands out this year as a UK gleaming gem. (Research Chris Coetsee) Sparkling flashing diamonds of lust into love into pain.
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.
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature is an outrageously funny, twisted and mesmerising fairytale of pure cinema intoxication.
A tribute to the final moments of Hollywood’s golden age, it basks in the warm California sun and glowing neon signs of Los Angeles in 1969 as we follow washed-up television star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) in their struggles to revive fading careers at the close of a turbulent decade. Confronting hippie culture, a changing industry and the lingering menace of the Manson Family, Dalton and Booth’s fates collide with history as they ride a wild and treacherous road to redemption.
A master filmaker, Tarantino conjures a story that remains unbound by category, bouncing between reality and fiction, weaving between the historical and the iconic. It’s a film that plays with a love of moviemaking, and the love of individual soul. Not since Pulp Fiction have we seen him present such a complex and emotionally driven bunch of characters.
Undoubtedly his greatest achievement since the turn of the millennium, this is the proof that QT is at his best when he’s dealing with hope, heart and the hearts he wants to keep beating. (Research Chris Coetsee) Stunning. See it (again) here on The BIG screen.
No Gerard Depardieu awkwardly bumbling around to be found here, the Asterix franchise feels much safer, and is closer to its comicbook counterpart, in animated form.
Asterix is — as all French people know — a barrel-chested Gaul protecting his people from Roman invaders. Aided by the barrel-bellied Obelix, Asterix and the Gauls are above all safeguarded by the wise magician Panoramix, whose magic potion allows them to pounce the better armed and better trained Roman army, which far outnumbers the Frenchies.
When Asterix and Obelix are sent away on a quest, all hell breaks loose at home as the Romans — led by Tomcrus (pronounced Tom Cruise, because why not?) — start attacking. Meanwhile, an evil wizard does everything he can to steal the potion’s secret recipe, which, for lovers of French cuisine, seem to contain carrots, salt, fish, honey and mead.
Hardcore and casual fans of Asterix alike will find The Secret of the Magic Potion hits all the right notes; even the non-converted will will find delight. It’s certainly leaps and bounds better than most of the fluff Illumination (Minions) puts out. (Jack Whiting)
A huge sell-out since August, La Vie En Rose is back to celebrate Marion Cotillard’s Oscar as the diminutive ‘Little Sparrow’ and more, her fantastic theory that 9/11 was an all-American job to rid New York of some jerry-built towers, simultaneously finding the excuse it needed to make the world a freer, happier, safer place.
It’s a long-shot but what a girl…
“Cotillard is little short of genius”. She elevates this tragic tale of one huge, tiny life. This little girl’s magnetism and instant presence lifts the whole film into something above all. From the slums of Paris to the limelight of New York, Piaf’s life was a constant battle to sing and survive, to live and love. ‘Little Sparrow’ flew so high it was inevitable she would burn her wings in bravado, brilliance and self-destruction. “Marion Cotillard expertly impersonates* the legendary singer whose passionate vibrato, like a demented car-alarm, electrified the nation….a great performance” (PB Guardian) * No. She takes it on and rings its heart’s bell soft and clear.
Forget critics (always). Come for a heartbreaking story, beautifully played and photographed right to the last heartrending teardrop… with no regrets. It wont be back for ages. So… don’t regret missing it now.
Despite the, and I’m saying this now as a sort of pre-warning, cruel rape of its protagonist, Swedish writer-director Isabella Eklof’s debut never feels like an empty provocation.
Young, decorative and nakedly avaricious, Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) is the new girlfriend of drug dealer Michael (Lai Yde). For an hour so, Holiday comes on like a sinister Love Island as Sascha — always in a swimsuit — arrives in Turkey to hang around Michael’s house. We get insights into Michael’s controlling relationship with Sascha, disturbingly positioning her legs while she lies unconscious, while juxtaposing her newfound relationship with yacht-owning dude Tomas (Thijs Römer), which suggests a different kind of relationship might be possible.
At around an hour in, Eklöf’s master-plan becomes clear: she unleashes a scene of such discomfiting, depraved intensity that it sends the film spiralling in a different direction, subsequently inverting revenge conventions in a way that dares the audience to call it perverse. Holiday eventually becomes a traumatic survival story in which victory comes not from escaping the boundaries of a corrupt world so much as learning to play by its rules. Strong stomachs will be rewarded. (Jack Whiting)
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
“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)
An animated sequel inspired by a phone app isn’t the most promising film premise, but the second instalment in the Angry Birds series is much funnier and flappier than it has any right to be.
Film two pushes further into action territory, diversifying its carnival of candy-coloured animals – again headed by fiery avian Red (Jason Sudeikis) and porcine blowhard Leonard (Bill Hader) – as our heroes scale the eagles’ ice fortress to face the vengeful Zeta (Leslie Jones). Three credited writers have been let off the leash to truffle for gags, as evidenced by a B-plot that pitches three fledglings into space while recovering stray eggs: essentially a replay of the Ice Ages’ squirrel-and-nut business, but with ample scene-by-scene invention to distinguish it.
The obligatory smash-and-grab pop-culture raiding includes The Great Escape, Dawson’s Creek, David Bowie’s Space Oddity and even the Beverly Hills Cop theme, which becomes the focus of perhaps one too many dance-offs. Still no word on why the pigs are green, but even that now looks intrinsic to how these loony toons have upturned convention and expectation. (Jack Whiting)
Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha’s heartwarming coming-of-age fable pits the music of The Boss against a murky backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain.
Torn between cultures, young Pakistani immigrant Javed (stellar newcomer Viveik Kalra) finds himself increasingly at odds with his old-school dad’s rigid cultural expectations. Things aren’t any less stormy outside the family home where the British social fabric is starting to fray, thanks to a sputtering economy, high unemployment and a toxic backlash against immigrants.
After a starry-eyed classmate introduces him to Bruce Springsteen, Javed discovers a working-class dreamer whose lyrics resonate with his soul. Finding the courage to challenge his father and follow his ambition of becoming a writer, he sets out on his own search for meaning, resulting in a book, now this film.
This film accentuates Springsteen’s words through its visual storytelling by letting them speak for themselves, highlighting how his lyrics speak to Javed’s life without the need for cloying sentimentality. An anthem to the importance of music, it is a joyous, feel-good romp that celebrates creativity, freedom and learning to define one’s own destiny. (Research Chris Coetsee) Unbeknown to Javed, The Boss had read his book. So endorsed this film, and by doing so - Luton. Well done Bruce.
Visually exquisite and deeply meditative, Antonio Banderas excels as an ageing director reflecting on his past
In his most personal work to-date, Almodóvar returns with his colourful stylistic flair and humanist themes. Banding together with Banderas to take on a semi-autobiographical role, Antonio plays Salvador, a successful yet reclusive film director in limbo, miserable and sick. Thirty years after his hit film Sabor, he reunites with the film’s star Alberto (Asier Etxeandia) after a lengthy rift in their friendship (the comedic Q&A scene in which they both feature is a treasure). As Alberto brings out heroin during their reunion, Salvador, uncharacteristically, asks to have some. In one of many interesting access points into his memory, the trip takes Salvador back to his childhood with his mother, Jacinta (playedbeautifully as you would expect by Penelope Cruz). Pain and Glory seamlessly moves between the past and present, the literal highs and lows, and all the while exploring how the two very different times interconnect. From Salvador’s time with his mother, his first real desire, to grown-up-love, the film is a powerful exploration of how passions and losses shape us. (research Rachel Williams) And what crippling shapes passion and loss can make...
A nuanced study of female friendship, Animals explores a wild duo’s foray into their 30s
Bonded by a boozy decade of endless excess, Laura (Holliday Grainger, here in a career-best) and Tyler (Alia Shawkat) live together in Dublin in a Georgian apartment which is at once glamorous and shabby (chic?). Sharing a bed, thrifted clothes and bottles of wine for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the film is both a profile of substance abuse and a comedy apt for a drinking game (??). Moreso, Animals portrays the conflict between continuing the 24-hour parties or settling into the status quo of adulthood. When aspiring writer Laura begins a romance with the sensible classical pianist Jim (Fra Fee) her BFF inevitably looks not ‘forever’ after all. With a sister settling down with a first child, a best friend determined to live in a world comprised of MDMA and lines of poetry, and a fiancée dedicated to his musical career - these differing lifestyles force Laura to question what she really wants. An electric gem not to be missed. A glass of white wine might go down well with it. (research Rachel Williams) A good hedonists mid-weeker, but it thinks it’s funnier than it is. It’s not.
Dora the Explorer is a teen in this live-action adventure, brought to life by the magnetic Isabela Moner
Having grown up in the Peruvian rainforest with her archaeologist father (Michael Peña) and zoologist mother (Eva Longoria), Dora (Moner) is free spirited, extremely energetic, and up for any adventure. Aside from the one she must now embark on. Instead of bringing Dora along on a mission to uncover Parapata, the lost city of gold, her parents ship her off to school in LA (perhaps the scariest task yet). Despite only knowing her cousin Diego (Jeff Wahlberg), Dora’s positive outlook in any situation is infectious, with her desire to learn and spontaneous singing (Moner manages to make it endearing). We don’t get to see Dora adapt to high school for long, though, as she and her fellow outcasts, Sammy (Madeleine Madden), Randy (Nicholas Coombe) and Diego are kidnapped by mercenaries. Thankfully the explorer Alejandro (Eugenio Derbez) helps them escape, and the group find themselves in a location reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The real mission begins: find Dora’s parents and uncover the lost city of gold. An unexpectedly entertaining family film. (Rachel Williams) Looks fab. Come.
Testosterone levels are practically off the charts as two of Hollywood’s most iconic hairless heroes go head-to-head, and then side-by-side, in this ludicrous, yet impossible to hate thrill-ride.
Dwayne Johnson is Luke Hobbs, a classic, rugged and philosophical (spouts Nietzsche on occasion); while Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is a slickly refined off-kilter Brit. Hobbs and Shaw insult each other like high-school mean girls. Throw in Idris Elba, having a blast as Brixton, a former Brit agent who’s been carved up into a cyber-villain and ordered to capture a virus that can terminate half the globe. Then there’s the dazzling Vanessa Kirby as Shaw’s Mi6 agent sister Hattie, and two cameos from Helen Mirren and to round off the fun cast.
Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde) keeps the action and the comedy at full velocity, and while it never reaches the action highs of John Wick or Mission: Impossible, The Rock and The Stath hold even the faltering moments up through sheer charm. Their chemistry never better than when they lean into the slapstick of two macho doofuses having to work together. Buckle up. (Jack Whiting)
The art of making animals talk on film shows no signs of slowing down as yet another canine centric tear-jerker (ala Marley and Me) based around motor racing. As far as strange combinations go, it’s up there.
The film, aimed with lethal efficiency at your tear ducts, stars Milo Ventimiglia as Denny, an aspiring racing driver who buys a puppy on a whim and christens it Enzo. Kevin Costner lends his gravel-blasted rumble of a voice to Enzo, one that makes him sound more like a chain-smoking dive bar derelict than a retriever. “All I know is that I was meant to be his dog.”
The bond between pup and his man is tested when Denny meets Eve (Amanda Seyfried). But Eve shows the kind of loyalty usually reserved for canine companions, and spends most of her scenes urging Denny never to give up on his dreams of motor racing stardom. But a dark shadow falls when Eve begins to feel unwell. Corny? Yes. Manipulative? You betcha. But still endearing. (Jack Whiting)
Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Spalding team up in Mrs Lowry & Son, depicting the complex relationship between the artist L.S. Lowry and his mother
With remarkable performances from Redgrave and Spalding, the pair add depth to this bopic set almost entirely in one house - making the most of a script perhaps better suited for the stage. The Lancashire artist (Spall) is a timid figure, dominated by his controlling mother Elizabeth (Redgrave). As we are introduced to the characters, a letter arrives from London, with an opportunity at a gallery. Elizabeth sees no value in her son’s artwork, doing her best to dissuade him from this ‘art nonsense’. He longs to give up his job as rent collector, at classes and painting every spare minute, he observes the Salford streets in his creations. Exploring the conflict between being a filial son and pursuing his passion, The film is a deep-dive into the inner workings of Lowry’s biggest obstacle: his mother! Bed-ridden and deeply miserable, Redgrave manages to steer away from making a villain out of her character. As Lowry proclaims, “There’s a beauty in everything.” (research Rachel Williams) Except his paintings and his mother. Genius and/or heartbreakingly lonely optimist.