Disney continues the trend of transforming classic literary pieces, or in this case Tchaikovsky’s ballet, into a dark and edgy fantasy fable for all the family.
A whimsical visual treat with its enchantingly festive CGI locations and a star-studded cast, including Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren, the film begins on Christmas Eve in Victorian London. Clara (Mackenzie Foy) our young heroine with a love for science and invention, is introduced as she is mourning the loss of her mother. Her inventor godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) gives her an egg-shaped music box, a final gift from her mother, with a note stating “Everything you need is inside.” Yet the key to unlock the egg is missing and so begins her quest to find it. Following a mouse-chase into a frosty fantasy world, Clara meets the nutcracker Captain Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) and the regents of the three realms: Snow (Richard E. Grant), Flowers (Eugenio Derbez) and Sweets (Keira Knightley - a wonderful Sugar Plum Fairy). Clara and the nutcracker must retrieve the key from the fourth realm, led by Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) to restore harmony. A glittering fairy-tale with some emotional depth. (Rachel Williams) Fantastical fantasy in delicious rainbow colours. Come.
Mike Leigh’s historical epic furiously lashes out at both past and present-day political order in this sprawling portrayal of warring classes.
Detailing the events that led to Manchester’s devastating 1819 Peterloo Massacre, which saw the government of the day ordering a brutal military charge into a crowd of pro-democracy protesters, Leigh’s narrative of jubilation and hope gradually gives way to one of fear and chaos, culminating in a simply stunning final sequence unlike anything he’s done before. (he’ll directing Bond next)
A terrific cast includes Rory Kinnear as popular, egocentric, political speaker Henry Hunt yet it’s Maxine Peake who steals it among a sea of brilliance, playing mother to a war-torn son while struggling to maintain hope that words, good and true, will bring about change and reform.
Few filmmakers have had such an impressive career as Mike Leigh, continuously showcasing his uncanny ability to immerse his audience in the authentic, textured lives of people both ordinary and extraordinary. A sombre invitation to contemplate how little attitudes have changed, Peterloo is no different, speaking with thunderous passion for the need for reform of parliamentary representation towards a shift in general social equality. It’s an ode to the people. (Research Chris Coetsee) Hmmm… don’t expect too many laughs.
In a nuanced portrait of a fractured family in 60s Montana, Carey Mulligan stuns in career-best performance.
Paul Dano, the next in a line of actor-turned-directors, creates a beautiful adaptation of Richard Ford’s novel along with co-writer and partner Zoe Kazan. When Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job at a golf course, his unemployment ignites a personal crisis, as he refuses to return even when they offer to take him back. Much to the bewilderment of his family, he goes off to fight wildfires for a dollar an hour instead!! Through the disoriented eyes of his son Joe (Ed Oxenbould) we see the difficulty a child faces as his homelife unravels; Ed’s performance is emotionally attuned to taking on the role of an adult - too early. While he and Gyllenhaal are both superb, it is Mulligan who shines through in her depiction of mother Jeanne. Her own fire raging in despair lit by Jerry’s decision, she does what she can to survive, abandoning the perfect persona of a mid-century housewife. Poignant and powerful in its detailed focus on the ways people process devastation. (research Rachel Williams)
Feels like Dano has been around D-Day Lewis too long. Oscar-baiting too.
Gaga and Cooper’s raw vocals invite you into the soundscape of their characters’ sweeping love story: luminous, thrilling, and achingly moving.
It’s the fourth remake of the 1937 original and an impressive directorial debut by Bradley Cooper, well-rounded by his own leading performance as Jackson Maine. A legendary country singer-songwriter, known for his deep Southern drawl and trademark rancher’s hat, we join him looking for another drink. He finds the only a drag bar open. The spotlight is on Ally (Lady Gaga) the only non-drag performer, giving a mesmerising rendition of ‘La Vie en Rose’. Lady G, known as a shapeshifter, here presents a new side to herself, one refreshingly natural. After the show they ‘connect’ by singing together in a car park, leading Jackson to invite Ally on stage before an arena of his adoring fans, where they perform her electrifying original song ‘Shallow’. Their natural and immediate chemistry takes you with them. This Star Is Born is born to be seen. (research Rachel Williams) Inseparable from the music they make, one beautiful two-part harmony is inevitable. Moreover and so rare, it is impossible, watching these two so naturally falling in love on screen, not to fall with them. Don’t dare miss.
Steve McQueen hasn’t been seen since he struck Oscar glory with 12 Years a Slave; now he returns with his most un-McQueen like release, Widows.
Based on the 1983 ITV series by Lynda La Plante, Veronica (Viola Davis) is the widow of Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) a criminal whose team went up in flames in the film’s opening (and beautifully edited) heist-gone-wrong. Judging from an intimate flashback, it’s clear these two had a good thing going, and McQueen and Gillian Flynn’s (Gone Girl) screenplay lays on the backstory of a shared tragedy.
Harry’s past misdeeds have landed Veronica in hot water with the powerful men he stole from. Now she owes them millions. It occurs there is one way to get it. Complete the next job he been planning when he died. To do this, she will need to recruit the fellow widows of Harry’s men. The screen damn near explodes as this genre caper suddenly encompasses a whole social strata: race, class, politics, gender; McQueen takes his time carefully placing all the pieces of the puzzle before blasting them all off the table in a terrifying climactic heist. This is a thriller with real guts. (research Jack Whiting) Yeah right-on man...
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.
This is the film 25 to 30 somethings, long to see at Christmas.
Perhaps as little kids they watched it on telly and were lucky enough to be wrapped in warm snuggly jimmi-jams and tucked into each other.
Here at the Rex today you are transported back to that one moment when the whole world stopped for a tiny euphoric hour or so. Enough to catch your breath in that precious joy of a child’s Christmas. You might not come in your onesies but you are welcome to snuggle up together.
Very loyal to the original the 1947 classic with few changes, it is transplanted to 1990s 34th Street.
Dorey Walker (Elizabeth Perkins) is chief executive of New York’s world famous Macy's. Neither her nor her petulant daughter Susan (Mara Wilson) believe this Christmas nonsense. That is until the store hires Kriss Kringle as Santa (Richard Attenborough as the most Father Christmas of all Santas. My daughters, remain convinced if there is a Father Christmas, he IS Richard Attenborough!) This film does have enough spirit of its own to suggest there might well be an Santa-borough afterall…
Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer, Freddie Mercury,
The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie (Rami Malek), surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie reunites with the band in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, he leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock. In doing so, Queen cements its legacy.
Those hoping for a deep dive into Freddie’s private life may be left feeling short changed; this is nothing more than a glorified Wiki entry - covering all the basics, yet with so much pizzazz, gorgeous set design and attention to the era, it’s easy to get swept up in its kinda magic. Forget the behind-the-scenes faffing with directors etc, although Dexter Fletcher picks up the pieces nicely. This is Malek’s film. (research Jack Whiting) Malek’s film through and through. He might raise it above expectations, but he can’t polish one of the most overrated, overplayed songs and over-haired cringe-pop videos - ever.
Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke’s colourful chemistry brings life to this charming romantic comedy.
Superfan Duncan (Chris O’Dowd) and his crazed obsession with once-famous rocker Tucker Crowe has driven girlfriend Annie to distraction. Leader of a select online community of devoted Crowe losers, he is blissfully unaware of the couple’s growing estrangement.
Out of the blue, Duncan receives a package in the mail with a hashed-up demo of unheard studio recordings entitled “Juliet, Naked.” These new songs become a pathos for Duncan, but they’re quite the opposite for Annie, for whom Crowe and his music is torture. After she writes a harsh critique on her boyfriend’s fan site, Annie receives a private message from Crowe himself and, unbeknownst to Duncan, they strike up an instantaneous, if unlikely, cross-Atlantic email relationship. Bingo!
Hawke has been a tough actor to pin down throughout. This is a pure movie star turn, and he’s never been more magnetic (or just less irritating). Byrne is wonderful as the kind-hearted, but melancholy Annie, and O’Dowd is fab as always. It’s an unashamedly feel-good flick, but it’s just imperfect enough not to feel like a cheat. (Research Chris Coetsee) All this time, then two movie stars-cum-singer-songwriters, turn up at once!
This Chris Columbus exploritory slapstick classic comes to Christmas again, and what better way to fall into it than witnessing the antics of a 10-year-old defending his home from a couple of hapless burglars?
Playing out like a live action Tom & Jerry skit for kids, Home Alone finds young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) accidentally left behind at home as the family jet off to Paris for Christmas.
Generally perceived by his family as a helpless, hopeless little geek, Kevin is at first delighted to be rid of them, gorging on forbidden junk food and violent videos, but when a couple of bandits (Pesci & Stern) begin circling his house, he realises he's on his own.
Home Alone rapidly transforms in to what could be described as Straw Dogs for kids with nail guns, falling irons and swinging paint tins standing between Kevin and his assailants. Not many films draw such sympathy for the bad guys.
One could argue, writer the late, great John Hughes, doesn't conjure the same magical script qualities found in Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but Home Alone is too busy setting alight to poor Joe Pesci to bother with tales of morality. (Jack Whiting) Come alone.
Benedict Cumberbatch is the last person I’d expect to voice this classic character, but he does an impressive job embodying the surly, sour, but ultimately wounded soul.
The Grinch lives on a mountain high above the town of Whovillle, where festive goodwill is spreading like an epidemic. Like Scrooge, there’s an explanation for his shrivelled heart that’s rooted in the Grinch’s backstory: he grew up unloved in an orphanage where Christmas came not even once a year.
To destroy the fun for everyone else, the Grinch is impersonating Santa to steal the town’s presents. At the same time, cute-as-a-button poppet Cindy Lou cracks a plan to trap Santa as he comes down the chimney to be doubly sure her Christmas wishes come true.
While this is a much safer iteration of the Dr. Zeus creation; far more so than the admittedly terrifying, Jim Carrey horror show from nearly two decades ago, and though its ambition remains rather low, the visual gags and charm will warm over any cold critic. (Jack Whiting). It looks hilarious and sounds like great fun. Nobody here will be nit-picking. Bring the street.
What more to be said of this fabulous heartwarming gallic spark? A huge true-story hit around the world, no moreso than at here the Rex where it has/will run and run.
The film chronicles the unlikely burgeoning friendship between Philippe (Cluzet) a wealthy and cultured quadriplegic, and Driss (Omar Sy) a young banlieue (slum) dwelling French West African hired to be his reluctant carer. This routine ‘odd-couple’ story works on some other level, simultaneously wry, tender and hard-hitting. Perhaps inevitably, Philippe and Driss find their cosmic differences reveal more about... Philippe's reluctant romantic involvement with a pen-friend; Driss with his flirtatious, mischievous ways and his deep rooted immigrant poverty and consequent daily family earthquakes. “Untouchable’s moral is conservative optimism: give a man responsibility and he will act responsibly? Might charm, but wont change the world…” (Oh yeah? Telegraph) It will move yours.
From its opening ambiguity, it draws you in, teasing an uncertain tension, before you fall in love. Only the French seem to understand how to tell a fundamental human tale to touch us all across barriers of language and… borders. At the closing of a bad year, come: be uplifted by a different Country’s art of screen story telling; perhaps France’s greatest export gift…
The world created by JK Rowling has no problem carrying on without the boy wizard; and this - the second of five(!) - is where things start to get a little complicated.
Newt Scamander, the awkward and timid magizoologist played by Eddie Redmayne, helped capture the shape-shifting wizard Grindelwald (Colin Farrell in the last one, Johnny Depp in this one) but he doesn’t stay imprisoned for long. Grindelwald is up to his old tricks trying to ensure the dominance of pure-blood wizards over humans with racist rallies. Newt gets a surprise visit from a young Prof. Dumbledore; a canny, charismatic Jude Law who gives our hero an impossible mission, if he decides to accept it: go to Paris and end the Grindelwald menace.
Remember how the Star Wars prequels suffered from contrived exposition and needlessly convoluted plotting? Well, Rowling doesn’t have the same mastery of the screen as she does the page, and as a result this messy instalment mirrors George Lucas’ attempts to tell a compelling narrative. However, when the dazzling set pieces kick in, there are pockets of magic to be found. (Jack Whiting) Well done Jack, not so the film? Fear not. JK fans will know how to undo plots-knots.
A war-hardened crusader and his commander mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown. With machine gun crossbows.
Described as a dark, revisionist prequel to the historical story, this is a hyper-stylised, hyper-explosive retelling of English folklore’s best loved legend.
Taron Egerton stars as Robin of Loxley, a highborn nobleman returning to Nottingham from fighting the Crusades for God and Country, only to find his lands seized by the Sheriff (the great face of very nasty baddies: Ben Mendelsohn). Disgusted, he vows revenge. Under the mentorship of mysterious ally John (Jamie Foxx) he secretly operates as The Hood, a master thief and vigilante who will stop at nothing in his effort to relieve Nottingham and it’s people from the Sheriff’s grip.
Similar in tone to last year’s King Arthur revamp, Robin Hood has dragged it’s source material unapologetically into the 21st century. Complete with automatic weapons and fashionable battle armour, it’s effectively a 14th century Kingsman. A barrage of high-octane chases, choreographed fight sequences and slow-motion arrow dodging will give even the most seasoned action fan something to shout about this Christmas. Ho ho ho. (Research Chris Coetsee) But Eggsy as Robin the Hood? I say! And you thought Errol Flynn in rather fetching tights was ‘diversity’.
The Lisbeth Salander mantle is passed, yet again, this time to Claire Foy, who gives badass a new name in this slick thriller.
Spider’s Web starts with a flashback in which the young Lisbeth escapes from the lair of her pervy father, leaving her sister Camilla to his deviant ways. It’s the reappearance of the now-grown Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks) as a svelte blonde dressed in red — and ready to do her own damage — that sparks the action. As head of a group of brutal mercenaries called the Spiders, her sister wants to get her hands on software capable of hacking into the world’s nuclear arsenals.
If David Fincher’s take on Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo series was a meticulous blueprint that unraveled at the pace of a sloth (it ran close to three hours) then this version jettisons subtlety and texture in favour of adrenaline fuelled, gung-ho bravado; with Salander coming off more as a James Bond figure than the detached cyber-sleuth of the novels. It all makes for a silly, shallow, fab fun-fun ride. (research Jack Whiting)
Wow... Clare Foy. Who’d have guessed it. From Her Majesty, to anxious American Moonman’s wife to this ‘badass’ - all within the space of a netflicker’s crotchet.
Early in 1970 at a small cinema off Oxford Circus (the Regent St Cinema?) just as the final
frame caught them, there was a dead silence. Then the rapture began, and didn’t stop.
By the time the screen had turned to sepia the audience was on its feet, whistling, clapping, loudly through tears.
It was the first time I had experienced such an outpouring at the end of a film, and the last, until the Rex reopened. Being part of that audience has stayed with me as a huge and magical moment.
The film was, and remains, faultless and holds up as fresh today as it did forty eight years ago. It is witty, sharp, a great story and the camera doesn’t miss a trick.
“I got vision while the rest of the world wears bi-foculs…” What ever happened to director, George Roy Hill?
Supposedly based on the true story of two bandits who made outlaw history in the wild, west Wyoming of the late 19th Century. It emerges as a once-only comedy of errors played beautifully to the last shot by the serendipitous, genius, pairing of Redford and Newman. Don’t miss, no matter how many times…
“Somebody say - one two three go…”
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)