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.
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.