Falling somewhere between The Princess Bride and Inside Out, this latest feature from Michel Hazanavicius is a charming coming-of-age story set just outside Paris.
In this deconstructed French fairy tale, Omar Sy plays Djibi, a widowed father whose entire life revolves around that of his 11 year old daughter, Sofia (Sarah Gaye). Initially enamored by her dad’s bedtime stories, Sofia is turning into a young adult who needs her own space.
Djibi is clearly not ready for the onslaught of Sofia's pubescence, his emotional state reflected in the technicolour fantasy world he visits in his mind each night while telling stories. In that world, which takes on the guise of an old Hollywood studio lot filled with costumed actors, Djibi has always been The Prince — the star of the show and his daughter’s hero. Now he’s being replaced by Sofia’s new boyfriend, and must embark on a quest to get back to top billing status.
Like Hazanavicius’ other features - The Artist, Redoubtable, and the OSS spoofs - attention to the period details is part of the charm; with its flourishes and emotional highlights, brings The Lost Prince closer to a Hollywood production. (Jack Whiting)
The French master Luc Besson came through with what is one of the oddest guardian-child relationships (who adopts who). In this his English language debut, Jean Reno plays Leon, the coolest assassin ever, with fantastic new (then) child-star: Natalie Portman as Mathilda.
At only 12-years-old, Mathilda returns one day from running an errand to find her dysfunctional, family wiped out after a corrupt undercover police raid, led by psychotic cop, Stansfield (a terrifying, Gary Oldman). As luck would have it, it turns out she lives next door to a very quiet assassin: Leon. Reluctantly he takes her in. Let the story begin.
The film has everything it needs to be an action thriller in every detail, high on emotion. Outstanding performances, mind-blowing action, loads of tension and violence, on top of which is a truly amazing screenplay.
“Having one career highlight performance in a film is a treat. Having three is just spoiling us” (Total Film)
“Reno's performance of hangdog loyalty lends his character pleasing sympathy, while Besson's heavily stylized direction builds tension around sexy violence.” (Film4) What a tepid writing for a film so hot.
The three performances are shining-brilliant from the start. One of the most thorough thrillers from the last 25 years.
Annette Bening and Bill Nighy star in this poignant depiction of how longtime partners can drift apart without either fully knowing it.
Written and directed by Oscar nominated screenwriter William Nicholson (Gladiator), Hope Gap begins as a portrait of marriage as living hell.
Grace is approaching her 29th wedding anniversary with Edward. She’s a homemaker while he writes and researches Wikipedia entries. It’s clear he’s the harried husband who can never make Grace happy and she’s the scolding bully; demanding and self-serving. When Edward decides to walk away from his domestic torture, Grace’s egotism and neuroticism are exposed as she struggles to come to terms with both her and Edward’s new and separate lives.
Bening, quietly in the running for star of the century, proves you can hand her just about anything and she'll turn in a performance so ferocious and original that it’ll completely transform a film. Coupled with sweeping landscape photography, she turns the crisp, cold beauty of Seaford, Sussex into a metaphor for Grace's chilly marriage.
Entertainment Weekly described this as Marriage Story for boomers, with only one side of the story to tell. Hers is, at least, a pleasure to watch. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Playwright Jessica Swale makes her directorial debut with this touching wartime drama.
The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society: Part II. Or at least that is the vibe the producers appear to have been clawing at.
Alice (Gemma Arterton) is a fiercely independent and reclusive young woman living alone by the Kentish seaside during World War II. Much to her frustration, she learns that she is expected to take on a teenage evacuee from London, Frank (Lucas Bond). Agreeing he can stay for one week while the town evacuation committee find him another place to stay, she is soon taken aback by his sensitivity and independence. A connection forms as she reflects on a past of loneliness, regret and her lost love, Vera.
A great performance by Arterton fits neatly alongside those of seasoned pros Penelope Wilton and Tom Courtney who, as entertainingly as ever, flesh out this multi-timeline tale. Cinematographer Laurie Rose should also take a bow for beautifully capturing the costal scenery.
If you had a slice of Potato Peel Pie, you’ll know exactly where it’s headed but as a bite of sweet, escapist fantasy, maybe it’s just what’s needed right now. (Research Chris Coetsee)
We’ve all experienced a little road rage, especially when stuck in traffic. But nothing comes quite as close to the anger expressed by Russel Crowe in this violent cat-and-mouse thriller.
Crowe plays ‘The Man’ as a blend of Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher and the lorry in Spielberg’s Duel. His short-tempered nature is only matched by his scarily large physicality; all beard and bloat. His target is single mum Rachel (Caren Pistorius) after she beeps him when he hesitates to move at a green light. For most people this would be an understandable response, but for The Man, this act of impatience was the last straw for his already fractured mental state. After she refuses to apologise for what he describes as an overly aggressive act of honking, he snaps, and begins to relentlessly pursue the mother across the freeways of New Orleans.
No one is safe from his warpath; from her friends and family, to pedestrians that just happen to be in his way. Unhinged may be a one trick pony, but it’s Crowe on overdrive - allowing the Aussie to go full bad-guy - and veers from horrifically entertaining to just downright horrific. (Jack Whiting)
Man meets CGI dog in wholesome adventure film
Adapting Jack London’s 1903 literary classic, The Call of the Wild follows the life of Buck, a domesticated St. Bernard/Scotch Collie dog. Stolen from his comfortable Californian home and sold to freight haulers in Yukon, Canada, Buck’s life is turned upside down. Driven by a new demand for dogs to pull sleds during the 1890s Gold Rush, after men discover gold in the region, Buck is forced to join a mail delivery dog sled team. After a series of hardships, the canine comes across John Thornton (Harrison Ford), who becomes his new master. Both trying to find their place in the world among the frozen Alaskan Klondike, Harrison Ford stated that his character “has an opportunity to gain humanity in Buck’s eyes because of their close relationship. And he gets the courage from Buck to face parts of his life that he didn’t have the courage to face prior to this relationship.” Exploring the deep bond that a dog can have with man and their fight for survival in dangerous terrain, this is a heartfelt adaptation of London’s timeless novel.
Debut director Melina Matsoukas’ rousing dramatic thriller spotlights racial profiling and police violence in America.
Following a disastrous Tinder date at an Ohio diner, lawyer Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and her companion Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are pulled over by a white police officer. The reasons are dubious, the cop is itching for a confrontation, and the young not-quite-couple know exactly how wrong this situation can go for them. Seconds later, Queen has a bullet in her leg and Slim has shot and killed the cop. Thrown together by destiny, they wind their way down to Florida, hoping to escape to Cuba where a new life and perhaps new love awaits them.
This is a film which thoroughly immerses you in the journey of its two main characters, their lives at stake at every turn. Assigned the task of carrying the narrative, Kaluuya and Turner-Smith deliver in monumental fashion. Their chemistry burns like a torch and together their journey is remarkable as the nature of their relationship evolves considerably.
Timely, provocative and bold, Queen and Slim is an unforgettable condemnation of the injustice that stains US society. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Armando Iannucci combines wit and satire with an A-list cast to create the perfect Dickens film adaptation
Returning after our gifted anniversary preview in December (followed by a relaxed easy-going Q&A with Armando, who brought his whole family..!). The film went down a storm with The Rex audience ahead of its nationwide release. Its diverse casting, with the remarkable Dev Patel as David, and interesting stylistic touches set the film apart from previous adaptations of the novel. Condensing a 600+ page tome into a fast-paced tragicomedy, we follow David’s tumultuous journey from birth to adulthood, as he navigates various obstacles as an impoverished orphan to a burgeoning writer in Victorian England. Playing David’s Aunt Betsey and Mr Dick, Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie excel as an eccentric double act, reflecting both the absurdity and charm of Dickensian characterisation. Ben Whishaw’s performance as the manipulative Uriah Heep and Peter Capaldi as Mr. Micawber add to the fun. During his Q&A, Iannucci said “I was always struck by how fresh and contemporary Dickens felt and I think we’ve packaged him away as some Victorian fusty long-winded novelist.” Not to be missed, the film captures the spirit of Dickens’ masterful (and youthful- mischief) storytelling. (Rachel Williams). Must not miss.
This was among our first foreign language miracles-in-film, first at the Rex in the summer of 2005. It continued a sell-out into the following year and the next and beyond. It remains a most beautiful piece of French film-making returning here as part of this year’s back catalogue.
As a new teacher arrives at a school for disruptive boys, he awkwardly and quite unwittingly, sets about changing their lives. A huge success in its native France and its (then) newly adopted home The Rex, The Chorus is a heart surging tale of an inspirational teacher and a rag-tag of abandoned and stranded children.
“With the music of Jean-Phillipe Rameau at its heart, it is not only a beautiful and warm film to cherish, but a celebration of the universal language of song.
Director, Barratier manages to draw naturalistic performances from his youthful cast while Jugnot brings great warmth, genuine care and humour to his role as the odd-man-out teacher.” (Universal) Their faces will start you, the music will take you, the storytellers will do the rest. You must come. It is exquisite. Heart warming and breaking all at once.
It won’t be back for ages. Bring the street.
Alfre Woodard gives an unmissable performance in this devastating death row drama.
Bernadine Williams is a prison warden of twenty years charged with sending inmates to their death. Bearing the constant burden of managing her prison and its purpose, her commanding authority is thrown into question when a botched execution fuels opposition to the death penalty.
Confronted with the choice of sanctioning a clean and dignified death or helping a potentially innocent man walk away freely, Bernadine toes a dangerous line of self-destruction as she struggles to make her choice. All the while, a backdrop of racial prejudice and sexism threatens her every move.
Woodard’s breathtaking performance is up among the best, this year or any. To convey an internal trauma bubbling so dangerously close to the surface with such restraint is as close to perfection as you’ll see anywhere.
Clemency confronts the full weight of what it means to participate in a system that claims the lives of fellow humans. Make no mistake, it’s a disturbing watch, handing us with the realities of modern execution. Today’s methods might be more clinical, but are no less barbaric. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Victor Hugo’s majestic account of poverty and revolt in 19th century France is given a contemporary kick through writer-director Ladj Ly.
As plain-clothes officers Chris and Gwada head out for patrol, they’re joined by new-transfer Stephane. When a lion cub goes missing, the mayor and the mob start getting involved. When confrontations spiral out of control, Chris is less concerned with finding medical help than with tracking down Buzz (Ly), a teen who piloted the drone that filmed a violent policeman's reaction.
The film closes with a telling quote from Hugo: "There are no bad plants or bad men; there are only bad cultivators." Ly cuts into this idea at every point, finding textures in a community created by generations of oppression and fear. It's an audacious film that ripples out to explore why people rise up to protest the abuses of those in power who have tried to keep them quiet for decades. L
Les Miserables shows in glorious technicolour the everyday misery endured in the Parisian suburbs. It is a conversation reignited, started by La Haine 25 years ago and left hanging in mid sentence. Hopefully, Les Miserables will allow those voices muffled for too long to be heard loud and clear. (Research Chris Coetsee)
A bold departure from the tired superhero-movie formula; Black Panther is dressed up in glorious Afrofuturism, with swords, spears... and warrior rhinos. T’Challa aka the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) is a king in his home of Wakanda, a hidden, super-rich African nation. Arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) knows the country’s secrets and has secured a precious metal that he intends to sell. Working with him is Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) who knows a thing or two about Wakandan culture himself. T’Challa winds up in a battle for control of the throne. This addition to the Marvel stable is one of their strongest. But what surprises is the film’s racial conscience and profound, astonishing beauty. Not just a correction for years of diversity neglect, it’s a blockbuster that digs into the roots of blackness itself. Directed by Ryan Coogler, the African-American who gave us Creed and Fruitvale Station; and with Kendrick Lamar producing the hip-hop-heavy soundtrack, Black Panther may be yet another Marvel instalment, but it is also an important cultural milestone; one that just so happens to be a great film in its own right. (Jack Whiting)
Do families need fathers? Onward delivers a love song to atypical clans, which couldn’t end on a sweeter, or clearer, note.
A charming tale which explores the frayed bond between two elf brothers: shy, introverted Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and the bumbling Barley (Chris Pratt) who lost their father before they got to know him. Their mum has raised them the best she could in New Mushroomtown, a Middle Earth inspired slice of suburbia brimming with trolls, unicorns, elves etc. And like our world, they live in a landscape where digital technology threatens to replace imagination.
As could have been guessed from the moment “dead dad” entered the picture, Onward is another soul-crushing tearjerker in the tradition of Coco and Inside Out. It’s like the Pixar team set up a betting pool on who can make audiences choke on their own tears the fastest. In the end, the affecting simplicity of the family dynamic shines through; Onward isn’t just an abstract parable of the absent father, but a relatable tale about how the broken bond between two brothers is mended by a common cause. (research Jack Whiting) Sounds fab, if unusual in the cartoon of things. Come and see.
You all the know the story, come and have fun.
Audrey Tatou dishes out loaves of Parisian joie de vivre in her breakout performance as a mender of broken hearts.
When Montmartre waitress Amélie Poulain sets out to reunite a dusty box of toys she has found with its original owner, her act of kindness reaps such gratitude that she decides her new mission in life will be to bring joy to all she meets. A simple enough premise, sure. But what could have become a cloying, soft-focus self-indulgence binge is still director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s best loved and most accessible work.
With Parasite sweeping this years’ awards season, it’s hard to remember just how subtitle-wary an audience we were at the turn of the millennium. A runaway, word of mouth hit, Amélie opened the door to world cinema that little bit wider and ushered in a new era of French film.
Now at almost 20 years, it remains one of the most uplifting movies of the 21st Century. If snappy visuals, tangy colours, mood-drenched scenery and a good-hearted heroine make you as happy as a box of Parisian chocolates, it's definitely time for a revisit. (Research Chris Coetsee)
A quarter of a century sees nothing new for the banlieues.
Three friends waste away their day as a their link lies dying in hospital, wounded by police gunfire the night before. One has found a gun that was dropped in the chaos and vows to take revenge for his friend's death by shooting a cop. One is against it. One fluctuates.
La Haine triumphs as it peers into the hectic 24 hours lives of the impoverished, angry, frustrated youths. The central trio are made up of the fiery young Jewish man Vinz, his outspoken North-African Muslim friend Saïd, and African-French boxer Hubert who is longing to escape his situation and is more aware than most that hate breeds hate.
La Haine more than taps into anti-police sentiment, racial divisions and the cyclical nature of violence in French society, themes that have been powerful since and feel all the more resonant now. The Hate isn't just one character's emotion, but is felt by everyone in the film, in one direction or another. (Research Chris Coetsee)
The warm prospect of later-life love springs into the lives of two dog owners in 23 Walks, a self-consciously sweet-natured film set in the gorgeous greenery of the well-tended English countryside.
While walking her terrier across Hampstead Heath, Fern (Alison Steadman) - who is recently divorced and really not interested in starting anew with anyone - gets into an altercation with widower Dave (Dave Johns, basically resurrecting his character from I, Daniel Blake), whose Alsatian is off the lead. It's a moving, relaxed, honest portrait of two later-life singletons who aren't looking for love, but who find it anyway through companionship; the unfolding drama isn’t as straightforward as it first appears, as they both encounter a bumpier ride than their simpatico dogs.
And although you’ve certainly seen this sort of thing before, there’s some convincing pain here, as the film explores just some of the particular problems facing, dare it be said, ‘older people’. 23 Walks is an insubstantial film, but a defiantly big-hearted and pleasant one. It may stretch credulity at times, but with Steadman and Johns in shot, it never loses its heart. (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.
Edward Norton writes, directs and stars in Motherless Brooklyn, a stylish but convoluted 50s detective thriller
Twenty years in the making, Norton has finally adapted Jonathan Lethem’s novel after acquiring the rights in the 90s. Shifting the setting back to the late 50s, his version allows for smoky jazz clubs and an abundance of tropes seen in classic noir films. Its protagonist is Lionel Essrog (Norton) a private eye with Tourette’s syndrome. His father-figure boss, Frank Minna (Bruce Willis) had rescued him from an abusive orphanage, and trained him in the underworld of his New York detective agency. When he witnesses his boss’ murder on a secret case, Lionel resolves to solve his murder and find out what he was working on. Utilising his photographic memory, he uncovers a web of secrets among the jazz clubs of Brooklyn and Harlem - meeting community activist Laurie Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and dangerous city official, Moses Randolph (an excellent Alec Baldwin) along the way. It could do with sharper edits and requires some patience, yet the gorgeous cityscapes and poignant soundtrack contributed by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke colours then period well.
(research Rachel Williams) Now there’s an oddball collaboration. Come, see and hear for yourself.
Exploring the what-ifs of life, Javier Bardem gives a nuanced performance as an author with early onset dementia
Writer-director SallyPotter, anchors this film on personal experience. It opens with Leo (Bardem) a writer in New York who is stuck in bed, only able to speak a few words. His caring daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning) arrives to take him to his appointments. Frustrated by the way others dehumanise her father, she questions why everyone refers to him “as if he’s not here”, receiving the response “is he?” While she navigates their way around the city, the film dips in and out of Leo’s mind, as he imagines alternative realities. Or as the title calls it, The Roads Not Taken. In the first scenario, we see a life had he stayed in Mexico with his first love, Dolores (Salma Hayek). His bitterness invades their relationship. In the other, Leo has abandoned his family and retreated to a Greek island, chasing after a younger woman. Although the plot risks losing focus at times, Bardem expertly depicts three versions of his character, and Fanning sensitively portrays the experience of premature grief. (research Rachel Williams) Hardly sounds like a date-movie, but it will surprise you. Come.
The second greatest boxing movie of all time (beaten only by Raging Bull) this rags to riches pugilist fable remains Sylvester Stallone's crowning cinematic achievement.
A mashup of a ludicrous feel-good fantasy and a gritty urban drama, and spawning a plethora of sequels of varying quality (including two surprisingly great Creed spinoffs), Stallone not only delivers a winning performance as the loveable lunkhead seizing his chance to take on the champ, but also penning the script himself.
The reigning world heavyweight champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), has lost his scheduled opponent. Creed’s backup plan is to deliver a local, “snow white” underdog show to the public; giving the average Joe fighter a chance at the American dream; in this instance, it’s Rocky.
This is really Sly's movie as he slugs his way through a heartfelt performance and delivers some cracking punches, both literally and emotionally. Though in hindsight, snatching the Best Picture gong over All the President’s Men, Network, and Taxi Driver could be seen as an outrage, Rocky’s simple underdog tale still inspires and delights. (Jack Whiting)
Three years after the events of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Spencer, Anthony, Martha and Bethany organise a players reunion but when Spencer fails to show up they find out that he has not only repaired the Jumanji game, he has once again been sucked into it.
They quickly follow him into the game but they soon realise that the clock is ticking, the rules have changed and they have to brave scorching deserts, snow-capped mountains and dense perilous jungles in a race against time to find Spencer and find a way to escape. But the game has more than a few new tricks up its sleeve.
The old gang return with Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart and Jack Black leading the way with (unwilling) recruits Danny Glover and Danny DeVito joining the adventure. With Director Jake Kasdan also back on board and new villain Rory McCann (Game of Thrones) as the diabolical Jurgen the Brutal, the stakes could never be higher and the excitement and fun are unrelenting.
So sit back, strap yourself in and… Welcome back to the jungle!
What do you do for an encore if you're director Sam Mendes?
If ambition, screen craft and a cast to kill for were everything, Road to Perdition should have had every Oscar enthusiast trumpeting their way to the ceremony. Mendes is seemingly pretty good at this after all. Spielberg first contacted screenwriter David Self to adapt the story into a feature film but it ended up in the lap of Mendes.
Here a mob enforcer's son witnesses a murder, forcing him and his father to take to the road and his father down a path of redemption and revenge.
The actors deliver perfectly. Never once do we think we're watching a familiar Tom Hanks, whose almost sickly appearance aids him in the role of a solemn, guilt-ridden hit man. Family tragedy compels Hanks’ Sullivan to seek revenge against his former associates while remaining one step ahead of the freelance assassin they've hired to kill him. America’s most trusted man gets a much needed makeover.
Mendes seems to have a quality to draw from his performers. Or perhaps draw them to him. Anyone who has seen 1917 will testify to that. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Alfred Hitchcock’s only Best Picture triumph is an unmissable affair.
Breathing some life into Daphne du Maurier’s classic female gothic romance, Hitchcock’s story examines the tragic experience of a young wife who lives in the shadows of the memories of partner Olivier’s first spouse. Concerned with her husband’s continual moodiness over the former wife, Miss Fontaine gradually pieces together the tragedy of the former marriage. All the while, an ominous presence lingers.
Captivating from start to finish, this is a wonderful example of how a director is in total command of his craft. It is simply a joy to watch. Who else could conjure such performances from Laurence Oliver and the incredible Judith Anderson as housekeeper Mrs. Danvers?
A genius of entertainment, it’s hard to believe the level of which Hitchcock missed out on at the Academy Awards over his lifetime. To think Rebecca is only one of five films to have seen a Best Picture or Director nomination is criminal.
Hitchcock holds a special place in in the lives and hearts of so many. Here he proves himself as a master of cinema. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho’s perfect neo-noir thriller.
Based on the true, unsolved case of the first serial killers ever to appear in South Korea, the film begins in October 1986, when the deceased body of a raped woman is discovered in a ditch next to a field. A little later, another similar body is discovered. As the rain continues to fall, a pattern emerges.
Veterans of Korean cinema will no doubt recognise Song Kang-ho who does remarkable work here, but Kim Sang-kyung is simply incredible as detective Seo Tae-yoon; his biggest achievement being the metamorphosis from an individual who is smooth and detached from the tactics of his colleagues, to a thing much worse, due to his growing despair for his continuous failure. You can physically see the toll his life is having on him.
Ever since the Oscars, Parasite has continued to hit virtually every major market. Bong Joon-Ho is one of the very best filmmakers today. To see somebody produce film after film of such quality is a genuine pleasure. Memories of Murder is arguably his finest. (Research Chris Coetsee)
Directed by Jean Becker (son of Jacques) in 2009 “My Afternoons With Marguerite” is a sweet natured, heart in your hand, French comedy.
Set in a small, sunny town, Germain (Gérard Depardieu), a semi-literate, bumbling, fat handyman, strikes up an unlikely friendship with ninety-something Marguerite (the astonishing, real life nonagenarian, Gisèle Casadesus). Their chance meeting on a park bench sets in motion a whimsical friendship. Marguerite reads Camus to the big man, and slowly sets him on a path to self-improvement.
It’s unashamedly cosy, inimitability French, set in a leafy town where the sun always shines. The character of Germain is a strange one, a mixture of blustering assurance and low self-esteem, despite having a fabulous blonde girlfriend half his age. Such inconsistencies Depardieu pulls off with ease. However, Gisèle is the star; an actress since the 1930s, she is grace and charm and French, personified.
“It's charming, sentimental, well-acted, and any readers' group should make an outing to see it.” (Observer)
It is simply gorgeous and heartwarming. Don’t miss it this time around.
British director Hong Khaou captures the feelings of groundlessness that come from growing up in a country away from your place of birth.
Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding headlines as Kit, a young British Vietnamese man who returns to his birth country for the first time in over 30 years. No longer familiar with his country and unable to speak his native language, Kit embarks on a personal journey from Saigon to Hanoi, in search of a place to scatter his parents' ashes. Along the way he meets his estranged family and falls for Lewis, an American whose father had fought in the war. During his travels, Kit finally starts to connect to the memories of his parents and his own roots.
Like his 2014 debut Lilting, UK-based writer-director Hong Khaou’s second feature is a drama about cultural identity, but this time more rooted in Khaou’s own experience as a refugee. Following a 30-something man who returns to Vietnam for the first time since fleeing to England as a child, it’s a well-acted, gracefully shot but perhaps overly delicate exploration of a Vietnamese culture. (Research Chris Coetsee)
It is an absolute tragedy that it took this long for these two to reunite: Sofia Coppola directing Bill Murray was a god-send in 2003’s Lost in Translation, so it is again now.
Laura (Rashida Jones) thinks she’s happily hitched, but when her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) starts logging late hours at the office with a new co-worker, Laura begins to fear the worst. She turns to the one man she suspects may have insight: her larger-than-life, impulsive father Felix (Bill Murray, a masterstroke of casting), who insists they investigate the situation.
“It’s nature,” Felix tells her over martinis. “Males are forced to fight, to dominate and to impregnate the female.” Once he’s done making their waitress highly uncomfortable, Felix suggests to Laura that she should “see Dean in action.” What starts off as a wacky plan to tail and spy on Dean — in Felix’s highly conspicuous convertible, no less — turns into a late-night prowl through New York City’s parties and hotspots.
Coppola conceived of the film as a love letter to the city, to generation-clash comedies and to the complications of modern family life. (Jack Whiting)
For decades, David Attenborough has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections.
In his 94 years, Sir David has visited every continent on the globe, documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. Now, for the first time he reflects upon both the defining moments of his lifetime as a naturalist and the devastating changes he has seen. A Life on Our Planet starts with Attenborough’s childhood fascination with rocks, then follows his nearly 60-year career as a broadcaster, interspersed with regular updates on the state of the planet.
This feels like a baton-passing moment. Attenborough’s cinematic memoir lays out the state of play, but it is up to us to fix the problems before it is too late. Honest, revealing and urgent, A Life On Our Planet is a powerful first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature and a message of hope for future generations. (Jack Whiting)
After a three-decade hiatus, The Wyld Stallyns are back and ready to rock. Was it worth the wait to see these two SoCal slackers be excellent to each other once more? Totally, dudes.
Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves), now enduring middle-age, aren’t exactly setting the world on fire with their music. Playing local gigs at weddings and restaurants. But their respective daughters, Billie (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Thea (Samara Weaving) look up to them as role models because, well, they practically are younger versions of themselves.
When an emissary from the future shows up with a dire warning - great musicians are needed to save reality from collapsing in on itself - the B. and T. daughters are sent into the past to recruit said musical prodigies, while the dads are propelled forward to try to get their act together.
Like its predecessors, Face the Music is winningly modest and harmlessly silly. The two fifty-something actors prove that youth may be fleeting, but immaturity is a joy forever. Party on. (Jack Whiting)
The first major release to bypass cinemas and launch exclusively in our homes thanks to lockdown, Trolls World Tour can now be experienced in all its candy coloured hysteria on the big screen.
Our beloved trolls from the earlier film, led by the always-cheerful Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and her forlorn, anxious admirer Branch (Justin Timberlake), learn that they are not the only trolls in existence. Apparently, there are six different tribes, each identified by a musical genre. When rockers Queen Barb and King Thrash set out to destroy the other music, Poppy and Branch embark on a daring mission to unite the trolls and save the diverse melodies from becoming extinct.
It’s delirious, but often in ways that are disarmingly weird and imaginative. It should be noted, the film opens with a troll sneezing in our faces, which is a hell of a way to begin a movie coming out during a pandemic, but I suppose editing that bit out would have compromised its artistic vision. (Jack Whiting)
Back, for as long as it likes. From nowhere in 2005 A-list big man Liev Schreiber on a-day-off from tough-guy, turned in this extraordinarily beautiful piece of storytelling from script to made-look-easy directing. And what an timeless treasure it is.
Eugene Hutz’s perplexed Alex, our ‘guide’ and his gorgeous narration. Much of the haunting film-score is from him too, and his real-life band: ‘Gogol Bordello’ (see them at the station)
A heartstopping surprise from its first outing at the Rex in February 2006, Jonathan Safran Foer’s real family tale and best-seller.
Geeky ‘Jonfen’ (Elijah Wood) travels from America in search of Augustine the woman he believes saved his grandfather during the Nazis razing of Trachimbrod a now lost, Ukranian town wiped-out. Armed with a yellowing photograph, he begins his search with the unlikely Alex, grandfather (Boris Leskin) and his ‘seeing-eye bitch’. Alex’s butchery of the English language and passion for all things American is pure poignant/tragi-comic joy from the start. You will be glad to be in the presence of every word and gesture. It is as unexpected as it is beautiful. It will touch you now. Moreover, it will fill your heart long after you leave and for years to come…
Summer 42 waxes nostalgic about lost innocence, coming of age, and a bygone America consumed by a devastating world war.
Nominated for four Oscars, and a personal favourite of Stanley Kubrick, this 1971 box-office sensation follows the adventures of three good-natured, sexual curious teens - on an unnamed island during the summer days of 1942.
With her husband off to war, Dorothy also has a lot of time on her hands, which Hermie, one of the hormonal boys, is more than anxious to assist with. Eventually, it will lead to what has now become a controversial moment in film history ‒ an artistic variation of The Graduate, if you will ‒ though presented in a far-more serious sense. Summer of '42 is an honest and sincere look at that point in time where we really do start to grow up.
Director Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird), aims for another mix of universal feelings within a specific time and place. In the early hijinks phase, the film seems like a dry run for Porky's, but it later gets into the business of fluttering curtains, walks on sandy beaches and longing glances. (Jack Whiting)
A former beauty pageant queen attempts to relive her glory days in this sincere mother-daughter drama
Set in Fort Worth, Texas, single mother Turquoise (Nicole Beharie) is preparing her daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) for the Miss Juneteenth pageant. Named after the annual holiday in June, which commemorates the day Texan slaves were freed in 1865, the pageant offers a college scholarship to its winner. Although Turquoise is seen as a local celebrity for winning as a teen, she never got to fulfil her dreams past the pageant, remarking that her daughter is “my dream now”. Working two jobs to try and make ends meet, she is fiercely determined to buy Kai a poofy aquamarine dress worth hundreds of dollars, even when the electricity is cut off at one point in the film. Yet Kai has different interests, preferring to dance and spend time with her boyfriend than perfect her etiquette, inevitably causing tension with her mother. While navigating this conflict, Turquoise is also being pursued romantically by Kai’s father Ronnie (Kendrick Sampson) and her boss Bacon (Akron Watson). Beharie is radiant in this tender portrait of motherhood and the American dream. (Rachel Williams)
Just when the zombie sub-genre was shuffling back into the ground, hipster filmmaker Jim Jarmusch comes along and digs it up again.
Jarmusch stalwarts Bill Murray (Broken Flowers) and Adam Driver (Paterson) play Cliff and Ronnie, respectively. These two small town police officers banter amiably in their squad car and check in with their partner, Mindy (Chloe Sevigny), back at Centerville HQ. Their wake-up call happens when the globe takes a spin on its axis, night never falls and in a forever daylight the dead rise from the cemetery, demanding what they wanted most in life: coffee, WiFi and “especially chardonnay.” Two zombies, played by Sara Driver and Iggy Pop, make for stand out corpses.
The blood-filled carnage is good for business for the town’s undertaker, Zelda Winston, played by Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive) in the film’s most outrageously entertaining performance as a samurai from outer space.
The ever increasing in-jokes, and the smug, self referential, not to mention overtly deadpan tone doesn’t exactly ease in non-Jarmusch enthusiasts Undead aside, this is a Jarmusch film, for better or worse. (Jack Whiting)
Before you all click your fingers in unison - this isn’t the beloved creepy classic from the early nineties. Instead it’s an admittedly peculiar-looking animated update.
The film places the Addamses in the 21st century to comment on how witch hunts of old have transformed into paranoid online neighborhood watch groups. Clever!
After a brief prologue depicting the morose wedding of Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac) Morticia (Charlize Theron) the film leaps ahead to the classic Addams Family status quo. Gomez and Morticia are happily ensconced in a ghoulish haunted house with their murderously deadpan daughter Wednesday (Chloë Grace Moretz) and son Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). Pugsley’s impending “Sabre Mazurka” is a sort of bar mitzvah-esque coming-of-age ceremony. It is set to bring the entire extended Addams family into town.
Conflict arrives in the form of a home-renovation celebrity named Margaux Needler, she’s also planning a celebration. She’s purchased a nearby village and given the place a complete make-over. She’s planning on revealing the changes on her show and making a fortune in house sales. It’s all together kooky fun. (Jack Whiting)
Anna Biller concocts patriarchy’s ultimate fever dream – a young witch who seduces and murders her lovers in the pursuit of true love.
Elaine, a young witch, arrives in California. Taking up residency in a gothic apartment, she lures and seduces men, disposing of them when they fail to meet her expectations. In her pursuit of her ideal man, her obsession with love, derangement and murderous tendencies grow.
Shot on 35mm film to support a fabulously 60s aesthetic, The Love Witch is the psychedelic brainchild of Anna Biller. Biller, in her own right, is a true renaissance woman having directed, written, edited, produced, scored and designed the entire film. With influences as wide-ranging as the camp of 60s horror, Japanese silent films and French New Wave, Biller ensures that The Love Witch cannot be categorised – it is simply bewitching. The dedication that Biller has for her craft is obvious (she spent six months creating the rug from Elaine’s apartment). Don’t miss this absurd and spellbinding film. (research Freya Williams) Back by no demand whatsoever at Hallowe’en. It is one of those rare cinematic good new ideas that got through. Come and see it on the big screen. You’ll be very glad.