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Battle Of The Sexes (12A.)
Directed by Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton
Starring Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming. 121 mins.
It may be a battle, but it's not much of a battle. You'd expect this telling of the back story to the 1973 exhibition tennis match between the female no 1 Billie Jean King (Stone) and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs (Carell) to be fixed, but the fix is less convincing then you'd imagine. Every poster features Stone smiling benignly at Carell, and the film is much like the event it replays: it calls itself a battle but is really a friendly match.
Directed by George Clooney.
Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Michael D. Cohen and Oscar Isaac. 104 mins.
In its opening scenes, George Clooney's latest film introduces us to the town of Suburbicon, an idealised vision of 50s Americana, in the early 60s. The place is so stylised, so Pleasantville perfect, that you know something horrible is going to happen to it. Sure enough, there goes the neighbourhood: when a coloured family move into a house the entire white-flight community turns into animals, mounting an escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation to try and drive them out.
But they're not the film.
Justice League (12A)
Directed by Zack Synder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher and Jeremy Irons. 121 mins.
What is happening when a Thor film is one of the year's most anticipated releases, drumming up unheard of amounts of noise for what had previously been one of Marvel's least heralded characters, while this DC gathering of the clan, their equivalent of the Avengers Assembling, has advanced towards cinemas in a campaign marked by silence and stealth? The publicity campaign for Batman vs Superman seemed to last for years but the first posters for its sequel didn't appear on the side of buses until a couple of weeks ago. You'd have thought that the success of Wonder Woman might have put the spring back into Warner's attempt to build a superhero universe of its very own but the Bros still seem stricken by the hubris of their Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad fiascos
Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool (15.)
Directed by Paul McGuigan.
Starring Annette Bening, Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham and Vanessa Redgrave. 106 mins
Liverpool has suffered more than its fair share of ignominies over the years. The title of this film uses Liverpool to symbolise the festering abyss all flesh is destined for, that strips away every shred of dignity and achievement; which even Boris Johnson might consider harsh. The film star who shouldn't suffer this indignity is Gloria Grahame (Bening), a big star and Oscar winner in the fifties. In her heyday, she appeared opposite Bogart and lived next to him in a twelve bedroom mansion in the Hollywood Hills. How could it be that by 1981, she was wasting away in Julie Walters' upstairs bedroom in a Liverpool back to back?
Paddington 2 (PG.)
Directed by Paul King.
Starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Brendan Gleeson, Hugh Grant, Julie Walters and Ben Whishaw. 103 mins
There is a reason why Paddington 2 – the remarkably fine sequel to the unexpectedly splendid original – is getting, and deserving, the best reviews for any recent children's film not made by Pixar: it's because it's jolly nice. Just incredibly, overwhelmingly nice; nice in a way you probably thought no longer existed. It's nice, but not at the expense of wit and invention.
Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe.
Featuring Guillermo del Toro, Peter Bogdanovich, Bret Easton Ellis, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eli Roth, Walter Murch, Danny Elfman, Elijah Wood. Black and white. 92 mins.
The 3 minutes of the shower sequences in Psycho welcomed audiences to the 60s. Along with the 30 seconds of the Zapruder film, it ruthlessly stripped away any delusions that the Technicolor glow of the fifties might continue to light up the future. After them, you knew that things weren't going to turn out well. In this documentary (the title is the number of camera set up and cuts) a bunch of people – directors, actors, academics and Marli Renfro, the Playboy bunny who was Janet Leigh's body double for the seven days it took Hitchcock to film it – sit around in black and white discussing and dissecting its brilliance and its enduring influence.
Call Me By Your Name (15.)
Directed by Luca Guadagnino.
Starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois. 132 mins.
With the barbarian hordes now squeezing between the bars in the gate, this tale of fleeting affection among the cultural elite is a timely affirmation of the value of aesthetics, culture and learning. It's also, perhaps, an admission that Western civilisation wasn't all it was cracked up to be and had dragged on long enough.
The Death of Stalin (15.)
Directed by Armando Iannucci.
Starring Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse, Rupert Friend, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs and Jeffrey Tambor. 107 mins.
Hard as it is to believe now, there was a time when making a black comedy about Stalin's tyrannical rule and The Great Terror, would've have been considered to be in questionable taste. Precisely, that time was 1983, when the fledgling Channel 4 broadcast Red Monarch, a dark farce about Stalin's reign, which was received with some criticism in the press (almost certainly the Daily Mail, it's always the Daily Mail) for trivializing such horror. These days of course, ghoulish black comedy is our default setting; the way we get through the day.
Daddy's Home 2. (12A.)
Directed by Sean Anders.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Mel Gibson, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, John Lithgow. 100 mins
Those of you who, though you'd never say the words out loud, are secretly saddened that you may never see Kevin Spacey or Louis C.K. work again, can take some consolation in the career resurrection of Mel Gibson. Here he is, in a Christmas family comedy, playing a caricature version of his reactionary self, and is at times its voice of reason.
In a Lonely Place (PG.)
Directed by Nicholas Ray. 1950.
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid, Art Smith, and Robert Warwick. In Black and white. 91 mins.
We are here because of Gloria Grahame, with this and The Big Heat being back in cinemas to sate any punter curiosity after Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool, but can we start with Bogart? I'm no spring chicken but Bogie is still someone I feel I have only experienced second hand. Even twenty or thirty years ago when I first saw his iconic roles – The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The African Queen, etc – he was already a figure known primarily through impersonation, like Marilyn Monroe, Chaplin or Frank Spencer. The Bogart impersonator in Woody Allen's Play It Again Sam is as authentically Bogart to me as the chap in the white jacket in Casablanca.
The Big Heat Us. (15.)
Directed by Fritz Lang. 1953
Starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby, Lee Marvin and Jeanette Nolan. 87 mins.
In 78/52, the documentary about the shower scene in Psycho, Peter Bogdanovich remarks on how originally in cinema most of the big stars were female but gradually after WWII, males became the big names. Gloria Grahame was a big star, and an Oscar winner, in the fifties but the two movies re-released this week to coincide with the interest in her provoked by Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, both have her in support roles. Here, she gets to play second fiddle to Glenn Ford, and get roughed up and abused by Lee Marvin, which is a lot less interesting than playing second fiddle to Bogart, particularly when she only really appears in the film's second half. She makes her presence felt though. If this movie were a horse race she'd be the runner who spends most of the time unnoticed near the back only to surge through the field and take the film at the post.
Good Time (15.)
Directed by Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Taliah Webster, Barkhad Abdi, Necro and Jennifer Jason Leigh. 102 mins.
Pattinson seems to have devoted the last five years to trying to wash away the stain of being Edward Cullenhands. The I'm-a-serious-actor-really route is a course paved with dangers for the pretty young thing trying to slip clear of the teen fandom, but after a few faltering steps he's beginning to catch up with Kristen Stewart. He's probably got the last of the stench off with this committed and convincing turn as a New York lowlife Connie, who has an Of Mice And Men relationship with his slow-witted brother Nick (Safdie.)
Ingrid Goes West (15.)
Directed by Matt Spicer.
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen and Pom Klementieff. 98 mins.
The marvel of the modern age is that, in almost every aspect, it is immune to criticism and ridicule. Its banality and absurdities are built in, and have been bought into and accepted by its users. If I were involved in the arms trade I would dream of creating something with the invulnerability of a #. The comedy drama Ingrid Goes West is a savage and twisted assault on the cold emptiness of social media and the fatuous credo of connectivity, that is easily brushed aside and fails to make any kind of dent on its target.
Professor Marston and The Wonder Woman. (15.)
Directed by Angela Britton
Starring Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcoate, JJ Feild and Oliver Platt. 108 mins.
The origins story is the curse of any superhero movie, the unsatisfying piece of radioactive inspired improbability that brings the character into being. Here, for a change, we get the unsatisfying and improbable tale of how Wonder Woman was created by a disgraced psychologist, and inventor of the lie detector, who saw it as a vehicle for his beliefs in female emaciation and bondage.
Directed by William Friedkin. 1977.
Starring Roy Scheider, Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal, Amidou, Ramon Bieri, Peter Capell, Karl John, Frederick Ledebur, Chico Martínez, Joe Spinell. 40th Anniversary re-release. 121 mins.
Peter Biskind's essential book, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls,” a sensational account of 70s New Hollywood, is a tome filled almost exclusively with monsters. William Friedkin isn't its biggest monster (that would be Dennis Hopper) but of all its tales of success going to people's head, his was the biggest success, and his was the head most bloated by it. Every director in that book is hurtling towards a megaflop and this would be Friedkin's 1941/ One From The Heart/ New York, New York/ Popeye/ Heaven's Gate. After The French Connection (best film Oscar) and The Exorcist (an all-time box office success) he thought he would do a remake of Clouzot 1953 French classic The Wages of Fear, squandering $22.5 million and all the goodwill his two mega-hits had earned in doing so.
Thor: Raganok. (12A.)
Directed by Taiki Waititi.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Karl Urban and Anthony Hopkins. 130 mins.
The thing about Disney's Wonderful World of Marvel movies is that they like a laugh. Right from the start, with Iron Man, there was a certain lightheartedness, an acceptance that these men-in-tights epics needed to be played a little tongue in cheek. They are called comic books after all. Thor 3 is possibly their funniest film yet: it's a marvellous comedy, but maybe not such a marvellous superhero flick.
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