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One Night In Miami.
Directed by Regina King
Starring Ben-Adir Kingsley, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr, Lance Reddick and Michael Imperioli. Streaming on Amazon Prime from January 15th. 111 mins
The night is February 25th 1964 and Cassius Clay (Goree) has just become the World Heavyweight champion by pounding Sonny Liston into submission. Sam Cooke (Odom) and legendary NFL running back Jim Brown (Hodge) are there to celebrate with him. For this one night in Miami, the world is their oyster. Unfortunately, the victory party is being thrown by teetotal Nation of Islam bore Malcolm X (Kingsley) who wants to throw a great big wet blanket on the euphoria and have these four prominent black men discuss their position in the struggle. The only indulgence is vanilla ice cream, presumably ironic.
Directed by Gabriel Range.
Starring Johnny Flynn, Marc Maron, Jena Malone, Derek Moran and Anthony Flanagan. VOD from January 15th. 108 mins.
A film about a pre-fame, pre-Ziggy, David Bowie touring America with Johnny Flynn as Bowie – that sounds good. An unauthorised film about a pre-fame, pre-Ziggy Bowie without the rights to use any of his songs – ah, maybe not. Bowie himself refused to let Todd Haynes use any of his materials for Velvet Goldmine, a celebration of 70s glam rock, but that did at least have Roxy, Bolan, Slade and the Velvets to fall back on; for this the Bowie estate wouldn't even let Range use The Laughing Gnome.
Directed by Gerald Johnson.
Starring Cavan Clerkin, Craig Fairbrass, Polly Maberly, Lorraine Burroughs and Peter Ferdinando In black and white. Available VOD now, digital download from January 18th and blu-ray/ DVD from February 1st. 110 mins.
Writer/ director Gerald Johnson has been documenting the world of Toxic masculinity since back when the term was still a selective judgement rather than blanket dismissal. Serial killer Tony and berserk bent copper drama Hyena paced the dark streets of London. Muscle moves the focus up to a black and white Newcastle (subliminal football reference?) where a big man who's in good shape, Terry (Fairbrass), preys on little man who's out of shape, Simon (Clerkin.)
Directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers.
Starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga and Angela Bassett. Available to stream on Disney + from Christmas Day. 100 mins.
That the last Friday of the year sees the new Pixar film arriving not in cinemas but on television is a sadness made more poignant by this being their first film in a decade to recapture what once made their work almost transcendent. I know that many of you adore Inside Out and Coco but for me, Pixar hasn't been Pixar since Up. A Pixar return to form would be a marvellous spirit lift at the end of a drudge of a year but, for the time being, the social distanced audience that saw its world premiere at the London Film Festival will be the only people to see it on a big screen.
Wonder Woman 1984. (12A.)
Directed by Patty Jenkins.
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright. In cinemas, somewhere. 151 mins.
Having sent out Tenet to try and save cinemas in the summer, for Christmas Warner Brothers are putting their hopes on Wonder Woman.* She'll have her work cut out what with all of London's cinemas being forced to close on the very day it opens. But, it wouldn't be the first time she has coming riding to the rescue. After the disappointments of Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League, Wonder Woman was the first Warner DC superhero movie to be fully enjoyed by audiences since the Dark Knight films. It turned the tide and Warner enjoyed billion-dollar hits with Aquaman and Joker. Granted, Shazam! didn't quite take off at the box office, those that saw it enjoyed it.
Mario Puzo's The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (12A.)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. 1990
Starring Al Pacino, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia, Sofia Coppola, Raf Vallone, Eli Wallach, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, Richard Bright and Joe Mantegna. In Cinemas December 5th and 6th. Out on Blu-ray and download Dec 8th. 158 mins.
Ignore the misleading and cumbersome mouthful. This is The Godfather Part III: Rejigged. That title doesn't work on any level: it gives away the ending and this re-edited version is Coppola's doing not Puzo's. (I'm sure he would've pitched in if he hadn't been dead for over twenty years.) Most of all, doesn't describing it as a Coda further diminish an instalment that has already been widely denigrated? I've always rather liked Godfather III and was very excited about the idea of Coppola going back to recut and restructure a film that was made in a rush and perhaps without all due care and attention. Sadly, this version does little to change its flaws and looks even more of a disappointment than it did when it came out thirty years ago.
A Christmas Carol. (PG.)
Directed by Jacqui and David Morris.
Featuring Simon Russell Beale, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Daniel Kaluuya, Carey Mulligan, Leslie Caron and Sian Phillips. In cinemas and theatrical venues* from December 4th. 96 mins.
Ebeneezer has dropped right off as a boys name. You still get Adolfs and Enochs but there hasn't been an Ebeneezar since The Shamen song, which is odd as Dickens never gets a Christmas off. The second most retold Christmas story ever (after Del Boy and Rodney dressing up as Batman and Robin) gets another outing this year, but in a version that is both radical and faithful. Imagined as a dream of a marionette show in a Victorian child's model theatre, ballet dancers perform the roles voiced by actors on sets that merge digital effects with stage artifice.
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg.
Starring Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean, Rossif Sutherland and Jennifer Jason Leigh. On digital platforms from Signature Entertainment. 103 mins
Now that the son has taken over the family business, I wonder how the Cronenberg family Thanksgiving dinner will go/ went. Will father David tousle son Brandon's hair, congratulate him on his latest film and for producing a dispassionate body horror concept that touches on any number of contemporary fears without being too blatantly or obviously metaphoric? Perhaps he'll smile wryly and reminisce that when he was making his second film back in the 70s, he was sticking a virus spreading, blood-drinking prosthetic penis under porn star Marilyn Chamber's armpit, not inflicting gruesome indignities on a quality international cast. Or does he take him aside and say, “Son, I think you're trying too hard.”
Blithe Spirit. (12A.)
Directed by Edward Hall.
Starring Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Emilia Fox and Judi Dench. In cinema and Sky Cinema from January 15th. 94 mins.
Not ten minutes before this started I was thinking to myself how long it's been since I heard anyone being called a "blithering idiot" on screen (or in real life for that matter) and how regrettable that was and then, with perfect serendipity, that's the first line out of Dan Stevens' mouth. So it's got that going for it. After that it's all steadily downhill for this version of Noel Cowards' 1941 play in which the marriage of writer Charles (Stevens) and Ruth Condomine (Fisher) is disrupted when a séance inadvertently beings his late wife Elvira (Mann) back from the afterlife.
Directed by Stanley Tong.
Starring Jackie Chan, Yang Yang, Lun Ai, Miya Muqi, Ruohan Xu and Jackson Lou. Subtitled Mandarin and dubbed English. VOD Jan 8th/ Blu-ray and DVD Jan 11th.108 mins.
What is truly remarkable about Jackie Chan is not that he's still risking life and limb doing his own stunts at the age of 66 (the end credit outtakes show him being rescued after being pinned down underwater by an overturned jet ski) but that he's been a global superstar for over four decades appearing almost exclusively in rubbish films. This latest sees Chan, who is beginning to resemble Ronnie Corbett, as the boss of a private Chinese espionage/ protection agency, Vanguard, run out of an office high up in London's Walkie Talkie skyscraper.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. (15.)
Directed by George C. Wolfe.
Starring Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glyn Turman, Coleman Domingo, Michael Potts and Jeremy Shamos. On Netflix from December 18th. 95 mins.
Boseman's final screen vehicle is a cracking film... for about five minutes. The opening scenes of blues legend Ma Rainey (Davis) performing in a tent in the deep south, followed by old black and white photos that suddenly spring into life crackle with energy and invention. But then we're in Chicago in 1927 with four bickering musicians, yakking away in the rehearsal room of a recording studio waiting for the star to arrive and the encroachment of those four walls communicate that the play is about to begin and the entertainment has ended. From now on, everybody is going to be a wind instrument.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets.
Directed by Bill and Turner Ross.
Featuring Michael Martin, Shay Walker, Lowell Landes, Felix Cardona, Bruce Hadnot and Rikki Redd. VOD and in cinemas, theoretically. 98 mins.
Among their many failings, Americans can't run a proper pub. They're either too formal with compulsory tipping and payment by tab, or they are dark, scummy dive bars; desperate places for desperate people. The Roaring 20's in Las Vegas is definitely one of the latter and this observational documentary captures its last day as a business in 2016.
The Racer. (12A.)
Directed by Kieron J. Walsh.
Starring Louis Talpe, Iain Glen, Tara Lee, Matteo Simoni and Karel Roden. In cinemas from December 18th. 96 mins.
This is a film about self-obsessed, egotistical cyclists. Ok, let's narrow that down just a little. Not the usual sanctimonious, wibbly-wobbly, road hogs but elite, drug cheating, Tour de France sanctimonious, wibbly-wobbly, road hogs. In Ireland.
Come Away. (PG.)
Directed by Brenda Chapman
Starring Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo, Anna Chancellor, Jordan A. Nash, Keira Chansa and Michael Caine. In cinemas Dec 18th. 94 mins.
I like a nice mystery myself and this new children's fantasy certainly provides one of them. At the beginning, I was wondering what the hell I was watching and an hour and a half later I was wondering what the hell I had just seen, though with a tad more animation and frustration.
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan. (18.)
Directed by Julien Temple.
Featuring Shane MacGowan, Gerry Adams, Siobham MacGowan, Victoria Mary Clark, Bobby Gillespie, Nick Cave and Johnny Depp. Out in cinemas Dec 4th/ VOD Dec 7th.124 mins.
To your first question: No, he isn't dead yet. God only knows he doesn't look well these days, but then he never did. Today he resides in a wheelchair and his face has the ghostly white pallor of someone in a Roy Andersson film. Subtitles accompany his every utterance and usually his head rests on a shoulder while his wary eyes scan the face of his current interlocutor evaluating if this is someone he should bother remaining conscious for. He looks like he might be a heavily made-up Paul Whitehouse playing a particularly degenerate caricature of Stephen Hawking.
Directed by David Fincher.
Starring Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins, Tuppence Middleton, Tom Burke, Arliss Howard and Charles Dance. Black and white. Streaming on Netflix from 4th December. 131 mins.
That's Mank as in Mankiewicz and it's Mankiewicz as in Herman J. Mankiewicz and if you try typing that name into the Internet Movie Database by the time you have completed Herman it will fill you in “J. Mankiewicz, Writer, Citizen Kane, (1941.)” So, clearly there's a pressing need for a film about how he really wrote Citizen Kane. Fincher's project is many things: a loving evocation of 30s/40s Hollywood; a reopening of a tiff in '70s New York critics circle and a portrait of an alcoholic self-destructive genius. But, above all, it's yet another immaculately pointless David Fincher picture.
The Canonisation of Roy Anderson. (15.)
Songs From The Second Floor. 2000/ You, The Living. 2007/ A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence. 2014/ About Endlessness. (12A.) 2020. Directed by Roy Andersson. Being A Human Person. Directed by Fred Scott.
That 77-year-old Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson has announced this year's About Endlessness will be his last film is yet another black mark against twennytwenny, but as this is effectively the fourth part of a trilogy, perhaps we should be glass half full and greet it as a bonus.