IN CINEMAS/ Streaming Now
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Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
Directed by Jason Woliner.
Starring Sacha Baron Cohen and Maria Bakalova. Partly subtitled. Available on Amazon Prime. 96 mins.
The first Borat film was a comedic lightning strike, a marvellous one-off, and a joke that Baron Cohen has been wearing thin ever since. No sequel was required and this follow up has been sprung on us like a surprise party with its existence only being made public on October 1st. To try and retain the air of mystery for as long as possible, reviews aren't just embargoed until 5.00 pm on the Wednesday before it is released on Amazon Prime, but critics have been kindly requested not to reveal spoilers, big moments or the identities of the real-life people that appear in it. There can only be two reasons for that. A, to cover up that it isn't very good. Or B, that they have pranked a really big fish, captured something potentially explosive.
Totally Under Control. (15.)
Directed by Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger
Featuring Kathleen Sebelius, Francis Riedo, Scott Becker, Taison Bell and Rick Bright. In cinemas or available to stream. 124 mins.
Gibney is the hardest working man in documentary film making, knocking out on average two full-length documentaries a year. Never mind the quality, feel the width. I think you need to admire a man who gets things out there, but wonder perhaps whether he really gives himself time to fully research things: maybe his dash, is accompanied by an equal measure of slap.
I Am Greta (12A.)
Directed by Nathan Grossman
Featuring Greta Thunberg, Svante Thunberg. 97 mins.
If I were a youngster worried about the climate crisis I think I'd feel inclined to, very reluctantly and with a heavy heart, bundle Greta Thunberg into a sack and chuck her in a river like an unwanted Christmas pup. Callous and unforgivable I know, but this is a battle for your survival and the oldies – the-best-of-everything-is-good-enough-for-them generation - are desperate for any excuse to do nothing. The joyless puritanism of Greta's new model army might be reason enough to conclude that humanity's future was not up to much anyway and can be written off as a bad lot.
Roald Dahl's The Witches. (PG.)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Starring Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Jahzir Bruno, Kristen Chenoweth and Chris Rock. Available to stream from October 26th. 103 mins
This new version of the Roald Dahl classic certainly put a spell on me: within minutes of it starting I felt oppressively and disproportionately bored. This take switches events from 80s Bournemouth to late 60s Alabama, turns main characters from white British to black American but seems to be generally faithful to the story. This is though a thoroughly pedestrian run-through of the events in the book; it's got everything except whatever it is that people like about it.
I Am Woman. (15.)
Directed by Unjoo Moon.
Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters, Danielle Macdonald and Chris Parnell. 116 mins.
What this? A film about the woman in the original Pete's Dragon. Surely if they're doing biopics of cast members of the not overly beloved 70s Disney musical wouldn't Shelley Winters, Mickey Rooney, or even Jim Dale be in front of Helen Reddy in the queue?
Bill and Ted Face The Music. (PG.)
Directed by Dean Parisot.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Kristen Schaal and William Sadler. In cinemas. 92 mins.
Getting the band back together again is always a risky proposition. The reunion tour can on occasion see a talent reignite, give a second wind to performers who maybe didn't quite exhaust their talent first time around. (Suede have recorded some fine albums after taking a little break from each other.) More often though it is just a sad money grab or a nostalgic night out that is harmless fun for both audience and performers. Three decades on the return of Bill and Ted, the time-travelling metalhead Californian teenagers, lands somewhere in the middle: it's fun but nothing we couldn't have lived without.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel and Kenneth Branagh. In cinemas. 149 mins.
Like a kid who picks the wings off butterflies, Christopher Nolan has a curious compulsion for seeking out wild head-spinning concepts and then very carefully smoothing off their rough edges and draining the colour out of them. The perversity of this approach has worked beautifully in most of his previous films but you may resent it here. Early on in this time travel, globetrotting espionage epic, Clemence Poesy pops up as a scientist to deliver the first of many exposition speeches trying to explain the film's concept and when she talks about reversed entropy, the detritus of a future world war being sent back to destroy the present and shows us bullets flying back into guns, for a moment you imagine you might be watching a $200 million William S. Burroughs movie. At that point, you really want him to let rip, to go wild, but Nolan remains a fuddy-duddy visionary, a buttoned-down Philip K. Dick, and he keeps a lid on the weirdness, contains it in giant IMAX vistas of grey muted tones.
The Painted Bird. (15.)
Directed by Václav Marhoul.
Starring Petr Kotlar, Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel, Barry Pepper, Julian Sands and Udo Kier. Subtitled. Black and white. In cinemas and streaming. 169 mins.
This is the kind of film you imagine people crossing themselves before watching: “For what we are about to receive, gawd help us.” Rated 18 for “strong violence, sexual violence and disturbing scenes,” this tale of a young boy's struggle to survive during the holocaust and World War Two arrives in cinemas brandishing a reputation as a kind of arthouse Human Centipede – mask up and see if you will you make it through its 169 minutes without walking out in disgust.
Honest Thief (15.)
Directed by Mark Williams
Starring Liam Neeson, Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jefferey Donovan, Anthony Ramos and Robert Patrick. Only In Cinemas. 99 mins.
Wimp Bond has chickened out and run off like a big girl's bulletproof vest, so Liam Neeson has strode in to try and rescue the situation. He's going on 70 and said two years ago that he wouldn't do another action hero role but the situation calls for some mindless action escapism and he's answered the call. It's too late for the Cineworld staff who lost their jobs, but he's doing his bit for the cinemas that remain.
The Climb. (15.)
Directed by Michael Angelo Covino.
Starring Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin, Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam and George Wendt. In Cinemas. 97 mins.
The Climb has an outstanding opening scene: a 9 minute shot of two American friends cycling in France, during which Michael (Angelo Covino) tells Kyle (Marvin) that he slept with his fiance. It's funny and different; technically daring but the tricksiness of the filmmaking isn't just showing off what they learnt in film school; it deepens the humour and introduces the dynamics of the friendship perfectly.
The Secret Garden. (PG.)
Directed by Marc Munden
Starring Dixie Egerickx, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Edan Hayhurst, Isis Davis, Maeve Dermody. In cinemas or available to watch on Sky Cinema. 100 mins.
I've never read Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children novel, nor seen any of the previous adaptations but what immediately struck me about this version is that it is faithful; mercilessly, brutally, unflinchingly faithful. Because if it is wasn't, why would they change it to this?
One man and his Shoes. (15.)
Directed by Yemi Bamiro.
Featuring. David J Stern, Jamele Hill, Scoop Jackson, Sonny Vaccaro, Jim Riswold and Peter Moore. In cinemas. 83 mins.
The man is Michael Jordan, a premier exponent of the Tall Man Bouncy Bouncy game, and his shoe is the Air, an overpriced object that transcends the barriers of class, race and nationality to unite the gullible across the globe. The story is how also-ran shoe manufacturer Nike invested in a supremely talented young athlete before he became a star and used him to create a defining piece of contemporary iconic tat, overpriced trainers that are to die for, sometimes literally.
Being A Human Person. (15.)
Directed by Fred Scott.
Featuring Roy Andersson. In cinemas. 90 mins.
The Human Person is Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson, and this is a behind the scenes portrait of the 77-year-old working on his final film, About Endlessness. It has the perfect title: humanity's humble glory and awkwardness are the subjects of his unique films. Each one is made entirely inside Studio 24, the Stockholm townhouse where he has been living and working for nearly 40 years. He shoots where he sleeps and the film shows the tensions and joys of this film collective.
Eternal Beauty. (18.)
Directed by Craig Roberts.
Starring Sally Hawkins, Alice Lowe, David Thewlis, Billie Piper, Morfydd Clark and Penelope Wilton. In Cinemas. 94 mins.
There's a scene early on that may be a key to why Eternal Beauty is such an awkward, if well-intentioned, experience. Jane (Hawkins) who definitely is mentally ill, is asked by her sister (Piper) to show her how this manifests itself physically because she wants to fake being clinically depressed to be put on sick benefits. This turns out to be mostly leg vibrations. So you have Hawkins doing her pretend “real” jitters and Piper doing her pretend fake jitters and you look from one to the other, the pair of them sitting next to each other on a sofa juddering frantically, and think that sometimes acting is a really ghastly way of making a living.
Directed by Miranda July.
Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins and Mark Ivanir. In cinemas. 106 mins.
Who wants to watch Kajillionaire? I don't, and you won't, cause none of it rings true. Well, actually you might. If you can connect with its random style, it may prove to be an intense and rewarding experience. But anybody with two hours free and a mask to hand, lured into a cinema by the promise of this being a heist movie, is likely to feel more than a little gypped.
Capital In the 21st Century. (12A.)
Directed by Justin Pemberton.
Featuring Thomas Piketty, Kate Williams, Paul Mason, Francis Fukuyama, Joseph Stiglitz and Gillian Tett. 103 mins.
Capital in the 21st century – you got any? No, me neither, and here's the reason why. Based on his best selling book, French economist Piketty and some of his friends from academia explain how it came to be that 21st century levels of inequality mirror those between aristocracy and peasantry in the 18th century.
Directed by Niki Caro.
Starring Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Gong Li, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An. Available to stream on Disney +. 115 mins
The thing about Disney's Mulan is that it's not Disney's Mulan. Previously their run of live-action remakes of classic animations have offered quite close approximations of the originals. In the U rated 1998 animation, a young girl dresses up a boy to join the Chinese Imperial army. This live-action version strips away the songs, Eddie Murphy's Dragon characters and all the fun, replacing them with a humourless, wuxia, martial arts action film suitable for 12s and over. Not quite sure what the thinking is there, but I suppose any responsible 21st parents feels a responsibility to introduce their children to the arrow catching, sword-swinging delights of martial arts movies as early as possible.