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IN CINEMAS/ Streaming Now
Directed by Chloe Zhao.
Starring Frances McDormand, Linda May, Charlene Swankie, Bob Wells and David Strathairn. Streaming on Disney + from April 30th. In cinemas from May 17th.108 mins.
Arriving with an oppressive uniformity of critical acclaim, and Oscars, you might feel inclined to take against Nomadland just to buck the trend. And it is a film that could, initially, leave you wondering what all the fuss is about. McDormand is a woman nearing retirement age who takes to the road in a camper van after she's widowed. We see her working at Amazon (contentedly, a bit of product placement?), travelling to campsites and becoming part of a travelling community. There doesn't appear to be much to it. And then you realise that the not-much-to-it is what makes it special.
Godzilla vs Kong. (12A.)
Directed by Adam Wingard.
Starring Alexander Skarsgård, Millie Bobby Brown, Rebecca Hall, Brian Tyree Henry, Kyle Chandler and Demian Bechir. Available on-demand now. 113 mins.
Well, I can't tell you the result but I can say that, while neither fighter quite reached their previous peaks, this was a very satisfying bout, probably as good as we could reasonably expect of two tired old sluggers who have been in the game too long. As ever with these kinds of heavyweight matchups, there were too many middlemen cluttering up the events with their demands for a slice of the action, but ultimately the two stars came through on the big stage. Pity then that viewers in the UK will only be able to see it on pay-per-view.
Directed by Francis Lee.
Starring Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Alec Secareanu and Fiona Shaw. Available on Demand from March 26th. 117 mins.
Mary Anning was one of this country's most important palaeontologists, scrambling across the rocks of Lyme Regis beach during the first half of the 19th century digging up fossils. Being a woman from a poor family and a religious dissenter, Victorian society didn't fully acknowledge her. So if she's looking down from heaven some 173 years after her death she'll no doubt be pleased to see her achievements recognised in a new film and discover that she was a lesbian.
Creation Stories. (18.)
Directed by Nick Moran.
Starring Ewan Bremner, Leo Flanagan, Richard Jobson, Suki Waterhouse, Thomas Turgoose and Jason Isaacs. Available on Sky Cinema from March 20th. 105 mins.
He lived his life in the city, there was no easy way out, but for two decades Alan McGee lived like a rock'n'roll star. The story of how McGee (Bremner) went from a tough upbringing in Glasgow to co-found Creation Record, discover Oasis and help give the world The Jesus and Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, My Bloody Valentine and Tony Blair is a whirl of booze, drugs and rock and roll, taking us from glam rock to New Labour. It's almost teary-eyed with nostalgia.
News of the World. (18.)
Directed by Paul Greengrass.
Starring Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Mare Winningham, Elizabeth Marvel, Michael Angelo Covino and Bill Camp. Streaming on Netflix from Feb 10th. 118 mins.
Though Disney and Warner have allowed a few big titles to slip out onto their streaming services, the other major studios continue to hoard up their precious things, holding them back for some future damburst of normality. But for Universal the cost of keeping James Bond clutched to its breast is the sacrifice of some lesser projects. Thus this Tom Hanks western, a reunion with his Captain Phillips director Greengrass, has been abandoned in the dark forest of Netflix with no trail of breadcrumbs to lead it to an audience.
A Glitch In The Matrix. (15.)
Directed by Rodney Ascher.
Featuring Nick Bostrom, Emily Pothast, Eric Davis, Joshua Cooke, Jesse Orion and Chris Ware. Available from Dogwoof on Demand and other VOD platforms from February 5th. 108 mins.
Released in 1999, The Matrix would prove to be the 20th century's most pernicious film. Crossbreeding wide eyed post-war counterculture delusions with dead eyed Guns & Ammo fantasies and a touch of Lewis Carroll whimsy, it was a trojan malware planted into the circuitry of the American and western psyche. Once triggered by 9/11, the gradual traumatic unhinging took hold and and spread unchecked. As the events on Capital Hill demonstrated, The Matrix took escapist fantasy to undreamt-of levels.
Directed by Ryan White.
Featuring Siti Aisyah, Doan Thi Thong, Anna Fifield, Hadi Azmi. Partly subtitled. Available on VOD from January 29th. 105 mins.
Kim Jong-nam, the overlooked older half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un cut a striking figure during his latter years. Exiled from the homeland for trying to visit Disneyland in Tokyo, he shuffled around Macao looking like a scruffbag bachelor uncle, one who after early promise had ended up in a dead-end accountancy position and arrives at family occasions with a plastic bag of Lidl booze. He only gets invited as a cautionary example to the kids: he could've been the dictator of a totalitarian state, now look at him.
The Dig. (12A.)
Directed by Simon Stone.
Starring Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, Lily James, Johnny Flynn, Monica Dolan, Ken Stott and Ben Chaplin. On Netflix from January 29th. 111 mins.
A vaulted assemblage of British thespian faces, many of whom you will be able to put names to, have been busy excavating a hole Suffolk: Netflix hopes you'll look into it. It's an eve of war piece drama, a popular British costume drama subgenre. You'll be familiar with the summer of 1914 being represented by public schoolboys playing cricket on village greens, a lament at what a terrible waste of all that fagging the First World War would be. This though has various strands of the British class system being snobbish and sexist and ruminating on the fleeting nature of existence in the summer of 1939 as they dig up a 6th-century burial mound. All against a backdrop of a nation preparing to take on the Nazis.
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 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.
Some Kind of Heaven. (12.)
Directed by Lance Oppenheim.
Featuring Dennis Dean, Reggie Kincer, Anne Kincer and Barbara Lochiatto. Available from Dogwoof on Demand and other digital platforms. 83 mins
Nothing says the futility of existence like a clear sky. Any action has meaning and value when done against a wintry background, and almost none when the sun is out. Because when the sun's out, where's the struggle? The Villages is a sprawling retirement community in Florida offering the geriatric grade of the American dream to the pre-loved and minted. It's Disneyland for the old, with year-round sunshine. Sounds great, but Oppenheim's focus is on four of the less contented residents: Barbara, a widow still forced to work; Reggie and Anne, a couple married for 47 years who are challenged by Reggie's drug use and spiritual explorations; Dennis, an 81-year-old lothario who lives in his van and is trying to find a wealthy woman to leach off.
Promising Young Woman. (15.)
Directed by Emerald Fennell.
Starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge and Laverne Cox. Available on Sky Cinema and NOW from April 16th. 113 mins
MankMank by name and manky by nature, this year's Oscar runners are a dismal bunch – a bunch of 100-1 shots clopping proudly past the winning post at Aintree after a giant sinkhole has taken out the rest of the National field without even the decency to look a little embarassed about their good fortune. There are a few exceptions though. Writer/ director Fennell's rape revenge fantasy exhibited many of the signs of an empty gesture too busy racking up hashtag and broadsheet approval to be any good. This though is a proper movie; sly, clever (but not smug), witty, honest, slick, humane and surprising.
Directed by Lee Issac Chung.
Starring Steven Yuen, Yeri Han, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-jung Youn, Noel Kate Cho, and Will Patton. 115 mins.
Being the experiences of an ex-pat Korean family in the 80s, trying to live the American dream, as seen in 70s TV show The Little House On The Prairie. Wife Monica (Han) is less than pleased when, after ten years in California, husband Jacob (Yeun) decides to uproot to Arkansas and start a farm living out of a mobile home. She gets her own back by bringing the mother-in-law (Youn) over from Korea for support.
Tom and Jerry: The Movie.
Directed by Tim Story.
Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Michael Pena, Colin Jost, Pallavi Sharda, Rob Delaney and Ken Jeong. 101 mins.
The remarkable thing about the twentieth century's second greatest comedy duo is just like its greatest, Laurel and Hardy, there isn't a funny one and straight man. They are a finely balance comic duo. The difference is that though Laurel and Hardy needed the other, each had a distinct character. Tom and Jerry have nothing. Someone asked me which was my favourite and it was an entirely irrelevant question. They are not characters, they are a process.
He Dreams of Giants (15.)
Directed by Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe.
Featuring Terry Gilliam, Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce. Available on Demand from March 29th. 85 mins
I interviewed Terry Gilliam just over a decade ago and just under a decade later the one essential question I should've asked him occurred to me: “So, Mr Gilliam - being a film director, is it worth it?” Because though he's made some remarkable films it always seems to have been done at great cost and pain. With his talent he could have had a nice Steadman/ Scarfe type career as a cartoonist or illustrator and had a much easier time of it, living comfortably with his family in Hampstead. Would that have been preferable? Is being a film director worth the grief? I think, this documentary gives the answer and I think that answer is basically, “Nah, but what are you gonna do?”
Directed by Kevin Lewis.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Emily Tosta, Ric Reitz, Chris Warner, Caylee Cowan and Beth Grant. Available on demand. 88 mins
The path trodden by Nicolas Cage isn't always a particularly fruitful or dignified one, but it is his path and his alone. Right from the very beginning he has pushed and wriggled to expand the boundaries of acting and take it beyond the diktats of realism. For the last decade or so he's more or less shunned the mainstream and become his own genre. Like a Drunk History, he'll be the rogue element in a small budget genre piece. The films would sometimes play along with him, but that would usually end badly with them sprawling in the ditch of wacky. Willy's Wonderland might be the first film to externalise the Cage aesthetic, translating his impressionistic anti-realist acting style into a form of anti-drama.
Or maybe it is a cry for help.
Directed by John Suits.
Starring Cody Kearsley, Bruce Willis, Rachel Nichols, Kassandra Clementi, Timothy V. Murphy and Thomas Jane. Out on Digital platforms 12th February and DVD Feb 15th. 92 mins.
I wouldn't say he was quite Anti-life, but there is definitely a cavalier nihilism to the joyless work ethic of Bruce Willis. He's got money and he doesn't seem to enjoy the work, yet this major motion picture star still feels compelled to keep making movies with no seeming regard for their likely quality. Which is why he finds himself stuck on a Space Ark travelling to New Earth, 200 years in the future, cast again as the archetype of cynical bald embitterment and playing second fiddle to the janitor (Kearsley) in the battle against a pesky non-terrestrial parasite.
76 Days. (12.)
Directed by Hao Wu, Anonymous and Weix Chen. Available on VOD. Subtitled. 96 mins.
When my esteemed features editor forwarded the PR bumpf for this fly-on-the-wall documentary about life inside four Wuhan hospitals during the two and half months of the world's first Covid lockdown, she added the comment, “Christ, who's going to watch this?” Well, with China hampering access to a WHO investigation team, my curiosity was peaked. While every non-tropical Northern hemisphere country – even the proper ones, with grown-ups in charge – struggle with a crippling second wave, the originators of this global franchise have moved on. Like Robert Altman's film version of M.A.S.H and the long-running TV programme it spawned, they have disavowed their legacy. Seems to me we've missed a trick somewhere.
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.
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.