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IN CINEMAS/ Streaming Now
Gunpowder Milkshake. (15.)
Directed by Navot Papushado
Starring Karen Gillan, Lena Headey, Chloe Coleman, Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh, Angela Bassett and Paul Giamatti. In cinemas. 114 mins.
Gunpowder Milkshake will claim to be original because it is a violent hitman comic action fantasy where the hitmen are women. Actually, it's original because it's a violent comic action fantasy that doesn't rip off Tarantino. Everybody else, but not QT; least not directly. Mixed into this gaudy tale of a female assassin (Gillan) taking on the mob after a hit goes wrong are bits stolen from Matthew Vaughn, John Woo, Sin City, Drive and countless others.
Directed by Leos Carax.
Starring Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg, Devyn McDowell, Ron and Russell Mael. 141 mins. In cinemas.
Many of the most adored, most treasured movies are the ones that never got made, the ones we can only dream about. Those wild enterprises and bizarre collaborations that hands were shaken on but funds not delivered for. Kubrick's Napoleon. Jodorowsky's Dune with Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger. The Gladiator sequel scripted by Nick Cave. The musical collaboration between pop duo Sparks and legendary French director L. Carax, a popera about the marriage of an abrasive stand up comic (Driver) and an opera singer (Cotillard) and the marionette daughter it produces. Only this one got made, perhaps simply to put a bit of perspective to all those What If Fantasies of Unmade Movies.
The Toll. (15.)
Directed by Ryan Andrew Hopper.
Starring Michael Smiley, Annes Elwy, Iwan Rheon, Paul Kaye, Steve Oram and Julian Glover. 83 mins. In cinemas.
The opening line is the demand, "This had better be ****ing good," and if the quality of this Welsh set comedy-thriller isn't quite the full expletive, it is comfortably into the realms of “blooming.” And though there's a lot of good things in Hopper's debut, the main asset is definitely Michael Smiley in the main role. Brendan spends his days in a toll booth on an empty road, an isolated existence of seemingly Beckettian wretchedness. But Brendan has a coloured history and lively present: from his lonely booth he has fingers in many pies. You don't ask questions if the toll bells for you.
The Nest. (12A.)
Directed by Sean Durkin
Starring Carrie Coon, Jude Law, Oona Roche, Charlie Shotwell, Adeel Akhtar and Anne Reid. 107 mins. In cinemas.
This is a haunted house film where the occupants are so ghastly that no supernatural element is required. In the mid-80's brash, financial whizz kid Law decides to move his American family back home to Britain, where he believes he can cash in on the impending Big Bang of deregulation in the City Of London. He leaves his wife Coon and their two kids in an enormous old country mansion he's rented while he tries to make a big score working in one of the few tower blocks in the City at the time.
The World To Come. (15.)
Directed by Mona Fastvold
Starring Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck and Christopher Abbott. In cinemas. 104 mins.
Movies have taught me everything I know about lesbianism. Previously they had suggested that this was an activity dabbled in by restless augmented housewives around swimming pools in the Hollywood Hills. Recently though films like Portrait Of A Lady On Fire and Ammonite have steered me towards a view that it was something that happened in the 18th century, in the cold. Now, The World To Come lands us in the backwoods of New York in 1856 where the wives of two farmers gradually resolve to act on an instant mutual attraction.
The Sparks Brothers. (15.)
Directed by Edgar Wright.
Featuring Ron Mael, Russell Mael, Giorgio Moroder, Jane Wieldlin, Mike Myers and Tony Visconti. In cinemas July 30th. Live Q&A with Edgar Wright in cinemas July 29th. 141 mins.
Italian food may be the best in the world but it's only ever a choice of two: the pasta or the pizza, the pizza or the pasta. Sparks may be one of the greatest pop bands ever – totally underrated yet ubiquitously influential - but when it comes to classic tracks it's This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us or Beat The Clock. Those two songs have kept pop music's most celebrated double-act – Russell, the frizzy-haired Marc Bolan one; Ron, the Hitler one – going for over half a century
Black Widow. (12A.)
Directed by Cate Shortland.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Ray Winstone and Rachel Weisz. In cinemas or streaming on Disney +. 136 mins.
She's Natasha Romanoff and she's dead now. Disney is very strict about reviews not giving away spoilers but I think it's now safe to reveal that she died in Avengers: Endgame sacrificing herself to save Hawkeye, a much-questioned judgement call. So the logical expectation was that her solo film would be operating in the little-loved realms of the prequel/ origin's tale. Fear not, though the film opens in Ohio in 1995 and does explore the ugly backstory of her becoming a Russian superspy, the bulk of it is set in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, so it's more of a spin-off, or a largely self-contained divertissement in the Marvel Cinematic Sprawl
It Must Be Heaven (15.)
Directed by Elia Suleiman.
Starring Elia Suleiman, Tarik Kopty, Kareem Ghneim, George Khleifi, Ali Suliman and Gael Garcia Bernal. In cinemas. 97 mins
This is a rave review for a film by the esteemed Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, but I'm not taking sides. Of course, he is – being a political filmmaker comes with the territory - although perhaps not as vehemently as you might expect. In one scene a French film producer turns down his latest film project because it isn't Palestinian enough. Suleiman is sparing with his anger and lets it seep out through a kind of world-weary disdain that is both intensely poignant and a little bit hopeful.
In The Heights. (PG.)
Directed by Jon M Chu
Starring Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Gregory Diaz and Jimmy Smits. In Cinemas. 143 mins.
In these racially aggravated times, here's a musical to potentially straddle all shades of prejudice: a vibrant celebration of the Latin community in New York's Washington Heights, centred on a man who dreams of going back to where he came from. While Usnavi (Ramos) works hard at his corner store to raise the money to return to the Dominican Republic and reopen his late father's beachfront bar, the rest of the community sing and dance about their frustrations with trying to make it in America.
Directed by Ilya Naishuller
Starring Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Aleksey Serebryakov, Michael Ironside, RZA, Colin Salmon and Christopher Lloyd. In cinemas. 91 mins.
The sating of blood lust shouldn't be the kind of thing one is stuck up about, but you have to look down your nose at somebody who gets off on lumbering meathead revenge thrillers. If a legion of Russian henchmen have to be mowed down just so one American can feel better about his life then that American should be someone with a bit of style and some deadpan wit. A Keanu or, now, Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad. Nobody is a high end, quality production; it's a slaughterhouse as a character piece.
Directed by Craig Gillespie.
Starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham and Mark Strong. In Cinemas or available on Disney+ Premier Access from May 28th. 134 mins
A live-action origins tale about the villain in 101 Dalmations could be seen as evidence of a risk-averse production strategy, Disney's almost incestuous desire to keep everything in the family. Then again, if this were a midweek Channel 4 makeover show the presenter would be fawning wildly over the skill with which life has been brought back into a tired old property. It's an inspired creation that's been scraped from the bottom of the barrel.
Prisoners of the Ghostland. (15.)
Directed by Sion Sono
Starring Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavettes, Bill Moseley and Tak Sakaguchi. Partly subtitled.100 mins.
Prisoners is an American/ Japanese co-production pitting one nation's wildest, most erratic actor with the others wildest, most erratic director. The hope would be that the Cagesono hybrid would be an inspired meeting of mentals. But the more probable outcome was always likely to be that they would bring out the worst in each other and that's what's happened: both deliver their Eh Game. This cross-cultural, post-apocalyptic musical western revenge fantasy addressing Japanese Atomic history in which Cage is strapped into a leather onesie that is timed to self destruct in five days if he doesn't bring back Bernice (Boutella) to the Governor (Mosely) is a selection of songs sung in the key of wack.
Directed by Liesl Tommy
Starring Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald, Tituss Burgess and Marc Maron. In cinemas. 145 mins.
Being the Queen of Soul, a biopic of Aretha Franklin had to be made. But which biopic do you give her? Her music fused the earthy sensuality of R'n'B with the spiritual uplift of gospel and the struggle to reconcile these two factions is the consistent faultline running through the story but isn't enough to pin a story arc to. As Aretha grew up in an affluent Detroit suburb, the daughter of a nationally prominent preacher (Whitaker), who was able to open many doors for her in the music business, they couldn't do the rags-to-riches tale. But most other biopic formulas are given a go.
The Last Bus. (12A.)
Directed by Gillies MacKinnon
Starring Timothy Spall, Phyllis Logan, Ben Ewing, Natalie Mitson and Brian Pettifer. In cinemas. 86 mins.
The last time Spall was in a road movie he was playing Ian Paisley trying to work out a peace deal during a car ride with Martin McGuinness in The Journey. Here he's a 90-year-old man crossing the country on local buses and he's kept the Paisley face. After his wife (Logan) dies Ben packs a briefcase and leaves his home in John O'Groats to head for Land's End. Occasionally he'll bump into the 1950's versions of him and his wife (Ewing and Mitson) heading in the opposite direction, getting away to start a new life. Over the course of his solo journey, the pensioner gradually becomes a social media star.
Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond
Starring Niamh Algar, Nicholas Burns, Vincent Franklin, Adrian Schiller and Michael Smiley. In cinemas. 84 mins.
This knowing little horror flick about What The Censor Saw takes us back to the great eighties moral panic of the Video Nasties, the time after the A, AA and X certificates had become PG, 15 and 18. Enid (Algar) works at the BBFC, a conscientious moral guardian trying to stem this tide of filth. In contrast, libertarian colleague (Burns) lets everything pass. Her determination to do the job right is motivated by a family tragedy, the disappearance of her sister when they were both young. She becomes unhinged when she has to evaluate a horror film that seems to reflect on that incident.
People Just Do Nothing. (15.)
Directed by Jack Clough
Starring Allan Mustafa, Hugo Chegwin, Asim Chaudhry, Steve Stamp, Lily Brazier and Hitomi Suomo. In cinemas. 97 mins
The Office is a British TV classic and David Brent is one of the all-time great sitcom characters. But, that said, if you had a time machine wouldn't you be tempted to nip back and very gently bump off Ricky Gervais and nip the pestilence of mockumentary cringe coms in the bud? The Brent variant has swept through TV comedy and imposed a hideous uniformity. All those wan smiles and desperate looks into the camera; they make one crave to once more hear the strains of canned laughter and honeyI'mhome. (With its mix of traditional multiple camera staging in front of a studio audience and Brechtian distancing devices, Mrs Brown's Boys is the most innovative sitcom on telly.)
Directed by Benh Zeitlin
Starring Devin France, Yashua Mack, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin, Kevin Pugh and Lowell Landes. In cinemas. 112 mins.
Everybody is searching for something original, something fresh, something unique. But the drawback with a singular vision is that it may only reach a singular audience. In a burst of perhaps foolhardy bravado inspired by the rave reviews for his debut Beasts of The Southern Wild, Zeitlin has chosen to reimagine Peter Pan, a notion with a 100% cinematic disaster rate: Hook, Pan, Come Away.
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Starring Matt Damon, Camille Cottin, Abigail Breslin, Lilou Siauvaud, Anne le Ny and Deanna Dunagan. In cinemas. 140 mins.
Spotlight, writer/ director McCarthy's previous film, was a stealth Oscar winner. People saw it and thought it was pretty good but were still quite surprised when it scooped the big prize. Then within a year or so, nobody ever thought about it again. Like a master assassin, it took out the target and erased itself from history. Still, at the very least, with Spotlight, a newspaper drama about crusading journalists exposing paedophile priests, you knew where you were. For a follow up he's concocted a cross-cultural, fish-out-of-water, odd couple romcom loosely based on the Amanda Knox case that will keep audiences off balance for every one of its 140 minutes. These still waters may not run deep but they sure are muddy.
The Most Beautiful Boy In the World. (15.)
Directed by Kristina Lindstrom and Kristian Petri.
Featuring Björn Andrésen, Robine Roman, Jessica Vennberg, Annike Andresen, Silva Filmer. In cinemas. 93 mins.
I like a documentary with a nice narrator and early on, over some archive footage of the event, a strident female Swedish voice informs us of how esteemed director Luchino Visconti, an openly gay son of Italian nobility, a communist who has servants, visited Stockholm in 1970 to find a young boy for his film version of Thomas Mann's Death In Venice. We see footage of 15-year-old Björn Andrésen, soon to be unhelpfully labelled by Visconti as the world's MBB, awkwardly auditioning for the role before the film jumps to the pre-Covid present-day where Andrésen is a broken man living in a squalid flat.
Directed by Quentin Dupieux
Starring Jean Dujardin, Adele Haenel, Marie Bunel and Albert Delpy. In cinemas. 77 mins.
Giving Best Actor Oscars to Europeans has proved to be a way to stall careers. Roberto Benigni has barely been seen outside of Italy after his Life Is Beautiful win while The Artist did very little to raise Dujardin's international profile. Here we find him puffed out with a thick white beard that makes him look a lot like Eric Cantona, which is the perfect look for a middle-aged Frenchman who has left his wife to spend time with his new deerskin cowboy jacket in a remote mountainous part of France.
Directed by Zoe Wittock.
Starring Noemie Merlant, Emmanuelle Bercot, Bastien Bouillon. Subtitled. In cinemas. 93 mins.
People are so judgemental about sexual fetishes when mostly they are just a matter of dumb luck. It's just fate that averted you walking into a panto season dressing room and witnessing Barbara Windsor peeing in a bucket while Christopher Biggins sat watching on in cackling merriment. Just capricious destiny, but that would've been me condemned to a lifetime of doomed attempts to slyly try to manoeuvre gullible East End blondes into picture-perfect replications. (I'd probably skip the Biggins part though.)
Mosley: It's Complicated. (12A.)
Directed by Michael Shevloff.
Featuring Max Mosley, John Watson, Bernie Ecclestone, Jean Todt, Flavio Briatore and Hugh Grant. In cinemas 9th July. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD and digital download 19th July95 mins.
Well, it should be. Son of black shirt British fascist Oswald; a former racing driver who went on to run the sport; road safety campaigner; campaigner against the abuses of the British press because the News of The World had erroneously attributed a Nazi theme to his sadomasochistic session with five prostitutes in a Chelsea basement, the life of Max Mosley, who died in May aged 81, was indeed complicated. Shevloff's film is a bit less so.
Another Round. (15.)
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Lars Ranthe, Magnus Millang. In Danish with subtitles. 117 mins.
Another Round is a drinking film in which four middle-aged friends, all to varying degrees stuck in their own midlife crises, decide to do an experiment based on Norwegian philosopher Finn Skårderud's contention that human beings are born with a blood alcohol level 0.05% too low. To compensate they try to maintain a steady 0.05% alcohol level throughout their daily lives – working as school teachers. They drink, a lot. And it makes them feel good and do their jobs better. And watching them drink a lot and feel better for it, makes you feel good too. You may even feel inclined to join in with a little tipple yourself. So, cheers BFI for scheduling the London Film Festival press screening at 8.45. In the morning.