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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.”
About Endlessness. (12A.)
Directed by Roy Andersson.
Starring Bengt Bergius, Anja Broms, Marie Burman, Amanda Davies, Tatiana Delaunay, Karin Engman. Swedish with subtitles. Available to stream from Curzon Home Cinema Nov 7th. 76 mins.
The opposing worlds of High Art and Light Entertainment mesh seamlessly in the films of Roy Andersson. Over his previous three films - Songs From The Second Floor/ You, The Living/ A Pigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting On Existence - he has created a world of glory that mixes Tommy Cooper-style failed magic tricks and genocidal atrocities. He reduces people down to caricatures but finds in them great depths of humanity. Though his films deal with loneliness and despair, genocide and historical guilt, they are funny and they are kind.
The Three Kings. (PG.)
Directed by Jonny Owen.
Featuring Bill Shankly, Matt Busby and Jock Stein. 104 mins.
These three kings of Orient aren't. If any of the three Scottish football managers featured here, Bill Shankly, Matt Busby and Jock Stein, had ventured down to the capital maybe Leyton would be a home of Champions League football now. But they didn't. Instead the three of them, born within 30 miles of each other in the coal mining areas of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, would make their stands at clubs more northerly: Liverpool, Man Utd and Celtic respectively. At least two of those clubs were nothing special before their arrival and now between them, they have 2 billion fans worldwide. The film's contention is that the three kings were "the makers of the modern British Football." These are the pillars that Alex Ferguson would be a pale shadow of.
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.
The Burnt Orange Heresy. (15.)
Directed by Guiseppe Capotondi.
Starring Claus Baes, Elizabeth Debricki, Mick Jagger, Donald Sutherland. 99 mins
The lack of blockbusters during the pandemic has shown up the threadbare nature of sub-franchise offerings. 21st-century cinema is like 21st century society; sharply divided between the ultra-rich and those surviving on the breadline. If it didn't cost $200 million, it probably cost next to nothing. The Burnt Orange Heresy is an example of the kind of film that used be common but, like the affluent middle classes, has been squeezed out: a mid-range sophisticated thriller for grown-ups. It is in some ways the thing that cinema is made for: beautiful, interesting people in beautiful places (Milano and Lake Como) doing things more interesting than us poor slubs ever would.
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.
Directed by Ron Howard.
Starring Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Haley Bennett, Gabriel Basso, Bo Hopkins, Owen Asztalos and Freida Pinto. Streaming on Netflix from November 24th 116 mins.
Ron Howard's screen adaptation of J.D. Vance's best selling memoir is unlike most Hollywood based on true story projects in that you do believe that the story you're being shown is true – it's all dull enough to have actually happened.
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.
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.
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.