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A Private War. (15.)
Directed by Matthew Heineman.
Starring Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dorman, Tom Hollander, Faye Marsay, Greg Wise and Stanley Tucci. 110 mins
The private war is that of eye-patched Sunday Times foreign correspondent Marie Colvin (Pike), battling against the nightmares, alcoholism and shellshock caused by decades dropping in on war zones around the world. This drama covers the last eleven years of her life, from the explosion in Sri Lanka in 2001 that claimed her left eye to the one in Homs, Syria in 2012 that took her life.
Alita: Battle Angel (12A.)
Directed by Robert Rodriquez.
Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Ed Skrien. 122 mins.
Fox, 26th Century Fox as the opening credits style them, are hoping that Alita will be a little piece of history repeating itself: that just like nine years ago, an expensive, James Cameron 3D sci-fi epic which everybody expected to flop will turn into a massive hit. Fox has been desperately trying to drum up anticipation for this (holding free screenings across America last Thursday) in much the same way as they did for Avatar, and 12 years before that for Titanic. The problem though is that the film is all our dystopian futures repeating.
Boy Erased (12A.)
Directed by Joel Edgerton.
Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton, Russell Crowe, Xavier Dolan, Flea and Joe Alwyn.
In which the cream of Australian acting talent conspire to put the boot into gay-conversion therapy, and Christianity while they’re at it. There are worse things they could do, but as the same topic was covered by The Miseducation of Cameron Post less than a year ago, there might have been better ones too. That was something of the period piece, set back in the early 90s, this adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir is more up to date. The son of a pastor (Crowe) Jared (Hedges) is sent to de-gaying camp when his leanings are revealed to his parents by a college mate.
Green Book (12A.)
Directed by Peter Farrelly.
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini, Dimeter Marinov, Mike Hatton, Iqbal Theba. 130 mins.
It is the shared, hidden dream of all 21st-century humanity that one day Hollywood will knock on their door and say they wanna make a film of your life. But that initial flush of excitement is likely to drain away when you learn that the film they wanna make of your life is basically Driving Miss Daisy, even if it is a Goodfella Driving Miss Daisy.
Directed by Lee Chang Dong.
Starring Ah-In Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-Seo Jun. In Korean with subtitles. 148 mins
At just under two and half hours, this Korean drama is a hunk, a hunk of slow burn ambiguity. Jugso (Ah-In Yoo) is a wuld-be writer who hooks up with a girl he grew up with, Haemi (Jong-Seo Jun.) She says he once crossed over the road to call her ugly and he rescued her when she fell down a well, but he can't remember this. She asks him to look after her cat while she is away in Africa but when she returns it is with smug playboy Ben (Yeun.) The film starts off as a slow character piece but gradually becomes something richer and darker. The film's straightforward visual realism means that viewers only gradually realise how much is being kept from us and how little we can trust and believe what these three people are telling us. Even the existence of that darn cat is never confirmed.
Directed by Adam McKay.
Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry and Jesse Plemons. 132 mins.
This is a two-hour character assassination of former Vice President Dick Cheney, a man who selflessly devoted his life to public service, peeing in the waters of public discourse, soiling the sheets of western democracy and putting aside a bucks for himself. He probably had it coming.
Mary, Queen of Scots (15.)
Directed by Josie Rourke.
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, David Tennant, Jack Lowden, Gemma Chan, Guy Pearce. 124 mins.
I like a film with a happy ending and this film concludes with (and begins with - so no spoiler) the execution of a would be Queen. Nothing against Mary QOS, but after seeing this film I'm inclined to feel that in the matter of royalty, the fewer the better.
Stan and Ollie (PG.)
Directed by Jon S. Baird.
Starring John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Nina Ariande, Rufus Jones and Danny Huston. 97 mins.
“And so we say goodbye to two gentlemen. Two, very, gentle, men.” Those words, or something similar, were the final lines of narration of the Laurel and Hardy compilation movie that was a TV Christmas perennial when I was a boy. They weren't the cleverest, they weren't the wittiest but they were the funniest. They were primarily exponents of comedy's basest matter, slapstick, and it was often cruel and petty and mean and violent, but the laughter they produced was incredibly pure and cleansing. It was the best medicine the 20th century had to offer.
Directed by Travis Knight.
Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, John Ortiz, Pamela Adlon and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. Out on Boxing Day. 114 mins.
Every movie studio is in the business of universe building, so in 2015 Paramount decided that they would join in by building one around Transformers, the fighting robots who can turn into cars. It seemed like a sound choice then as, however rubbish they were, each of the films made a fortune, over a billion dollars in the case of Trans 3 and 4. And then, wouldn't you know, no sooner had they announced their plan than the fifth one came out and barely made half as much as the previous one. That's just typical isn't it? Of all the times for the audience to develop a sense of discernment.
Directed by James Wan.
Starring Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Defoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman. 143 mins. ***
Italian food may be among the best in the world, but it's range is limited: it's pasta or pizza, pizza or pasta. Similarly, with DC comics it's Batman or Superman; Superman or Batman, with Wonder Woman fulfilling the lasagne position. While the Wonderful World of Marvel has more Avengers than it knows what to do with, the Justice League movie demonstrated that outside of their big name characters, there's a real big drop off. But Marvel has a cinematic universe so DC and the Brothers Warner must have one too. Which means that they are obliged to bring the story of Arthur Curry/ aka Aquaman, their musclebound fish whisperer, to the big screen.
Instant Family (12A.)
Directed by Sean Anders.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Julie Hagerty and Margo Martindale. 118 mins.
Being a responsible film goer I snuck in my own sick bag to this screening under the very sound assumption that when affluent couple Wahlberg and Byrne decide to adopt and end up with three Latino kids – two cute young ones and a difficult teenager (Moner) – copious amounts of vomit would ensue. But Instant Family is a very confusing and perplexing experience – a ghastly, smaltzy sentimental Hollywood family comedy that is sincere, genuinely funny and bears resemblance to recognizable human behaviour.
The Lady Eve (U.)
Directed by Preston Sturges. 1941
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest and Eric Blore. Black and White. 92 mins. Back in cinemas as part of the BFI's Starring Barbara Stanwyck season.
This glorious Preston Sturges romcom with its charm and sophistication and hilarious patter and real stars is the epitome of They Don't Make 'em Like that Anymore. It comes from an era when people wanted who were smarter and wittier versions of themselves up on the big screen, rather than people who were super-powered, smarter and wittier versions of themselves.
Lego Movie 2 (PG.)
Directed by Mike Mitchell.
Starring Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Tiffany Haddish. 107 mins.
Five years ago the whole world embraced the Lego Movie as a brazen assertion of corporate might that was endearing and charming and sly and very funny and able to assemble itself into whatever the viewer wanted it to be. The follow up is ….. still very funny.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (15.)
Directed by Marielle Heller.
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone, Stephan Spinella, Jane Curtin. 106 mins.
This is a true crime confession but as felonies go, writing forged typed letters purporting to be by literary figures such as Dorothy Parker and Noel Coward, it is one of the minor ones. Likewise, as studies of despair and loneliness go, this is one of the lighter one, but possibly all the better for that.
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. (PG.)
Directed by Dean Dublois.
Starring Jay Baruchel, Craig Ferguson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, America Ferrera, Kit Harrington, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett and F. Murray Abrahams. 104 mins.
The relevant question is perhaps less How more Why? You might have thought that this series of films had concluded its business after two movies but nearly five years on from the last one here comes a conclusion to the tale of the hybrid California/ Scottish Viking clan led by wimpy Hiccup (Baruchel) who have learned how to train and co-exist with fire breathers. It is something more than the lazy cash grab you might have feared.
Directed by Karyn Kusama.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy and Bradley Whitford. 121 mins.
Kidman is an LA cop on the edge. No surprise there, all LA movie cops are on the edge, but few teeter quite as far as she does. Kidman stalks the harsh LA sunlight looking like the reanimated cadaver of 80s Meg Ryan, her face adorned with ageing makeup that makes her look as if she had sat under a sun lamp for way too long. She is often seen with a drink in her hand and a few more inside her, but the film is never explicit as to what indulgences these cosmetics are supposed to be indicative of.
Bergman: A Year in A Life (15.)
Directed by Jane Magnusson.
Featuring Ingmar Bergman, Liv Ullmann, Gunnel Lindblom, Lena Endre, Arnold Weinstein, Dick Cavett, Elliott Gould, Barbra Streisand. 117 mins.
The Bergman is Ingmar and the year is 1957, during which he will deal with seven productions - two films, one TV production and four plays - and a stomach ulcer. In there are the releases of two of his most famous films, The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries. Magnusson's treatise is that although he's already been making films for over a decade, this is the decisive year in his career: the time when he decides to make his work largely autobiographical. Well, he had more than enough of it to go round; by this time Bergman already had three wives, six children and various lovers. As one contributor puts it, "He must've existed in a testosterone-filled hubris bubble."
Beautiful Boy (15.)
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen.
Starring Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kaitlyn Dever. 120 mins.
The words you'll be expecting in a review of a film about drug addiction are "harrowing" and "gruelling." This tale of a father David Sheff (Carell) trying to cope with his precious teenage son Nic (Chalamet) acquiring a liking for crystal meth isn't either of those adjectives; it isn't a film that wants to drag you through My Drug Hell. It is something much more painful than that.
The Favourite (15.)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.
Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn and Mark Gatiss. 119 mins.
Having arisen from the restrictive practices of the subtitled arthouse movie, the third English language feature by Greek director Lanthimos is his take on the British costume drama. This tale of backstabbing and beastly behaviour in the court of Queen Anne is a vision of the depths of human depravity which may leave you wondering how something so foul can be so frightfully entertaining.
Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse. (18.)
Directed by Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti.
Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Chris Pine, Kathryn Hahn, Lily Tomlin and Nicholas Cage. 117 mins.
This animated superhero flick forces audiences to deal with a couple of head-spinning concepts: the quantum mechanics of parallel universes and Sony's mind-twisting notions of how to expand its Spider-man franchise. After the first Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-man, they had big plans for multiple spin-off films focusing on his villains: a Venom and Sinister Six films were announced. Spider-man films without Spider-man seemed like a desperate venture dreamt up by a studio struggling to keep up with the others and when the second Garfield film underwhelmed these plans were put on hold and they came to a joint custody arrangement with Marvel for the character where they get to use him every other film.
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