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First Man. (15.)
Directed by Damien Chazelle.
Starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Shea Wigham, Ciarán Hinds, Corey Stoll. 141 mins.
In this country we like a buttoned-down hero; someone who has done some incredible act of bravery yet doesn't want to talk about it. Still, if that incredible act of bravery was being the first man to fly to the moon I think even the stiffest of upper lips might feel compelled not to keep it to themself. The story of how NASA came to chose a reserved, tight-lipped man to represent all mankind, and how that role came to weight on him to such a degree that he became something of a recluse is a fascinating topic, which this film largely ignores.
A Star Is Born. (15.)
Directed by Bradley Cooper.
Starring Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos and Dave Chappelle. 136 mins.
The Hollywood movie packaging slot machine is nothing if not capricious. After numerous spins turned out various combinations of Christian Bale, Beyonce, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith, Johnny Depp and Clint Eastwood (directing) it has decided to pay out on a fourth version of A Star Is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.
Directed by Kogonada.
Starring John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Michelle Forbes and Rory Culkin. 104 mins.
People In Places. That would be a workable alternative title for just about every film in history, but maybe none more so than the debut of Korean ex-pat Kogonada. The place is the small city in Indiana that gives the film its title, a mecca of modernist architecture. The people are a bright young girl (Richardson) just out of school and a Korean book translator (Cho) who are both tied to the place by parental obligations. Striking up a tentative friendship, they spend their time talking about themselves against locations of architectural interest. The End.
The Wife (15.)
Directed by Bjorn Runge.
Starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Christian Slater, Annie Starke and Karin Franz Korlof. 100 mins.
This is a boring film about writers. Which is another way of saying it is a film about writers. Unless it's about the exciting things the writer did first before sitting down at their desk to write it up, or it's Barton Fink, all films about writers are boring. The Wife though is a boring film about a celebrated American Jewish writer who wins the Nobel Prize. So much of it takes place in Stockholm. In the middle of winter. At an awards ceremony.
A Simple Favour (15.)
Directed by Paul Feig.
Starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Jean Smart and Rupert Friend. 117 mins.
Peachy keen single mum vlogger Stephanie (Hendricks) is thrilled when glamourous, big city gin-mummy Emily (Lively) becomes her new best friend. But just as she is getting used to boozy afterschool play dates swigging Martinis in her big luxurious glass house, Stephanie disappears.
The House With A Clock In Its Walls (12A.)
Directed by Eli Roth
Starring Jack Black, Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro, Colleen Camp and Kyle MacLachlan. 105 mins.
Ten-year-old Lewis Barnavelt (Vaccaro) is about to be handed a couple of tough breaks in this 50s set haunted house Harry Potter knockoff. First, he is orphaned when his parents die in a car crash. Then he learns he is to be Dumbledored by uncle Jack Black, a goateed Warlock living in a Beetlejuice house filled with gryphon topiary, pet armchairs, TV screening mirrors and a persistent ticking sound where the rising damp should be.
Directed by John Carroll Lynch.
Starring Harry Dean Stanton, Beth Grant, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt, Barry Shabaka Henley and David Lynch. 88 mins.
Harry Dean Stanton Is Lucky, the opening frame of the movie says. I'd have said talented myself, but then talent is a kind of luck and possessing the kind of face and vocal delivery that the camera could remain enthusiastic about for over half a century is a special blessing. As is having some of your buddies get together to make a film all about your life and your stubborn resistance to dying. This meant, if nothing else, that after a great career mostly playing character roles or bit parts, his last performance was a lead. It was also fortuitous that the 91-year old stayed alive long enough to finish it but laid down his hat just before its US release. Perhaps the word is charmed.
The Predator (15.)
Directed by Shane Black.
Starring Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen and Thomas Jane. 107 mins.
He's no Alien, but the giant metallic intergalactic dreadlock hunter The Predator is a pretty fearsome beast, but the one I'd really be afraid of meeting in a dark alley is his agent. This ruthless shark has managed to keep him consistently in work for over three decades, despite there being no pressing call for him to be so. It hasn't always been dignified – the Morecambe and Little double act with Alien in the Vs series; facing off against Adrien Brody in Predators, a mismatch equivalent to Kendo Nagasaki taking on John Inman – but it was work and put food on the table.
Directed by Marc Turtletaub.
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman, Bubba Wieler and Austin Abrams. 103 mins.
Kelly Macdonald seems to have a perverse compulsion for seeking out movies built around defiantly uncinematic games. First, there was House! the Welsh bingo based romcom and now a tale of a put-upon wife finding herself through jigsaws. Agatha is gliding through a life of dull domesticity when the chance to become the partner of a champion in the world of competitive puzzling presents itself.
Distant Voices, Still Lives (15.)
Directed by Terrence Davies. 1988.
Starring Freda Dowie, Dean Williams, Peter Postlethwaite, Angela Walsh, Lorraine Ashbourne and Debi Jones. 82 mins. 30th Anniversary re-release.
DVSL, a glacial drift over a working-class upbringing in Liverpool in the 40s and 50s, is one of the great sacred cows of British subsidised cinema. It was greeted by rapturous acclaim on its release in 1988 and I can still recall the rush of emotion I felt while watching it: the anger and contempt I had for this empty and patronising film and the aloof, out of touch critical elite that had gyped me out of the price of admission, anything up to £2.50 in those days.
Directed by Panos Cosmatos.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Richard Brake, Clément Baronnet and Bill Duke. 121 mins.
There's a biblical sweep to the career of Nicolas Cage: he's lost and then he's found. And when he is found he'll go and get himself lost again. He seems to have been lost for some years now, churning out low budget rubbish, but this psychedelic revenge thriller was supposed to be one of his good ones. If this is what we see as Cage found, then he is truly lost.
Johnny English Strikes Again. (PG.)
Directed by David Kerr.
Starring Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Jake Lacy, Adam James and Emma Thompson. 89 mins.
I'm not sure anyone was waiting desperately for a third Johnny English instalment but it's here anyway and it's a lot of fun. Rowan Atkinson I think has two things going for him. First, he spaces his projects out so it's always a bit of a surprise to see him again, a bit of a surprise to remember that he is a bit funnier than you remember. Second, he's just about the only clown people aren't terrified of.
Two For Joy (15.)
Directed by Tom Beard.
Starring Samantha Morton, Billie Piper, Emilia Jones, Badger Skelton, Bella Ramsey and Daniel May. 86 mins.
40 years ago a man sang about there being no future in England's dreaming. True enough, but its nightmares sure have longevity. As custodians of our nation's hallowed cinematic traditions of social drearlism, the BFI can always be relied upon to chip in for a film or two a year about underclass misery; a look at how the other half barely exist.
Mile 22 (15.)
Directed by Peter Berg.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan, Rhonda Rousey and John Malkovich. 94 mins.
It must've sounded like a genius idea in the Hollywood exec's office when it was pitched: Rainman as an action hero. In truth, if it hadn't been explained in the opening credits sequence that Wahlberg's character had a personality disorder I doubt I'd have noticed. He is a bit more charmless than usual but this time he has a doctor's note to excuse it.
The Rider (15.)
Directed by Chloe Zhao.
Starring Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau, Cat Clifford, Terri Dawn Pourier, Lane Scott. 106 mins.
I guess that now is perhaps the best time ever to be an American cowboy: the landscape is still epic, the sense of freedom and of being at one with nature palpable and, now that the wild west has gravitated to the high schools, the chances of being shot are minimal. But, the livestock is still dangerous. Zhao's film is a kind of fly-on-the-wall drama. Its tale of a young rodeo star trying to rediscover his place in the world after a kick in the head and the resulting head trauma stop him doing what he loves, features the actual people reenacting events very similar to those that actually happened to them.
King of Thieves (15.)
Directed by James Marsh.
Starring Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Charlie Cox, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse and Michael Gambon. 108 mins.
The 2015 Hatton Garden raid, alongside The Great Train Robbery and The Brink's-Mat Job are this nation's defining post war robberies. A film of the £14 million diamond heist by a gang of aging villain over the long Easter weekend has all the ingredients of a very British cock up: East End villains, nostagia, an underdog crime caper, old timers getting it together for one last hurrah. The potential for Calendar Girls meet We Still Kill In The Old Way was enormous. But, as directed by Marsh (Man on Wire, Theory of Everything) and scripted by Joe Penhall (Blue/Orange, The Long Firm, Mindhunters) there is no sentimentality, and just a little carefully filtered nostalgia.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (15.)
Directed by Desiree Akhavan.
Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Marin Ireland, John Gallagher Jr. and Jennifer Ehle. 91 mins
Looking like you'd rather be someplace else is a bold strategy for the title role in a motion picture but it works for Moretz here. She is a high school girl in the early 90s who finds herself consigned to a Cuckoo's Nest: packed away to a Christian conversion camp to pray away her SSA (Same Sex Attraction) after she is caught making out with her best friend at prom night. Once there she rebels against the strict Christian regime before tearfully breaking down, finding Jesus, realising it was just a silly phase she was going through and settling down with a nice young man and raising some children.
American Animals (15.)
Directed by Bart Layton.
Starring Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Jared Abrahamson, Blake Jenner and Ann Dowd. 117 mins.
American Animals is the true story of two university students' audacious scheme to catapult themselves to a position near the top of the world of crime. In 2003, almost on a whim they started to speculate on how they could go about stealing some precious books – a copy of Darwins Origin Of Species, a collection of 19th century wildlife paintings that give the film its title – stored in a secure section of the Kentucky University library under the watchful eye of librarian (Dowd.)
Cold War (15.)
Directed by Paweł Pawlikowski.
Starring Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cédric Kahn, Jeanne Balibar. In Black and white. Polish and French with subtitles. 88 mins
Pawlikowski, Oscar winner for his previous film Ida, is a filmmaker who wants to give you as much as he can with as little as possible. The screen is small, the old 4:3 ratio, it's black and white and the film doesn't take up much of your time even as it tries to give you the Cold War: not all of it, but a full decade and a half beginning in Poland in 1949. This tale of love behind and across the barricade starts with formation of their post-war equivalent of the Fame Academy. The best folk singers are gathered together in a mansion to perform and rehearse until they become a performing troupe that will be a "living calling card for the fatherland."
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty.
Starring John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La and Sarah Sohn. 101 mins.
The digital age has changed everything, except anything at all. Searching is an eager little stunt thriller, the gimmick being it takes place entirely on monitor screens. After his daughter goes missing, distraught father (Cho) has to trawl through her data footprint for clues as to what might have happened. He thought he knew her, but maybe he knew nothing at all.
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