In Cinemas Now
For the full review, click on the picture
Star Wars: The Last Jedi. (12A.)
Directed by Rian Johnson.
Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro. 152 mins.
Every time an opening crawl begins its ascent, I think we are all Star Wars fans, just a little bit. For many of us, it is often the case that that enthusiasm will have drained by the time the closing credits appear. Here though is a Star Wars film that could make a fan of someone who has never really seen the sense in all this Skywalker, Force Be With You nonsense.
Bingo: The King of the Mornings. (15.)
Directed by Daniel Rezende.
Starring Vladimir Brichta, Leandra Leal, Cauã Martins, Augusto Madeira, Tainá Müller and Soren Hellerup. In Portuguese with subtitles. 113 mins
These days, if you are going to make a movie about a clown, It'd better be evil. Augusto Mendes (Brichta) is a randy, coke snorting, whiskey swigging former soft core porn star with a rampaging ego: he would fit in perfectly at the Groucho Club or any other private Soho drinking establishment for media types. That's not actually a definition of evil, but it is pretty damn close.
The Disaster Artist (15.)
Directed by James Franco.
Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver and Zac Efron. 104 mins.
Tommy Wiseau (pronounced Why Zoh, rather than Whiz Oh, as I'd always assumed) is a fantastic movie star name: it starts out Italian American mobster and ends up French intellectual. It suits him because he is the ultimate, all-inclusive Hollywood movie star. Just as Chaka Khan was every woman, he's every movie star: Lon Chaney playing Dracula, Mickey Rourke Before and After; all the Expendables rolled into one; a Christopher Walken impersonation that doesn't know he's an impersonation; a miracle of reinvention who lies about his age and past; possibly a sexual predator and a follow-your-dreams idealist. He is a monster with a pure spirit.
Happy End (15.)
Directed by Michael Haneke.
Starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin, Franz Rogowski, Loubna Abidar et Toby Jones. 106 mins.
I wonder if Michael Haneke's lofty critical reputation is in part down to the number of ex-public school boys in the higher ranks of the reviewer. His cold, brutal dissections of western civilisation must have brought back tender memories of being on the receiving end of blazered canings in provincial institutions. Happy End though is his first film this century (other than his American remake of Funny Games) not to receive euphoric, one-of-the-year's-best praise. It is another stern rebuke, but although the blows are as fierce and unforgiving as ever, this time it doesn't deliver the sense of stinging degradation reviewers are looking are.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG.)
Directed by Bharat Nalluri.
Starring Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Justin Edwards, Morfydd Clark and Miriam Margolyes. 104 mins
Who was, of course, Charles Dickens. One of the great Christmas traditions is retelling the same bloody stories every year. If it isn't Him in the manger it's Scrooge and his three ghosts. With A Christmas Carol, his great rage against empty, soul destroying materialism, he revived an unimportant holiday and set it on the path to being the great celebration of empty, soul destroying materialism it is today.
Battle Of The Sexes (12A.)
Directed by Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton
Starring Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming. 121 mins.
It may be a battle, but it's not much of a battle. You'd expect this telling of the back story to the 1973 exhibition tennis match between the female no 1 Billie Jean King (Stone) and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs (Carell) to be fixed, but the fix is less convincing then you'd imagine. Every poster features Stone smiling benignly at Carell, and the film is much like the event it replays: it calls itself a battle but is really a friendly match.
Directed by George Clooney.
Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Glenn Fleshler, Michael D. Cohen and Oscar Isaac. 104 mins.
In its opening scenes, George Clooney's latest film introduces us to the town of Suburbicon, an idealised vision of 50s Americana, in the early 60s. The place is so stylised, so Pleasantville perfect, that you know something horrible is going to happen to it. Sure enough, there goes the neighbourhood: when a coloured family move into a house the entire white-flight community turns into animals, mounting an escalating campaign of harassment and intimidation to try and drive them out.
But they're not the film.
Justice League (12A)
Directed by Zack Synder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher and Jeremy Irons. 121 mins.
What is happening when a Thor film is one of the year's most anticipated releases, drumming up unheard of amounts of noise for what had previously been one of Marvel's least heralded characters, while this DC gathering of the clan, their equivalent of the Avengers Assembling, has advanced towards cinemas in a campaign marked by silence and stealth? The publicity campaign for Batman vs Superman seemed to last for years but the first posters for its sequel didn't appear on the side of buses until a couple of weeks ago. You'd have thought that the success of Wonder Woman might have put the spring back into Warner's attempt to build a superhero universe of its very own but the Bros still seem stricken by the hubris of their Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad fiascos
Directed by Carlos Saldanha.
Starring John Cena, Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Cannavale, Peyton Manning and David Tennant. 106 mins
New, from the director of Rio, Ferdinand. It's the story of a flower loving, pacifist, Spanish bull who, despite growing up in the Casa Del Toro where bulls are breed for the ring, wants nothing to do with the bullfighting game. An obvious stance you might think, but all the others are gung ho and keen to have their shot at glory in the ring. They are also keen to avoid the fate of bulls deemed not good enough to face a matador: a trip to the chophouse.
The Dinner (15.)
Directed by Oren Moverman.
Starring Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall, Charlie Plummer and Chloe Sevigny. 120 mins.
Beware the wonderful starter; it is invariably the prelude to a disappointing main. This Dinner is a gathering of US senator Gere, his spectacularly charmless brother Coogan and their respective spouses, Hall and Linney, in a very fancy restaurant. This is a dinner where we watch to find out what is eating them, and for around 50 minutes that is quite intriguing. What is the important issue Gere wants to discuss? What is the relevance of the flashback sequences with their children? Why does anybody put up with Coogan's spectacular rudeness? When the mains arrive, and almost everybody leaves the table, it's the point when you realise that this is going to a very long and very pointless dinner engagement.
Directed by Stephen Chbosky
Starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Izabela Vidovic, Owen Wilson, Noah Jupe and Mandy Patinkin. 113 mins.
Wonder, based on a best selling book by R. J. Palacio, tells the story of Auggie, a young boy born looking like a middle aged woman. Given that a combination of a rare genetic disorder and the scars from the plastic surgery used to partially correct it have left him with an unfortunate appearance you'd have thought his parents might have given him a haircut that didn't bring to mind Sandi Toksvig. Other than that though, you couldn't wish for better, more loving, generous and, let's not deny it, wealthy parents than Roberts and Wilson. After years of home school, they decide to risk sending him to school, though a very exclusive public school run by the wisest of all principles, Patinkin.
Daddy's Home 2. (12A.)
Directed by Sean Anders.
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell, Mel Gibson, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, John Lithgow. 100 mins
Those of you who, though you'd never say the words out loud, are secretly saddened that you may never see Kevin Spacey or Louis C.K. work again, can take some consolation in the career resurrection of Mel Gibson. Here he is, in a Christmas family comedy, playing a caricature version of his reactionary self, and is at times its voice of reason.
In a Lonely Place (PG.)
Directed by Nicholas Ray. 1950.
Starring Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid, Art Smith, and Robert Warwick. In Black and white. 91 mins.
We are here because of Gloria Grahame, with this and The Big Heat being back in cinemas to sate any punter curiosity after Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool, but can we start with Bogart? I'm no spring chicken but Bogie is still someone I feel I have only experienced second hand. Even twenty or thirty years ago when I first saw his iconic roles – The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The African Queen, etc – he was already a figure known primarily through impersonation, like Marilyn Monroe, Chaplin or Frank Spencer. The Bogart impersonator in Woody Allen's Play It Again Sam is as authentically Bogart to me as the chap in the white jacket in Casablanca.
The Big Heat Us. (15.)
Directed by Fritz Lang. 1953
Starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Jocelyn Brando, Alexander Scourby, Lee Marvin and Jeanette Nolan. 87 mins.
In 78/52, the documentary about the shower scene in Psycho, Peter Bogdanovich remarks on how originally in cinema most of the big stars were female but gradually after WWII, males became the big names. Gloria Grahame was a big star, and an Oscar winner, in the fifties but the two movies re-released this week to coincide with the interest in her provoked by Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, both have her in support roles. Here, she gets to play second fiddle to Glenn Ford, and get roughed up and abused by Lee Marvin, which is a lot less interesting than playing second fiddle to Bogart, particularly when she only really appears in the film's second half. She makes her presence felt though. If this movie were a horse race she'd be the runner who spends most of the time unnoticed near the back only to surge through the field and take the film at the post.
Good Time (15.)
Directed by Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Taliah Webster, Barkhad Abdi, Necro and Jennifer Jason Leigh. 102 mins.
Pattinson seems to have devoted the last five years to trying to wash away the stain of being Edward Cullenhands. The I'm-a-serious-actor-really route is a course paved with dangers for the pretty young thing trying to slip clear of the teen fandom, but after a few faltering steps he's beginning to catch up with Kristen Stewart. He's probably got the last of the stench off with this committed and convincing turn as a New York lowlife Connie, who has an Of Mice And Men relationship with his slow-witted brother Nick (Safdie.)
Ingrid Goes West (15.)
Directed by Matt Spicer.
Starring Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr, Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen and Pom Klementieff. 98 mins.
The marvel of the modern age is that, in almost every aspect, it is immune to criticism and ridicule. Its banality and absurdities are built in, and have been bought into and accepted by its users. If I were involved in the arms trade I would dream of creating something with the invulnerability of a #. The comedy drama Ingrid Goes West is a savage and twisted assault on the cold emptiness of social media and the fatuous credo of connectivity, that is easily brushed aside and fails to make any kind of dent on its target.
------------ For a full list of the available reviews, check out the LIBRARY page ----------