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In Cinemas Now
Ash Is Purest White. (12A.)
Directed by Jia Zhang-ke.
Starring Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Yi'nan Diao, Xiaogang Feng, Casper Liang and Zheng Xu. Mandarin with subtitles. 136.
No filmmaker has done more than Jia Zhang-ke to show the harsh reality of 21st Century China to the rest of the world. His latest revisits and refines what he has done before: tales of vast social upheavals and lives being booted around to suit the latest state whim; lots of images of small individuals pictured against vast industrial developments.
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino.
Starring Toni Servillo, Elena Sofia Ricci, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kasia Smutniak, Euridice Axen, Fabrizio Bentivoglio. Italian with subtitles. 151 mins.
This vision of late-era Bunga Bunga Berlusconi is giddy but solemn, with a loro loro naked flesh, a loro loro exquisitely shot tableaux, a loro loro speeches but not a loro point or insight. Like its subject, it never gives it to you straight and it is always taking liberties. And it uses sex to distract viewers from reality.
Wild Rose (15.)
Directed by Tom Harper.
Starring Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo, Jamie Sives, James Harkness and Craig Parkinson. 100 mins
In this Glaswegian set drama about a single mum who is an aspiring country singer, Jessie Buckley gets to play Julie Walters' daughter. Which is appropriate because, on the evidence of this, Buckley really is a chip off the old block, somebody we'll be watching for decades. Wild Rose is a downbeat uplift movie; it's an awkward fusing of two of British cinema's favoured styles, the plucky underdog tale and kitchen sink social drearlism.
The Sisters Brothers (15.)
Directed by Jacques Audiard.
Starring John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root and Rutger Hauer. 121 mins.
John C. Reilly is back again as half of a double act. Playing Oliver Hardy opposite Steve Coogan's Laurel he was recreating a partnership where the comedy personas were fluid and the pair took turns being the fall guy. As Ely Sisters, the nicer half of a Wild West outlaw pairing alongside his violent, heavy drinking younger brother Charlie (Phoenix), his role is fixed: he is always the stooge, and the butt of any misfortune.
Directed by Tim Burton.
Starring Eva Green, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Alan Arkin, Deobia Oparei. 112 mins.
"I think I be done seen about everything when I see an elephant fly." And that would be quite a thing. Except we all did be done seen an elephant fly already; at some point in the last 78 years when we saw the 1941 animation. But Disney is not a company that is happy to leave well alone and Let It Be will never be their corporate anthem. So, it's time to get that flap-eared elephant up and earning again. Alongside more Marvel superhero movies, more Star Wars, Frozen II and Toy Story 4, as well as this, 2019 sees them doing live action remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King. With Disney, you always be done seen everything before.
Directed by Jordan Peele.
Starring Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss. 116 mins.
Two films in and Jordan Peele finds himself in an unusual position for a maker of scary movies. Usually, horror movie audiences are on tenterhooks waiting to find out what the menace is and if it stacks up. If it's something surprising, original or just not too obvious they will probably go home happy. In his films, they are waiting to see what the socio-political allegory will be, and if that stacks up. Probably for the foreseeable future that is going to be something Trump based but here it definitely isn't too obvious and is probably more original and surprising than you'd expect.
Fisherman's Friends (12A.)
Directed by Chris Foggin.
Starring Daniel May, James Purefoy, Tuppence Middleton, David Hayman, David Johns, Sam Swainsbury and Maggie Steed. 112 mins.
The latest British Full Monty wannabe is a totally made up true story about how some Cornish fishermen singing sea shanties became pop stars. It's a Pinocchio narrative: a bunch of 2D caricature Lunduners (music biz types just to strip them of any shred of humanity) go on a stag do to Port Isaac, Cornwall and rub some propr, genuine, 3D local people up the wrong way. But one of them stays behind, goes native, rejects city ways and becomes a real boy.
Directed by Simon Amstell.
Starring Colin Morgan, Phenix Brossard, Joel Fry, Jack Rowan, Jessica Raine and Anna Chancellor. 83 mins.
Ah, the comedy-drama, there should be a law against it. Or just a little man who pops up with a broom whenever a talented comedian tries to do something serious and profound and forcefully shoos them back into their box. Not as a punishment, but as a kindness. Though the average Bergman film is a deeper exploration of the human condition than a knock-knock joke, when it comes to getting really deep insights, comedy is generally the best vehicle.
Captain Marvel (12A.)
Directed by Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden.
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Lashana Lynch, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening and Jude Law. 124 mins.
Captain Marvel is: the reference you didn't understand in the post-credit sequence of Avengers Infinity War; the first female superhero with a non-gender specific name to make it to the big screen; the latest instalment in the identity politic culture war that was kicked off by the lady Ghostbusters film of 2016. This unedifying spectacle – waged over Last Jedi, Dr Who, Star Trek Discovery – has pitched the strident Tolerant Or Else brigade against bearded men on Youtube sat in front of rows of toys (WHICH MUST NEVER BE PLAYED WITH) who rage at having their favourite films/ TV programmes used to ram a progressive social agenda down their throats. It's proof surely that the whole of the internet is a cunning plot by malevolent A.I. to make us so utterly dispirited about the state of humanity that we will put up only a cursory objection to their forthcoming cull of its numbers.
Eighth Grade. (15.)
Directed by Bo Burnham.
Starring Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Daniel Zolghadri and Fred Hechinger. 94 mins
“Excruciating” is not the kind of quote film companies are looking for to put on their posters, but if you are attempting to sell a film that attempts to be an honest look at the life of a teenager, especially a teenager stuck in the hideous reality game show of the US education system, it's really the only adjective that matters. In the old days there used to be such things as blackboards and if you dragged your nails down one you could replicate the experience of being Kayla Day (Fisher), an acned, slightly chubby, friendless and awkward would be Vlogger trying to make out that her life is normal as she goes through her last week of middle school.
Directed by Sergey Loznitsa.
Starring Valeriu Andriuta, Natalya Buzko, Evgeny Chistyakov, Georgiy Deliev, Vadim Dubovsky, Konstantin Itunin. 122 mins.
It starts with actors grouching in front of the mirror as they are having their make up applied. Then they are led out into a war zone, marshalled by soldiers as they run for cover before delivering fake eyewitness accounts for the news.
Dragged Across Concrete (18.)
Directed by S. Craig Zahler.
Starring Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Tory Kittles, Michael Jai White, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Laurie Holden and Udo Kier. 159 mins.
Dragged Across Concrete is a fantastic title for a movie, particularly one with an entertainment-as-gruelling-assault-course approach. This is a long, slow film about violence and killing in which two cops, Gibson and Vaughn, get suspended for being overly violent - or more accurately getting caught on film being overly violent - during the arrest of a scumbag drug dealer. With time on their hands, Gibson comes up with a scheme use their profession expertise and knowledge to get a little extra compensation.
Red Joan (15.)
Directed by Trevor Nunn.
Directed by Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson, Tom Hughes, Stephen Campbell Moore, Ben Miles and Tereza Srbova. 101 mins.
The snobbish delusion of British culture is that cinema is such an inferior form that any half decent Fearta director can turn his hand to it if he has a month or two to spare; that having successfully herded a flock of RADA graduates through some iambic pentameter on the boards of a West End shed, editing, sound design and cinematography can be picked up in an afternoon. The 21st century has gone some way to knock this out of people's heads but we still have Trevor Nunn ex-RSC and ex-NT given another go behind the camera, making another dull British film of a subject that could have been so much more.
Directed by Jonah Hill.
Starring Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia. 85 mins.
Parents worried about what their children are watching online these days should take some comfort from Jonah Hill's autobiographical tale of last century Californian skateboarding uvz: back in the days when children went out to play there were just as many bad influences laying in wait for him. Stevie (Suljic) is a young kid, around 12, who falls in with a bad crowd; older boys who hang out in a skateboard shop and introduce him to smoking, drinking and next level profanity. But then his home life consists of being beaten up by his older brother (Hedges) and moments of self-harm, so it's all relative.
Directed by David F. Sandberg.
Starring Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Grace Fulton and Djimon Hounsou. 132 mins.
Ever since the overwrought calamities of Batman Vs Superman and Suicide Squad, Warners have desperately been trying to persuade audiences that their DC comic book movies are fun now, and this is certainly their most determinedly upbeat, smiley face superhero movie yet. He may have unlimited powers but in a bright red suit with a white cape and a yellow lightning strike chest crest Shazam (Levi) is no kind of Dark Knight. So much so, that initially I was wondering if just a month after the world was invited to marvel at the shattering breakthrough of the first female superhero – yeah, I don't why Wonder Woman doesn't count – DC, were trying to out woke them with the first camp superhero.
Directed by David Jackson
Starring Francis Magee, Harper Jackson, Carole Weyers, Doon MacKichan and Robin Weaver. 94 mins. In cinemas next week.
On hearing this film was made in Hastings I immediately assumed it would be depressing and rubbish. Neal Jordan's Byzantium and Michael Winterbottom's I Want You, the two previous films I remember being set in the South Coast town with the award-winning pier with nothing on it that that is basically the world's most highfalluting plank, were both career's nadir. (Sometime in the 80s I recall the semi-decent BBC computer hacker serial Birds Of Prey, starring Richard Griffiths, doing an episode there, around the Marina Pavillion.)
Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story (15.)
Directed by Steve Sullivan.
Featuring Chris Sievey, Frank Sidebottom, Jon Ronson, John Cooper Clarke, Mark Radcliffe. 103 mins.
Frank Sidebottom has probably “enjoyed” the most spectacular level of posthumous success of any artist since Franz Kafka. (Well, as long as we ignore Steig Larsson. And Eva Cassidy.) Alive, the bulbous papier mache headed alter ego of Chris Sievey was a cult figure who popped up all over the place – children's TV, cable channels and playing gigs in festivals and pubs – performing to audiences who ranged from adoring to wildly hostile. Since creator Sievey died of cancer in 2010 there's has been the marvellous Frank, in which a Sidebottom/ Captain Beefheart hybrid was played by Michael Fassbender, and now this Kickstarter documentary in which Frank and Chris share the limelight. It starts by announcing itself as a film made up of things found in a damp cellar, and from these artefacts, editor/ producer/ director Sullivan has shaped the year's most purely enjoyable documentary.
At Eternity's Gate. (15.)
Directed by Julian Schnabel.
Starring Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Issacs, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner. 101 mins.
Of all the gates to get stuck at, eternity's is the one you really want to avoid. There are only two real flaws with this film about the life of Van Gogh. First, that title. Second, it's a film about the life of Van Gogh. How many do we need? There are over twenty Van Goghs features listed on IMDB including an animated VVG in Loving Vincent, a Benedict Cumberbatch VVG, a Tim Roth VVG, A Martin Scorsese VVG for Akira Kurosawa's Dreams, a Kirk Douglas VVG and the VVG that painted the Tardis exploding for the Matt Smith Doctor prior to The Pandorica Opening.
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