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In Cinemas Now
The Personal History of David Copperfield. (PG.)
Directed by Armando Iannucci.
Starring Dev Patel, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Aneurin Barnard and Morfydd Clark. 120 mins
I was at a slight disadvantage at the press screening of this Dickens adaptation: apart from a few Vloggers, I was probably the only person in the cinema who was wondering what would happen in the end. Terrible admission, but I've never read any Dickens.
Directed by Trey Edwards Shults.
Starring Taylor Russell, Lucas Hedges, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry and Sterling K. Brown. 135 mins
MoonlightMoonlight is the obvious starting point. The similarities to the Oscar winner are minimal and superficial – aside from both being set in black communities in Miami, they both have shots of lovers standing in the sea as a storm approach. The connection sticks though because it is the film's most memorable and striking image. But if it is Moonlight, then it is Moonlight directed by Alfonso Cuaron.
Directed by Jay Roach.
Starring Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Allison Janney, Kate McKinnon and John Lithgow. 108 mins
Three bombshells, all blonde, naturally – two are real-life figures, Fox anchors Megyn Kelly (Theron) and Gretchen Carlson (Kidman), the third is a made-up composite figure (Robbie.) The bombshell they drop is that Roger Ailes (Lithgow), the head of Fox News, the organisation dedicated to infantilising public discourse and degrading the democratic process, sexually harassed a number of women on his staff.
Directed by Sam Mendes.
Starring George Mackay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth. 119 mins
This study of the Russian Revolution suffers somewhat from concentrating entirely on a day of World War I conflict in France. Calling a film 1917 that isn't about the historical landmark event of that year seems perverse, like making a film about the massacre of Granada and calling it 1066. Anyway, 1917 is a straightforward war film greatest hits compilation. There's nothing new in it, but it plays all the hits and plays them very well in a seamless mixtape package.
Jo Jo Rabbit. (15.)
Directed by Taika Waititi.
Starring Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Rebel Wilson. 108 mins.
“Well, talk about bad taste.” The Hitler comedy - from The Producers to Heil Honey I'm Home - is always contentious and JJ Wabbit, the tale of a 10-year-old boy (Davis) trying to negotiate his way through the last days of the Second World War with the help of his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, is potentially the most contentious of all.
Jumanji: The Next Level. (12A.)
Directed by Jale Kasdan.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Awkwafina, Danny Glover and Danny DeVito. 123 mins.
Calling the sequel to a live-action video game film The Next Level doesn't display much imagination. But the title is original in one sense: it is that rare post colon title declaration that keeps its promise. In almost every way this is the first film taken to the next level.
The Kingmaker. (15.)
Directed by Lauren Greenfield.
Featuring Imelda Marcos. 101 mins.
I had limited hopes for this portrait of Imelda Marcos, the widow of the former Philippines dictator Ferdinand. Director Greenfield's Generation Wealth had been such a fatuous, self-absorbed piece of docufluff that I expected this to be a tour of her 3,000 pairs shoes accompanied by an Oh-my-gosh-isn't-it-all-too-ghastly commentary. But this is a documentary of real substance with a chilling revelation: you probably assumed that she was a historical grotesque but the film reveals her to be an active present-day grotesque.
Knives Out (12A.)
Directed by Rian Johnson.
Starring Ana De Armas, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and Christopher Plummer. 130 mins
After making this century's most toxic and divisive film, The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson has decided to step back and do a proper Agatha Christie-style whodunnit with a creepy old family in a creepy old country house. What harm can he do with that? Well, quite a bit. This jolly country house full of red herrings and fake alibis is the vehicle for his treatise on the decline of western civilisation. Not Murder She Wrote, more Dissension He Wrought.
The Holy Mountain. (18.)
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. 1973
Starring Alejandro Jodorowsky, Horacio Salinas, Zamira Saunders, Juan Ferrara, Adriana Page, Burt Kleiner. 113 mins.
For the new year, Arrow Films are putting fabled Chilean film provocateur Alejandro Jodorowsky's first three films back in cinemas. His international hit, acid western El Topo was out two weeks ago and now we get the follow-up. Made with over a million dollars of Beatles manager Allen Klein's money, it is a rambling, boundless extravaganza of nudity, violence, animal cruelty, religious symbolism and spiritual mumbo jumbo, done on a massive scale. Surreal seems too modest a word for it.
A Hidden Life. (12A.)
Directed by Terrence Malick.
Starring August Diehl, Valerie Pachner, Maria Simon, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz. 173 mins.
I had two failed attempts at trying to see this before finally getting to sit down with it. I persisted because it's a Malick. He's the reclusive genius director of Badlands and The Thin Red Line and one of the greats: you've got to see a Malick. But, as the lights went down on this spiritual epic about an Austrian conscientious objector in WWII, I was struck by a sinking realisation: now I've got to watch a Malick, all three hours of it.
Just Mercy. (15.)
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.
Starring Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, O'Shea Jackson Jr and Tim Blake Nelson. 139 mins.
Did somebody say Just Mercy? Now there would be an app worth downloading. This film offers a reasonable substitute though: a good old fashioned tale of a decent lawyer trying to correct a miscarriage of justice, and prevent an innocent black man going to the electric chair. And if you want a good old fashioned tale of racial discrimination and corrupt law enforcement, 90s Alabama is just the place. It has all the aspects of a period drama set in the deep south, but in a contemporary setting.
La Dolce Vita. (12A.)
Directed by Federico Fellini. 1960.
Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimee, Alain Cuny, Yvonne Furneaux and Walter Santesso. Black and White. In Italian with subtitles. 174 mins.
La Dolce Vita is like a small boy romping around gleefully in a playpen while trying to tell you about his profound sense of ennui. Sixty years ago Fellini's sprawling epic about a smooth, suave, sophisticated, gutter journalist (Mastroianni) floating through the decadent circles of Roman society passed for a damning inditement of contemporary moral degradation. Seen today though, this long hot summer of chasing after film stars, going to parties and orgies, eating out on the Via Veneto and never going home before it gets light, looks very much like the time of your life.
Directed by Tara Wood.
Featuring Stacey Sher, Scott Spiegel, Zoe Ball, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen and Samuel L. Jackson. 97 mins.
A documentary about Quentin Tarantino's first eight films, (The Kill Bills count as one) after the release of his ninth one may seem like strange timing, but these first eight are the ones he made with Bob and Harvey Weinstein. A major theme of Wood's film is that, without making a big deal of it, his films have done a lot for advancing black and female representation on the screen, and have given them really meaty roles to play. The irony is that in doing so he was enabling Hollywood's biggest (known) bully and sex criminal: the enormous global success of Pulp Fiction turned the Weinstein's Miramax company into a major player.
Directed by Victor Kossakovsky. 89 mins.
This song of ice and water is a work that embraces wonder and tedium. It covers the globe documenting the savage power of the liquid element from the roaring ocean wave to stunning waterfalls, majestic glaciers and brutal hurricanes. Or it's just a bunch of scenes stuck together.
Honey Boy. (15.)
Directed by Alma Ha'rel.
Starring Shia LeBeouf, Noah Jupe, Lucas Hedges, Byron Bowers and Laura San Giacomo. 93 mins.
Based on the document filmstar Shia LeBeouf had to write while he was in rehab for being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a police officer, Honey Boy features Lucas Hedges playing Shia LeBeouf in rehab; Noah Jupe playing the child star Shia LeBeouf; and Shia LeBeouf playing Shia LeBeouf's alcoholic father.