BILL AND TED FACE THE MUSIC

Cert PG Stars 4

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter get the band back together as their goofy time travelling rock musicians return with a third knockabout sci-fi adventure comedy.

As they once more travel back to the future and all about in a phone box, they must compose the greatest song ever written to unite the world in rhythm and harmony to save reality, but have only 75 minutes to do it.

First appearing as Bill and Ted in their 1989 Excellent Adventure and returning in 1991’s Bogus Journey, the stars generate the same warm charm and silly earnest chemistry, and have great fun playing different versions of their future selves.

As the playful script pays homage to the history of popular music, Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong and Mozart among the famous artists encountered, as well as a killer robot.

Upcoming talents of Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine are the new kids on the block and are endearingly bright eyed as Bill and Ted’s  adult daughters, and many fan favourites appear – not least William Sadler as the Grim Reaper.

Brisk, funny, nostalgic and with a great deal of heart, it’s an uplifting power chord of love, signalling it’s time to be most excellent to each other, and not forgetting to party on dudes!

SAVAGE

Cert 18 Stars 4

Violence, prejudice, loyalty and rivalry feature heavily in this powerful Kiwi biker drama which features enjoyable camaraderie between horrifying scenes of drugs, prostitution and child abuse.

Australian actor Jake Ryan is immense as the brooding and volatile gang enforcer known as Damage, who’s torn between his biological family and his surrogate family, a biker gang called The Savages, a conflict which threatens his lifelong friendship with gang president, Moses.

With alarming facial tattoos, Ryan is a real life Taekwondo black belt and brings an all too believable ferocity to the brutality while also essaying a moving portrayal of the wounded integrity and inner turmoil of a man weary of being feared,

Strong in detail and sense of place, ambitious in its scope yet intimate in mood, writer and director Sam Kelly spreads his narrative over 30 years and coaxes lovely performances from the child actors as younger versions of the characters.

Inspired by the true stories of New Zealand’s criminal underworld, this a little explored aspect of New Zealand society, far more often associated in cinema with the lovable and genteel Hobbits.

THE BROKEN HEARTS GALLERY

Cert 12A Stars 3

The abundance of breezy light-hearted charm in this enjoyable escapist New York romcom is in large part to the irrepressible screen presence of its hugely engaging and likeable star, Geraldine Viswanathan.

She was great in 2018’s comedy hit Blockers where she starred as John Cena’s screen daughter on a wild night out, and again she’s delightful here, anchoring the good natured tale with energetic confidence, comic timing and no small talent, addressing the camera in a confessional manner as she negotiates the hurdles of life and love as a 26 year old in the Big Apple.

As Lucy, a vaguely ditzy 26 year old and extreme hoarder of sentimental bric-a-brac, who in the wake of suffering two relationship break-ups within the first ten minutes, is ordered by her friends to declutter her life.

However taking her bits and pieces and those given by others, she creates a public art space she calls ‘the broken hearts gallery’.

Providing romance and proving opposite attracts, is the understated presence of Dacre Montgomery as Nick, who’s much more minimalist in his taste, and is trying to build a boutique hotel almost from scratch, a great example of the type of aspirational lifestyle career everyone here seems to be enjoying.

And of course Lucy has a pair of best friends to provide frank sex talk, emotional support and break up advice.

A passion project for actress turned producer, Selena Gomez, it’s skilfully marshalled by writer Natalie Krinsky in her directorial debut and her smart script provides her bright eyed cast with some nice lines and enjoyable exchanges.

Though she has a nice eye for the absurdity of people’s obsessive behaviour, Krinsky is kind to a fault to her characters, meaning Utkarsh Ambudkar as Lucy’s ex-boyfriend lacks the bad boy allure Hugh Grant deployed so effectively in Bridget Jones’ Diary.

I enjoyed watching it but it will speak more loudly to an audience younger than myself, and my twentysomething niece and her girly mates will probably love it.

ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND

Cert TBC Stars 4

Though perhaps best known in the UK for his 1987 solo hit ‘Somewhere Down the Crazy River’, but revered by film aficionados as the musical genius who picks the music for Martin Scorsese’s movies, Robbie Robertson gives a wonderfully engaging account of his early career in this important and hugely enjoyable music documentary.

As creative powerhouse of the group named simply The Band, it’s a not wholly surprising tale of alcoholism, drug addiction, car crashes and an acrimonious break-up.

Fans of Robertson like myself will love it, and for everyone else it’s an essential part of your music education

KOKO-DI KOKO-DA

Cert 18 Stars 4

Inventive, twisted and very dark, this Scandinavian modern day psychological horror toys with ideas of karma, reincarnation and puppet shows in an increasingly tense, surreal and heartbreaking experience.

Leif Edlund and Ylva Gallon star as a couple whose camping trip turns into a frantic battle of survival when they’re unexpectedly and repeatedly attacked by Peter Belli’s white suited circus sideshow artist and his two assistants.

A haunting fable from Swedish writer and director Johannes Nyholm, it’s a violent, odd and disturbing tale of humiliation and torment a lack of budget can’t restrict Nyholm’s bold imagination.

With flashes of very black comedy, grotesque characters and a repertoire of dogs, cats and rabbits, it reminded me of the work of Oscar nominated director of The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos, combined with Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, and Britain’s own macabre TV show, The League of Gentlemen.

The title is taken from the lyrics of a lament sung for a wounded dog which opens the film and it gets progressively more weird from there, you’ll never leave your tent for an early morning pee ever again.

I’M THINKING ABOUT ENDING THINGS

Cert 15 Stars 3

Irish actress Jessie Buckley has been building an impressive career with big performances in in small films since coming to national attention as the runner up in BBC’s 2008 TV talent show ‘I’d Do Anything’, and she delivers again with an intense and transcendent turn in this aggravatingly opaque art house horror.

As an unnamed young woman she stars alongside a blank faced Jesse Plemons as her boyfriend travelling on a dark snowy night to meet his parents at their remote rural home, played with unsettling and eccentric enthusiasm by Toni Collette and David Thewlis.

The small cast deserve full credit for fully embracing the jarring rhythm, time-skipping narrative, dark theatricality and surreal approach, which begins with the deliberately ambiguous title and goes on to include dance, animation and movies within movies as it explores regret, longing and memory.

Based on the 2016 novel by Iain Reid, it’s written, directed and produced by one-man film industry Charlie Kaufman, previously an Oscar nominee for his superior and more commercial scripts for Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation.

MULAN

 Cert 12 Stars 4

Disney’s latest big budget live action remake of its 1998 classic animated features delivers exactly what’s promised, a handsomely staged and stirring action adventure set in medieval China.

Faithful to their original story, we follow Mulan, a young woman who steals her father’s armour, disguises herself as a man and runaways to join the imperial army to defend the empire from barbarians from the north.

However there’s no songs and less humour than I expected with the absence of Eddie Murphy’s manic energy as a dragon comedy sidekick being a loss.

Careful to cast ethnically correct actors to avoid accusations of ‘whitewashing’, Chinese born actress Liu Yifei cuts an earnest, determined figure as Mulan, and impresses most when showing off her physical prowess.

The well-staged set pieces lean towards the acrobatic bamboo-pole balancing style of films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and the magical life force of chi with its good light side and evil dark side reminds us Star Wars supremo George Lucas drew heavily on Chinese folktales for his concept of ‘The Force’.

Elsewhere Yoson An charms as the handsome love-interest, Jason Scott Lee is effective as the revenge driven bad guy, and popular actors such as Donnie Yen and Jet Li appear in key roles.

The biggest change is in the addition of a wholly new character, with revered actress Gong Li appearing as a powerful and villainous shapeshifting witch who offers a dramatic counterpoint to the loyal, brave and good Mulan.

Pitching our hero against a fearsome antagonist who’s afforded sympathy is an idea previously encountered in Disney’s groundbreaking Marvel superhero adventure, Black Panther which starred Chadwick Boseman who sadly passed away earlier this week.

And as his performance, charisma and talent was instrumental to Black Panther’s success and its proving to Hollywood the viability of top tier films with a non-white cast or Western setting, the existence of Mulan is part of his legacy.

It’s just a shame this won’t be seen on the big screen, where it’s epic sweep and breathtaking vistas could be fully appreciated.