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.

DEEP BLUE SEA 3

Cert 15 Stars 3

This silly and gory fun sci-fi horror sequels is more in the same vein of throwaway nonsensical fun, and though the story and dialogue are ridiculous, the locations are stunning, underwater photography is pretty, and it admirably never gets dragged down by a sense of seriousness.

The wonderfully earnest Tania Raymonde stars as the leader of an international team of buff young scientists on a small Indian ocean island who become terrorised by a gang of genetically enhanced super-sharks.

‘I find this really hard to believe’ says one potential victim. But I reckon that’s overthinking the preposterous premise.

SUPERMAN: MAN OF TOMORROW

Cert 12 Stars 3

I’m much more of a Batman than Superman fan, but I enjoyed this typically fast paced and action filled thirty-ninth film in in the Warner Bros. animated series.

Young Clark Kent is an intern at the Daily Planet newspaper working alongside ace reporter Lois Lane and yet to adopt his famous costume or even the name Superman.

When a snarling alien bounty hunter called Lobo arrives with violent intentions, the Man of Steel has to team up with future arch-enemy Lex Luthor and leap into action faster than a speeding bullet to save the world. Not for the little ones.

 

PAYDIRT

Cert 15 Stars 2

Christian Sesma writes and directs this low rent violent revenge heist crime thriller with the over-excited unthinking sleazy schoolboy sensibility of a 1990’s music video, and is all too impressed by his ability to make his characters ability to swear and shoot. Occasionally at the same time.

Far better than the material deserves, former Bros drummer Luke Goss is a confident and likeable presence as a recently released convict mixed up with bad cops, the Mexican cartel and a stolen bag of cash, while poor Val Kilmer looks desperately unwell as a Sheriff chasing them all.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Cert PG Stars 4

With talking animals, cutsey kid, top drawer production values and a cracking voice cast, this heartwarming live action animated hybrid is bang on brand for Disney, and mixes elements of some of its favourite films such as Dumbo, Bambi and their 1998 ape adventure Mighty Joe Young, to a moving and crowd pleasing effect.

Its a reasonably faithful adaptation of K. A. Applegate’s 2012 children’s novel, which is a fictitious work based loosely on the life of a real gorilla called Ivan. Here the silverback is rendered along with his animal colleagues in the impressive photorealistic style seen recently in Disney’s The Lion King remake.

He’s voiced by the wonderfully versatile Sam Rockwell who brings a questioning dignity and quiet intelligence to the role, as well as playing nicely against Angelina Jolie’s wise African elephant, Danny DeVito’s stray dog, Helen Mirren’s posh poodle and Chaka Khan’s chicken.

They all live in a tiny circus built into a shopping mall ran by Bryan Cranston’s kindly ringmaster, who’s desperate to find a new way of pulling in the punters to save his failing show, and while a newly arrived orphan baby elephant offers financial salvation, it causes Ivan to reconsider his life in a cage

Beating with gentle charm the film’s heart is undoubtedly in the right place and it’s utterly sincere in its approach to animal welfare. And the friendly and furry menagerie allow the filmmakers to remind us families come in all shapes and sizes while offering a gentle yet firm commentary on hunting and littering.

Because it’s geared to the widest and youngest possible audience there’s a noticeably lack of grit, which may seem a misuse of the actors who’re more than capable of bringing a little bite to their roles.

However it does mean there’s nothing in the circus to scare the horses, or your little ones, though in true sentimental Disney style they may be tears before bedtime. And not just for the kids.

LOVE IS BLIND

Cert 15 Stars 3

Poldark star Aidan Turner adopts a decent American accent in this playful, intriguing and quirky modern day fable of love and self-discovery as a suicidal builder called Russell who struggles to communicate with the woman who may save him from himself.

Brighton-born actress Shannon Tarbet is a bright presence as Bess, despite suffering from a psychological condition which prevents her from seeing or hearing certain people, such as Russell and her mother, played by an unusually sympathetic Chloe Sevigny.

Meanwhile Bess’s father is played by Matthew ‘Ferris Bueller’ Broderick gives a quiet understated performance of quiet dignity as a sufferer of Parkinson’s disease.

A story of ghosts and grief wrapped in a riddle of love, it’s a curiously sunny affair with undercurrents of sadness. Stylised locations are frequented with flashbacks and fantasy sequences, plus the uplifting if whimsical soundtrack and some occasional visual trickery lend the tale a gentle dreamlike quality.

Despite being far too syrupy and sentimental for my taste I still enjoyed it for being a pleasantly off-beat experience with an appealing sense of optimism.

CHEMICAL HEARTS

Cert 15 Stars 2

Full of the aching yearning and confusion of teenage life but with none of the excitement or fun, this bittersweet and heartfelt coming of age high school romantic drama is based on Krystal Sutherland’s novel and very much a passion project for writer, producer and director Richard Tanne.

Austin Abrams stars as pretentious shoe gazing teenager Henry, who’s never been in love but quickly becomes infatuated with a new classmate when they’re thrown together to edit the college magazine.

Lili Reinhart is nicely brittle and defensive as Grace, who while tolerating Henry’s attentions, is dealing with issues of which he can barely imagine and her affection for him is far more ambivalent than his is for her.

Anchored in an unremarkable small town American setting, there’s an earnest and whimsical edge to a story bursting with nostalgia for lovesick teenage years and seemingly endless discussions of life, love and limbo.

It should appeal to any literary-minded angst-ridden love sick teenagers you have moping around the house, but for anyone else it would make a fine substitute for sleeping pills.

TENET

Cert 12A Stars 5

Delivering the blockbuster of the year, Brit director Christopher Nolan confirms his position as the foremost creator of high concept top quality popcorn entertainment with this bold, epic and ingenious mind-bending spy thriller.

As a CIA agent who’s prepared to die for his team and his cause, John David Washington commands our attention as the un-named protagonist who’s recruited by a shady agency to save the world from a Third World War, a fate claimed to be worse than armageddon.

He’s thrown into a complex time-twisting plot which circles around art forgery and arms dealers, but if you’ve seen Nolan’s 2010 smash Inception, then you’ll know to expect nothing is as straightforward as it seems.

The son of Oscar winning screen legend Denzel, Washington has inherited his father’s screen presence, charm and talent but is very much his own man, and seems utterly comfortable shouldering the responsibility for carrying a huge movie such as this.

It’s a privilege Nolan previously afforded established heavyweight stars Leo DiCaprio and Christian Bale – and Washington isn’t out of place in their company.

Washington is teamed up with former Twilight star Robert Pattinson who brings a wonderfully dry comic delivery to his lines, and his introduction is as a somewhat highly strung ex-pat gentleman thief, imagine Lawrence of Arabia being played by David Bowie.

They’re a great pairing and it’s easy to imagine either of them as the next James Bond, and Nolan’s well known love of 007 is apparent in every frame.

From the superb and thrilling stunt work which involves articulated lorries, catamarans and the crashing of a real life jumbo jet, and in the glossy location work which reaches from the US to India via Italy and Scandinavia, Bond’s influence shines through.

Among all the inventively-staged action it’s great to see former TV Eastender’s actor Himesh Patel getting a boost to the big league to complete a diverse trio of agents. And on that note it’s refreshing to see a film of this stature and sweep include important scenes between an African-American lead and an Asian woman of a certain age, the elegant Dimple Kapadia.

Recently announced as Princess Di in TV’s The Crown, Elizabeth Debicki is terrific despite being cast again as an abused trophy wife fighting for access to her young son.

There’s a welcome though brief appearance by Nolan stalwart, Michael Caine, and Kenneth Branagh is cold heartedly monstrous as a Russian oligarch.

A dizzying and explosive adventure to rank alongside Nolan’s Inception for its ability to confound the audience, the writer and director even feels compelled to warn us early on not to try and figure out what’s happening – but just to lose ourselves in the thrill of the chase. As Clemence Poesy’s scientist says. ‘Don’t try to understand, feel it.’

Nolan’s ability to craft crowd-pleasing spectacle remains undimmed and is so brimming with confidence he dares to employ one of cinema’s oldest visual tricks and succeeds in making it seem remarkably fresh and almost groundbreaking.

Thanks in part due to Ludwig Goransson’s thunderously propulsive score Tenet sounds fantastic, and it looks incredible, especially on a giant IMAX screen. This is the biggest cinema event of the year and you don’t want to miss it.