Cert 15 81mins Stars 3
This brisk low budget British coming of age drama is a nightmarish revenge tragedy which is at times as darkly uncomfortable to watch as the name suggests.
Young Lily Newmark gives a well judged performance full of awkward angles as a teenage girl at at a school trying to fit in with the local mean girls.
Her clumsy attempts are hampered by her shyness and sexual innocence, plus the social inadequacies of her mother, a terrific Joanna Scanlan.
She’s weighed down with a club foot and a hunchback which emphasise the collision of reality and fantasy which lie at the heart of the script, by debut director, Deborah Haywood.
Putting her characters through a wringer of social media betrayal, self harm, alcohol abuse, she maintains our sympathy as the mother and daughter seek refuge in self created fantasies, one of which involves a glamorous air stewardess, played with toothy splendour by former Girls Aloud singer, Nadine Coyle.
Cert 12A 97mins Stars 3
Dip a big toe into the feel good waters of this very British comedy.
Rob Brydon plays an accountant whose midlife crisis sees him leave his wife and teenage son, and seek refuge in the arms of a synchronised swimming team comprised of middle aged men.
Brought together by the pointlessness of existence, they find themselves unexpectedly competing in the unofficial World championship in Milan.
It’s kept afloat on bubbles of charm by the likeable and familiar cast, which includes Jane Horrocks, Downton’s garrulous Jim Carter, and This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose.
Best in show is Charlotte Riley as the team’s instructor, whose drill sergeant manner is all the more ferocious for using her native Teesside accent.
Oliver Parker’s direction keeps everything fluid, and it’s played in the same tone as his previous work such Dad’s Army and Johnny English Reborn.
So it’s heart is always in the right place, even if the chaps’ arms and legs frequently aren’t.
Cert 15 97mins Stars 3
This brisk and effective prequel to the hugely successful horror action trilogy is a typically blood splatting mix of carnage and satire.
It shows how a far right government uses a mass psychological experiment named the ‘purge’, to exploit the anger of social deprivation to cull the poor and so consolidate political power.
When New York’s Staten Island is quarantined and for twelve hours all crime, including murder, is legal, some turn to prayer and others to party.
However it soon becomes a warzone, with violence inflamed by social media, and a drug dealer must run the gauntlet of violence to rescue his former lover. Y’Lan Noel has a muscular charisma as Dmitri, and Lex Scott Davis is dainty but deadly as Nya.
The costume department has great fun creating nightmarish masks and outfits as booby trapped teddy bears and needle gloves are macabre additions to machine pistols and drone warfare.
I doubt this first Purge is the last one.
Cert 15 Stars 4
Nicolas Cage unleashes his inner maniac to demented effect in this outrageous and funny satirical comedy horror.
Often uncomfortable to watch and daring to voice unspeakable truths about parenting, he and Selma Blair play a very ordinary middled-aged suburban couple with two kids.
One day a mass psychosis grips their town, and parents start murdering children, but only their own.
We’re shown parenting is not all love and kisses, but jealousy, resentment and a form of madness. And as a parent I’m not sure it’s healthy to laugh as much as I did.
Cert 15 103mins Stars 4
Maxine Peake hammers home her status as one of Britain’s most fierce acting talents as the title role in this unforgiving comedy drama.
The star of TV’s Silk is mesmerising in the title role which charts the rise of a combative and unrepentant comic from poverty stricken childhood to TV wealth.
Known only as Funny Cow, in flashbacks we’re offered scathing insights into her life and her struggle for survival, identity and reinvention while suffering abuse, battery and alcoholism.
Carefully credited as a piece of fiction, the story bears some parallels to the life of Sheffield-born comedian and variety star, Marti Caine.
The powerful and moving story never shies from the sexist, racist and homophobic material of the smoky and seedy 1970’s northern club circuit, where women were expected to be singers, strippers, or both.
There are comic cameos by John Bishop and Vic Reeves, plus the superb songs of singer-songwriter Richard Hawley on the soundtrack strike an achingly emotional chord.
Cert PG 101mins Stars 4
Pooch power gives politicians paws for thought in this dark stop-motion animation from quirky writer and director, Wes Anderson.
Twenty years into the future in a totalitarian Japan, a fear-mongering mayor has consolidated his power by scapegoating all the country’s dogs, and sending them to starve on a polluted ghetto called Trash Island.
But the mayor’s twelve-year-old nephew wants to rescue his doomed pet, and teams up with a stray dog called Chief to find him.
Anderson’s arch humour and distinctive style will be familiar to those who saw his 2009 Oscar nominated take on Roald Dahl’s children’s classic, Fantastic, Mr Fox.
But this isn’t for little kids as it’s closer in spirit to George Orwell’s classic novels 1984 and Animal Farm than to Disney.
There is a mesmerising attention to detail in the retro-technology-filled handcrafted sets.
Bryan Cranston voices Chief alongside Anderson regulars such as Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum. And Yoko Ono voices a scientist called err, Yoko Ono.
Cert 15 Stars 3
Mental illness and online celebrity collide in this dark comedy of reinvention.
Always watchable and capable of wonderfully demented degrees of comic intensity, Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid.
She travels to Los Angeles to befriend an unwitting Instagram celebrity. Elizabeth Olsen is tremendous as the vain and vacuous object of her attnetions, Taylor Sloane.
Pool parties and cocktails lead to cocaine, kidnapping and blackmail as the over sharing of ones life leads to negative consequences.
This is a message which is worth repeating, but in doing so the script forgets to put include sufficient laughs or heart.
Cert 15 151mins Stars 3
Dominic West takes time out from Tomb Raider to appear as a famous artist in this satirical Swedish drama.
Alongside him is Elisabeth Moss, fresh from her Emmy awarding winning turn in TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
As a journalist she has an affair with the smooth curator of a museum of modern art in Stockholm.
Played by Claes Bang, he finds life spiralling out of control as he tries to drum up media interest in his latest exhibition.
Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, this is a lengthy exploration of contemporary Sweden society and the gap between its ideals and citizens’ behaviour.
Immaculately photographed, the script expresses its ideas through visual metaphor, but at the expense of drama.
Mocking the moneyed metropolitan middle class, the most powerful moment comes during a fundraiser where wealthy patrons are assaulted by a semi-naked neanderthal performance artist.
I could have done with more of the monkeying about.
Cert 12A Stars 4
Kate Winslet has been grievously overlooked during awards season for her magnificent turn in Woody Allen’s dark period drama, his 48th film as director.
When even your leading lady distances herself from your movie for personal reasons, one suspects time’s up for Allen’s big screen career.
Allen’s work exists within its own little bubble, and it’s the small differences which separate his films from each other. For the most urban of directors, it’s almost alarming to find this one is set on the beach and filled with bold saturated colour.
In a welcome gender inversion, she plays the ‘Woody Allen’ character, a neurotic and romantically minded waitress having an affair with a younger lover.
Justin Timberlake is the hunky lifeguard on whom she projects a fantasy future together.
As ever in Allen’s films, when someone chooses to pursue a fantasy existence over harsh reality, tragic events occur. This is not one of Allen’s funny ones.
Cert 15 121mins Stars 4
Colin Farrell’s is cut to the quick in this off-kilter horror thriller which beats with a unique sinister power.
The Irishman stars as a heart surgeon whose past failings return to punish him. He’s forced into choosing to kill a member of his family or see them all dying in excruciating ways.
Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos teased out the best in Farrell in 2015’s dark satire The Lobster and repeats the trick here.
While vigorously flexing his acting muscles, Farrell’s actual muscles are protected by the flab of middle age. This something can’t be said of his co-star.
In an eye-opening bedroom scene Nicole Kidman reveals a lack of modesty and a rigid personal fitness regime.
A growing sense of anxiety is fuelled by the unsettling score and clinically precise camerawork makes this is a very difficult watch.
Plus it’s probably the most shocking big screen killing of a sacred deer since Walt Disney’s Bambi.
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