BRIGSBY BEAR

Cert 15 Stars 3

This sweet natured and strangely uplifting comedy drama was one of the most enjoyably left field films of last year, despite touching on the dark subjects of kidnap, abuse and mental illness,

Brigsby is the animatronic man-sized bear is the star of a long running sci-fi TV show. When a 25 year old super-fan discovers there are no new episodes, he sets off to create his own feature length follow up.

In a small role Mark Hamill A.K.A. Luke Skywalker makes his presence felt, a fitting piece of casting in a film which celebrates the obsessive nature of film geeks.

 

 

 

FREAK SHOW

Cert 12A 91mins Stars 2

This cross-dressing US high school comedy is a horribly heavy handed and dispiritingly joyless experience.

It’s message of inclusivity and tolerance is welcome but is sadly delivered via the catty sneering and narcissistic poor little rich boy.

English actor Alex Lowther gives his all as Billy Bloom, a mansion dwelling lonely child who’s inherited a love of sequins from his mostly absent showbiz mother, played by Bette Midler.

At a new school, the openly gay Billy faces prejudice and violence so challenges it by standing for election as the homecoming queen.

Though this explores many of the same ideas as last years Love, Simon, there is none of the humour, charm or wit.

It’s a wearying debut from director Trudie Styler, who while pop star hubby, Sting, has dabbled in acting, has amassed 30 film producing credits.

She exploits her celebrity contacts to serve up tennis ace, John McEnroe, into a small role as the sports coach. She cannot be serious.

PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN

Cert 15 Stars 4

Gal Gadot smashed the summer box office as Amazon superhero Wonder Woman last year, now this intriguing drama looks at the kinky goings-on during the creation of the comic book character.

Brit actors Rebecca Hall and Luke Evans enjoy themselves enormously as freethinking married psychologists who begin a polyamorous relationship with Bella Heathcote’s young student.

After their pioneering work which led to the invention of the lie detector, the Moulton’s use their ideas to invent a feminist superhero. But their radical lifestyle attracts some villainous attention.

For all his love of darkness, Batman was never this interesting.

 

THE SQUARE

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.

 

 

WONDER WHEEL

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.

 

LADY BIRD

Cert 15 94mins Stars 4

A high school student yearns to spread her wings in this compelling coming-of-age drama.

In director Greta Gerwig’s typical semi-biographical style, she’s fashioned an honest and droll account of high school, which could almost be an unofficial prequel to her 2013 arthouse hit, Frances Ha.

Only 23 years old and convincingly playing five years younger, Irish-American actress Saoirse Ronan has deservedly secured her third Oscar nomination as Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson. 

With wit and quiet economy, the script also acts as a critique of other teenage films by turning traditional Hollywood narratives on their head. 

So driving tests, prom night, and losing ones virginity aren’t the grandstanding life changing experiences they’re frequently presented as being. Instead Lady Bird slowly begins to appreciate her mother is also a person.

Nominated for five Oscars, apart from Ronan I doubt this will win on the big night. But any film which tells teens they’re not the centre of the universe has got to be worth watching.

 

THE PROFESSOR

Cert 15 Stars 2

Johnny Depp stars in this comedy-drama as a married father diagnosed with cancer whose given six months to live, and begins a drink, drug and sex-fuelled campaign against the staid university authorities.

Possibly inspired by the material which allows Depp to dress and behave as a doomed yet righteous and narcissistic romantic 18th century poet, the star seems at least semi-motivated and involved, which is good to see after so the disappointments of his recent output.

Even so this exploration of the hypocrisy of middle-class morality is sadly sluggish, dull and indulgent, and teaches us nothing.