COLOR OUT OF SPACE

Cert 15 Stars 4

This inventive, bloody and disgusting cosmic horror is a trippy rainbow of the gory and the grotesque, a nightmare of techno-fear, eco-occult, alien infection and bodily torment.

Based on a short story by famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, it stays true to his spirit ,when a meteor lands in the garden of the isolated woodland Alpaca farm, and unleashes a dark power resulting in violence and death.

Elliot Knight plays a fresh faced hydrologist surveying a lake for development when he encounters a teenage girl attempting witchcraft who introduces him to her family.

Lavinia’s mother is a stockbroker, her elder brother is a dope fiend, the younger one talks to imaginary friends, and her dad is played by the Nic Cage.

A long time favourite actor of mine, Cage brings his unorthodox delivery and unique sensibility to the role as he switchbacks between ineffectual father and demented conduit of chaos, and seems at times on a separate astral plane to everyone else.

There’s humour and humanity amid the increasingly weirdness, and will appeal to fans of John Carpenter’s The Thing, and David Cronenberg’s The Fly

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THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)

Cert 15 Stars 4

A 21st century makeover is given to H.G. Wells’ 19th century classic story in this slick, scary and daftly entertaining slice of Friday night popcorn horror which delivers gas-lighting from beyond the grave.

Originally planned as a big budget star vehicle for Johnny Depp as part of Universal Pictures blockbuster Horror-verse films, it’s been reconfigured as a low budget project for the #MeToo generation by Blumhouse Productions, who along with trusted writer and director Leigh Whannell, previously made The Conjuring horror franchise.

The story is given fresh impetus by being told from the victims point of view, as well as tech-billionaires, online stalking, and computer hacking.

Star of TV’s Madmen, Elizabeth Moss anchors the action with a wonderfully twitchy performance as Cecilia, the survivor of an abusive relationship. But after her ex is found dead, a campaign of terror by an unseen assailant makes people doubt her sanity.

Old school special effects mix effectively with modern CGI, plus there are cheeky nods to the iconic film version of 1933 and Schwarzenegger’s Terminator 2. See if you can spot them.

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EMMA

Cert U stars 4

This fabulously dressed adaptation of Jane Austen’s much loved novel by the makers of Four Weddings and a Funeral, is faithful to its character, plot, period costume and humour.

More used to appearing in modern thrillers, this is an impressive change of gear for Anya Taylor-Joy, who brings a porcelain elegance to the twenty one year old Emma.

She’s a snobbish rich busybody on a difficult path to self-enlightenment and true love, whose vain attempts at playing village matchmaker powers the comedy.

And it brings her into conflict with her exasperated yet handsome and single neighbour, played by the generously whiskered Johnny Flynn.

Filmed on location in grand country houses, it also has welcome appearances from those other British institutions, Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart in key roles.

Concerns such as old age poverty and male toxicity play out alongside tart observations of pretension, pomposity, arrogance and cruelty.

But Emma’s growing self-awareness and kindness wins the day, ensuring this is enough to melt the heart of the most determined St. Valentine’s Day cynic.

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THE TURNING

Cert 15 Stars 1

In squandering its grand Irish setting, superlative source material and a game cast in favour of tepid atmosphere, timid scares and bewildering incompetence, this supernatural gothic horror is an early contender for the worst film of the year.

Mackenzie Davis is a warm presence with a hard working line of quizzical looks and can scream to order, which are all useful traits playing Kate, a newly appointed governess to a wealthy seven year old orphan.

Brooklynn Prince is exuberant and engaging as Flora, she lives in a stately manor which is somewhat neglected since the groundskeeper mysteriously died.

Apparitions appear at windows, there are ghostly voices at night and then stranger things happen when Flora’s teenage brother unexpectedly arrives home from boarding school.

Played by Finn Wolfhard, Miles has a love of macabre practical jokes, predatory spiders and inappropriate behaviour.

Teasing violence and nudity but delivering neither, it updates Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw, from 1898 to 1994,  but twists James’ studied ambiguity into rambling slipshod incoherence.

LIFE OF PI

Stars 5

Treat yourself to the voyage of a lifetime with this breathtaking high seas adventure.

It begins when Rafe Spall’s nameless Writer interviewing Piscine ‘Pi’ Patel, who as an adult is played with knowing charm by Irrfan Khan, and by Suraj Sharma as a teen, who carries the bulk of the film on his young shoulders with desperate, windswept and sunburnt charm.

In flashback we discover Pi was a thoughtful innocent who was forced to become brave and resourceful when sailing from India to Canada. 

A storm cast him adrift in a lifeboat with a hungry Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. He’s the star of the show, a magnificent and menacing bloodthirsty pirate with an all too human desire to survive.

The unlikely companions have to survive storms, sharks, hunger, insanity and each other in order to reach dry land.

Adapted from the best selling book by Yann Martel, this is a film of staggering beauty, great intelligence, and no little humour. Director Ang Lee credits the audience with intelligence, dismissing the need for a huge Hollywood reveal and opts instead to protect the poetic rhythms of the movie.

At times the lifeboat seems to be cruising through the heavens as Pi undergoes a spiritual journey, with wondrous waves of fabulous images crashing across the screen in a tumultuous cascade of colour and energy.

A cinematic experience of the highest order and a towering technical achievement, this fabulous family fantasy is suitable for all but the very young who may find Richard Parker a little too wet and wild.

LEAN ON PETE

Cert 15 Stars 4

Yorkshire born writer director, Andrew Haigh, made one of this year’s best indie films with this understated and emotional coming of age drama, based on the novel by Willy Vlautin.

The impressive Charlie Plummer completes his transition from child star to adult actor as Charley, who finds work caring for an ageing racehorse, Lean On Pete. There he meets Chloe Sevigny’s jockey, and Steve Buscemi’s horse trainer.

To save Pete from the slaughterhouse, Charley leads him on a road trip across the US full of hope, heartbreak and adventure in search of a new place to live.

 

 

ON CHESIL BEACH

Cert 15 110mins Cert 3

A marriage heads for the rocks in this tasteful and thoughtful drama of love, desire and regret.

Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle play newlyweds spending their wedding night in a beachside hotel, but awkwardness in the bedroom has serious implications for their relationship.

It’s a poignant, fragile and wistful tale from award-winning writer Ian McEwan, which he adapted from his own 2007 novella.

The beautiful Dorset coast is photographed with a suitably chilly air as the story wades into strong emotional currents. It offers sympathy to the central characters while hinting at dark tides in their past. 

Recently Oscar nominated for best actress for Lady Bird, Ronan is painfully vulnerable as the reticent Florence. It’s her second adaptation of McEwan’s work after 2007’s, Atonement, for which she was also Oscar nominated.

Howle has to work extremely hard to keep up with the Irish actress, while Emily Watson, Anne-Marie Duff and Samuel West appear as in-laws who stick their oar in.