Rocketman
2019
****
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Stephen Graham, Steven Macintosh, Tate Donovan, Charlie Rowe, Tom Bennett

In the late 1960s, a young piano prodigy named Reginald Dwight meets his life-long song-writing partner Bernie Taupin, changes his name to Elton John, and becomes one of the most recognisable pop stars of the 20th century. If last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody was a likeable but very formulaic pop star biopic of Freddie Mercury, this entertaining biographical drama offers something more interesting. This is not really a depiction of the life and career of Elton John, but an intimate and subjective portrayal of a successful but increasingly lonely man who must come to terms with his emotionally distant parents, sexual identity, drug and alcohol addiction, and self-loathing before he can find happiness. We hear many of his best known tracks, but they are staged as musical numbers and cleverly used to illustrate his emotional state at any given time. A new cut named (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Taron Egerton gives an excellent performance in the lead.


Luca
2021
***½
Director: Enrico Casarosa
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Peter Sohn, Manna Massironi, Sandy Martin, Sacha Baron Cohen

For years, there has been unfounded fear between the people in the Italian coastal town of Portorosso and the sea creatures who live below the surface. A young sea creature named Luca runs away from home after his new friend Alberto shows him that he can transform into a human boy on dry land. This light and breezy Pixar animation is not original like Wall-E, groundbreaking like Inside Out, or irresistibly entertaining like Finding Nemo, but its writing and visuals maintain the studio’s high quality standard. The heart-warming story tackles familiar but important themes (dealing with loneliness, overcoming prejudices, and being true to yourself). The wrap-up may be a bit too neat and swift, but it’s good fun along the way.


Black Widow
2021
***
Director: Cate Shortland
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, O-T Fagbenle, Olga Kurylenko, William Hurt, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz

Following the events of Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff lays low in Norway, but she is forced to come out of hiding and face the demons of her past by confronting her pretend family and the evil General Dreykov, who stole her life. Black Widow made her first Marvel Cinematic Universe appearance in Iron Man 2, and she gradually grew into a key member of the Avengers. She was always due her own spinoff, but now that the Infinity Saga was concluded in Avengers: Endgame (2019), the timing and relevance of this release seem highly questionable. Taken on its own, this is a fine superhero action movie. Florence Pugh and David Harbour give delightful performances as Natasha’s fake sister and father, respectively.


Hell Or High Water
2016
***
Director: David Mackenzie
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham, Marin Ireland, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey, Kevin Rankin, Melanie PapaliaAmber Midthunder

Two Texan brothers, Toby and Tanner Howard, carry out several small bank robberies in order to secure the financial future of Toby’s two boys. The hot-headed and trigger-happy Tanner seems to be in it for the thrills. In the meanwhile, two Texas Rangers are closing in on them. This atmospheric modern day Western tells an entertaining cops and robbers story against the backdrop of West Texas, where the once-bustling communities have turned into ghost towns and farming has become a dying way of life. There are some very good performances and the dialogue is sizzling, but the brothers are needlessly dumb and the formulaic events pan out exactly like I thought they would.


Bridge of Spies
2015
***
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Sebastian Koch, Scott Shepherd, Austin Stowell, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson, Jesse Plemons, Mikhail Gorevoy

In the early 1960s, a few years after defending a convicted Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, insurance lawyer James B. Donovan is sent to East Berlin to negotiate a prisoner exchange between his former client and Gary Powers, US pilot who was shot down over the USSR. This fact-based drama was scripted by Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen. Much like Lincoln, Steven Spielberg’s previous work, this is a fascinating look into one brief moment in history, but the film itself is long and not terribly exciting. Tom Hanks is reliably good in the lead, but he could play this type of role in his sleep. Mark Rylance won an Academy Award for his warm and laconic performance as Abel.


The Accountant
2016
*
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Seth Lee, Jake Presley, Cynthia Addal-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart, Andy Umberger

This dumb action drama was a surprise hit, although it features one of the most ridiculously incoherent scripts I have ever seen. Go figure! At one-hour mark, I still had no clue who the main character was or what this film was about. When the end credits rolled, I was none the wiser. Let’s start with the protagonist Chris, who is an autistic math wiz. With his glasses on, he’s a brilliant forensic accountant who has made millions from his work for criminal organisations. When the glasses come off, however, he’s a deadly marksman and martial arts specialist. A robotics company hires him to uncover a potential embezzlement, and when he does, the embezzler thinks the best way to keep it under wraps is to assassinate Chris, a few members of the senior management, and the company’s junior accountant, who looks to be the female lead but then disappears because this movie is not really about her. What is this movie about? In the meanwhile, a treasury agent assigns his analyst to search Wikipedia in order to discover the identity of the mysterious accountant, although it seems he already knows it. During the course of the movie, the flashbacks and expositions reveal the trauma in Chris’ past, which is nothing short of stupid. Ben Affleck plays this autistic hero as a man who is unable to show emotions. Frankly, this is not much different from his performance as Batman.


22 July
2018
***½
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Øigarden, Thorbjørn Harr, Jonas Strand Gravli, Ola G. Furuseth, Ulrikke Hansen Døvigen, Isak Bakli Aglen, Maria Bock, Tone Danielsen, Turid Gunnes, Monica Borg Fure, Ingrid Enger Damon, Seda Witt

On July 22, 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik detonated a bomb in Oslo and then opened fire on teenagers attending a summer camp on the island of Utøya. These horrific attacks resulted in the death of 77 people. With excellent films like Bloody Sunday, United 93, and Captain Phillips, Paul Greengrass has proven himself to be a master in dramatising tense real-life events. This long but captivating film begins with the violent attacks, but it spends most of its running time dealing with the effect they had on the country, the survivors, and the perpetrator. The Norwegian cast all speak English, which takes some time to accept. The director scripted from the book One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway – and Its Aftermath by Åsne Seierstad.


Bad Times at the El Royale
2018
***
Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Offerman, Shea Whigham

In 1969, a Catholic priest, a black singer, a salesman and a hippie arrive at the El Royale, a run-down hotel on the border of California and Nevada, which is staffed by one man. All these people seem to have something to hide, but the hotel has a few secrets of its own. The Cabin in the Woods was a terrifically inventive horror genre exercise. Drew Goddard’s follow-up is a Tarantinoesque crime mystery. The first half takes its sweet time to introduce the characters and the location, and it really grabbed me with its relaxed pacing, excellent performances, atmospheric visuals, and a few genuine shocks. In the second half, the mysteries begin to intersect, we learn some back stories, and the story sadly leads to an underwhelming ending. The singer sings one too many songs and the movie simply goes on too long. Goddard saves the last flashback for the final confrontation, which seems like a baffling choice.


Richard Jewell
2019
****
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Paul Walter Hauser, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Nina Arianda, Ian Gomez, Dylan Kussman, Mike Pniewski, Niko Nicotera

Richard Jewell, an affable security guard, saves hundreds of lives when he discovers a bomb during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. For a brief moment, he is rightly hailed as a hero, but his life becomes hell when the FBI and the media falsely brand him as the prime suspect in the bombing. Clint Eastwood is a reliably solid storyteller and this moving drama provides another fine example. This real-life story of one man’s character assassination is consistently gripping and it features some excellent performances from Hauser, Bates, and Rockwell. My only wish is that the nasty journalist played by Olivia Wilde was a slightly less one-dimensional character. Billy Ray’s screenplay is based on American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell by Marie Brenner and The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen.


All the Money in the World
2017
**½
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Romain Duris, Timothy Hutton, Charlie Plummer, Charlie Shotwell, Andrew Buchan

In 1973, the 16-year-old grandson of J. Paul Getty, the richest person in the world, is kidnapped in Rome, but the billionaire is reluctant to pay the ransom because it might encourage future kidnappings. This dry fact-based drama is based on Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson. The story is fascinating, but the script spends too much time on the twisty details of the events. As a result, the film feels much longer than it actually is. Christopher Plummer gives a nicely understated performance as the famously heartless oil tycoon, but Michelle Williams is the real star here as the heartbroken mother who is determined to get his son back alive.


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
2020
**
Director: George C. Wolfe
Cast: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, Jonny Coyne, Taylour Paige, Jeremy Shamos, Dusan Brown

In the 1920s, famous Blues diva Ma Rainey arrives in Chicago for a tumultuous recording session. From the get-go, there is tension between Ma and her cocky trumpeter Levee, who is dreaming of forming his own band so he can play his own songs. A few minutes in, it is clear that this tedious but beautifully staged period drama is based on a stage play, on August Wilson’s 1982 play, to be exact. The central theme appears to be that black people can be successful, but only on white people’s terms. This message gets somewhat lost in a film which is minimally cinematic and filled with big, broad, and wordy performances. Many of the characters deliver long and emotional monologues, which rang hollow to me. The dramatic twist in the end also feels forced. An Academy Award winner best makeup and hair and costumes. This is Chadwick Boseman’s final film.


The New Mutants
2020
**½
Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, Henry Zaga

Five young mutants are held captive in a secret facility, allegedly so they can learn to control their powers, but they all seem to be haunted by what they fear the most. The story is based on a Marvel comic and the whole thing looks like the first part of a reboot, but thanks to poor box office returns, this is in fact the final release in the X-Men series. It’s a teen horror movie rather than a superhero movie, which is fine if it wasn’t such a formulaic and unremarkable representative of its genre.


Nomadland
2020
****
Director: Chloé Zhao
Cast: Frances McDormand, David Strathairn, Linda May, Swankie, Bob Wells, Peter Spears

After losing her husband, job, and home, Fern takes her life on the road. She discovers a community of fellow modern days nomads, who live in their camper vans and take seasonal jobs to support themselves. Chloé Zhao’s observational drama doesn’t offer big and phony twists. It is a subtle but warm and fascinating depiction of a community who rarely get screen time. The central question is whether Fern is a prisoner of her economic circumstances or the master of her own destiny? Frances McDormand picked up her third Oscar for her understated lead performance, and many real-life nomads play themselves. Further Academy Awards for best picture and director. Based on Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century.


Sausage Party
2016

Director: Conrad Vernon, Greg Tiernan
Cast: Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, Anders Holm, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Danny McBride, Edward Norton, Craig Robinson, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig

The shelves in the Shopwell’s supermarket are filled with anthropomorphic grocery items, who all believe that a customer’s shopping cart offers a passage to the Great Beyond. A returned and traumatised jar of honey mustard attempts to convince everyone that the truth is way more horrific. This adult animation takes its inspiration from Pixar movies like Toy Story and Cars, but it actually has more in common with the likes of Storks and The Boss Baby, where the entire premise was so stupid and ill-conceived that they lost me within minutes. Like previous comedies written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (for example, Pineapple Express and The Interview), this one relies on a continuous stream of sex and drug references and obscenities for laughs. I didn’t laugh once.


Wonder Woman 1984
2020
**
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lucian Perez, Amr Waked, Gabriella Wilde

Wonder Woman was an uneven but mostly enjoyable superhero movie. This sequel, which is set in 1984, continues in the same light-hearted fashion but ends up a bloated and poorly written mess. Max Lord, a wannabe oil tycoon, knows that one of the artefacts at the Smithsonian can make him an immensely wealthy figure. Diana, who works at the museum, and her timid new colleague Barbara have just unknowingly used the item to fulfill their own personal wishes. This wishing stone plot device becomes boring, repetitive, and illogical surprisingly fast. During the events, Wonder Woman discovers old and new powers in herself and her Lasso of Truth. Oddly she had forgotten all of those in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. Cold fact is that Gal Gadot cannot act. Pedro Pascal can, but he really chews the scenery as Max Lord, who turns out to be a greedy and self-deluded man rather than a proper villain.


Sonic the Hedgehog
2020
***½
Director: Jeff Fowler
Cast: Ben Schwartz, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter, Jim Carrey, Natasha Rothwell, Adam Pally, Neal McDonough

Sonic, a blue and superfast extra-terrestrial hedgehog, escapes his home planet and hides in Green Hills, Montana. When he is exposed and the government hires Dr. Robotnik to catch him, Sonic gets help from a goodhearted local sheriff. The big screen adventure of the classic Sega video game character is like a mix between Pokemon Detective Pikachu and Bumblebee, two recent releases based on games or toys. The movie has no higher aspirations than to deliver 90 minutes of goofy fun, and that it does well. Jim Carrey gives an enjoyably over-the-top performance as the villain.


Spotlight
2015
*****
Director: Tom McCarthy
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian D’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, Jamey Sheridan, Len Cariou

In 2001, Father Geoghan, a Roman Catholic priest, is accused of molesting several children. The new editor of the Boston Globe assigns the Spotlight team, who specialise in writing expansive investigative pieces, to explore the claims that the Boston Archdiocese covered up the abuse for years. This excellent drama offers no-nonsense storytelling at its best. The twists of this real-life story are so horrific and riveting that there is no need for Hollywood hyperbole or flashy performances. An Academy Award winner for best picture and best original screenplay by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer. The Spotlight team’s work earned them a Pulitzer Prize.


Room
2015
***½
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, Tom McCamus, William H. Macy, Amanda Brugel, Joe Pingue

Seven years ago, 17-year-old Joy was abducted by a man she calls Old Nick. Joy has given birth in captivity and she is determined to protect her 5-year-old son Jack, who has never experienced the world outside the Room. Apart from some issues with pacing and plausibility, this is a poignant and moving drama, which convincingly deals with complex psychological trauma and maternal guilt. Brie Larson earned an Academy Award for her strong lead performance. Emma Donoghue scripted from her own novel.


Soul
2020
***½
Director: Pete Docter
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Questlove, Angela Bassett

Joe Gardner is an aspiring jazz pianist who is forced to eke out a living as a middle school music teacher. One day, he suffers an accident that separates his soul from his body, and his soul ends up in the Great Before. Like Inside Out five years ago, this metaphysical Pixar animation deals with some big questions about birth, death, and the meaning of life. The movie delivers another inventive interpretation of an abstract concept, even if the characters and their eventual insights are not that groundbreaking. An Academy Award winner for best animated feature and best original score.


Rock Dog
2016
**½
Director: Ash Brannon
Cast: Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J. K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon, Sam Elliott, Liza Richardson, Ash Brannon, Will Finn

Bodi is a Tibetan Mastiff who is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a village guard, but he is drawn to rock music and wants to become a musician instead. This Chinese-American animation is harmless and quite enjoyable but terribly formulaic. The story is based on Zheng Jun’s book Tibetan Rock Dog, but the script is basically a mix between How to Train Your Dragon and Coco.


Se mieletön remppa (The Renovation)
2020

Director: Taneli Mustonen
Cast: Sami Hedberg, Kiti Kokkonen, Rea Mauranen, Kari Ketonen, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Inka Kallén, Jukka Rasila

Maija and Jalmari are a childless, and by the looks of it, jobless couple who are forced to live with his overbearing mother. When Maija inherits a beautiful but totally dilapidated house, it is unclear whether it will be a blessing or a curse. This Finnish farce is directly based on the 2018 Norwegian film Norske byggeklosser and indirectly on The Money Pit (1986). The premise shows initial promise, but it quickly fades away when the main characters turn out be incompetent buffoons. The unfunny and implausible script wastes time on various irrelevant supporting characters (most of them played by Sami Hedberg), but fails to provide a proper conclusion to its main story.


Gifted
2017
***½
Director: Mark Webb
Cast: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Plummer, John Finn, Elizabeth Marvel, Jon Sklaroff

Frank is an acting guardian of his 7-year-old niece Mary. Frank is determined to give her a normal upbringing, but it becomes an uphill battle when Mary turns out to be a math wiz like her late mother. This smart and moving melodrama about a child prodigy joins the likes of Little Man Tate and Searching for Bobby Fischer. Its greatest strength are the believable and well defined characters. Chris Evans takes a break from playing Captain America. His performance is nicely grounded, and the rest of the cast are doing a fine job as well.


Gemini Man
2019
**½
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Ralph Brown, Linda Emond, Douglas Hodge, Ilia Volok

Henry Brogan is a US government sharpshooter who wants to retire. However, his employer believes he knows too much and sends out a highly skilled assassin who looks awfully lot like a young version of Henry. This science fiction premise was originally conceived more than 20 years ago, which is perhaps why the long-gestated script by David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke feels dated and predictable. Ang Lee stages some terrific set pieces, but ultimately this is a very ordinary globetrotting action movie with poorly drawn characters. Henry tells he is haunted by the lives he has taken, but Will Smith is not able to sell it. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays an odd platonic female sidekick whose motives remain blurry. The deaging special effects look surprisingly plasticky compared to Captain Marvel.


Atomic Blonde
2017
**
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Roland Møller, Jóhannes Jóhannesson, James Faulkner

Towards the end of the Cold War, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton is sent to Berlin to retrieve a list of undercover agents before it ends up in the wrong hands. Although this style-over-substance action movie is based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, it takes cartoonishness a bit too literally. The script is predictable and boring, and the characters are sketchy and implausible. Charlize Theron does look cool and striking, which would make her the worst possible candidate to blend in in the crowd and do spy stuff. The only bright spot are the brutal action set pieces, which follow in the footsteps of Jason Bourne and John Wick.


Call of the Wild
2020
***
Director: Chris Sanders
Cast: Harrison Ford, Omar Sy, Cara Gee, Dan Stevens, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, Colin Woodell, Scott MacDonald, Abraham Benrubi

In the turn of the century, a large and clumsy but goodhearted mixed-breed dog named Buck is abducted from his home in California and taken to the Yukon, where it serves several masters but is gradually drawn to the wild. Disney’s adaptation of Jack London’s 1903 novel removes the unpleasant and potentially offensive parts and delivers an exciting and child-friendly but somewhat sterile adventure. Buck is a lovely character but overly anthropomorphic and fully computer-created.


Everest
2015
***½
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal

In May 1996, various groups are preparing to climb the summit of Mount Everest. Climbing the world’s tallest mountain is an extremely dangerous feat on any day, but when an excessive number of climbers are hit by a sudden storm, it becomes a nightmare. This horrific true story has been documented in various books, most famously in Jon Krakauer’s riveting Into Thin Air. The film version cannot do justice to all the details or all the individuals involved in this disastrous day, but it probably benefits from focusing on a handful of people and their struggle against the elements. The end result is a gripping, well-acted, and beautifully staged drama.


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
2019
***½
Director: Marielle Heller
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper, Maryann Plunkett, Enrico Colantoni, Wendy Makkena, Tammy Blanchard, Noah Harpster, Christine Lahti

Lloyd Vogel is a cynical journalist who is writing a piece on Fred Rogers, the squeaky clean host of a popular children’s TV show. While Lloyd attempts to ignore his estranged father who is seeking redemption, he hopes to uncover the real Fred. Marielle Heller’s fact-based drama was inspired by Tom Junod’s Esquire article Can You Say … Hero?. This is a warm, delightful, and surprising character drama which restores your faith in humanity. Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys give great performances.


Dolittle
2020
**
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard

Following the death of his wife, Dr. Dolittle, the renowned veterinarian who can speak to animals, has become a recluse. When Queen Victoria falls seriously ill, Dolittle must go on a quest with his animals and his new apprentice. Hugh Lofting’s children’s book was previously adapted in 1967 and 1998. This version looks like it started shooting before a page of the script was written. The end result is a plotless CGI mess which may appeal to small children, but not anyone else. Much like he did in Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey Jr. attempts another accent (Welsh) and ends up giving an incomprehensibly mumbly performance.


I’m Thinking of Ending Things
2020
***½
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette, David Thewlis, Guy Boyd

Jake takes his new girlfriend to meet his parents, unaware that she is planning to leave him. As soon as they arrive at their farm, she notices that something is a little off. This metaphysical mystery kicks off like Get Out, but that’s where the similarities end. Although the story was adapted from Iain Reid’s novel, this is a typical Charlie Kaufman mindbender, which once again deals with identity, loneliness and regrets. The film is bookended by two long, static, and dialogue-driven car journeys, but it is at its best during the intriguing and enjoyably weird visit.


Onward
2020
***½
Director: Dan Scanlon
Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Kyle Bornheimer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mel Rodriguez, Octavia Spencer, Lena Waithe, Ali Wong, Grey Griffin, Tracey Ullman

Two elf brothers, Ian and Barley, were brought up by their widowed mother in a magical world which has gradually forgotten how to use magic. On Ian’s 16th birthday, the brothers embark on a quest in order to spend a brief moment with their dead father. This Pixar animation has a rather formulaic and uninspired start, but it gradually finds its feet and ends up being an entertaining and moving story of brotherly bond.


The Lighthouse
2019
****
Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, Valeriia Karamän, Logan Hawkes

In the end of the 19th century, a grizzled lighthouse keeper and his new assistant arrive in a remote lighthouse off the coast of New England. When a storm strands them on the island, the isolation and heavy drinking begin to take a heavy toll on their sanity and sense of reality. Like The Witch, Robert Eggers’ second feature is an unusual and unsettling horror-tinted drama. This highly original film delivers a mix of shocks and laughs, some wonderfully archaic dialogue, and two towering performances. Jarin Blaschke’s stunning cinematography, which uses an almost square aspect ratio, adds to the feeling of claustrophobia.


Happy Death Day
2017
**
Director: Christopher Landon
Cast: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken, Laura Clifton, Jason Bayle, Rob Mello, Rachel Matthews

A selfish and arrogant college student finds herself living the same day in a loop in which she is brutally killed by someone in a mask. She hopes that finding the killer will restore normality. This horror comedy gives us yet another version of Groundhog Day, which is at least acknowledged in the final scene. I kept waiting for Scott Lobdell’s script to add a new twist to the old formula, but it never does. Followed by Happy Death Day 2U (2019).


Patriots Day
2016
***½
Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J. K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Michael Beach, Vincent Curatola

Following Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg stages another real-life American tragedy. On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs explode close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two Chechen brothers are quickly identified as the culprits and a massive manhunt is launched to catch them. Mark Wahlberg plays a fictional everyman cop who takes part in the police operation. This is a gripping no-nonsense action thriller and a moving tribute to the city of Boston.


Tenet
2020
**½
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, Martin Donovan, Aaron Taylor Johnson

An undercover agent is recruited to an organisation called Tenet. He learns that someone in the future has developed technology which allows its users to move backwards through time, and it could be used to destroy the world. Inception and Interstellar proved that Christopher Nolan is able to tell complicated and demanding science fiction stories without dumbing them down for his audience. This, on the other hand, is probably his weakest film, and several long scenes of exposition are not enough to make it fully comprehensible or, more importantly, captivating. Throughout the story, it is unclear what exactly is at stake and why we should care about these characters when we know nothing about them, in some cases not even their name. The action set pieces are nice but not spectacular enough to sit through them twice, first forwards and then backwards. An Academy Award winner for best visual effects.


Noah
2014
**
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Madison Davenport

Noah learns of God’s plan to wipe the wickedness from the Earth with a great flood and embarks on a project to build a massive ark which can save his family and two of every living creature, but doom the rest of humanity to extinction. He gets help from the Watchers, fallen angels who look like the stone giants in The Hobbit. Darren Aronofsky’s retelling of the legend of Noah’s Ark is a fantastical rather than a biblical epic. The script by Aronofsky and Ari Handel mixes elements from the Book of Genesis, the Book of Enoch, and pure fiction to imagine how this well-known myth could have literally happened. The screenwriters even manage to throw in some anachronistic contemporary issues like environmentalism and vegetarianism. The resulting spectacle is big, bombastic, stupid and ridiculous, but it is not totally without entertainment value.