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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Drama
‘It’s not fair,’ is a line from this drama that sums it up rather neatly. Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei) is a bright young student who gets pregnant on her first time. Abortion is so illegal, no-one even dares utter the word. Doctors – invariably male – are more inclined to sabotage her attempts to end the pregnancy than help. Male students see her condition as a sexual opportunity. She will have to give up her studies if she goes to term. When a professor asks what has been ailing her, she describes it as ‘an illness that strikes only women and turns them into housewives’. And it really isn’t fair. Audrey Diwan’s elegant film makes this point without banging any drums, instead neatly weaving it into the fabric of an engaging realist drama. The stakes are so high, the French director is even able to introduce a thriller-like elements to the story (based on the autobiographical short by French author Annie Ernaux). The ticking clock in Anne’s belly lends tension, while the possibility of hospitalisation, death or prison looms large: anyone who even helps her could end up behind bars.  Audrey Diwan’s elegant film is not for the faint hearted Happening is not for the faint hearted: it goes further than Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake in depicting the realities of illegal abortion. But there’s respite in other more soothing details of Anne’s life, including the friendship of Hélène (Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Luàna Bajrami) and Brigitte (Louise Orry-Diquéro), who self-identifies as the ‘m
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Comedy
Celebrities playing themselves can either be enormously cringeworthy, or, if they’re sufficiently self-deprecating, positively endearing. But few throw themselves bodily into the task with quite the gusto Nicolas Cage summons here, skewering his own excesses with a surprisingly sharp eye. You might expect hilarious, and sometimes unbearably awkward, results; what you won’t see coming is how heart-warming director Tom Gormican’s film is. This ‘Nick’ Cage shares the real man’s filmography, but he’s monstrously committed to his own stardom and unable to see the toll it has taken on ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen). He reluctantly accepts an invitation to a millionaire’s birthday party to pay off some debts, and bonds with the eccentric Javi (Pedro Pascal). Alas, CIA agent Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) intervenes to tell Cage that Javi is a drug lord. She recruits Cage to work against his host in order to recover a kidnap victim and prevent a coup. Cage portrays himself as an egotist and a fool, so committed to his art that he’s missed out on life It's cheerfully nonsensical, of course, shot in a sun-drenched luxury compound straight from the big book of action movie clichés, yet lacking the flourishes of a John Woo or a Michael Bay. But the growing friendship between enthusiastic superfan Javi and the wary, damaged star is special. Pascal dances along an impossible line between glowingly sincere and impossibly sinister, his performance emphasising tha
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Action and adventure
Bored of identikit blockbusters and flatpack franchises which always seem to end with something smashing something else amid an ocean of CGI? Thank Odin, then, for Robert Eggers and his mad, brilliant, violent, hypnotic, trippy Viking opus. And thank the heroic people who gave him $80 million to make it. A thrilling revenge movie with one foot in a to-the-last-detail recreation of 9th century Scandinavia and one in a supernatural realm of hulking zombie vikings, magic swords and Björk being a prophet in wheat hat, it’s Conan the Barbarian by way of Klimov and Tarkovsky. It’s artful and full of haunting, elemental visuals – for all the talk of studio notes, this feels like a work of singular vision – but it also gallops along at times, as it follows raging prince Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård, about the size of an Ikea) as he hunts down the uncle (Claes Bang, terrific) who killed his dad and made off with his mum. The Northman feels Shakespearean (it draws on the same Norse material as ‘Hamlet’), especially when Nicole Kidman’s queen is on screen. She’s clearly having a blast with a character who is never entirely moored to the world she inhabits or any traditional gender role. It leaves Anya Taylor-Joy’s sorceress, Olga, as our sanctuary from all the male bloodletting. The battles are brutal and there are moments when everyone on screen seems to be avenging someone else. It’s all very pre-anger management. Make it your destiny to see this blood-soaked odyssey along the edge of
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Comedy
"If you love something, it will take you somewhere" is the repeated expression in Fast & Feel Love—and for 30-year-old man-child Kao (played by Nat Kitcharit), sport stacking is what he loves best. It may have brought out the best in him when he was younger, but as he reached so-called adulthood, what he loved best opened his eyes to the ugly truth that a person can’t set their mind on one sole thing throughout their entire life. This pretty much sums up what Fast & Feel Love, the latest film by Nawapol “Ter” Thamrongrattanarit, is all about. After exploring the philosophies of moving on and letting go in 2019’s Happy Old Year, the indie filmmaker is back again with yet another comedy-drama that, this time, digs deep into the issues that plague Generation Y. Back in 2021, the project was dubbed as the director’s very first “action” movie. Fans of Ter thought that it was just another PR trick to attract more people to see the film (as what happened with 2015’s Heart Attack, where almost everyone was fooled into thinking that it was a delightful rom-com). But there were no misleading representations this time around. Fast & Feel Love’s fast pace and ambitious storytelling is reminiscent of an action movie—at least one with a heart. It explores how 30-somethings struggle to accept the passing of time and the “chaotic” challenges of adulthood. Kao is on a mission to break the world record for sport stacking, wherein a mere 0.001 of a second can change the entire game. In the mea
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  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Fantasy
Co-written by JK Rowling and long-time Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves, Fantastic Beasts is the third in a five-movie extension of Warner Bros’ ‘Wizarding World’ franchise. While it’s the weakest, most rambling so far, it also delivers rich, immersive and thrilling moments – and offers loads to love and laugh at. The first two movies tracked the rise of dark wizard Grindelwald in 1920s NYC and Paris. Now it's 1930s London, Berlin, and, weirdly, Bhutan, as Grindelwald, like his real-world counterpart Hitler, steps up his power grab.  Despite lots of trademark brilliant inventive flourishes, the core plot stinks. Grindelwald can see the future, so Dumbledore assembles a plucky gang of heroes: Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his furry duck-billed mole and stick-man accomplices, his bro Theseus (Callum Turner), that sweet New Yoick baker from the first movie, and some random newbies (one of whom is called Bunty). It gives them overlapping secret instructions to ‘confuse’ Grindelwald – and everyone else as well. These involve the gang swooping off to Bhutan with five identical brown suitcases, one of which may or may not contain a cute magical baby deer that can see people’s souls. It’s a ton of fun, but it lacks substance, menace, emotional heft. Often, it lacks sense too. The cast is ace, especially Redmayne: I hope his career as Wizarding World’s young David Attenborough lasts as long as his muggle counterpart’s has. One hilarious scene has Newt and his uptight big bro
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Thrillers
A batshit mad idea on paper – and, to be fair, in reality – Operation Mincemeat involved using a corpse to fool the Nazis into thinking the Allies were invading Greece rather than Sicily back in 1943. A meticulously plausible back story was concocted, and with the addition of one subtle red herring, planted on the body, which was then washed ashore on neutral Spain to be passed onto the Germans. It was 007 by way of Weekend at Bernie’s.That juicy premise powers John Madden’s (Shakespeare in Love) enjoyable, if not entirely nailbiting dad-core war flick, which comes lavishly cast and nicely evokes a wartime London of dive bars, empty streets and smoky planning rooms. It works best when it zeroes in on the mission itself (Ronald Neame got there first with 1956’s The Man Who Never Was), but lets itself get derailed via a blitzkrieg of subplots that drain momentum at fatal moments.Vying for top billing with the corpse itself is Colin Firth’s intel officer, floating this risky scheme with his angry boss, Vice-Admiral John Godfrey (Jason Isaacs), and a just-about-persuadable Winston Churchill (Simon Russell Beale). Matthew Macfadyen’s lovelorn RAF flight-lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley is co-opted into the team and away they go, sourcing a body, building a back story and trying to keep a lid on their crafty scheme. Amid the earnestness and portentous voiceovers outlining the stakes, Operation Mincemeat has some dark fun with all this. There’s a particularly macabre photoshoot and t
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  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Film
After his divisive turn as the Joker in DC’s Suicide Squad, Jared Leto attempts to jump on the superhero bandwagon again as Doctor Morbius in the Spider-Man villain’s first standalone film. Once again, he misses the mark and winds up flat on his face. Michael Morbius is a renowned doctor whose goal in life is to find the cure for a rare blood disease that has afflicted him and his friend Milo (Matt Smith) since they were children. Morbius develops the cure using DNA from vampire bats, but when he tests it on himself he is transformed into a bloodthirsty killer with superpowers who requires human blood to stay healthy. Cue scenes of Jared Leto sucking bags of blood dry like they’re Capri-Suns. The central conflict of the film arises when Morbius denies Milo the cure, believing it to be a curse. In retaliation, an embittered Milo steals it for himself and frames him for murder. Whereas Morbius struggles to refrain from killing people with increasingly ineffective artificial blood, Milo inebriates himself with slaughter. Jared Leto jumps back on the superhero bandwagon and winds up flat on his face Matt Smith seems to be having fun hamming it up as the villain here, gently drawing on the quirky persona he cultivated in Doctor Who. However, his moments stand out more as awkward blips rather than entertaining idiosyncrasies in what is otherwise a suffocatingly serious film. Smith doing a little dad dance over the corpses of murdered cops could have been raucous in an off-the-wa
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Action and adventure
A deliriously madcap combination of laughs, guilty pleasures and jungle foliage, The Lost City is what would happen if Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom and Miss Congeniality conceived a love child on a Jumanji board. Hollywood’s evergreen leading lady, Sandra Bullock, cuts a despondent figure as its troubled protagonist, Loretta Sage. She’s the author of a bestselling romance franchise that she’s no longer invested in. But after being pushed by her publicist Beth (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), Loretta reluctantly embarks on a tour to promote her latest book, ‘The Lost City of D’, with the novel’s heartthrob cover star Alan (Channing Tatum). The Lost City becomes one big, messy, meta adventure when Loretta gets kidnapped by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) and is thrown into an adventure straight out of the pages of one of her books. Alan is soon adopting his fictional alter ego, Dash, with mixed results. It’s what would happen if The Temple of Doom and Miss Congeniality conceived a love child on a Jumanji board The next hour is a hilarious procession of flying fists, trashed charcuterie buffets and a scene-stealing cameo by a tousled Brad Pitt doing his best G.I. Joe impression. Bullock strikes up an unconventional, yet wildly entertaining will-they-won’t-they romance with Tatum as she trudges through the jungle dressed to the nines. Tatum is a joy as her water-allergic knight in shining armour, and the supporting cast bring laughs too. If you’re looking for plot
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  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Animation
The first Sonic the Hedgehog movie was, somewhat surprisingly, a huge hit. In the US, it was the all-time highest grossing movie based on a video game. When you consider the competition, that’s not the most impressive brag, but it means Sonic was profitable enough that we now have the inevitable sequel. It’s marginally funnier than the very unfunny first film and has less cheap-looking CGI. Much like the first movie, Sonic 2 has the hollow efficiency of a movie forced into being to sell merchandise and for product placement. It does far better at advertising the Four Seasons in Hawaii than entertaining its audience, whatever the age. Most of the cast work hard to sell a script peppered with fart jokes and uninspired set pieces, but it’s so chaotically plotted that it quickly becomes exhausting. We pick up where the last film left off, with alien hedgehog Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) living as the peculiar adopted son of small-town sheriff Tom (James Marsden) and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Banished to another planet at the end of the last movie, villainous Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) has found his way back to Earth by inventing a ‘getting back to Earth’ machine. Accidentally, he’s picked up Knuckles (voiced with little enthusiasm by Idris Elba), an echidna that possesses the same super-speed as Sonic, plus super-strength, and a super-grudge against our blue hero. A flying fox called Tails (voiced by Colleen O’Shaughnessey) comes to help Sonic and everyone dashes around
  • 2 out of 5 stars
  • Film
  • Action and adventure
Free from the robot clutches of the Transformers franchise and his last, direct-to-Netflix thriller 6 Underground, Michael Bay returns where he belongs: a car chase in Los Angeles surrounded by muscled, sweaty men.  War veteran Will Sharp (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), in dire need of cash to pay for his wife’s unspecified surgery, asks his career criminal adoptive brother Danny (Jake Gyllenhaal) for help as a last recourse. Abdul-Mateen II is the more grounded of the two while Gyllenhaal is giving us crazy-eyes. What’s supposed to be an easy job gets really messy, really quickly, and the two brothers find themselves in a LA-wide police chase with an injured cop in the back of the ambulance they’ve hijacked. If he dies, their sentences will be much more severe. The steely EMT Cam (Eliza Gonzalez) rounds off this unhinged scenario, a relatively sane counterweight to the odd-couple brothers as she tries to keep the cop alive.  Ambulance is a remake of a 2005 Danish film of the same name, but pimped up à la Bay. Something is always happening, very loudly, and everyone is concerned with looking very cool while it happens. Most of the action happens inside the titular ambulance, and credit to Bay for making it feel as cramped and frenetic as the story demands through sweaty close-ups and lunatic banter. His camera goes from trembling close-ups to swooping helicopter shots of his beloved LA at dizzying speed. Something is always happening, very loudly, and everyone is concerned with loo
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