LONG SHOT

This is a genuine crowd pleaser with a winning chemistry between Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. The opening sequence brings to mind Spike Lee’s terrific BLACKkKLANSMAN, where unconventional journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) goes undercover for a story but nearly gets lynched when he is discovered by the Klan.

Jonathan Levine’s hugely enjoyable comedy soon changes gear after President Candidate Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), eager to lighten up her image, hires Fred as her speechwriter. Fred had always had a crush on Charlotte since his teenage years and he now gets the perfect opportunity to be up close and personal to his idol…

Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah’s witty script provides the actors with smart, funny dialogue which they relish. The odd pairing of Theron with Rogen works a treat – a match made in heaven unlike any other. She is a statuesque beauty and he is a slob but a lovable one.

Levine first came to prominence with his wacky writing and directing debut THE WACKNESS in 2008, which won him several award on the international Festival circuit. He is an assured filmmaker who directs with energy and style but most importantly – like his likable protagonist Fred – with a twinkle in his eye!

 

WOMAN AT WAR

My personal favourite from last year’s London Film Festival – another delight from Benedikt Erlingsson, the celebrated Icelandic writer/director OF HORSES AND MEN. His inventive and highly original film demands attention from its very first sequence and doesn’t let go till the final credits.

Halla (Haldora Geirharosdottir) is an environmental activist who begins a one-woman-war against the local aluminium industry in order to protect the beautiful highland landscape…

The less one knows about the development of events the better. It is very topical, hugely enjoyable, utterly unpredictable and its oddball style completely unique while Haldora’s magnetic performance rates amongst the best of the year. Unmissable!

 

VOX LUX

Brady Corbet began his career as an actor from a young age and appeared in such unconventional films like MYSTERIOUS SKIN, FUNNY GAMES and SIMON KILLER before his remarkable directorial debut in 2015 with THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER. That was an exhilarating cinematic experience perfectly complemented by Scott Walker’s superb score. Here Brady is reunited with Walker whose mesmerising score sadly proved to be his last following his untimely death earlier this year. Corbet tells the story of pop star Celeste from a young age (Raffey Cassidy) when she witnesses a major national tragedy before she becomes an iconic pop star (Natalie Portman)…

This may not be as powerful as Corbet’s first film but there is no doubt he is a fascinating filmmaker, who coaches magnetic performances from his leading ladies.

 

THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA

First time director Michael Chaves delivers the goods aplenty for this taut, atmospheric horror which boasts an engaging lead performance from Linda Cardellini as the distraught mother determined to do anything in her power in order to protect her vulnerable children from the curse.

The legend of La Llorona, the Mexican woman, who in a fit of jealousy when her husband leaves her for a younger woman, kills her children in a Medea kind of fury. Now the time is 1973 and the place Los Angeles – the myth of La LLorona begins to become a reality…

It is sharp, economic and never outstays its welcome.

 

A DOG’S JOURNEY

This is a sequel to Lasse Halstrom’s A DOG’S PURPOSE and continues the adventures of the lovable dog Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad). Bailey’s bond with Ethan (Danis Quaid) and his family grows stronger especially now that their small granddaughter CJ comes on the scene. After old Bailey dies his soul passes on to different dogs but still he does everything in his power in order to keep his promise to Ethan and find CJ (Kathryn Prescott)…

The original was fresh, unpredictable and very moving. Director Gail Mancuso tries to repeat Hallstrom’s winning formula but the pace here is much slower and overall the story feels much more contrived and sentimental despite the adorable dogs and Prescott’s likable presence.

 

Also out this week:

 

BEL CANTO: Paul Weitz’s sentimental but touching film features Julianne Moore as a celebrated soprano who travels to South America for a private concert arranged by a wealthy Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe). But in the middle of this amazing event the guests are taken hostage by a group of guerrilla rebels…It is good to see an international cast come together for this moving but ultimately predictable melodrama.

 

DONBASS: Sergei Loznitsa, the director of MY JOY and A GENTLE CREATURE, brings to the screen a dark political satire divided into 13 episodes which take place in Donbass, Eastern Ukraine during a violent conflict. He is a unique, distinct visionary filmmaker whose long takes and imaginative set pieces will stay long in the memory.

 

POND LIFE: Richard Camron’s stage play is brought vividly to the screen by Billy Buckhurst. The action takes place during the summer of 1994 in a quite ex-mining village just outside Doncaster and follows the story of a group of teenagers. It is well acted b y a bunch of talented young actors and brings to mind THE ARBOR another stage play transferred imaginatively to the screen.

 

KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE: Rachel Lears’ fascinating documentary follows a group of working class women and of colour, who have major political ambitions in order to challenge the Democratic establishment. The determination of these four incredible women to achieve their goal against the odds is truly inspiring and uplifting. Everyone loves a story of the underdog coming even with those in power!

 

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