FILM OF THE WEEK
I first saw Sofia Coppola’s brilliant study of a teenage girl’s crush on a bigger than life celebrity at last October’s London Film Festival. On a second viewing, I still found Cailee Spaeny’s magnetic performance as riveting as ever.
The film is based on Priscilla Presley’s memoir “Elvis & Me” and begins at an army base in West Germany in 1959. Priscilla Beausilieu is a young schoolgirl living a protected life along with her mother and strict military father, who surprisingly gives her permission to attend a party hosted by the legendary Elvis (Jacob Elordi). He is also in Germany serving his military service and far away from his beloved Graceland. Priscilla can’t believe her luck when the celebrated Elvis not only has time to talk to her, but also asks her father’s permission to see her again…
The early part of the film is tremendous where the action is seen from the innocent eyes of a young woman before her dreams are seemingly fulfilled when he asks her to marry him. Spaeny is superb as the shy girl who blossoms into a stunning swan, but sadly not everything remains rosy – their volatile marriage forces her to sink deeper into loneliness and isolation. Elordi, fresh from his success in SALTBURN, is believable as Elvis but is not given enough material to shine and has a tough act following last year’s Austin Butler’s portrayal in ELVIS.
Coppola’s sensitive film rates among the best of the year!
Acclaimed television director James Hawes makes his cinema debut with this real-life story of Nicholas Winton (Anthony Hopkins), who – in Schindler fashion – is a man responsible for saving the lives of 669 children from the Nazis. It is now fifty years later and Nicholas is still haunted by those memories when he was a young man (Jonny Flynn) and who with the help with his fearless mother Babette (Helena Bonham Carter) manages to achieve the impossible…
It was premiered at last October’s London Film Festival and is altogether a decent movie, if not a little too worthy for its sake. The flashback sequences when a young Winton visits Prague in December 1938 are well-handled with careful production designs. Hopkins is a strong presence in the early eighties scenes but is not given enough material to sink his teeth into, until the final climactic sequence, which is truly moving.
I don’t want to give too much away, but this film should also play as a tribute to Esther Rantzen.
Jane Giles and Ali Catterall’s hugely enjoyable documentary, which is celebrating London’s favourite cult cinema, was my personal highlight from last October’s London Film Festival. Originally the Scala cinema opened its doors in 1978 in Tottenham Street in Fitzrovia and soon became an oasis for art and alternative film lovers. I was a film student at the time and I remember seeing the splendid double bill of Jean Renoir’s LA REGLE DU JEU and Louis Bunuel’s NAZARIN.
In 1981, a gift from heaven was sent – the Scala moved to King’s Cross – just two-minutes’ walk from where I live – and it soon became my second home. New prints of films like EAST OF EDEN with James Dean, BUSTOP with Marilyn Monroe, THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT with Jayne Mansfield, before I discovered early John Waters’ bad taste movies with Divine in PINK FLAMINGOES and FEMALE TROUBLE. Ed Wood’s trash movies PLAN 5 FROM OUTER SPACE and GLEN OR GLENDA became regular delights to the loyal clientele at this unique venue. One day there was a secret screening of a rare classic and after talking to the ever-so friendly guy at the box office, I guessed to my delight that it was Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO. They had often secret screenings but sadly the decision to screen Stanley Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which was banned at the time, led to the cinema’s downfall and subsequent closure. There is so much to talk about this brilliant documentary which captures the spirit of the times most magnificently, but it’s best if you went and found out yourself!
AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM in 3D
This wet sequel has nothing exciting to offer and even the 3D effects feel like an afterthought. Director James Wan brings back the original cast including Amber Heard despite a huge outcry from fans following her court case against Johnny Depp.
Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is still fighting Black Manta (Yahya Abdul- Mateen II) and reluctantly joins forces with his brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), the former king of Atlantis…
There is no point trying to make any sense of the convoluted plot just give in. The award for worst acting goes to Dolph Lundgren as King Nereus – even Nicole Kidman looks embarrassed by the proceedings as Aquaman’s mother and fierce warrior Atlanna. The only positive thing I could say about this misconceived project is that it probably marks the beginning of the end for the superhero movies.
Writer/director Paris Zarcilla tells the story of Joy (Maxine Eigenmann), a Filipino immigrant struggling to make ends meet and provide for her young daughter Grace (Jaeden Boadilla). Even though her status in England is illegal, she accidentally gets the perfect job to look after a wealthy terminally ill old man (David Heyman). Joy and Grace now have a roof over their heads, the handsome fee is paid in cash and life is perfect until they begin to realise that everything is not as it seems…
It is an original premise and Zarcilla’s assured feature film debut creates a suitably claustrophobic world, which has echoes of SAINT MAUD. He elicits engaging performances from his actors especially from newcomer Boadilla as the eponymous heroine.
Leo Leigh has written and directed an original dark comedy which, as the title suggests, follows the story of Sue (Maggie O’Neil), a free spirted middle-aged woman, who begins a sexual relationship with a biker called Ron (Tony Pitts), whom she meets at her brother’s funeral. This gives Sue a new lease of life until she meets Ron’s flamboyant teenage son Anthony (Harry Trevaldswyn), an influencer or influenZa as I prefer to call this ghastly group of people. They get on very well until Sue sees Anthony rehearsing at home his dance routines for “Electric Destiny”…
It is enjoyable and funny thanks to O’Neil’s terrific creation – a woman unafraid to speak her mind in the most unexpected circumstances. Leigh is a talent to watch!
MY NAME IS ALFRED HITCHCOCK
Mark Cousins is the ultimate cinephile and his latest must-see documentary is a love letter to the Master of Suspense and his movies. Hitchcock himself talks beyond the grave – through courtesy of Alistair McGowan’s voice – and analyses his films with some details never explored before. It is accompanied by a series of clips from his early silent films like THE LODGER as well as from his later works like ROBE, REAR WINDOW, FRENZY, and FAMILY PLOT.
It is hugely enjoyable but most importantly it will give you the urge to revisit the work of the most influential filmmaker of all time. A real treat for film aficionados!
Thanks to the current awards season, it was good to finally catch up with this compelling film from first time directors Saela Davis and Anna Rose Holmer. Shane Crowley’s character driven screenplay is based on a story he co-wrote with Cronin O’Reilly, which takes place on the coast of Ireland. They tell the story of Aileen O’Hara (Emily Watson), who, like the rest of the small fishing community, works hard at the local fish factory. Life is quiet in this remote village until Aileen’s beloved son Brian (Paul Mescal) returns home after a long absence abroad…
Crowley’s well-crafted screenplay is full of religious references including the return of the prodigal son, whose unexpected return shakes up the serenity of this small community. The acting is of the highest order – Watson is on tremendous form and so is the ubiquitous Mescal but it is the grace of Aisling Franciosi’s dignified presence as the wronged woman that will stay long in the memory. (BFI Player)
This marks the remarkable directorial debut by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping, who tell the story of Jules (Nathan Stewart- Jarrett) a free-spirited drag queen whose life takes an unexpected turn after a vicious homophobic attack. A traumatised Jules abandons his life as a performer and six months later he accidentally encounters his attacker Preston (George MacKay) in a gay sauna. Jules is now totally unrecognisable and is presented with the rare opportunity to take revenge on this violent man…
Freeman and Choon first told this story in their award-winning short before they fully developed it into a feature. The performances by both actors are outstanding – a tense, unpredictable thriller that will keep you in suspense till the final credits.