Movie Review Round-Up: The New Releases
Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread is this weekend's must-see, with WWI story Journey's End, heist thriller Den of Thieves and Denzel Washington's legal drama Roman J Israel, Esq also opening in cinemas.
Phantom Thread ****
Daniel Day-Lewis' swan song is a wonderfully delirious and bewitching masterpiece. Get ready for a riotous cinematic experience!
Vying for his fourth (and possibly last) Oscar, Day-Lewis is reunited with director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) in Phantom Thread to play Reynolds Woodcock, a fantastically deranged and in-demand dress designer in 1950s London.
A man of habit, Reynolds' tailored life is ripped apart when a tenacious and loud-eating waitress (Vicky Krieps) becomes his muse, live-in model, and greatest challenge. Read our full review here.
Journey's End ****
Based on the acclaimed play, director Saul Dibb's (below) haunting, sensitive WWI story is another reminder of the futility of war, rendered small-scale and close-up in this instance but with big implications.
In a dimly-lit trench, in the environs of Saint-Quentin in Northern France, the Germans are "about the width of a rugby field away". The officers of C-Company nervously await an imminent attack, expected sometime in the next few days. They smoke and drink, or pass the time with wry banter over the slim rations served up by the perpetually apologetic cook. Read our full review here.
Den of Thieves ***1/2
It's pretty obvious what you're getting with this film from the title and poster: muscular grunts with guns, shooting each other. If you're looking for something joyously life-affirming, try Coco.
Surprisingly, Den of Thieves is a lot better than the hopelessly generic title suggests.
For starters, an effortlessly gruff Gerard Butler - exorcising his inner Russell Crowe - pulverises the scenery as often as he lights a cigarette, and he does more smoking here than Thomas the Tank Engine on a mad one around Sodor. Read our full review here.
Roman J Israel, Esq ***
When it comes to Groucho Marx quotes, "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them… well, I have others" deserves its very own hall of fame.
It also comes to mind watching Roman J Israel, Esq - the story of a criminal defence attorney who reaches a crossroads in his life in downtown LA.
We're getting Denzel Washington at his best, but with a script that doesn't do justice to his performance. Read our full review here.
Alexander Payne's amusing, visually compelling sci-fi comedy Downsizing starts off as a cutting social satire about the western world's selfishness and consumerism and widens out to encompass economic inequality, greed and corruption.
If that sounds like an awful lot to fit into two hours and 15 minutes, it is.
The premise is simply delightful. Boffins in Norway have made a scientific breakthrough that means they can shrink humans to five-inch versions of themselves. They posit the technology as the solution to the world's overpopulation and warming climate as tiny humans will have much less of an impact on the earth's resources. Read our full review here.
The Maze Runner: The Death Cure **
The final part of the Maze Runner trilogy certainly starts well. Thomas (Rob Lowe lookalike Dylan O'Brien) and Newt (Malcolm McDowell lookalike Thomas Brodie-Sangster) engage in a spot of Butch and Sundance-meets-Mad Max as they pull off a daring train heist and rescue a bunch of kids destined to be guinea pigs at the hands of the evil WCKD corporation.
It's a whizz-bang opener that promises much but director Wes Ball could be guilty of overloading his movie with just too much of everything - exposition, action and hardware. Read our full review here.
12 Strong ***
Feeling more like an escape into cinemas than a release - no press screening over here - 12 Strong sees Chris Hemsworth taking a break from all things Thor to bring a true story from the war in Afghanistan to the big screen.
Based on the Doug Stanton non-fiction bestseller Horse Soldiers, 12 Strong follows the first US Special Forces team sent to Afghanistan in the wake of September 11. Its mission was to help General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance liberate the Taliban stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif. Read our full review here.
Early Man ****
Let's face it, for all the talk of optimism, renewed vigour and whatever you're having yourself, the early New Year can feel like another Dark Age, with any chink of light a long way off.
So what better way to leave the cave of your own mind than in the company of Nick Park, the 59-going-on-15 creator of Wallace & Gromit who can make you forget the past twelve months and the eleven to come and live and laugh in the now. Early Man is a chest-beating comedy treat and, as Park himself puts it, "a prehistoric underdog sports movie". Read our full review here.