Something for everyone this week. There's supernatural headwrecking in 'strangest film of the year' A Ghost Story; shoot-'em-up thrills in Charlize Theron's Atomic Blonde, horror chills in Annabelle: Creation and
squirrelly fun in The Nut Job 2.
A Ghost Story *****
Four years ago, Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck played two outlaws on the run from reality and the law in David Lowery's poetic period drama Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Now the director has reunited them in this deeply strange and unsettling story about grief and letting go that may end up haunting you for weeks after you have seen it.
There are many metaphysical themes of memory, loss, and personal history that weave their way through A Ghost Story. But there is also something almost cosmic and Kubrickian going on here, something that hints at the very nature of existence in a movie that folds in on itself and has wheels within wheels and meanings within meanings. Read our full review here.
The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature ***1/2
All-round good fun, The Nut Job 2 sees the furry ones and their pals in fauna take on a greedy mayor and his plans to destroy their homes.
And who to lead them in the fight against Mayor Muldoon and his malevolent scheme but the fearless Surly and the feisty Andie, who also provide the love interest. Read our full review here.
Atomic Blonde ***1/2
It's November 1989 and Charlize Theron's MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton is dispatched to Berlin to retrieve that most dog-eared of McGuffins, a list of secret agents. But she's barely collected her bags from the carousel at Tempelhof Airport when the bodies start piling up...
When it comes to set-pieces, setting and period detail, lovers of the rough stuff and all things retro can fill their 10-hole Docs here. Stunt co-ordinator-turned-helmer David Leitch co-directed and choreographed John Wick and brings the same kind of coffee table-smashing, firehose-whipping brilliance to the fight scenes with Theron excelling in all of them. Read our full review here.
Now we've established that clowns are officially creepy, it's time to turn up the heat again on dolls. Of course, long before the relentless and now thoroughly formulaic Conjuring franchise served up Annabelle, the possessed Victorian dolly, we had Anthony Hopkins as a ventriloquist haunted by his malevolent dummy in Magic and murderous old carrot top Chucky rampaging through a million toy boxes in the 1980s. And let's not forget that well-weird baby doll in Toy Story 3.
In this entertaining and atmospheric prequel to 2014's Annabelle, we find out how the pasty faced porcelain freak show came into being. There's a nicely crepuscular period setting (the 1940s) and some great performances from the mostly child cast. Read our full review here.
England is Mine ****
If ever there was a music icon primed for an early years biopic it is Steven Patrick Morrissey, former frontman of The Smiths and current world-weary curmudgeon. For a figure who would pour all the vexations and morbid fascinations of his teen years into his highly-autobiographical songs, a portrait of the artist as a young man was long overdue.
England is Mine is not about the future indie icon but a nicely judged story of a cripplingly shy teen who, like countless other cripplingly shy teens, takes refuge in poetry and music as he fumbles his way through life's minor victories and defeats and eventually wills himself into existence. Read our full review here.
Song for a Raggy Boy director Aisling Walsh has painted her own portrait of Canadian folk artist Maude Lewis with this captivating and honest film. Lewis, who was near crippled with arthritis, painstakingly created childlike and joyful paintings of the nature and activities in and around her native Nova Scotia in the 1930s to 1970s and her work won her national fame.
She is played by Sally Hawkins in possibly the best role of her quietly brilliant career. Hawkins really does inhabit Maudie’s persona - from impish young woman to stooped old lady - and she commands every scene with a frail but indomitable spirit. Read our full review here.
The Emoji Movie **1/2
The Emoji Movie is no Toy Story or Lego Movie, but it's as least as enjoyable as the ridiculously overrated Avatar. Sure, it isn't as technically impressive, but the story's about as interesting.
TJ Miller - great in Silicon Valley - voices the lead character, Gene, who is an emoji that lives in Textopolis, a digital city inside the phone of his user, Alex. On his first day at work, Gene panics when he's being used and ends up making a confusing-looking expression. And so begins a tale of redemption and discovery, where Gene learns that being different isn't so bad, as well as realising that friendship matters. Read our full review here.
French director Luc Besson's adaptation of the French comic series Valérian and Laureline is as eye-popping and jaw-dropping as his previous films The Fifth Element and Lucy but the shoddy script sends the space opera into a black hole.
With an estimated budget of €197.47 million, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets has won the title of the most expensive movie ever to come out of a non-US studio, but there are many elements of the production that feel like they were picked up in the bargain basement. Read our full review here.