The wait is over - Joker is here!
Joaquin Phoenix turns in an Oscar-worthy performance as a comic-book villain whose power once lay in his ambiguous mythology, but has now been bolstered in Joker by an unflinching deep dive into his origins.
Pulling back the curtain on the Joker was a risk, but it's one that pays off hugely here as Phoenix's portrayal of the character, who has been played many ways by many actors to varying degrees of success, is unique and if anything, more terrifying, as this story is so grounded in a quasi-reality and the most real-worldly Gotham we've seen.
What transpires on screen is chilling, unnerving, completely compelling, anxiety-inducing, sleep-disturbing, and absolutely brilliant. Read our full review here.
was really looking forward to this. I've been a big Judy Garland fan for decades, and I guarantee that at least one of the songs she's associated with will be played at my funeral.
Add to that the reports that Renée Zellweger had put in a career-defining performance in the lead role, and I couldn't wait to see it.
Unfortunately, the reality didn't match the hype in my head.
Sure, Zellweger is out-and-out Oscar bait in the lead role, showing the camera a version of Garland that also offers a fair amount of Renée too. Unfortunately, her performance only highlights the flaws in this film. She's easily the best thing about it. Read out full review here.
The Polish film Werewolf (original title Wilkolak) shows how credible horror can be achieved on film - Hollywood could learn a thing or two but probably wouldn't be interested.
Crucially, writer-director Adrian Panek has found his source material in Poland's troubled 20th Century history. He could have recoiled from anything to do with the Holocaust to make a horror film, but all the better that he did not desist.
Why is it superior to all of the lazy, unthinking, brain-dead stuff? Because it grounds itself in credible historical detail. Read our full review here.
Losing Alaska ****
Irish director Tom Burke's Losing Alaska is a telling document for our times, an absorbing account of how one Alaskan community of some 375 souls suffers the impact of global warming as rising water levels threaten their very existence.
The film gets underway with Bob Dylan on the soundtrack, singing High Water; which seems entirely apposite, as you view overhead shots of the soupy brown Alaskan landscape, pockets of melting ice and what they continually call "the river" that is getting dangerously close.
The village of Newtok is sinking, or slipping away, due to erosion and the thawing of the permafrost. The melting of the sea ice is swelling the body of water that surrounds the village. Read our full review here.
Hotel Mumbai ****
Anthony Maras's gripping and graphic dramatisation of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai does not spare on savagery in a story about acts of heroism from ordinary people and acts of evil by the brigand of Islamic terrorists who unleashed jihad in a series of coordinated attacks on the Indian city.
One hundred and seventy-four people were left dead after four days of carnage, and for his unflinching and incredibly intense movie Maras zooms in on the Taj Hotel, the five-star pleasure dome which became the main focus of the terrorists' hate.
In a story as big and terrible as this, the personal experiences of a group of hotel guests are front and centre - an arrogant Russian businessman, a British-Muslim heiress and her American husband and their infant son, backpackers caught up in the carnage, and the actual staff of the hotel, in particular the always-excellent Dev Patel as waiter Arjun. Read our full review here.
The Goldfinch **
On paper, this film adaptation of The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt's labyrinthine doorstep of a novel, has everything going for it.
John Crowley, the director of the Oscar-nominated Brooklyn, is behind the lens; acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins brings his exquisite vision to every scene; Peter Straughan (who also untangled Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the big screen) wrote the screenplay; Nicole Kidman is among the cast; and that Pulitzer prize-winning book is, after all, the source material.
However, transferring a multi-layered 800-page book to the screen has proved too difficult a task, even for those considerable talents. At two-and-a-half hours in duration, every detail of the celebrated (by some) text seems to have been crow-barred into some kind of place and although such fidelity is admirable it makes this tale of art world skulduggery, occasional violence, childhood trauma and adult obsession ponderous and sluggish. Read our full review here.
Don't Let Go ***1/2
David Oyelowo stars as Jack Radcliff, a homicide detective who clearly has a very strong relationship with his young niece, Ashley (an impressive Storm Reid). Her father, Jack's brother Garret (Bryan Tyree Henry), is unreliable, bipolar and has a history of drug abuse. Family bingo, eh?
Ashley's always ringing Jack, but one day she calls, begging for help. When he gets to her house he finds her and her parents dead. It seems to be a double murder and suicide initiated by Garret, and Jack feels guilty for pushing his brother a little too hard to get his act together.
Things get very strange a couple of weeks later when Jack gets a call from Ashley. And then another, and other, until it dawns on him that his deceased niece is calling from the past, when she was still alive. Read our full review here.
The Laundromat ****
Director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z Burns have, in their sixth feature together, fashioned an amusing burlesque which won't change the world - or indeed US tax avoidance - but it will pass a pleasant 90 minutes or so.
Meryl Streep plays Ellen Martin, James Cromwell plays her husband, and they are a retired couple who take a cruise boat around Lake George in New York to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. All is well in a sedate, elderly American way until a dreaded - and indeed mildly cartoonish - tidal wave suddenly submerges the boat. The hubby drowns, Meryl is left distraught, though she has her daughter and her two grandchildren to keep her company in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, the increasingly forlorn and dotty matron - yes, it's Meryl avowedly in a comic role - tries to recoup her insurance claim following the boat accident. Despite dogged perseverance and a flight to the West Indies, all she finds is a Russian doll sequence of shell companies, each hiding behind another company's equally fictitious status. Read our full review here.