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Director: Wes Anderson Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Stephen Park… Running Time: 103 minutes


Wes Anderson, 52 years old, American filmmaker, accused auteur, verified eclectic, has a long-standing and well-founded reputation for cinematic confection, and audience Marmite.

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Director: Denis Villeneuve Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgaard, Dave Bautista, Javier Bardem, Sharon Duncan-Brewster Running Time: 156 minutes

 


 

Frank Herbert’s Dune is today considered one of the sci-fi forefathers, a richly told epic with much on its mind and an influence on everyone, from George Lucas to Hayao Miyazaki. Adapting the story itself on screen has proven…challenging, for many reasons, the material dense on its own merits and a challenge to capture the eye of audiences without everything that drew from it already obscuring the view.

 

 

Where Jodorowsky failed and David Lynch befuddled, now Denis Villeneuve steps in with a new effort to make Dune a success. His weapon of choice is the modern blockbuster model, a brutalist exercise in asserting box-office through sheer force of will. Every tool in the arsenal – the all-star cast, the source material devotion, the enormous runtime, the spoiler seclusion and sequel hooks – they’re all out there to get Dune over and get the Part Two in future that this film’s opening title implies, fans, stans and studios. The drive is considerable, and tautological: Dune here is a big name franchise because it looks like, moves like and is certainly budgeted like a big name franchise.

 

 

Has it got ambition? Unquestionably. Scale? Massively. Heart? Well. Um.

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Director: Andy Serkis Starring: Tom Hardy, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris, Stephen Graham, Reid Scott Running Time: 97  minutes


 

The experience of watching the original Venom was an exercise in realising that its chaotic energy, slapdash editing, nonsensical plot and over the top (of the lobster tank) performance by Tom Hardy, all of the things that would in theory make it Not Good, in fact made the film a breath of fresh air. Venom, the Xtreme muscle-bound badass who kills and calls people turds in the wind while he does it, may be a relic of the 90s, but improbably his film and Hardy’s go-hard acting successfully revisited the factors that made that kind of character popular in the first place, and at a stage of superhero films where even the gun-wielding raccoons are looking mournfully into the middle distance and feeling the toll of being a Hero, it’s fun and freeing to watch a comic book character that’s pure Id unleashed. Let There Be Carnage embraces and expands on the previous film’s reception. A wild, weird ride, this sequel is nothing less than a full on, fully sincere coming-out party for the symbiote.

 

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Director: Tomás Ó Súilleabháin Starring: Dónall Ó Héalai, Saise Ní Chuinn, Dara Devaney Running Time: 86 minutes


 

“This was done to us” someone says of the Famine at one point in Arracht, and taking that fact as a given is the jumping off point for the ideas that director Tomás Ó Súilleabháin has on his mind in directing this take on Ireland’s history. Taking the Famine as directly driven by British imperialism as opposed to an unfortunate potato happenstance isn’t mere political point scoring, like Black 47 it allows for a more personal, character-driven story to be unfurled in response to the act. Genocide is ultimately and emphatically dehumanising, and Arracht, meaning ‘monster’, is a story of what becomes of those who have what was done to us, well, done to them.

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Director: David Lowery Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Sean Harris, Sarita Choudhury, Joel Edgerton, Barry Keoghan Running Time: 130 minutes


‘The noble knight’ may be one of the original and best exercises in brand management, a close association forged between valour and jobs for the boys that may not really have reflected reality. Knights may have had a code alright, so do pirates. But even, or especially, when we’re telling myths and legends, we can’t help but tell on ourselves.

The original poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a tale of a servant of the realm who gets puffed up by his own importance, acts rashly and violently and is deceitful in his efforts to be honorable. When his dishonesty is revealed, Gawain is declared the most blameless knight in all the land and all the other knights wear a symbol of his adventure as a reminder to always be honest. Sounds a bit like Gawain was “one bad apple” that inspired some spurious reforms to me, and what’s interesting about David Lowery’s take on the legend is the ways in which it builds the gap between the stories that we tell and the cold, harsh reality, and how Dev Patel’s Gawain is used to explore the ways that actually, All Knights Are Bastards.

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Director: Joe Carnahan Starring: Alexis Louder, Gerard Butler, Frank Grillo Running Time: 107 minutes


In a world where action movies have mostly been subsumed by the most dominant brands on the market, and therefore always subject to their demands – are they doing right by the character, will they keep the ‘universe’ moving forward – there’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple and trying something new. Simple is a relative term for a director like Joe Carnahan, who in movies like The Grey and Smokin Aces has delivered B-movie thrills with a broader appeal and here in Copshop he’s in similar form with his stars. With Gerard Butler and Frank Grillo both in the producer’s chairs and on the call sheet, Copshop aims to be a certain kind of action flick – something smartly dumb built around two stars your dad can’t name but definitely recognises, the kind to keep him occupied of a Sunday afternoon. And it mostly delivers on that, occasionally and admirably attempting to be something more.

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Director: Destin Daniel Cretton Starring: Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang Running Time: 132 minutes


As the Marvel Cinematic Universe grows and branches out and builds ever more enormous, into television, into another Phase, into so many movies at this point that even diehards might have trouble counting, the balance between variety and formula becomes ever more precarious. Marvel want to give you something new, just not too new, and this can even be seen in the genres of their movies. Honestly Marvel is becoming more of a genre unto itself in audience minds as the years go by, which suits Feige, Disney and co – so Black Widow is a spy movie, until it isn’t, and now Shang-Chi similarly offers the variety of a big budget, live action blockbuster martial arts movie – except every time it really threatens to shift into that gear, it parks itself with a hard jerk back into Marvel mode. And while that has its moments too, they’re not always two great tastes that work great together in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

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Director: Prano Bailey-Bond Starring: Niamh Algar, Michael Smiley, Nicholas Burns, Sophia La Porte Running Time: 84 minutes


 

What is it that we enjoy about horror? From the blood and guts found in slashers, to the mental torments we see in more psychological scares, we’ve been intentionally scaring ourselves with really fucked up horror stories for decades? Um, and we’re all just okay with this? Sounds pretty sadistic to be honest. Someone should censor us from ourselves.

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Director: Michael Sarnoski  Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin  Runtime: 92 minutes


A bloodied, weathered Nic Cage sits in an up-market restaurant. The man staring back at him is crippled with  embarrassment, terrified of what comes next. “We don’t get a lot of things to care about” whispers Cage before asking the all-important question..:

“Who has my pig?”

I spent the first 30 minutes of Pig searching for a touchstone to make sense of what I was experiencing. The trailer promised yet another revenge story with Nic Cage navigating his way through a bizarre set-up (in this instance, the case of the missing truffle pig…) and I was, in all honesty, quite excited at the prospect. 2018’s Mandy, while not perfect, was an interesting watch which proved, once again, Cage’s ability as a leading man AND that his reach didn’t stop past the straight-to-DVD bargain bin (if you remember what those are). From its trailer, Pig looked like another venture into this space and I was excited.

However, Michael Sarnoski’s Pig is something I truly didn’t expect. What starts as a madcap revenge thriller slowly unfolds into something altogether different and more unique: a tale of deep sadness, fear & loss punctuated by moments of true beauty with raw, human performances at its core. In short, Pig is the biggest surprise of the year and one of this year’s best.

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Director: Tom McCarthy Starring: Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, Camille Cotin, Lilou Siauvaud Running Time: 140 minutes


It’s fair to say that director Tom McCarthy has a keen interest on real life tragedies. While making his bones with independent films like The Station Agent and The Visitor, he has become renowned for his work directing the likes of Best Picture winner Spotlight and executive producing the hit Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Both of the latter involve holding up a mirror to tragic controversies and telling the story through the lens of victims. This task, in itself, often involves provocation, as evidenced by the decision to cut the most graphic scenes from the first season of 13 Reasons Why. His latest feature Stillwater is again approaching very sensitive subject matter, and has been criticised in some circles for effectively taking the real life events of the Amanda Knox story without asking for permission prior to doing so.

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