Imagine Lady Bird had been shot in the documentarian vogue of Larry Clark’s Kids and was even less concerned with actual plotting. That’s mid90s, loosely speaking, the directorial debut of Wolf of Wall Street star Jonah Hill. With its genuinely joyful era specific soundtrack, Super 16 grain, Academy ratio and abundance of contemporary props, this is gentle nostalgia and transience in one. Very little happens but it does so with a winning ear for naturalism.
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Fans of Walt Disney’s animated original Dumbo have already seen an elephant fly, back in 1941. What more can a modern update bring to the big top? In the hands of Tim Burton – back on enchanting form after a duo of duds – the answer is a well considered story expansion and consistently gorgeous visuals. Disney’s digital Dumbo is every bit as adorable as one could hope and twice as empathetic. With the whole film apparently occurring either at dawn or dusk, this is hardly remarkable stuff but gosh it’s nice.
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Homely, twee and only a little dark, The Keeper very quickly feels like Sunday evening fodder. Telling its affectionate tale of football versus prejudice, this is a tidy period affair, effectively designed and pleasingly dressed. The structure leaves much to be desired, particularly in the rushed final third, but gung-ho performances from a likeable cast do much to cement engagement.
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Last Breath is Touching the Void meets Gravity but wetter. From directors Richard Da Costa and Alex Parkinson, the film yarns a gripping story of unfathomable survival, captured fathoms below and told through interviews, recreations and impressively intimate archive footage. Be sure to hold your heart tight as it thunders through your chest and into your mouth.
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A little over fifty years ago, Bonnie and Clyde took on Old Hollywood and won. Arthur Penn’s fizzing, sexy crime biopic made stars of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, hailed a new age for cinema and effectively ended the career of stuffy film critic Bosley Crowther. It’s been a long time coming but the establishment finally have a dull, self righteous response. Occasionally saved by strong leading turns by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, The Highwaymen is the antithesis of Penn’s groundbreaker, taking great pains to remind youthful viewers that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not nice people. At all. This is counter-counterculture in the extreme.
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With more biopics to his name than any other artist in history, one would expect Van Gogh’s cultural currency to have been spent up by now. Not so long in the wake of the gorgeous Loving Vincent, however, At Eternity’s Gate sees director Julian Schnabel prove that there is still mileage in this post-Impressionist tank. Dizzying visuals and a show stopping turn by Willem Dafoe – who was presented an Oscar nomination for the part – are the film’s chief pleasures, whilst its support of one controversial theory about the artist’s life does much to stand it apart.
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Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder together again? Really? Clearly, Victor Levin hasn’t watched their grandiose Dracula, else he’d know this pair of 90s faves can’t muster the slightest crackle of on-screen chemistry. Admittedly, their pairing in sci-fi head-scratcher A Scanner Darkly wasn’t egregious, but assessing the chemistry between drugged-up animated performers is challenging at best.
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