There may be a new sense of Hollywood swish and flick glamour to Guy Ritchie’s latest film but – make no mistake about it – The Gentlemen is a step to the reverse from the director of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Forget Aladdin, this is cockney ensemble crime caper comedy through and through. Everyone has a riot, there’s language to make a sailor blush and marijuana at every turn. Not that our heroes touch the stuff. It’s all about the dosh with this gang of upmarket renegades and each one stands to make shed loads. As per his debutant days, Ritchie writes, shoots and produces to the lowest common denominator. Devotees will lap it up, while cynics wheel out that old sub-par Tarantino jibe. In the middle is a view that The Gentlemen is smutty fun, a tad offensive and undeniably fine tuned.
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Unlike the titular nuptials, Marriage Story launches well and scarcely drops the ball. The performances are unanimously immaculate, bolstered by thoughtful and well-mannered direction from Noah Baumbach, who writes too, in his second Netflix gem. As with The Meyerowitz Stories before it, Marriage Story unreels its tale of kindly woe on the delicately handled juxtaposition of tenderest bitterness. Baumbach’s honesty in this warts and all exploration of contemporary divorce proceedings is commendable, fuelled, as it is, by personal experience as boy and adult; as third and first party.
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Greta Gerwig’s sophomore feature not only improves on her first effort – 2017 coming of age hit Lady Bird – but quickly establishes itself as the definitive adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s seminal classic: ‘Little Women’. Quite the achievement for the seventh screen take on the story. While a sterling cast and sumptuous production values do much to enhance an experience of the film, it is Gerwig’s creative certainty in reshaping the story, via astute thematic blending, that elevated the wider whole. Nuance bleeds through each and every shot, line and prop so confidently that one might almost mistake the film for an original construct. Gerwig’s understanding of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March is every bit as profound as was with Lady Bird herself. What could possibly come next?
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Though now essentially synonymous with the musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber power ballad Memory wasn’t originally in Cats. Or rather, more accurately, the T. S. Elliot poem upon which the song is primarily based – Grizabella the Glamour Cat – never made the published edition of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. It was, as history recalls, considered too sad for children. Heaven only knows, then, what history will make of Tom Hooper’s orgasmically charged film adaptation of the show. It will, at least, surely stick in the memory, for better or worse. Mostly worse.
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What once seemed like a brave new era of adventure in a galaxy far far away has rather stewed of late. While there’s no denying a franchise so casually able to earn hundreds of millions, if not billions, at the box office still holds fond regard in hearts and minds across the globe, Disney’s reborn Star Wars all too quickly shed its early sparkle. If The Force Awakens took things to light speed on the power of nostalgia, an internal failure to configure a future for Star Wars beyond the past has rendered it all rather vanilla. Rogue One had it, Solo didn’t; as for The Last Jedi, that depends on who you ask. Now comes The Rise of Skywalker – grand finale to a nonology four decades in the making – less victory lap than MOT with longevity to prove.
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It is with much the same liberated creative abandon that saw him split the spine of one or two Star Wars mainstays that Rian Johnson now cuts into Christie and the classically camp whodunnit candle her novels lit way back in the thirties. Knives Out honours such tradition but wears alien debts to Hitchcock and The Fugitive with equal pride. Originality stabs through all with an flare for boundless wit and nose for the tension it sporadically breaks. The cast are sublime and gothic manor setting pitch perfect. It’s all very knowing, very smart and very deliberately subversive. All of that and a real crowd pleaser in the very best meaning of the phrase.
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Having been so successfully welcomed back to the jungle in Jack Kasdan’s 2017 Jumanji revival, audiences must surely have higher expectations for the director’s second stab. Lower them. Not by much but enough for some due tempering. The Next Level has its moments but fewer laughs, less momentum and a noticeably longer runtime – an admittedly harsh critique of four additional minutes. An improved second half ramps things up towards an enjoyable finale, promising at least one more sequel, but the weight of familiarity teeters of contempt when things drag prior.
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