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Features Live Action Movies

The Holdovers

Director – Alexander Payne – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 133m

*****

A teenage pupil must remain at school in the care of his strict and widely despised Ancient History teacher over the 1970 Christmas holidays – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

A school movie with a difference: this takes place not in term time, but in the holidays. Specifically, a New England boys’ boarding school in the 1970 Christmas holidays, when, for various reasons, five pupils – three teenage, two younger – are unable to go home for the seasonal break, so must instead be looked after by a member of staff at the school. That task falls to ancient history teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti), who is filling in for the member of staff who made up a story about a difficult family health situation to get out of being lumbered with the task. Paul is put upon for jobs like this because he’s the guy who can’t say no; he’s also a stickler for hard work and discipline who is disliked by fellow teaching staff and pupils alike.

Once the other staff and students have left, one other person remains on the premises: the head cook Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who has a connection to the institution beyond her employment.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Mean Girls (2024)

Directors – Samantha Jayne, Arturo Perez Jr. – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 112m

**

A reimagining as a musical of the eponymous, 2004 US High School movie in which the new girl finds herself up against a girl clique – out in UK cinemas on Friday, Wednesday, January 17th

Raised and homeschooled on the open plains of Kenya, 16-year-old Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) is in for a shock when her mum suddenly decides the family is moving back to the US. The shock comes specifically in terms of High School, which she swiftly discovers to be a hostile world of exclusive cliques.

Two outsiders Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey) take it upon themselves to explain who’s who and against their advice, she falls in with the Plastics: Regina George (Reneé Rapp), Gretchen (Bebe Wood), and Karen (Avantika), a group of three rich, bitchy and style-obsessed girls who regard themselves as superior to everyone else.

Cady swiftly puts a foot wrong by falling head over heels for Regina’s boyfriend Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney), and the narrative swiftly develops into a conflict between her and the other three Plastics, particularly Regina. It’s a musical, too: cue song and dance numbers.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The First
Slam Dunk

Director – Takehiko Inoue – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 12a tbc – 124m

*****

A high school basketball team sets out to defeat the seemingly unstoppable league champions – plays Annecy International Animation Festival from Wednesday, June 14th: Edinburgh Film Festival from Wednesday, August 22nd-23rd; out in UK and Ireland cinemas on Wednesday, August 30th

The coastal town of Shohoku. 11-year-old Ryota Miyagi (voice: Miyuri Shimabukuro) lives in the shadow of his 14-year-old, elder brother and school basketball star Sota (voice: Gakuto Kajiwara). One evening, Sota takes his younger sibling out for a practice at the local court, playing as hard as he can to push Ryota, which makes the youngster want to push himself harder still. Sota then alienates Ryota by going on a fishing trip with his peer group rather than respond to Ryota’s demand to extend their practice session. When his elder brother is tragically killed at sea, Ryota must both step into both the role of man of the house and prove himself in the school basketball team.

By the time Ryota is 17 (voice: Shugo Nakamura), he is one of the players on the Shohoku school basketball team which itself faces challenges: specifically, if it is to win the national championships, it must defeat the the seemingly unstoppable reigning champions the Sannoh school basketball club and their star player Masashi Kawata (voice: Mitsuaki Kanuka), Ryota’s opposite number (both wear their team’s no.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The End Of Sex

Director – Sean Garrity – 2022 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 87m

***1/2

A married couple’s attempts to rekindle their sex life while their kids are away for a week go horribly wrong – out on digital from Monday, July 3rd

Packing their two young daughters off in the school bus to Winter Camp, Josh (Jonas Chernick) and Emma (Emily Hampshire) suddenly realise they have a week free to do…what? Drive to gymnastics and sit in the parents’ waiting area? Then it dawns on her: we don’t have to close the door. We can be as loud as we want. But while their parenting is generally successful, their sex life is much less so, with an attempt at coitus leading both of them to fake orgasm.

Sex seems to be in the air. Emily takes the opportunity of having extra time available to visit an art gallery with her best friend Wendy (Melanie Scrofano) for an exhibition which turns out to include black and white photographic print enlargements of testicles, where she runs into old art college friend Marlon (Gray Powell) who she fancies and who, it transpires, is not only the gallery owner but also fantasized about her back in their student days.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

You Can Live
Forever

Directors – Mark Slutsky, Sarah Watts – 2022 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 96m

***

A not especially religious 17-year-old sent to live with her Jehovah’s Witnesses uncle and aunt becomes smitten with a devout Witness girl her own age – out in UK cinemas and on SvoD and EST streaming platforms from Friday, June 16th

Following the breakdown of her mother (who we never see), 17-year-old Jaime (Anwen O’Driscoll), pronounced Jamie, is sent to live with her aunt Beth (Liane Balaban) and uncle Jean-Francois (Antoine Yared). She’s the sort of girl who wears Siouxsie And The Banshees or New Order t-shirts, prompting a remark by her uncle that he went to see the former many years ago, but these days he doesn’t do such things. That’s because the couple are Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) and consider such things worldly. Like the Witnesses in Apostasy (Dan Kokotajlo, 2017), they are waiting with eager anticipation for the Return of Christ and the establishment of the New System, when all things will be renewed and made good. The couple have decided not to have children until that state of things comes to pass, which they believe it will soon.

It’s easy enough to get time away from them, though, and Jaime hangs out on her own in the fabulous countryside, accidentally losing her portable music player when it falls off the bridge parapet on which she’s perched into the river below.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Chicken
For Linda!
(Linda Veut
Du Poulet !)

Directors – Sébastien Laudenbach, Chiara Malta – 2022 – France, Italy – 75m

*** 1/2

A mother’s relationship with her young daughter lurches into farce as a domestic misunderstanding spirals out of control – from the Annecy International Animation Festival 2023 in the Official Competition section

This starts off with a poem in French – which, alas, has lost its rhyming in the translation to English subtitles – about the blackness of night and the empire of memory, illustrated by images within a little circle, including a ring. Then it moves to another series of floating circles, one of which is little, yellow-coloured, toddler Linda sitting in a high chair being fed spicy chicken – her favourite – by her muted-red-coloured father (voice: Pietro Sermonti) and her orange-coloured mum (voice: Clothilde Hesme), while amidst a popping of champagne corks – the muted red lines of dad’s colour against the black background – mother calls out papa’s name Giulio in horror and little Linda is upset…

The present, years later; an image not now in small circles but filling the whole movie picture frame. Schoolgirl Linda (voice: Mélinée Leclerc) badgers her mum into letting her borrow mum’s special ring, plays with it for a day then takes it to school the next day where she hangs out with her purple-coloured friend Annette (voice: Scarlett Cholleton), whose mum had bought her a beret in the exact same colour as Linda’s yellow, which Annette lends her.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Spider-Man
Across
The Spider-Verse

Directors – Joachim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson – 2023 – US – Cert. PG – 140m

*****

Assorted Spider-Men and -Women interact across many multiverse worlds as an elite Spider force attempts to prevent their interactions causing disaster – out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 2nd

The first part of a two-part sequel to Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, 2018) with the conclusion Spider-Man Beyond The Spider-Verse due for release next year. So be warned: Across ends mid-story with a To Be Continued… legend plastered across the screen.

Having played around with the multiverse concept in Into, Across ramps it up to overload, introducing new worlds with titles that appear on screen before you’ve worked out where you are, making you want to hit pause and stop and take it in. You can’t do that in a public cinema, where the image and sound is sharper than it is in the home but you have no personalised remote control, and that’s a defining characteristic of the theatrical cinema medium.

You can of course go back and see a movie again and again for successive viewings, and I imagine that will be happening a lot with Across during its theatrical run because its visuals are consistently amazing, but once it’s available on a home platform where you can freeze it, go back, look at bits of scenes again, this movie will take on a whole new life as the viewers interact with it at their own pace.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Boogeyman

Director – Rob Savage – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 98m

*** 1/2

Two sisters recently bereaved of their mother start to imagine something nasty waiting for them in the darkness of night – Stephen King adaptation is out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 2nd

An uninvited man Lester Billings (David Dalmachian) turns up at the home-based office of therapist Will Harper (Chris Messina) wanting to talk. His family died, and he is suspected of murdering them… but, he claims, it wasn’t him who did it. Harper has recently lost his wife, so it’s inevitable that Billings’ story will resonate with him. While Harper excuses himself to covertly call the police, Billings starts wandering round the home in which Harper lives with his two daughters – the teenage Sadie (Sophie Thatcher) and the much younger Sawyer (Vivien Lyra Blair).

The scene in the office is the Stephen King short story (published in his Night Shift collection) and only a small part of the movie. It is, however, a highly significant part – the incident that sparks everything else off. Billings claims his family was slain by a hideous monster, and the impressionable Sawyer is at the age of childhood where she imagines monsters lurking in the closet or hiding beneath the bed.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Blue Jean

Director – Georgia Oakley – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

*****

A woman attempts to keep her LGBTQ lifestyle and her day job as a PE teacher separate, but has reckoned without the widespread anti-gay prejudice of late 1980s Thatcherite Britain – previews in UK cinemas from Monday, February 6thprior to release on Friday, February 10th

“Everything is political”, says her out and proud girlfriend Viv (Kerrie Hayes) to Jean (Rosy McEwen), an LGBTQ woman who has to date managed to compartmentalise her existence so that work and private life are kept separate. She’d like to keep it that way too, because in her job as a teacher there’s an underlying assumption that heterosexuality is the norm. Which is fine if you happen to fit that model, less so if you don’t. Which Jean doesn’t. And a couple of factors are about to break down those carefully constructed compartments of her life.

It’s the late 1980s in Britain, and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government is trying to push through Parliament what will eventually become the Local Government Act (1988). Section 28 (or Clause 28) of that Act prohibits councils in England, Wales and Scotland from promoting homosexuality, seen as a deviant behaviour which can be cured.… Read the rest

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Shazam!
Fury Of The Gods

Director – David F. Sandberg – 2023 – US – Cert. – 130m

***1/2

Three Daughters of Atlas enter present day Philadelphia to repossess a staff which contains power that has been stolen from them; immature teenager recast as adult superhero Shazam! and his six superhero companions must stop them – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 17th

Something of an oddity in the DC Comics canon, Shazam! concerns Philadelphia teenager Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who inadvertently absorbs superpower energy which enables him to transform into the adult superhero Shazam! (Zachary Levi) by merely uttering the word “Shazam!” However, despite the adult physique, he still thinks like a teenager. Outside of superhero life, he is one of seven orphans who, since the end of the original Shazam! (David F. Sandberg, 2019), have had the same thing happen to them. So, seven children, seven superheroes. And their two put-upon foster parents, Rosa and Victor Vásquez (Marta Milans and Cooper Andrews).

To be honest, I could take or leave the title character (as played by teenager Angel and adult Levi) but the other kids are likeable enough at least to the extent that their characters are fleshed out here… and some are fleshed out far more than others in the narrative.… Read the rest