Joe Dante directs Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates and Hoyt Axton in this horror comedy where a teenager is gifted a curious Mogwai as a pet, only when he breaks “the rules” the mischievous offspring mutate into something far more deadly.
“…And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.” When I was a kid I had no idea that not every movie was as disturbed, imaginative, silly, inventive, magical, funny and subversive as Gremlins. It is a real modern day fairy tale. Gizmo, Phoebe Cates and Mushroom the dog are cuteness cubed. Everything else is energetic chaos. Even now we know how every single practical FX was achieved, it still holds up as an absolute riot. The department store finale in particular is small stakes but utterly tight. Anyone could die, it is no hold barred excitement…
George Clooney directs himself, Felicity Jones and Caoilinn Springall in this sci-fi drama where the lone survivor of an apocalypse tries to warn a returning space mission not to enter the Earth’s irradiated atmosphere.
A kinda reverse twist on The Martian… only nowhere near as entertaining. Uses up all its goodwill in a dry, predictable first hour. By the time the obvious twist reveals comes, it has downshifted gear into a ponderous, po-faced redundancy. The talented cast feels muted, they certainly cannot sell the more ludicrous late in the day decision by two crew members. The finale is drudgingly barmy and we have already forgiven a lot of frozen cheese to get there.
Pete Docter and Kemp Powers directs Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey and Graham Norton in this animated comedy about a struggling jazz musician’s soul who has to re-enter his comatose body before he misses his big break.
A really compelling lark. The existential stuff about death, personality and purpose is achieved with a fizzing elan. The body swap comedy that consumes the second half is as silly and pleasurable as any throwaway live action equivalency from the 80s. Heartwarming stuff, probably Pixar’s best since the high watermarks of Up and Toy Story 3.
George C. Wolfe directs Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and Colman Domingo in this big screen adaptation of August Wilson’s play about the fractious recording of an early Blues record.
Chadwick Boseman finally lives up to his reputation and inhabits a role, truly brings it to life. That’s as cruel an irony as anything opened up in this play. Viola Davis’ complicated and entertaining Ma Rainey is an equally towering achievement but the real life figure remains an enigma. I’m not sure if it is a case of we do not see enough of her or that Davis and Wilson sensibly don’t want us to get a true fix on her power, morality and vulnerability. Visually, Davis transforms herself almost into a grotesque with seeping sweat and violent make-up. We certainly witness her ruthlessness and selfishness to keep her artistic control in the White Man’s World. But as much as she guards her art and perks, she doesn’t raise her fellow artists up. She doesn’t ever go down to the hellish cell of a rehearsal room nor have to accept the scraps of false opportunity the exploiters throw her way. The dead ends and the exploitation Boseman’s Levee experiences results in senseless violence. Violence neither the celebrity or the white paymaster witnesses or suffers. Expect this to sweep up the main acting categories this Oscar season.
Sophia Takal directs Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon and Cary Elwes in the second reboot of the Seventies festive slasher were a college sorority is stalked by a masked killer.
Tone deaf and heavy handed. Tries to insert a whole swathe of modern feminist ideologies in to the unprepared mouths of its very, very annoying avatars. All soundbite, no political content. Meanwhile… us genre fans have a weak tea PG-13 horror movie continually waiting on hold. The only kill in one act feels very much like a reshoot done late in the day and shunted in under studio mandate. This is a real joyless hot mess that fails to achieve anything it sets out to do.
Steven Spielberg directs Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore and Dee Wallace in this children’s sci-fi fantasy where a suburban family of kids befriend an abandoned alien.
A massive Spielberg fan, I never understood this one’s popularity. In turns maudlin, sinister and boring – the iconic moments are cheesy and the creature SFX unreliable at best. Even I had a rubber toy that looked more like mangled shit than a friendly alien when I was a tot. Spielberg has to try really hard to make a bad film, this is admittedly too well crafted to match Hook. I prefer anarchy, stars and hubris over technique but it is a close race to the bottom. E.T. is saved by some cute child performances and John Williams’ evergreen score which does a lot of the narrative heavy lifting. Imagine how tedious it would all be without his orchestra cadging us along and seducing us.
Lewis Gilbert directs Julie Walters, Michael Caine and Michael Williams in this romance where an alcoholic literature professor is revitalised by his working class Open University student.
An ode to self improvement and second acts in life’s lived. Willy Russell’s witty and sensitive play is expanded successfully into a charming slice of cinema. Walters makes a blistering big screen debut – you genuinely fall in love with her straight talking hairdresser. Caine also takes some nice risks in a very generous effort. The prevailing attitude that he almost threw his career away with greedy choices in the Eighties is proven a nonsense by his acting here and in Hannah And Her Sisters. The ending is wonderfully uplifting even if it is bittersweet. Liverpool is played by Dublin for tax dodging reasons by Gilbert and his Alfie.
Michael Anderson directs David Niven, Cantinflas and Shirley MacLaine in this family adventure adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic novel where gentleman of means Phileas Fogg wagers his fortune that he can navigate the Victorian globe to a strict time limit.
A big glorious afternoon devourer. Full of cameos from stars who mean nothing to modern eyes and exotic locales visited or recreated by playful Technicolor technicians. Yes, there are dated elements; Shirley MacLaine plays an Indian Princess, there’s an extended bull fighting sequence. Yet it is rousing to see a big budget extravaganza that focuses on adult characters while still marvelling the kids. There is rarely a shot that doesn’t contain a cute animal, a dazzling piece of slapstick or an ode to a forgotten culture. Movie magic and top Niven action, it also has one of the most abrupt endings to a three hour movie ever.