Arts & Entertainment

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Film

Hail, Caesar!

It couldn’t have been easy for the Coen brothers to just be silly again, especially after such recent soulful triumphs like ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (2013) and ‘A Serious Man’ (2009) – both of which followed their big Oscar win for the dark, brooding ‘No Country for Old Men’. But you’ve got to love Joel and Ethan Coen for insisting on being playful.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

Joy

David O Russell’s wacky screwball spin on the rags-to-riches biopic opens with the line: ‘Inspired by stories of brave women.’ He could just as easily have borrowed the opening line from his last film, ‘American Hustle’ – ‘Some of this actually happened.’ ‘Joy’ is loosely based on the life of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), the Long Island single mom who in the early 1990s invented the self-wringing Miracle Mop and became a shopping channel superstar. Cinema is full of American dreams: stories of men battling to build empires. This is a film about three generations of women. It has some of the macho stuff: the nostalgic voiceover, Scorsese-style, by Joy’s grandma (Diane Ladd); Cream’s ‘I Feel Free’ blasting out; and it ends with Joy sitting behind a giant I’ve-made-it desk like Don Corleone. But Russell also mixes in elements of kitsch soap opera, allowing the dialogue to tip over in bigger-than-life melodrama. Only he could pull off a film with one foot in daytime TV and the other in ‘Goodfellas’. ‘Joy’ is brilliantly feminist – written by Russell and based on a story by Annie Mumolo, who co-wrote ‘Bridesmaids’ with Kristen Wiig. We first see Joy as a little girl, making a fairytale forest kingdom out of paper. All that’s missing is a prince, says her sister – ‘I don’t need a prince.’ Later, Joy meets Bradley Cooper’s TV exec, the boss of the QVC channel that will make her a star. Both their hearts skip a beat – but this woman does not have time for that. Joy is too busy

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

Deadpool

‘You are relentlessly annoying,’ barks arms dealer Ed Skrein to Ryan Reynolds’s wisecracking, fetish-clad anti-superhero midway through this latest romp inspired by a Marvel comic. It’s an insult that applies just as easily to the film itself. Bloody, shallow and oh-so-smug, ‘Deadpool’ is so eager to offend that it’d almost be sweet if it wasn’t so, well, relentlessly annoying. We first meet Wade Wilson as an ex-military drifter, working as a thug-for-hire and about to fall madly in love with (you guessed it) a hooker-with-a-heart, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When he’s diagnosed with terminal cancer, Wade is suckered in by a shady corporation run by the villainous Ajax (Skrein), who promises to save his life. The cure leaves Wade disfigured and scarred, but pumped with advanced healing powers, a hunger for revenge and a thing for bright red Lycra. Clearly inspired by the ooh-aren’t-we-naughty sweary superheroics of Matthew Vaughn (‘Kick-Ass’, ‘Kingsman’), ‘Deadpool’ is the kind of movie that thinks a shot of the hero being dildoed by his girlfriend on International Women’s Day is feminist enough to make up for the fact that she’s a foxy ex-prostitute and the script is peppered with rape jokes. It all looks cheap and grimy – whether this is a stylistic choice or a budgetary issue isn’t clear. Meanwhile the action sequences sacrifice tension and excitement in favour of hyperactive editing and splattering gore. The result is rarely boring, but it’s not half as smart, funny or sub

Time Out says
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Film

The Revenant

After the playful, urban and contemporary humour of the Oscar-winning ‘Birdman’, this bleak-faced 1820s-set frontier western sees Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu return to the darker worldview of his earlier films like ‘Babel’ and ‘21 Grams’. Based on a 2002 Michael Punke novel about real-life folk hero Hugh Glass, ‘The Revenant’ stars Leonardo DiCaprio (gruff, committed, unreadable) as a fur trapper and frontiersman left for dead by his colleagues in a wintry American landscape after he is viciously shredded by a grizzly bear. Glass survives, and he hauls his damaged body through snow, across rivers, up rocks and over plains, driven by revenge. In his sights is John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy, savage with a dash of black humour), the man responsible for abandoning him to die and for forcing him to watch as his young son (of mixed-race parentage) is murdered in front of his eyes. So, no, it’s not a happy tale. But what survives from ‘Birdman’ is a compelling, forward-moving, simple approach to storytelling that grips us through stretches of silence and misery. The film's relentlessness itself becomes magnetic. There are times when 'The Revenant' feels like one long and unforgiving act of sadism, mostly directed at its lead character, but occasionally at us (a warning: the film is long, the dialogue is minimal and the violence is sharp). There are moments, too, that feel like parodies of awards-hungry acting, such as when we see DiCaprio chomping on raw animal organ

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Film

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Literary mash-up ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ was 2009’s must-have stocking filler, the kind of last-minute impulse buy that bookshops stuck next to their tills like Snickers in a supermarket. The questions facing this handsome, decently budgeted movie adaptation are: how many of the people who bought the book ever bothered to read it, and how many of those are going to make the effort to catch it on the big screen seven years later? Lily James (‘Cinderella’) plays Elizabeth Bennett, the brittle daughter of a down-at-heel aristocratic family who falls out of and into love with Mr Darcy (Sam Riley), a smokin’ rogue with a razor wit. Only in this vision of Jane Austen’s nineteenth-century, England is overrun by shuffling brain-eaters so young ladies study martial arts instead of sewing. By far the most enjoyable scenes here are those in which James and her sisters engage in girly gossip while cleaning rifles, polishing samurai swords and beating the crap out of each other. It’s the zombies that are the problem: watering down the violence for teenage audiences and playing fast and loose with undead mythology (zombies can talk now, apparently), the film flatlines the moment anyone draws a blade. The comedy, too, is played peculiarly straight: only Matt Smith seems to be having any fun, as a parsimonious parson who takes a shine to Elizabeth. The result is an odd, inconsequential but not entirely charmless misfire: an action-horror-comedy-romance with none of the first two an

Time Out says
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Film

The Big Short

Adam McKay's latest film is a gleeful tumble towards the apocalypse

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