Things to do this week
Films showing this week
The title hints at where this 3D Disney adaptation of the Rapunzel story is heading. Referring not just to our heroine’s hairdo but to her complex personal life, it nods at the breezy, flippant, tween-friendly tone the film adopts. Erstwhile popstrel Mandy Moore voices Rapunzel, whose lonely existence imprisoned in a tall tower with only a cheeky chameleon for company is enlivened when she meets brash outlaw Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi), and sets out to discover her true identity. Taking its cue from the likes of ‘Shrek’ and ‘Enchanted’, ‘Tangled’ tries to keep kids entertained while tipping ironic winks to their parents, meaning it veers wildly between being charmingly off-kilter and annoyingly glib. With two such bland heroes, it’s good that plenty of attention is paid to the supporting characters, notably old-school witchy villain Mother Gothel and a bad tempered but loveable horse. The result is brisk, witty and entertaining, but far from classic Disney.
Tom Cruise is 56 years old. Fifty. Six. And he’s been making ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies for 22 of those 56 years. By all rights, ‘Fallout’, his sixth high-flying mission, should be to ‘M:I’ what ‘A View to a Kill’ was to Roger Moore’s Bond (Moore being only a year older than Cruise is when he made his final 007): tired, creaky and a bit embarrassing.Astonishingly, however, the opposite is true. This is easily the best, slickest and most daring ‘Mission: Impossible’ instalment. Not only that, it’s the finest action movie of the year so far. The bait-and-switching, double-crossing plot twists and twists again, with Hunt still haunted by his now-incarcerated ‘Rogue Nation’ nemesis Solomon Lane (a superbly creepy Sean Harris) and dealing with the global terrorist power vacuum left by Lane’s capture, but you won’t care with all the sinew-straining spectacle on show.This is thanks largely to writer-director Christopher McQuarrie. Being the first director to return for a second go at the franchise, he brings a sense of continuity hitherto lacking. ‘Fallout’ is a direct sequel to ‘Rogue Nation’, bringing back most of the key players and upping the stakes from the most knowing of perspectives. McQuarrie also builds on the last film’s self-aware level of wit and, most importantly, its set-piece-crafting sophistication.No action sequence is allowed to peter out, or be chopped to ribbons in the edit, or lean on the crutch of CG augmentation. From a frantic Parisian chase to a brutal br
Superheroes may save the world, but parenthood requires skills far more advanced than extendable limbs. Brad Bird’s 'Incredibles 2' – Pixar’s most spirited sequel since 'Toy Story 3' – lovingly expresses this certainty through a bighearted familial portrait wrapped in ’60s-inspired design. But the film’s disarming appeal lies in its simpler moments of domesticity, in which the members of the all-superhero Parr family lift each other up and fight for relevance in a world of indifference. Still underground with criminalised superpowers and a destroyed home, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and their children, Violet, Dash and the explosive baby Jack-Jack, quietly live in a dingy motel. Their luck turns when a pair of wealthy siblings – the naive Winston and brainy inventor Evelyn (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) – offer them a chance to restore the Supers’ reputation. While the sensible Elastigirl serves as the fearless face of the mission, Mr. Incredible hilariously Mr. Moms his way through the kids’ homework, boy troubles and newly emerging superpowers. When the state-of-the-art villain Screenslaver disturbs the picture, the entire crew, including the previous film’s charismatic ice maker Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), joins the good fight. 'Incredibles 2' comes supercharged with timely, sophisticated themes around societal apathy and gender parity. While slightly overplotted in its finale, the sleek sequel still glows with grown-up wit, with cr
British director Daniel Kokotajlo’s gripping, thorny debut film tackles religious fundamentalism through the lens of an all-female Jehovah’s Witness family. Living in Oldham, single mum Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) and her two young daughters, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) and Alex (Molly Wright), are devout, attending services and going door-to-door to spread the word. However, an act of transgression against their faith’s oppressive rules raises the stakes to dramatic levels. The church’s elders insist on total commitment or expulsion from the community. Kokotajlo draws on his own experiences as a former Witness to bring intelligence and nuance to the story. His characters are never lambasted for their beliefs, but neither do they go unquestioned. It is a quietly brilliant work that balances the conflicts of three women, and the trio of actresses playing them give stunning performances. The drama moves through the stark interiors of their Kingdom Hall, the family’s terraced house and drab office spaces. The stifling atmosphere echoes the community’s oppressive systems. Close-ups draw us in on moments of silent anguish with an almost voyeuristic intimacy. For all his craft, Kokotajlo’s greatest triumph is in portraying a community of fundamentalists with such compassion, shining a light on rarely explored subject matter in a way that never feels exploitative. This is a standout British drama that pointedly asks us to question the strictures of institutionalised religion.
In a year with no Baz Luhrmann movie, ‘The Greatest Showman’ fills the gap with a big, brassy, unashamedly over-the-(big)-top circus musical with one eye on the multiplex and one on the pop charts. As befits an origin story for legendary American impresario, entrepreneur and snake oil salesman PT Barnum and his troupe of talented oddballs and outsiders, it’s low on subtlety, high on spectacle and crams its poppy, hummable tunes so far down your ear holes you’ll need a Q-tip to fish them out. First-time director Michael Gracey packs the big numbers with visual snap, but this is the Hugh Jackman show all the way. The Aussie engages likeability, hips and vocal chords to haul us into the film’s rich nineteenth-century fantasia and Barnum’s giddy journey from scrappy outsider to wealthy circus master. The story swaggers forward in a swirl of choreographed pop numbers by ‘La La Land’ songwriters Pasek and Paul as Barnum recruits his novelty acts. This ‘X-Men’ meets ‘America’s Got Talent’ posse includes Keala Settle’s bearded lady, Zendaya’s acrobat and Sam Humphrey’s diminutive Tom Thumb. Standing between his circus ‘freaks’ and showbiz stardom is an angry mob of protesters and Paul Sparks’ frosty theatre critic, a snobbish cipher for high society’s contempt for Barnum’s rowdy new art form. There are obvious parallels in all this with the culture war currently waging in America, and between the grasping, PR-savvy Barnum and Donald Trump, but Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon’s script t
A cooler-than-thou band of criminals, a smoothly executed grand heist, flawless costumes. Expanding on the handsome attributes of the Ocean’s franchise with a radiant cast and sufficient NYC groove, ‘Hunger Games’ director Gary Ross’s ‘Ocean’s 8’ gives glossy multiplex entertainment a good name. Fully loaded with Anne Hathaway’s (often underutilised) comedic chops – her cunning movie-star character is the film’s secret weapon – and various high-profile cameos (Heidi Klum, Anna Wintour, Kim Kardashian, you name it), it packs in ample carats of glitz beyond its diamonds and sequinned designer gowns.Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, an ex-con proudly filling the shoes of her brother Danny (George Clooney, here only in spirit). She masterminds a complex scheme to steal a majestic Cartier necklace at New York’s elite fundraiser the Met Gala. Among her recruits are former associate Lou (an impeccably-suited Cate Blanchett) and the eccentric fashion designer Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), who’s yearning to resurrect her waning career by dressing the impishly seductive Daphne Kluger (Hathaway) for the exclusive event. Also in the squad are Mindy Kaling’s jewellery connoisseur, Sarah Paulson’s Vogue insider, Awkwafina’s sly con and the ultra-charismatic hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna, like you’ve never seen before.)‘Ocean’s 8’ sticks to the formula, though Ross never quite matches the breezy vigour of the Soderbergh-directed trilogy, but the jokes land and there’s a satisfying twist to
The plot of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ feels less like a sequel to the Robin Williams movie about the magical board game and more like ‘The Breakfast Club’, upgraded with body-switcheroo comedy and some retro ‘Indiana Jones’ thrills. It follows four high-school stereotypes sentenced to detention – jock, popular girl, nerd, brainiac – who find an old video console that sucks them into its jungle hell. Trapped inside the game, the gang find themselves in the bodies of its avatars. So the popular girl becomes Jack Black’s portly palaeontologist, the dorky kid is endowed with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s mega biceps, while brainy girl Martha is transformed into kickass heroine Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Humiliatingly, the jock turns into the wimpy sidekick (Kevin Hart). ‘Jumanji’ is mostly great fun, with Jack Black outrageously entertaining as a teenage girl. But we need to talk about Karen. As Ruby Roundhouse, Gillan is stuck in less clothes than one of Rihanna’s backing dancers. It’s a dig at the hypersexualisation of women in video games, apparently. If so, perhaps the male director or one of the four male writers can explain how fixing the camera on a skimpily dressed female character makes the point. n Cath Clarke
As irresistible as the fresh carrots that grow in Mr. McGregor’s garden, Peter Rabbitgives Beatrix Potter’s classic a modern makeover, complete with intricate animation, cute quips for older audiences and a sweet-natured journey that has you rooting for a happy ending for all involved. Vying for gorgeous grounds and his human next-door neighbor (Rose Byrne), the audacious Peter Rabbit (confidently voiced by James Corden) goes head-to-head with sour Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), who unexpectedly inherits the beautiful property of his estranged late uncle. The only thing the finicky Londoner detests more than the English countryside is the “vermin” inhabiting the land, so naturally we’re braced for a duel. Peter’s shenanigans, though certainly adorable, could have been curtailed for the sake of pacing: One electrocuting gag is plenty. But the lovable supporting crew—Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Cotton-Tail (Daisy Ridley) and Benjamin (Colin Moody)—makes up for any overdone mischief. Some may cringe at director-cowriter Will Gluck’s modifications (a bunny that twerks, music from the likes of Vampire Weekend and the ubiquitous Rachel Platten), and the heart-wrenching backstory of Peter’s parents might not be appropriate for the smallest of bunnies. (Save this one for young rabbits who can handle more mature content.) It’s certainly a new spin, but those who make the leap will do so vigorously.
If you’ve been pining for the fiery, political Spike Lee of ‘Do The Right Thing’ and ‘Malcolm X’, good news: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ has the director back to his energised best. Maybe the optimism of the Obama era robbed him of some of that righteous fury – which would be one explanation for the limp ‘Oldboy’ remake – or maybe middle age mellowed him; either way, Trump-era America – Charlottesville, Black Lives Matter and all – has brought the old mojo flooding back. Veering from blaxploitation spoof to undercover thriller and ending with a no-punches-pulled real-life coda, it’s riotous fun one minute, savagely biting the next. The story, as the opening credits chart, is based on some ‘fo’ real sh*t’. It’s the kind of ‘fo’ real sh*t’ it’s hard to believe actually happened in Nixon-era Colorado Springs, yet it’s all based on a true story. Black police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) joins the local force, where he’s warned that he’ll have to ‘take a lot of guff’. Sure enough, the guff comes thick and fast, as he’s exiled to the archives and harassed by a racist colleague. Spotting an ad for the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan and taking the initiative, he phones up ‘the organisation’ claiming to be a vitriolic white supremacist and sets in motion the most unlikely undercover operation in policing history. The first thrill of contact with the enemy is only slightly diminished by the realisation that he’s used his real name. Cue hysterics from his fellow cops. Of cou
Part horror yarn, part political parable, the ‘Purge’ franchise is a fascinating one, each film serving up grisly episodes from the conceit (12 government-sanctioned hours of legal crime). It began as a take on class, then took on race, and increasingly each time, politicians – this prequel, released on July 4, with a Trump-baiting promotional campaign and overt references to real-world events within – one handsy psycho goblin is screamed at for being a ‘pussy-grabbing motherfucker’ – is, as is already clear, not subtle. But subtlety is not a friend of these films. The timeline is bewildering but prescient. The first film, released in 2013, was set a few years in the future, informing us that the first purge took place in 2018. And now we have that first purge, indeed in 2018, reflecting current happenings more keenly than ever. Staten Island plays host to this inaugural, experimental event, in which residents are financially incentivised to stick around for the night, and paid yet more to actively participate (ie kill people). The idea, the public is told, is mass soul-cleansing. A social catharsis. Nobody quite buys it, least of all the ruling party the NFAA, who announce that ‘the American dream is dead’, promising a rebirth. There is, of course, more sadistic stuff at play. This film realises the conceit more wholly than its predecessors, and for an hour or so feels properly nightmarish as we ride along with purgers and protectors, notions of good and bad, right and wro