Things to do in Edinburgh this week
Former Squeeze and Mike and the Mechanics member dubbed ‘The Man With the Golden Voice’ brings his current solo wears to town, from his latest album ‘Rain or Shine’, among assorted career-spanning hits.
Join in a family fun-day at the Queen's official Scottish residence, with games, fancy dress, activities, face-painting and an easter egg hunt.
An outstanding collection of 20th and 21st century portraits.
The exhibition explores the Scottish experience of Italy in the 18th-century.
Films showing this week
Who knows what makes mountain climber Alex Honnold – the daredevil at the heart of the so-terrifying-you’ll-hyperventilate ‘Free Solo’ – risk his life thousands of feet up with no ropes or securing gear of any kind. Maybe it’s a quest for perfection, or a death wish, or a unique biological inability to feel fear, or a pursuit of the ‘goddamn warrior spirit’ (his own words). All of these possibilities are suggested during this mesmerising documentary, but you won’t be looking for an explanation. Just like the sheer rock face, El Capitan, that looms like a one-kilometre-tall dare, Honnold himself is a force of nature: shy, prone to solitude and, by his own admission, potentially on the autism spectrum. He studies the complex moves in his climbing journal and waits for the right moment to head out, and up. Already a gripping watch, ‘Free Solo’ becomes extra special when it widens out to accommodate the people hanging on to Honnold’s vertical trajectory. We see him transition living in a van practising pull-ups to settling down with a doting girlfriend. Sanni McCandless takes huge emotional risks in getting close to Alex, who might die because of a single misstep, but his evolution through their relationship is heart-meltingly romantic – and ominous. Will it destroy his concentration? Meanwhile, a crew of rappelling cameramen, led by co-director Jimmy Chin, wrestles with its own ethical questions. Are they enabling decisions that could result in a fatality, all for the sake of a
‘I hope your kids have bad influences and develop bad personalities,’ says the well-to-do dad of three suburban young adults as a putdown in the mysterious, bold ‘Dogtooth’, hinting at a unique approach to parenting of which Josef Fritzl would be proud. Director Giorgos Lanthimos gives us a middle-class Greek family, lorded over by a businessman father who keeps his three children within the walls of their smart home and teaches them the incorrect definitions of several new words each day (‘A motorway is a very strong wind’). These kids’ world is without outside interference: when their mother talks on the phone, they think she’s speaking to herself; when planes fly over, they think they’re toys. Perhaps the dad’s biggest mistake is to allow a security guard from work to enter their home and sexually satisfy his son. He doesn’t bargain on her trading gifts and ideas with his daughter for sexual favours. Nor does he pre-empt the danger of her lending his daughter videos of ‘Rocky’ and ‘Flashdance’.With hints of Haneke’s ‘The Seventh Continent’, Ian McEwan’s ‘The Cement Garden’ and even ‘Lord of the Flies’, Lanthimos has crafted a stunningly provocative and at times witty play on the inspirations that make us who we are. All families live by their own rules, and this drama takes that idea to its perverse and shocking conclusion. Lanthimos films these calamities in a quiet, observational style, with calm colours, subtle camera movements and gentle edits, lending an air of normal
This delightful animated feature from the studio behind the Minions movies takes a tired-sounding idea – a comedy set around a talent contest – and turns it into something winning and witty. ‘Sing’ is fast and frenetic, dashing from character to character, song to song. Our hero is a koala, Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), a throwback theatre owner-cum-producer down on his luck. With the help of his ageing female assistant, a lizard (voiced by the film’s writer-director Garth Jennings), Buster initiates a singing contest in an attempt to save his crumbling theatre. But a clerical error bumps the prize money up from $1000 to $100,000, and suddenly every singing beast in town is queueing at his door for a chance of winning the cash. There’s Johnny (Taron Egerton), a British gorilla uneasy with his father’s criminal lifestyle; Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), the harried porcine mother of 25 hungry piglets; Meena (Tori Kelly), an extremely shy elephant; Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a jilted porcupine; and Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a crooning, boastful mouse. Like the most effective TV talent shows, ‘Sing’ balances snapshots of each creature’s home life with their emergence into the spotlight of potential fame. The rush of familiar music – Queen, Elton John, Leonard Cohen – often sung by the voice actors themselves, can feel like listening to a karaoke jukebox in overdrive, but a welcome focus on relationships, emotions and other details of each character’s life stops this fee
We’re watching an extremely luxe pocket of 18th-century regal life in ‘The Favourite’, which means bewigged fops are scheming, the ducks are running (these people don’t lack for strange competitive indoor sports) and the offscreen organist is going for baroque. Even Stanley Kubrick knew to lay off his fish-eye lens once in a while. But Greek-born director Yorgos Lanthimos can’t say no. He warps his period chamber piece – loosely based on the highly competitive court of the unstable Queen Anne – into a Lewis Carroll semi-comic nightmare, piling cattiness upon cattiness. And what’s not to love about that? The constant visual and verbal bitchery feels like a pent-up release of something churning just under the surface of polite life. If this is your first Lanthimos movie, welcome. Know that you’re a little late to the party: Two of his prior films, the psychosexual meltdown ‘Dogtooth’ (2009), about a family that’s never allowed its grown-up kids to leave the house, and the equally vicious ‘The Lobster’ (2015), went darker and deeper than ‘The Favourite’, Lanthimos’s first that he hasn’t personally written. But like its predecessors, the new one has a sneaky empathy, sitting oddly amid so much bad behavior. What makes ‘The Favourite’ work are its women – who rule, both literally within the movie and outwardly, dominating our enjoyment. Unlike the similarly set ‘Barry Lyndon’ or ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, which had strong female characters toppled by the whims of strutting cocks, Lan
Not since Martin Scorsese followed up the Mob mayhem of ‘Casino’ with two hours of Buddhism in ‘Kundun’ has a director made such a pronounced movie-to-movie gear shift as Jon S. Baird does with his gentle follow-up to his 2013 Irvine Welsh adaptation, ‘Filth’. Cocaine squalor gives way to ‘Stan & Ollie’, a wistful, heartfelt celebration of the friendship between comedy giants Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C Reilly), which contains plenty of cosy movie-biz nostalgia and some mishaps with hats. It’s a love song played in a minor key, and it leaves an unexpectedly lingering impression. It’s also much more suitable for your nan, if you need an option. Scripted by ‘Philomena’s Jeff Pope (working closely from a book by Laurel and Hardy historian AJ Marriot), the story charts the duo’s final years as they embark on a grueling tour of British theaters while trying to get a new Robin Hood picture off the ground. It’s 1953, and the world has long since moved on from their brand of slapstick to new talents like Abbot and Costello. The crowds are thin and their prospects look thinner. Imagine ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ with extra pratfalls. The two leads are terrific: Reilly defies a slightly iffy fat suit to give us an avuncular but creaky Hardy, bemused by his friend’s work ethic and obsessed with the finer things in life. Coogan, in particular, is a revelation as Laurel, dialing down the trademark head-scratching mannerisms and unpeeling layers of disappointment and me
The specific New York City of 1991 – somehow harsher and more wintry, and still, a place of cozy antiquarian bookstores and down-on-their-luck dreamers in overcoats – comes to life in ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’, based on an actual literary misadventure. Paul Simon’s percolating, anxious ‘Can’t Run But’ dominates the movie’s soundtrack, and no number of scenes shot in Manhattan’s famous Julius’ bar, the whiskey flowing, can shake that restless mood. It’s atmosphere brewed to an expert degree of exactitude. With $14 in her wallet and a sad existence of sleeping in her clothes in a fly-infested apartment she can no longer afford, author Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy, easing into a rich, quietly dramatic turn) has reached the end of the line. Bristly and abrasive, she can’t sell her fusty celebrity biographies anymore; she steals toilet paper from her agent’s swanky pad and pushes away her lonely dead-end reality. Your heart leaps when she meets a bitchy kindred spirit in Jack (Richard E. Grant, uncorking the performance of his career), also coasting on an air of borrowed time: another gay survivor who remembers when things were easier. Honestly, that would have been enough for a film, especially when it has acting this relaxed, a witty, sad script (adapted from the late Israel’s memoir by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty) and The Diary of a Teenage Girl’s Marielle Heller behind the camera directing. But the movie is also a literary-hoax thriller, a slightly busy one, with Lee
Call this actors’ duet sentimental and simplistic at your own peril. ‘Green Book’ may well move you, possibly to tears, at the thought of real social change and kindness (at a time when we need it badly). Something of a reverse ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, it charts a road trip into racism shared by two well-worn stereotypes, characters that, almost surprisingly, come from real life – a true tale that happened in 1962. ‘Tony Lip’ Vallelonga (a pizza-chomping Viggo Mortensen) is a brutal, racist NYC club bouncer prone to howyadoins. On the hunt for work, he gets an unlikely gig at the invitation of Don Shirley (cryptic Mahershala Ali, superb), a finicky black jazz pianist who requires a tough driver to escort him on a tour of the Deep South. Tony’s no bleeding heart, but for the right price, he’s willing to swallow his pride. The mouth, however, can’t be closed: Tony cuts loose with deliriously rude arias about Little Richard, fried chicken and the proper way to write a love letter, and both actors shade their roles with unexpected nuance and a generosity of spirit. They widen the already spacious Cadillac into a stage for some of the most relaxed banter of the year. If you recall the movies that Green Book’s director Peter Farrelly made with his brother Bobby (‘There’s Something About Mary’, the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ saga), you won’t be surprised by the crassness or the unexpected heart, both Farrelly trademarks. The new film creates a beautiful friction eased by conversation – somewha
With so many animation franchises content to tread water—or in one interminable case, ice—it’s seriously refreshing to see a sequel that’s not only an upgrade on the original, but more thoughtful too. If Wreck-It Ralph launched us head-first into a 16-bit wonderland fit to blow the synapses of bright-eyed kids and weathered gamers alike, this surprisingly vibrant follow-up is a giddy, sugar-coated joy. And it’s an expansion pack that plugs in plenty of new ideas: about friendship, insecurity and the mind-bending transience of the online world. It’s not every animation that features an eBay-spoofing riff involving a corn chip shaped like Beyoncé. The story sends arcade-villain-turned-good guy Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and his new BFF, arcade racer Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), into the internet to find a new part for her broken arcade game. Their arcade’s newly installed “wifey”, as the endearingly slow-on-the-uptake Ralph calls it, is a portal to a host of opportunities for witty visual representations of cyberspace. If it’s sometimes a touch literal—the internet is a sci-fi city filled with buildings marked “Amazon” and “IMDb” and (presumably for legal reasons) “Buzzfood”—the finer world-building is sharp. Every facet of cyberspace has a walking, talking avatar, including a patronizing search engine that notes its “autofill is a touch aggressive today,” and weasely clickbait pop-ups that are shunted aside by ad-blockers clad like burly security men. Refr
Delivering old-school, kite-flying, chimney-sweeping nostalgia, Disney’s improbable sequel – coming a full 54 years after the original fantasy – is a risk that magically pays off. ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ is a defiantly nostalgic musical, not only in its gaslit 1930s London (the days of the ‘Great Slump’, as we learn), but also via its songs. Ace composer-lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman nail the retro mood. Even though this is a treat for Poppins fans of a certain age, flashes of modernity sneak through in Emily Blunt’s knowing nanny, purring through her impeccable pronunciation. ‘One never discusses a woman’s age,’ she snaps at the mystified now-grown-up family she all but re-adopts as her new personal project when, a generation later, her nannying is needed again. Mary’s umbrella-assisted descent from the heavens is a stand-up-and-cheer moment (as is a fleet-footed cameo by that original cock-er-nee, Dick Van Dyke), but there’s a deeper satisfaction in the songcraft that gives a thirtysomething Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) the quiet, McCartney-esque ‘A Conversation’, pitched amid his grief and loneliness.That is to say, there are kids in this update (a trio of relentlessly upbeat adorables) but they’re incidental to the real kids – lost adults who can get a handle on life’s cruel realities. Like the 1964 film, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ vibrates with economic anxiety: This time, house repossession and homelessness. It won’t take the wide-eyed presence of Hamilton’s Lin-M
Timothée Chalamet, all of 22 years old and indelible as two radically different kind of boyfriends in last year’s ‘Call Me by Your Name’ and ‘Lady Bird’, is doing major things in his new movie, ‘Beautiful Boy’ – things that no other actor of his generation is attempting. You have to go back to Marlon Brando to see these kind of heartbreaking frowns, the angelic face turned upward, wrestling with frustration. Chalamet is playing a college-bound kid derailed by drugs: meth, pills, everything. What he’s pulling off in a diner with Steve Carell (as the panicky out-of-his-depths dad) – a combination of cajoling, breaking down, acting fake-tough – is incredibly tricky. Even subtler are Chalamet’s wordless moments: a slack-jawed, Christian Bale-like zombie walk through a campus quad; a sober drive up the sunny California coast, Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ on the stereo, the dissatisfaction slowly creeping in. How much easier it would be to focus on Chalamet, doing the most overwhelming work of his young career, and not the earnest, seesawing movie around him. ‘Beautiful Boy’ is perfectly fine: unflinching where it needs to be, keenly attuned to the cyclical nature of relapsing along with the deeper blows to pride, trust and identity. It sometimes feels strenuous in making its points, but you’ll be too wrecked to call that a flaw. The script, loaded with sharp details, comes from the dual father-son memoirs of David and Nic Sheff; director Felix Van Groeningen gets out of the way o