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Judy
Film

Judy

This strenuous but soapy real-life drama adapted from Peter Quilter’s play ‘End of the Rainbow’ bookends Judy Garland’s life in a way that leaves no doubt over who it blames for the star’s later-life struggles. Hollywood – embodied in the bullying, Weinstein-like form of mogul Louis B Mayer (the ‘M’ in MGM) – is shown stage-managing her life, plying her with pills and crushing her self-esteem, reminding her that she was nothing without its spotlights shining down on her. MGM, the studio that would make ‘Gaslight’, got in some early practice in the art with the budding starlet. The dramatic choice to bolt on scenes of the young Judy (Darci Shaw) prepping for ‘The Wizard of Oz’ leaves it feeling disjointed and reductive in parts. Each of her travails – pills, booze, insomnia – gets its own origin story as ‘Judy’ jags back and forth between the early years and the 47-year-old version (Renée Zellweger) enjoying a final hurrah on the London stage. It puts its protagonist on the couch and offers a diagnosis when it would have been much better off letting its iconic star speak for herself. Its trump card, of course, is Zellweger, who blows through the film in a gust of jittery energy, wounded ego and half-buried star quality. The transformation is startling, with dark lenses and a birdlike physicality essaying a faded but still formidable life force who’s at once unknowable and, by 1969, wildly over-exposed. We see her bitter feud with ex-husband Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) and a l

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Bacurau
Film

Bacurau

Mobile reception is on the fritz, the local water supply has been stopped up, there’s a UFO-shaped drone flying about overhead and someone’s starting picking off the locals one-by-one. Welcome to the Brazilian town of Bacurau, the dusty hardscrabble setting for a supremely violent guilty pleasure of a movie that crams elements of the western, John Carpenter-y thriller beats, some mordant wit and a streak of peppery political commentary into one hugely entertaining modern exploitation flick. ‘Bacurau’, the opening credits note, is set ‘a few years from now’ – although there’s little that’s futuristic in evidence. The town is a tight-knit community in the scrubby sertão of the country’s remote northeast, cut off and mostly self-sufficient. The film opens with the town mourning the death of the local matriarch, Carmelita, grousing about the corrupt authorities and gossiping about Lunga, a local outlaw holed up nearby. The place is big enough to have its own DJ but small enough for him to address the inhabitants individually during his alfresco broadcasts. Co-writer/directors Kleber Mendonça Filho (‘Aquarius’) and his one-time production designer Juliano Dornelles use these opening scenes to establish the tight bonds of this community and introduce a rich tableau of characters: from the sharp-tongued and boozy local doctor (Sônia Braga) and the local troubadour who converts local legend into song to the reformed gangster with a past so chequered, there’s a whole YouTube video o

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Apocalypse Now
Film

Apocalypse Now

No deleted scenes or unseen Sheen, just a straight remaster and reissue for the relatively lean, unrelentingly mean original cut of Coppola’s massive man-on-a-mission masterpiece. Shorn of its ‘Redux’ excesses, which transformed this already epic film into something sprawling, unwieldy and soap-operatic (if still brilliant), it’s remarkable how slick and streamlined the film feels: five guys in a boat, and the river only goes one way.Not that there isn’t room for experimentation. The central storyline – Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is tasked with tracking down and executing Marlon Brando’s rogue Colonel Kurtz – is essentially a slender thread upon which Coppola and his co-writer John Milius hang a number of increasingly wild asides. But these brief, brutal and seemingly unconnected incidents work together to drive the film forward: in their very randomness, they build a picture of a war being fought without strategy or clear intent, making Willard’s mission simultaneously clearer and more morally meaningless.In contrast to Coppola’s earlier ‘The Godfather Part II’ and ‘The Conversation’, ‘Apocalypse Now’ isn’t a conspicuously ‘smart’ film: literary references aside, there are no intellectual pretensions here. Instead, as befits both its tortuous hand-to-mouth genesis and the devastating conflict it reflects, this is a film of pure sensation, dazzling audiences with light and noise, laying bare the stark horror – and unimaginable thrill – of combat. And therein lies the true

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker
Film

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker

No one's ever really gone... Rey's journey continues and the Skywalker saga concludes in Star Wars

Jumanji: The Next Level
Film

Jumanji: The Next Level

A 2017 reboot of an old Robin Williams caper, ‘Jumanji’ turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It kept just the core idea of the 1995 original – a boardgame tries to kill its players – and gave it a modern tweak and loads of ‘Big’-style charm. And guess what? The sequel is even better. At the end of the first film, four teenagers had survived living inside a video game and learned that you can be more than people expect you to be. A couple of years later, three are thriving but one has decided he wants to go back to Jumanji. For gawky Spencer (Alex Wolf), real life cannot compare to a videogame where he got to inhabit The Rock. Hard to blame him, really. The plot mechanics – beat the game, learn some lessons – are broadly the same, but there’s a new twist: old people. Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie (Danny DeVito) and his estranged friend Milo (Danny Glover) accidentally join the game. And this time it’s Eddie who gets The Rock avatar. It can’t be overstated how much joy there is in watching The Rock pretend to be a short, cranky old man. He’s now the doofus of the group, rather than the hero, and it works perfectly. The comedy gets increasingly bonkers – a horse joins the cast as a lead character; there are body swaps within body swaps – but it’s always silly rather than stupid. It’s enormous fun and played with all the subtlety it demands (none) by an excellent cast. The final credits suggest the game may not be quite over. Bring it on. 

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars

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Mary, Queen of Scots
Film

Mary, Queen of Scots

How much fun would it be to watch an alternate version of ‘Game of Thrones’ in which all the boring men cowered behind trees while two female dragons circled overhead? You may be wondering about that while taking in ‘Mary Queen of Scots’, visually dull and intriguing in only the most generic sense, but still a showcase for the twin talents of Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. For their royal viciousness alone, the movie is almost worth seeing, even if the backbiting is nowhere near as killer as ‘The Favourite’ (it’s a good time to be an onscreen monarch). Technically, this is Ronan’s movie: She plays the titular role, Mary Stuart, estranged from her native Scotland, reared Catholic in France and already widowed as a teenager. In 1561, Mary is returning home to a mess of competing claims to power. For all the soulfulness Ronan has summoned elsewhere – her performances in ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Lady Bird’ are worthy of the silent era’s most iconic turns – she’s a little stiff here, uneasy in the saddle, and wasted on moments of grandeur and hot-blooded pronouncements. Fortunately, ‘I, Tonya’s Robbie is happy to pick up the slack as England’s ruling Elizabeth, cursed with bad skin, worse wigs, defective ovaries and a scheming cousin in Mary. They’re rivals, but the script (by Beau Willimon, based on John Guy's 2004 biography) awkwardly constructs only one scene for them to play against each other. No matter: Long before the verbal fireworks of that final showdown, Robbie is exuding lo

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Creed 2
Film

Creed 2

The word ‘yo’ has a near-sacred status in the lunkheaded ‘Rocky’ universe; it can be soft or hard, gentle or a throwdown. In ‘Creed II’, it comes reverently, with a marriage proposal and, later, the birth of a child. That’s not an accident: As with 2015’s affecting ‘Creed’, the sequel wants to consecrate every verse of Stallone scripture, bowing deeply to Rocky ‘IV’s clash of superpowers (both Dolph Lundgren and an icy Brigitte Nielsen are back), and evangelising on behalf of the franchise. The people making this movie know all the beats they have to hit, and hit them they do, jab by jab. If the results aren’t as artful as those by ‘Creed’ director Ryan Coogler (Steven Caple Jr. steps in), they still feel earned. That’s chiefly due to actor Michael B. Jordan, the linchpin of the rebooted series, who again makes hay with the role of rising young boxer Adonis Creed, rife with daddy issues. Last time, Jordan leaned hard into the story of a humble son chasing a ghost, Apollo Creed, gone before his child could know him. Now, Adonis is all but avenging him, confronting his father’s murderer in the ring in the form of Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the hulking progeny of Lundgren’s iconic Russian heavyweight Ivan. (‘It all feels so Shakespearean,’ articulates one commentator for the cheap seats; the script is sometimes coarse.) You won’t need to refresh on the ’80s films to know that the bout doesn’t go well: Adonis lets the mojo go to his head and his pre-fight entrance into Bro

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Escape Room
Film

Escape Room

The current craze for escape rooms – in which groups solve puzzles to be released – was bound to inspire a horror film, so it’s gratifying to discover that ‘Escape Room’ is more than just a cheap teens-in-peril cash-in. Six strangers – shy physics student (Taylor Russell), shelf-stacking slacker (Logan Miller), escape room addict (Nik Dodani), long-distance trucker (Tyler Labine), smarmy stockbroker (Jay Ellis) and Iraq war vet (Deborah Ann Woll) – receive mysterious invitations to an exclusive escape room, unaware of something else they have in common. At first, the apparent danger of the traps seems to be part of the experience – but before you can say ‘The figure in the painting is pointing at the book!’, the players realise that they’ll be lucky to escape with their lives.Adam Robitel, director of 2014’s underrated supernatural horror ‘The Taking of Deborah Logan’, gets the blood pumping right from the off, trapping the audience in a room with one of the contestants as the walls close in, splintering furniture and shredding nerves with equal gusto. This scene acts as something of a spoiler for what follows, as we know – or think we know – who’s going to make it and who isn’t. But the tricksy screenplay stays one step ahead and is smart enough that, while the audience can’t participate in the physical puzzles – each staged as an elaborate and impressive set piece – it can still try to figure out what’s going on behind the screams. There’s more than a measure of ‘Saw’ abou

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
The Upside
Film

The Upside

It’s déjà vu as the life-affirming hit French comedy-drama ‘The Intouchables’, the true story of a bromance between a wealthy quadriplegic man and his black live-in carer from the projects (aka the American version of a council estate), gets the Hollywood treatment. This really is an incredibly cheesy remake – and the original was already pretty cheesy – starring ‘Breaking Bad’ actor Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart, doing their best with a script that cracks out all the odd-couple movie clichés.  It’s nicely acted though. Cranston plays billionaire investor Phillip, paralysed from the neck down after a paragliding accident. When his secretary (Nicole Kidman) advertises for a carer, Phillip hires the least qualified candidate Dell (Hart). Not long out of prison, Dell only shows up at the interview to keep his parole officer sweet. Is Phillip charmed by his humour and realness? Or because he suspects that Dell won’t ignore his Do Not Resuscitate order? A good deal of seen-it-before buddy comedy follows, as Phillip introduces Dell to highbrow culture, while Dell gets his boss high on marijuana. The script even nicks that bit from ‘Pretty Woman’ where Julia Roberts cries at the opera. That’s not to say The Upside is a complete write-off. The two actors bounce off each like ping-pong balls. Cranston in particular, acting only with his face, brings humanity and intelligence to a flimsy part – and it’s pretty funny in places. But there’s no ignoring the fact that the characters are

Time Out says
2 out of 5 stars
The Sisters Brothers
Film

The Sisters Brothers

You don’t need a deep love of westerns to get a kick out of Jacques Audiard’s (‘Dheepan’) wry, surprising, and often plain hilarious frontier story set in 1851 Oregon and California. Sure, there’s all the shootouts, smoky saloons and liquor-soaked gunslingers a genre aficionado could ask for, but at its generous heart, the Frenchman’s first English-language film is a road movie about a pair of bickering siblings who just happen to be bounty hunters. The emotional beats are deep-felt and the one-liners come thick and fast. It’s contemplative at times too, taking time to chew over its characters’ hopes and dreams. Imagine ‘Midnight Run’ with saddle sores and you wouldn’t be too far from the mark.Audiard immediately establishes the lethal bona fides of the brothers, Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli Sisters (John C Reilly) – and their odd-couple chemistry – with a striking nocturnal gunfight. It begins with distant muzzle flashes and a bullet-ridden cabin and ends, like so many of the scenes to come, with the pair grousing enjoyably at each other. This job, it turns out, was on behalf of the pair’s paymaster, a malicious and mostly unseen figure known as ‘The Commodore’. Soon he has another one for them: to trek across the state and kill a man by the name of Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed), a guileful chemist with a new formula for refining gold. To make things easier, Jake Gyllenhaal’s detective, John Morris, will have him apprehended and ready to turn over. At least, that’s the theor

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars