It’s just after the end of World War 2, and Rachael Morgan (Kiera Knightly) has arrived in the ruined German city of Hamburg to meet up with her husband Lewis. He’s a colonel in the British Army whose job is to help in the rebuilding of the city, and, as rank has its privileges, they’ve been assigned a luxurious mansion untouched by the bombing to live in. The home’s owner, a widowed architect (Alexander Skarsgård), seems happy to move out (his teenage daughter, less so), and Rachael is equally happy to have him gone, the war’s end having done nothing to diminish her loathing of the Germans who killed her son. But Lewis is a more kindly soul, and asks the German family and their servants to stay on – which may not have been the wisest move, as his long stretches away at work allow tensions of a sexual kind of rise at home… This is fairly predictable terrain for a romance and there aren’t a whole lot of surprises here, but the various post-war dramas scattered around do give it an interesting edge – and a few moments of action. Strong performances from all three leads ensure nobody’s all bad or good, which makes this engaging film more good than bad.
When orphan 13 year-old Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is given super-powers by a wizard (Djimon Hounsou) to defeat the Seven Deadly Sins and their human puppet Dr Sivana (Mark Strong), he does what any teen would do: uses his all-grown-up superhuman form (Zachary Levi) to buy beer, get out of school, and become a YouTube sensation. This is the DC universe in kid-friendly mode, amping up the silliness (to be fair, the hero formerly known as Captain Marvel is one of their sillier characters) and keeping the tone light without depriving audiences of superhero thrills. It’s as much about family and friendship – Billy’s growing bond with fellow group home resident Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) is the surprisingly tender heart of this film – as it is about running around punching bad guys, with Levi giving a note-perfect performance as a kid enjoying his superhero status the most when he’s using them to do the least. Some of the jokes aren’t the freshes, but even the old “let’s test your powers” is fun to watch: this really does get just about everything right, and the result is easily the strongest DC universe film since Wonder Woman. It’s all-ages fun that’s funny and has a real sense of wonder to it; it’s the superhero film you didn’t know you needed.
A doctor (Jason Clarke) moves his family to a small rural town to get back to nature. Unfortunately, what lurks in the woods behind his house is anything but natural. If the local pet cemetery wasn’t creepy enough, his neighbour (John Lithgow) lets him in on a little secret; anything dead that gets buried in the barren land behind the pet cemetery – it’s not an Indian burial ground, as it was too evil even for the local tribes who used to live in the region – comes back to life. It’s bad enough when it’s the family cat Church back from the dead all stinky and hissing, but when the massive trucks that roar past his front gate finally take their obvious toll, will our hero go against everything he thought he believed in? Well, obviously: while the original Stephen King novel was largely about grief and despair, the 1989 movie boiled it down to a mildly creepy slasher, and this follows firmly in that film’s footsteps. There are a few minor twists that don’t add much (and in one case, take away a lot), but it’s a firmly traditional horror movie with plenty of jump scares and some decent gore; like everything else that comes out of that burial ground, it’s shabby but it gets the job done.
In 1986, a young girl (Madison Curry) wanders off from her parents at the Santa Cruz boardwalk and finds herself in an increasingly creepy hall of mirrors where something worse than a reflection awaits. In the present day, a firmly middle-class family are on their way to a Santa Cruz beach house holiday: dad Gabe (Winston Duke), children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex), and twitchy mother Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), who, it turns out, was the girl on the boardwalk all those years ago. Being this close to where it all happened has Adelaide firmly on edge, and a trip to the actual beach to spend time with their rich buddies Kitty (Elizabeth Moss) and Josh (Tim Heidecker) doesn’t help her mood any. She’s haunted by the idea that somewhere out there she has a doppelganger out to do her harm. When a mysterious family, all dressed in red, appears at the end of their driveway that night, it’s just the beginning of a very bloody nightmare come true. Writer-director Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out is a bigger, messier tale that lacks his first film’s brain-twisting impact, but still delivers a bunch of chilling thrills in a thought-provoking package. Creepy rather than overtly gory, it’s a horror movie that stays with you.
EVERYBODY KNOWS (Screening at the Pivotonian Cinema)
There’s a big family wedding taking place in a small town in Spain, and Laura (Penelope Cruz) and her two children have come from Argentina (her husband couldn’t make it) to help celebrate Laura’s sister’s happy day. Laura’s oldest daughter Irene (Carla Campra) is a wild child who likes taking risks, drinking, and talking about running away – then suddenly during the wedding reception she’s gone, and a pile of newspaper clippings about kidnapping have taken her place. Laura’s best friend Paco (Javier Bardem) takes charge of the investigation but her family resents him, and their shared past becomes one more factor in a nightmare that slowly enfolds them all. Writer-director Asghar Farhadi skilfully tips the mood from sunlight fun to dark and gloomy drama as the kidnapping progresses, slowly turning this family drama into a real tragedy.
Films reviewed by Anthony Morris