Our guide to (almost) everything else you might want to see this weekend with a big bucket of popcorn in hand.
Movies are back – again – only this time the cinemas are bringing out the big guns.
No more trickle of made-for-streaming titles while we wait for long-delayed new releases.
Now each week bring yet another long-awaited title designed to get you up off the couch and down to the nearest cinema to see what all the fuss is about.
But which ones are worth the trip?
Note: James Bond review is currently underway and will be added ASAP. Hang tight on that one.
Marvel goes epic in this two-and-a-half hour, seven thousand year saga that still ends up involving super-powered people fighting monsters. Sent to Earth by the Celestial space god Arishem solely to battle creatures known as Deviants (which explains why they didn’t turn up during any of the previous 25-odd Marvel movies) the Eternals are immortal ageless figures who have spent the last seven thousand years inspiring humanity’s myths and legends. They include Sersi (Gemma Chan), who can manipulate inanimate materials; Ikaris (Richard Madden), who can fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes; fireball shooting Bollywood star Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani); the illusion-projecting Sprite (Lia McHugh) who will forever remain a child; the mind-controlling Druig (Barry Keoghan); Gilgamesh (Don Lee), who has power fists; Makkari (Lauren Lidloff), who runs fast and is deaf; Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), the tech guy who has Marvel’s first on-screen gay kiss; Thena (Angelia Jolie), a warrior with Space Alzheimer’s; and Ajax (Selma Hayek), their leader, whose death kick-starts the story.
That’s a lot, and while the plot is mostly just about the team getting back together this still manages to feel both over-stuffed and a little thin. The flashbacks to their historical adventures are fun and filled with life; the present day scenes are sombre and largely empty. There are big moments that work and character moments that have real impact, but the scale this is straining for – it’s literally about whether people should follow God’s plan for them – gets exhausting. It’s great to see Marvel trying something slightly different, but this ends up showing off the Marvel formula’s limitations as much as its strengths
The Many Saints of Newark
Don’t be fooled by the publicity; while this does feature a young Tony Soprano (played convincingly by James Gandolfini’s son Michael), he’s a minor player in this Sopranos prequel. The real focus here is the trials and tribulations of Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), mid-level player in the New Jersey mob during the late 60s and early 70s; Tony’s a lurking background presence, slowly drawn into the mob life.
While there’s plenty of Sopranos characters lurking around the in the background – some vividly re-created, others verging on parody – it’s Dickie who’s the star, both of the film and on the streets of Newark. But his troubles with his mobbed-up father “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti (Ray Liotta), who’s just returned from Italy with new wife Giuseppina (Michela De Rossi), hint at deeper issues.
Written by Sopranos’ creator David Chase, this is a solid but rarely spectacular mob movie that probably would have worked better if it had been turned into a miniseries (or lost a few supporting characters). Individual scenes often stand out and Dickie’s character arc is a strong central theme, but multiple callbacks to events mentioned in the original series leave the film feeling more aimless than it needs to be (the musical choices, on the other hand, are uniformly spot-on).
Shang Chi and the Legend of the Five Rings
Shaun (Simu Liu) spends his days parking cars at a hotel in San Francisco with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) and his nights singing karaoke, again with his best friend Katy. Her family thinks they’re wasting their lives; his family… isn’t mentioned. Then a mysterious band of thugs attack them on a bus looking to steal the jade pendant his mother gave him, it turns out his previously unmentioned martial arts skills are irrepressible, and one demolished bus later Shaun / Shang is off to Macau with Katy in tow to find his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) in an illegal superpowered fight club.
Turns out their father is Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung), possessor of the legendary Ten Rings (though what kind of legend are they when everyone knows he has them?) and chief of a thousand year-old crime society. Wenwu put his crime life into hibernation when he fell in love with their mother (Fala Chen), who was the guardian of Ta Lo, a mysterious supernatural village. She’s been dead for over a decade – only their father, now back on the evil side of the street, thinks he has a way to bring her back…
A run of decent fights early on and some fun chemistry between the two leads provides some strong bedrock for what turns out to be a fairly solid, if only moderately spectacular, Marvel origin story. It works not because superheroes and martial arts are a logical fit (most superhero fights have at least some martial arts thrown in there somewhere), but because the super-heroic stuff is kept to a bare minimum. It’s a Disney martial arts movie that occasionally makes off-hand references to the rest of the Marvel universe, and it’s all the better for it.
The Last Duel
There are three chapters in this 150-minute epic about the last legal duel to the death in France, each titled “The Truth according to…” depending on which one of the three leads is the focus. That’s right, it’s a “he said, she said” take on medieval society and social climbing, though as the story revolves around an accusation of rape it should come as no surprise that one version is presented as more truthful than the rest.
The first version comes from Matt Damon’s Jean De Carrouges, an old plodder who’s good at surviving battles and not a whole lot else, which is a problem because his local ruler, Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck) likes winners and partying. Unfortunately for him, his friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) has the social skills to pay the bills – literally, as he becomes the Count’s tax collector and close confidant. Both men’s versions have De Carrouges’ wife Marguerite (Jodie Comer), first privately then publicly claiming she was raped by Le Gris, which eventually leads to the duel that opens and closes this film. When we finally get her version – her chapter opens the same as the others, only when the other words fade from the screen “the truth” lingers – neither version is shown to be correct.
This window into the past is murky at best, full of modern language and cliches (the King is a giggling fool, priests are sinister, women are gossipy backstabbers, mothers-in-law are nasty, etc), only rarely hinting at just how different the world of 600-odd years ago was. The point is clearly to make a medieval #metoo movie to show how little has changed, but director Ridley Scott is unwilling to make this a clear-cut tale of good versus evil, and unable to present the central events with any real level of ambiguity, all that’s left is a repetitive study of an ugly, petty time. At least the duel itself is exciting to watch.
And at the Pivotonian:
Nitram isn’t technically about Martin Bryant, the mass murderer who killed 35 people and wounded 23 others at Tasmania’s Port Arthur in April 1996. His name is never spoken and the setting of the film is never made clear (eagle-eyed viewers will notice a clearly visible “Geelong” in the background at one stage; Nitram was filmed in and around there). Details have been changed, and lead character (Caleb Landry Jones), who’s only referred to as Nitram, doesn’t always behave like real Bryant did.
It does follow his life in broad strokes. A loner mocked and ignored by his peers, his only friend is eccentric heiress Helen (Essie Davis). Her sudden death leaves him both cashed-up and isolated; his parents (Anthony LaPaglia and Judy Davis) don’t know how to deal with him. The family scenes are the most powerful in this unsettling, almost aimless film. Otherwise Nitram stalks the screen an outcast, failing to connect with others and himself, collecting guns seemingly without purpose – which makes the story’s conclusion both shocking and unexplained. It’s a memorable film, but there’s no answers here.
The Killing of Two Lovers
Opening with a gun-toting man standing over two sleeping people, the tension rarely dips in this gruelling look at a father trying to salvage a family that might be better off without him. The man is David (Clayne Crawford) a shabby small town handyman who started a family straight out of high school with Nikki (Sepideh Moafi). They’re now spending time apart to “work things out”, which for her means sleeping with Derek (Chris Coy). David tries to keep it together in front of the kids while their eldest daughter (Avery Pizzuto) demands he “fight for them”, but his muddled rage isn’t something anyone wants uncorked.
Writer-director Robert Machoian’s fondness for long takes, fixed framing and casual-seeming dialogue gives a gripping, almost documentary feel to David’s struggle, He’s confused, weak and angry. Everyone else largely fades into the background, creating the uneasy sense that we’re meant to side with – or just sympathise with – a man who points a gun at his wife.