Even if you aren’t overly familiar with the work of Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy, the duo’s distinctive image is synonymous with comedy and cinema. Jon S. Baird’s latest feature pulls back the curtain to explore the men behind the slapstick public personas. Years after their Hollywood heyday, Stan (Steve Coogan) persuades Ollie (John C. Reilly) to hit the road, and the pair embark on a live theatre tour of post-war Britain.
After transitioning his work from his native language to English, madcap Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has been making waves in the industry with his auteuristic style. His latest comedy The Favourite is a period drama which follows the trials and tribulations of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in the early 18th century. Suffering from gout, she becomes heavily reliant on her advisor Sarah (Rachel Weisz) to manage her affairs. When Sarah’s estranged cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace as a scullery maid, the Queen’s attention is soon divided, and a family feud ensues for her affection.
Theatre director Josie Rourke makes the transition from stage to screen with her feature film debut Mary Queen of Scots. Based on historian John Guy’s novel, the period drama chronicles the 1569 conflict between Scotland and England. When Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan) returns widowed to her native land at the age of eighteen, she and her Catholic nobles attempt to depose her cousin Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) from her throne.
“A Simple Favor is a film determined to entertain at all costs and that determination is intoxicating. Feig surrounds his neo-noir plot in fun, frothy comedy and together it serves as a playful showcase for the excellent leading ladies at the film’s centre”.
“Lady Bird is a warm and wacky love-letter to adolescence which marks an important directorial debut for Gerwig. The identifiable style and substance from her career-to-date has carried through into her craft behind the lens, and her work carries a lot of emotional baggage along with the whimsical humour”.
“Dumped (Larguées) is brilliantly blithe and full of fun, encapsulating the insouciant essence of a holiday in the sun. Time away from day-to-day trials and tribulations can offer up an opportunity to reflect, and while their trip is initially planned to help Françoise recover from her marital woes, hers isn’t the only emotional baggage that needs to be checked. Lang delivers an entertaining cinematic excursion that you won’t want to come back from”.
“Blindspotting’s core steeliness can, in fact, be glimpsed early on, as Diggs’s man-with-a-van Collin – out beyond his curfew, two days before his probation ends – witnesses a cop shoot a fleeing suspect in the back. Should he report the incident, and potentially put himself back behind bars? Where a declamatory film would have made this quandary the whole show, director Carlos López Estrada pushes on”.
“Smarzowski attacks the corruption of Roman Catholicism from behind the camera lens with powerful propagandic piece Kler, but it’s a directorial damning that’s delivered with deft deliberation and a darkly dry sense of humour”.
“Widows is a riveting and rampant thriller that carries heft in its subject matter, but also captures the intrigue and exhilaration of the heist genre. It’s probably McQueen’s most mainstream work to date but doesn’t lack his signature visionary style. His acute artistic flair is as prominent as ever in a vehement, violent Chicago, adding considerable flesh to the bones of Flynn’s compelling screenplay to form a captivating cinematic caper”.
“First Reformed is a thought-provoking, engaging film that will challenge and shock cinema-goers, and Ethan Hawke brilliantly immerses us into Toller’s increasingly disturbed psyche. Tapping into society’s collective anxieties, Schrader delivers a mesmerising movie that is so strange and unsettling, and yet scarily topical in the craziness of the current climate”.
“In Phoenix, Ramsay has a major ally in staking her case for bleak psychological artistry. Weighed down with the horrific ballast of things he has suffered and seen – he’s a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent, too, with the scars to prove it – Joe comes to life in an almost gruellingly subtle and interiorised performance”.
“Phantom Thread is a grandiose tale of toxic love that is completely bizarre in its brilliance. With stunning orchestral sounds leading us through the turbulence and the tension of Reynold and Alma’s relationship, Paul Thomas Anderson pulls the strings from afar, masterfully conducting a svelte swansong for leading man Daniel Day-Lewis”.
“Molly’s Game is a modern-day Goodfellas but with the bullets tucked up its sleeve, and Chastain delivers a turn that really ups the ante of her unsurmountable talents. Through the extraordinary woman the tabloids labelled as the ‘poker princess’, Sorkin has achieved the crowning glory of his cinematic career to date”.
It’s been five years since the release of director Steve McQueen’s slave trade epic 12 Years a Slave, and now he is back to explore racial divide again in heist thriller Widows. Co-written with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, the story is based on Lynda La Plante’s 1980s crime series but has been shipped from London to modern day America for this adaptation. When an armed robbery goes terribly wrong, Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Alice (Elizabeth Debicki) are left with no spouses and a lot of problems. They’re indebted to corrupt politician Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), who is embroiled in a dirty campaign against mayor Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) to be alderman of a Chicago district. However, as Veronica lays her hands on her late husband’s notes for an upcoming job, she hatches an ambitious plan to settle the arrears.
Polish writer and director Wojciech Smarzowski has been known to cause a stir with his controversial movies in the past, and his latest feature might be his most contentious to date. Kler, which translates as Clergy in English, is a black comedy drama that follows three Catholic priests. On the anniversary of a night that changed their lives, Andrzej (Arkadiusz Jakubik), Tadeusz (Robert Wieckiewicz), and Leszek (Jacek Braciak) get together for an alcohol fuelled reunion, and we bear witness to the very different paths they’ve taken.
After successfully saving jazz a couple of years ago, director Damien Chazelle teams up with leading actor Ryan Gosling once again for space drama First Man. Based on James R. Hansen’s biography of the same name, the plot follows the lives of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong (Gosling) and his wife Janet (Claire Foy) during the 1960s Space Race. When Neil is selected to command the now legendary Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, he seizes the opportunity to make history.