What's new at the flicks?

What's new at the flicks?

The Suffragette

In 1912 London, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) works long, gruelling hours in a laundry with her husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw), under the glare of manager Norman Taylor (Geoff Bell). Women earn less than men and are denied the vote, which rankles some of the workforce including outspoken mother Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff).

She encourages Maud to join the suffragette movement and speak up against this injustice at a parliamentary panel hosted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller).

Alas, MPs refuse to honour a voting-rights bill amendment, so Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep) stirs her troops into direct action, aided by loyal lieutenants including pharmacist Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter).

Maud becomes heavily involved in the uprising and risks her relationship with Sonny and her young son George (Adam Michael Dodd). She also falls victim to police Inspector Steed (Brendan Gleeson), who has been charged with breaking the women’s resolve and extinguishing the spark of rebellion before it can set London and the rest of the country ablaze.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 81%

Sicario

What's new at the flicks?

French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve made an impressive English language debut in 2013 with the nihilistic thriller Prisoners starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Before he takes charge of the sequel to Blade Runner, the talented director dazzles with this edge-of-seat assault on unbitten nails, glimpsing America’s war on drugs through the eyes of a ballsy FBI agent, who is naive about the full extent of her government’s covert activities.

Sicario, which translates as hitman in Spanish, is tautly paced and expertly scripted by Taylor Sheridan, who sidesteps glib solutions to a complex global epidemic.

Instead, he skilfully weaves together sinewy subplots involving morally flawed characters on both sides of the Mexican border, building up a richly detailed picture of the blurred lines between authorities and the traffickers.

Desperation drips like rivulets of sweat from every expertly crafted frame and Villeneuve heightens our discomfort with thrillingly orchestrated action set pieces including a mesmerising finale that exposes sins under the cover of darkness using night vision and thermal imaging cameras.

At the blackened heart of the film is a tour-de-force performance from British actress Emily Blunt, whose steely-nerved heroine might have to sacrifice more than her idealism in the crucible of machismo and political double-dealing.

Blunt is terrific in a physically and emotionally demanding role, clashing with Josh Brolin’s cold and pragmatic leader, who believes the means always justify an end that is favourable to US interests.

Johann Johannsson’s atmospheric soundtrack pants and growls like a caged beast, creating a furious tempo that Villeneuve matches with flourishes of directorial brio.

Star Rating: 8.5/10

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 93%

The Walk

What's new at the flicks?

Directors frequently treat the 3D and IMAX 3D formats as an afterthought to bolster box office takings rather than a powerful tool in the filmmaking armament.

In the last five years, only The Life Of Pi, Gravity and Everest have harnessed the eye-popping technology with genuine purpose and elan, and set our pulses racing in the process.

Robert Zemeckis, Oscar-winning director of Forrest Gump and the Back To The Future series, joins that elite club with his dramatisation of Philippe Petit’s incredible walk along a wire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974.

Harnessing state-of-the-art digital trickery, Zemeckis places us on that wire with the French daredevil and induces a palpable, stomach-churning sense of vertigo as Petit walks across the divide, more than 400 metres above the early morning bustle of Lower Manhattan.

“Don’t look down,” Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) instructs one of his accomplices with a twinkle in his eye.

We wish we could do the same, but Zemeckis’ swooping camera offers a bird’s eye view of New York from below and above the wire.

As a thrilling, visceral spectacle, The Walk is on a sure footing. Alas, as a piece of storytelling, the film frequently stumbles and fails to replicate the nerve-shredding tension of James Marsh’s Oscar-winning 2008 documentary Man On Wire.

Gordon-Levitt affects a comical cod-French accent as the ringmaster of this illegal escapade, bookmarking each stage of the plan with effusive narration from atop the Statue of Liberty.

Supporting characters are sketched in perfunctory detail, nudging along the linear narrative to its heart-stopping conclusion when one man tests his resolve against the sickening, relentless pull of gravity.

Star Rating: 6/10

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 86%

Regression

What's new at the flicks?

As well as referring to a controversial therapy technique, which claims to heal patients by unearthing deeply buried memories, regression also describes a progressive decline to a less perfect state.

It’s a fitting title for this psychological thriller, written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, which takes a tantalising premise based on true events about satanism in small-town America, and fashions it into formulaic, yawn-inducing hokum.

The Oscar-winning Chilean filmmaker is well versed in teasing out never-jangling horror in communities under the yoke of religion, having previously chilled spines with his ghost story The Others starring Nicole Kidman.

Here, Amenabar resorts to familiar imagery – hooded devil worshippers, ritualistic sacrifice, inverted crosses – and heavy-handedly signposts his true intentions, dissipating any mystery or suspense that might be generated by various hallucinations and flashbacks.

British Emma Watson takes a small step away from her signature role as goody-two-shoes Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by portraying a sexual abuse victim, whose tearful confession sets the plot’s creaking wheels in motion.

Her accent isn’t flawless but then neither is Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of the crusading cop who vows to protect her.

Regression unfolds in a time before CSI-style technical wizardry, resorting to old-fashioned police work and face-to-face interviews to make sense of the mounting suspicion.

Amenabar touches upon themes of collective hysteria, devotion and self-sacrifice but becomes too bogged down in the mechanics of trying to scare us.

Hawke mumbles his flaccid lines with minimum effort, mirroring our lack of interest in the investigation.

Infuriating contrivances and police incompetence withhold simple yet vital information until the closing 10 minutes in order to engineer what passes meekly for a final reckoning.

Star Rating: 4/10

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: N/A%

In Selected Cinemas…

Red Army

During the Cold War, the Eastern and Western Blocs spearheaded by the Soviet Union and the United States respectively became embroiled in a fractious political stand-off that sparked a series of heated confrontations, including the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. This bitter rivalry also played out in the sporting arena, including ice rinks where the Soviet Union’s national ice hockey team achieved global domination under coach Viktor Tikhonov. Under his control, the Soviets won gold at eight World Championships and also stood atop the winner’s podium at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympic Games hosted in Sarajevo, Calgary and Albertville, France, respectively. Gabe Polsky’s fascinating documentary relives the rise of the Soviet team and speaks to former players including Viacheslav Fetisov about his country’s approach to winning tournaments, breeding a generation of young players who worked as a team and were ironically wooed to America’s lucrative NHL.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 96%

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

To mark the 40th anniversary of Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones’ seminal comedy, Monty Python And The Holy Grail returns to cinemas for one night only in a rousing new sing-along version. The screening will be accompanied by a specially filmed, exclusive introduction from Jones, Gilliam, Michael Palin, Eric Idle and John Cleese, and audiences are encouraged to dress up and get into the spirit of the evening. King Arthur (Graham Chapman) heads for Camelot with his loyal squire Patsy (Gilliam) and the Knights Of The Round Table including Sir Bedevere the Wise (Jones), Sir Lancelot the Brave (Cleese), Sir Galahad the Pure (Palin) and Sir Robin the Not-Quite-So-Brave-As-Sir-Lancelot (Idle). En route, they battle the Black Knight (Cleese again), who loses his arms and legs but still refuses to surrender. Arriving at Camelot, Arthur and his troop are ordered by God to locate the Holy Grail and the valiant adventurers travel far and wide in search of the precious relic.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: 97%

NT Live: Hamlet

In August 2014, when tickets went on sale for Lyndsey Turner’s production of Shakespeare’s tragedy starring Benedict Cumberbatch, fans of the British actor raced to snap up tickets for the play’s 12-week run in summer 2015. One year later, the entire run is sold out but ardent fans can still witness Cumberbatch in the demanding title role with this transmission of a live performance from the stage of The Barbican in London. The King of Denmark dies and his brother Claudius (Ciaran Hinds) assumes the throne and swiftly takes his widowed sister-in-law Gertrude (Anastasia Hille) as his wife. Hamlet (Cumberbatch) is still in mourning and can scarcely believe the speed with which his mother has remarried. During a night-time visit to the castle battlements, Hamlet meets his father’s ghost (Karl Johnson), who reveals his true demise at Claudius’ hands. The old king demands revenge and fashions Hamlet as the instrument of his retribution. Young Ophelia (Sian Brooke) and her father, royal counsellor Polonius (Jim Norton), become poisoned by Hamlet’s madness, with tragic consequences for both.

RottenTomatoes.com Rating: N/A

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