D: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Warner Bros/Ratpac-Dune/Overbrook (Denise DiNovi)
W: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
DP: Xavier Perez Grobet
Ed: Jan Kovac
Mus: Nick Urata
Will Smith (Nicky Spurgeon), Margot Robbie (Jess Barrett), Rodrigo Santoro (Garriga), Gerald McRaney (Owens), B.D. Wong (Liyuan Tse)
A Thomas Crown Affair for the 21st century, pairing Will Smith and Margot Robbie as glamorous grifters involved in a high stakes hustle.
Amateur con artist Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) has her wings clipped when seasoned pro Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) spots her hustle from a mile away and gives her some tricks of the trade so she can make some serious bucks. A romance develops between them only for him to cast her aside once her purpose has been fulfilled in a million dollar con.
They cross paths three years later, as they appear to be on rival sides of a scam involving the fortunes of formula one teams.
While this crime caper is reasonable fun, the big hustles do tend to trespass on the wrong side of suspension of disbelief, culminating in an ending which manages to be both convoluted and predictable.
Potential was there for this to be a much better film, but it isn't completely disappointing, it's simply that the romance element never seems to fit and always seems to be an intricate part of the con.
47 METRES DOWN (15)
D: Johannes Roberts
Entertainment Studios/Dimension (James Harris & Mark Lane)
W: Johannes Roberts & Ernest Riera
DP: Mark Silk
Ed: Martin Brinkler
Mandy Moore (Lisa), Claire Holt (Kate), Chris J. Johnson (Javier), Yani Gellman (Louis), Matthew Modine (Captain Taylor)
47 Metres Down is a low budget horror which was intended to be straight to video but was picked up by a major distributor to become one of the biggest sleeper hits of summer 2017.
The story concerns two sisters who embark on a cage dive expedition whilst on holiday in Mexico. Tragedy strikes when the suspension cable snaps, sending the cage with the two girls plummeting to the ocean floor and leaving them in a race against time as their air supply runs low and vicious great white sharks circling the waters above.
Though the film was marketed as a horror movie about sharks, the real horror in this scenario is not being able to breathe, and director Johannes Roberts does a fine job focusing on this in the claustrophobic environment in which the action takes place.
The ending won't be for everyone's taste, but overall it's a very decent low-budget suspense flick.
THE FOUNDER (12)
D: John Lee Hancock
The Weinstein Company/Filmnation (Don Handfield, Karen Lunder, Jeremy Renner & Aaron Ryder)
W: Robert D. Siegel
DP: John Schwartzman
Ed: Robert Frazen
Mus: Carter Burrell
PD: Michael Corenblith
Michael Keaton (Ray Kroc), Nick Offerman (Dick McDonald), John Carroll Lynch (Mac McDonald), Linda Cardellini (Joan Smith), Laura Dern (Ethel Kroc)
McDonald's The Movie, telling the story of the fast food giant, from its humble beginnings in 1950's California.
Travelling salesman Ray Kroc struggles to earn a living selling milkshake mixers, but when he receives a large order from a restaurant in San Bernadino, CA, curiosity gets the better of him and he drives across the country to check the establishment out.
Impressed with the speed of service and quality of the hamburgers on sale, he introduces himself to the owners, the McDonald brothers, who tell Ray their story and Ray subsequently implores them to franchise their business. The brothers are initially hesitant, as they attempted this before and it resulted in wayward supervisors and a reduction in quality. They finally agree to Ray's business proposition, dependent on a contract which give them overall control of the direction the business goes in.
Ray mortgages his home to finance new restaurants opening all over the Midwest, but when capital runs low and an attempt to a bigger percentage doesn't materialise, he discovers a way to circumvent the terms of his contract and wrestle control away from the brothers by forming his own company, The McDonalds Corporation, which ultimately becomes a fight over who owns the name McDonalds.
Michael Keaton plays an excellent part as Ray Kroc, who you initially feel sympathy for, but as the film goes on, you begin to find him less and less sympathetic for all the same reasons. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch are also great as the McDonald brothers, and the production design team do a great job recreating convincing 1950's locations.
Though it technically is a film in which product placement is prevalent, this really isn't an advert for McDonald's, but a powerful story of corporate greed overpowering small, independent business.
FOUR LIONS (15)
D: Chris Morris
Optimum/Drafthouse/Film4/Wild Bunch/Warp (Mark Herbert & Derrin Schlesinger)
W: Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong & Sam Bain
DP: Lol Crawley
Ed: Billy Sneddon
Riz Ahmed (Omar), Kayvan Novak (Waj), Nigel Lindsay (Barry), Adeel Akhtar (Faisal), Arsher Ali (Hassan)
Four Lions is a satirical comedy which tackles a very politically-charged and fractious subject, that of Islamic extremism in both the UK and in the Middle East, and though it pokes fun and ridicules suicide bombers, the non-serious approach to the material also makes the film a little bit pointless.
The story follows four British Muslims who become so engaged in their religious beliefs that they plan to rage terror on the streets of Britain, culminating in a bungled attack at the London Marathon.
Admittedly, the performances of the four incompetent terrorists are good, and there are one or two amusing moments, but it doesn't provide any real belly laughs and treads quite carefully so not to offend anyone and ultimately falls between two stools of being both politically correct and not.
Certainly worth a watch, but nowhere near as good as it could have been.
FRANCES HA (15)
D: Noah Baumbach
IFC/RT Features/Pine District (Scott Rudin, Noah Baumbach, Lila Yacoub & Rodrigo Teixeira)
W: Noah Baumbach & Greta Gerwig
DP: Sam Levy
Ed: Jennifer Lame
Greta Gerwig (Frances Halladay), Mickey Sumner (Sophie Levee), Charlotte d'Ambroise (Colleen), Adam Driver (Lev Shapiro), Michael Esper (Dan), Grace Gummer (Rachel)
This 2013 black & white independent film serves its purpose in the respect that it provided a breakthrough for lead actress and co-writer Greta Gerwig, who went on to feature as a supporting actress in several films since before marking her own directorial debut with 2017's Lady Bird (qv), of which the storyline of Frances Ha has some similarities.
When her roommate moves to a trendier neighbourhood in New York, unemployed dancer Frances Halladay is left bouncing between crashing at her friends' apartments and staying at her parents in Sacramento, in between an ill-thought out trip to Paris on a maxed out credit card.
It's all a bit of a shaggy dog story which doesn't have much resolution, but it's an easy watch with its low key style and good performances.
D: Tod Browning
MGM (Tod Browning)
64 mins (Original Version: 90 mins)
W: Willis Goldbeck & Leon Gordon [based on the short story "Spurs" by Tod Robbins]
DP: Merritt B. Gerstad
Ed: Basil Wrangell
Wallace Ford (Phroso), Leila Hyams (Venus), Olga Baclanova (Cleopatra), Rosco Ates (Roscoe), Henry Victor (Hercules)
Freaks is a unique picture which has a sub genre all to itself and can only loosely be considered a horror film due to its filmmaking style.
Filled with a cast of real life circus performers with deformities, the plot follows a trapeze artist who plans on marrying and subsequently murdering the circus owner for his inheritance, news which displeases the rest of the troupe who try to put an end to her nefarious plans.
Filmed and released prior to Hollywood's production code, Freaks was hugely controversial at the time of release and was subsequently banned, only to later be released with over 20 minutes cut. Despite being now hailed as a masterpiece of cult cinema, Tod Browning's career never recovered following this film and the original version is thought to be lost forever.
A must watch for all movie buffs.
FREE SOLO (12)
D: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin
National Geographic/Little Monster (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Shannon Dill & Evan Hayes)
DP: Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin & Mikey Schaefer
Ed: Bob Eisenhardt
Mus: Marco Beltrami
Alex Hannold, Sanni McCandless, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin
Free Solo is an intrepid piece of documentary filmmaking which focuses on the life and career of Alex Hannold, a thrill-seeking mountaineer who undertook the achievement of climbing El Capitan, a 3,000 rock face in the Yosemite National Park, without the assistance of ropes, harnesses and safety equipment. A feat where there is no margin for error and the slightest mistake would lead to certain death.
The film shows Hannold's preparation for the climb, featuring candid interviews with his family, girlfriend and friends who appreciate he's made a living out of doing what he loves, but also that his next climb could be his last.
As well as being about a daredevil climbing endeavour, the film is also a love letter to the beauty of American National Parks, utilising cutting edge drone photography to capture their magnificence.
As someone who wouldn't even dream of undertaking something so dangerous, this is a piece of filmmaking which had me perched on the edge of my seat throughout, even in the scenes which didn't feature any climbing.
FREE STATE OF JONES (15)
D: Gary Ross
STX/IM Global/Bluegrass/Vendian/Larger Than Life/Route One/Huayi Brothers (Jon Kilik, Gary Ross & Scott Stuber)
W: Gary Ross
DP: Benoît Delhomme
Ed: Pamela Martin & Juliette Welfling
Mus: Nicholas Britell
Matthew McConaughey (Newton Knight), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Rachel Knight), Keri Russell (Serena Knight), Mahershala Ali (Moses Washington), Brian Lee Franklin (Davis Knight)
Free State Of Jones is a US civil war drama with its heart in the right place, but its approach to the material in a non-narrative style makes it a bit of a quest to become engaged in before it gets a little boring.
Inspired by the true events surrounding the life of Newton Knight, who rebelled against the confederate army and its soldiers, Matthew McConaughey does deliver a good performance in the lead, but the length of the film could have easily been trimmed to make the subject a little more bite-size and less like obvious Oscar bait.
Similar themes were explored better in Edward Zwick's 1989 war drama, Glory (qv) which comes higher recommended than this.
FRIDAY THE 13TH part 2 (18)
D: Steve Miner
Georgetown (Steve Miner)
W: Ron Kurz & Phil Scuderi [based on characters created by Victor Miller]
DP: Peter Stein
Ed: Susan E. Cunningham
Mus: Harry Manfredini
Amy Steel (Ginny), John Furey (Paul), Stu Charno (Ted), Lauren-Marie Taylor (Vickie), Adrienne King (Alice), Steve Daskawisz / Warrington Gillette (Jason Voorhees)
Although this was rushed into production and distribution to capitalise on the success of the first movie, the events take place five years after the events in the original movie, with the sole survivor being murderer and the rest being a virtual remake, although this time the killer is actually Jason Voorhees.
It's obvious that this was rushed into production, and the filmmakers got themselves into hot water by casting an underage teenage girl, meaning that an entire scene had to be subject to heavy cuts (even though the "double impalement death" does appear on the cover of some home video versions).
It should be worth noting that Jason's iconic horror mask doesn't make an appearance until the third movie.
FRIDAY THE 13TH part 3 (18)
D: Steve Miner
Paramount/Jason Inc. (Frank Mancuso, Jr.)
W: Martin Kitrosser & Carol Watson [based on characters created by Victor Miller]
DP: Gerald Feil
Ed: George Hively
Mus: Harry Manfredini
Dana Kimmell (Chris Higgins), Paul Kratka (Rick), Tracie Savage (Debbie), Jeffrey Rogers (Andy), Richard Brooker (Jason Voorhees)
Jason Voorhees survived his apparent death at the conclusion of the second movie and continues terrorising kids at Camp Crystal Lake, this time in 3-D.
It isn't any more or less scary (or interesting) as the first two movies, but it is worth noting that this is the sequel which introduced Jason's iconic hockey mask. Two films too late in my opinion, and it's difficult to care about such stupid victims. More cash-ins followed, all getting progressively worse.