Thursday, 19 January 2017

Critical Week: Muscle power

There were two big decades-later sequels screened to critics in London this week. XXX: Return of Xander Cage returns Vin Diesel to his extreme-sports spy 15 years after he last played him. The movie is just as preposterous, but thankfully has a sense of humour about it. And T2 Trainspotting is a 20-year reunion for the cast and crew of the cinema-changing Scottish drama. Danny Boyle cleverly adapts the film's kinetic style to a new middle-aged vibe, with a resonant running theme about the nature of nostalgia and growing up. And Viceroy's House is Gurinder Chadha's personal account of the independence and partition of India in 1947 (more about the film closer to the release date).

We also got to see John Waters' "lost" 1970 black comedy Multiple Maniacs in a restored digital projection. It looks fantastic, and is jaw-droppingly unmissable - outrageous even after all these years. And I also caught up with a timely HBO documentary...

Bright Lights
dir Alexis Bloom, Fisher Stevens; with Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher 16/US ****
Warm and intimate, this documentary traces the close relationship between mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Anchored largely by Fisher's wry ongoing commentary, the film traces the careers of both actresses, as well as their private lives. It reveals that these two were tight friends who supported each other through the ups and downs of their lives with earthy humour and a fascinating balance of realism and optimism. It's a beautiful portrait of both women, and it also offers a bracing look at the life of Hollywood royalty over the past half century or so. From Carrie's astonishing singing talent to Debbie's unrequited passion to protect Hollywood's legacy, there's plenty in this movie that makes it an important document. But it's also emotionally moving, especially poignant following their deaths. Notably, the film was completed more than six months earlier. A must see for fans of Hollywood's golden age, from Singin' in the Rain to Star Wars.

This weekend I have been consumed with my role as chair of the 37th London Critics' Circle Film Awards, the fifth year I've organised the event. The star-studded ceremony is on Sunday at The May Fair Hotel and I'll have a full report with photos here as soon as possible. I also have screenings this coming week of Mindhorn, Spaceship, The Odyssey and Who's Gonna Love Me Now. I know nothing about any of them.

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