Thursday, 20 September 2018

Critical Week: Fun for the family?

It's been frustrating that the biggest releases of the week are simply not being screened to the press (favourite critics see them, but no one else), so I never got to review the top two films on both the US and UK box office charts, namely The Predator and The Nun. With these titles I'm not that bothered, but others are coming up very soon that I can't really skip, like the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga remake of A Star Is Born or Tom Hardy in Venom, neither of which have announced London screenings yet. It seems to be becoming a strategy for bigger studios to withhold films from the majority of reviewers, which is putting our jobs in jeopardy.

So this week I didn't see any big movies, just smaller ones. Support the Girls (above), starring Regina Hall, is being oddly billed as a comedy when it's actually a wry drama. It's not a bad one at that, as it gently takes on America's sports-bar culture. Sam Rockwell stars in Blue Iguana, a scruffy British heist comedy that has its moments but never quite becomes notable.

Smaller than those, The Song of Sway Lake stars Rory Culkin and Robert Sheehan as young men caught in a swirl of nostalgia in old-money America. It's dreamy and intriguing, but not very satisfying. Summer '03 is an oddly abrasive coming-of-age story that boldly takes on some big issues without really saying much. Never Here is a noir mystery that's moody and evocative, even if it never goes anywhere. And Padre is an offbeat Italian film starring writer-director Giada Colagrande and her husband Willem Dafoe. The acting is great even if the central exploration of grief feels underwhelming.

More satisfying were the three documentaries: Won't You Be My Neighbour is a gorgeous trip through the life of American TV Icon Fred Rogers, beautifully capturing just why he was so magical for several generations of children (including me!). Tea With the Dames (original UK title: Nothing Like a Dame) is an extended conversation between old friends Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright and Eileen Atkins, with wonderful observations on life and work over the past 60 years. And Science Fair is the hugely entertaining look into the world's biggest teen science competition through the eyes of these lively aspiring scientists.

This coming week's films include Ryan Gosling in First Man, Keira Knightley in Colette, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish in Night School, Rachel Weisz in Disobedience, the Joan Jett doc Bad Reputation, and a pair of Supreme Court docs: RBG about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Reversing Roe. Press screenings also start for the London Film Festival, so I'll be banking reviews to run when the festival is on 10-21 October.

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