Saturday 23 February 2019

Review: All Is True Cert - more drama than worthy biopic

12A; Now showing

Jack Colgrave Hirst, Kathryn Wilder, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Eleanor de Rohan, and Lydia Wilson in All Is True
Jack Colgrave Hirst, Kathryn Wilder, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Eleanor de Rohan, and Lydia Wilson in All Is True
The cast of Lego Movie 2 features old faces and new ones too

All Is True was the alternative title of Shakespeare's play Henry VIII, during a performance of which the Globe Theatre burnt down in 1613. Following the fire Shakespeare retired back to Stratford-Upon-Avon and never wrote again.

Ben Elton's first feature screenplay sees a barely recognisable Kenneth Branagh play the Bard in these retirement years. Reviews are mixed but I rather enjoyed this accessible, light and interesting piece of Shakespearian retirement conjecture.

Shakespeare gets a mixed reaction when he returns to the family he has barely lived with for 20 years. His wife Anne (Judi Dench) is not used to having to defer to him, his eldest daughter Susanna (Lydia Wilson) is married to a puritan who wants Shakespeare's money, his second daughter Judith (Kathryn Wilder) is full of anger - and, out of spite, refuses to marry because her father believes marriage is any woman's greatest goal. (The reason for her anger is that in his endless guilt-fuelled idolisation of his dead son Hamnet, Judith's twin, the inference is that the "wrong twin died".)

There is plenty going on with regard to story, history, feminist viewpoint, showing what went before can be as effective as any manifesto, and armchair psychology.

Branagh also directs and it never gets too heavy, there are lots of light moments including Ian McKellen's all too brief appearance as the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare's rumoured lover.

Strictly speaking Dench and McKellen are way too old for their roles: in 1613 Anne would have been 57, the Earl 40 - yet the casting works.

It is more drama, even pot boiler, than worthy biopic which angers some but makes it broadly accessible.

★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Boy Erased

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Jared (Lucas Hedges) is the son of a Baptist preacher and used-car salesman (a portly Russell Crowe) and hairstylist (Nicole Kidman) in deeply conservative Arkansas.

His sexual orientation is revealed when he is 19, and mum, and especially dad, come down hard on him. He will be entered into a "conversion therapy programme" in order to "cure" his homosexuality and restore dignity to the family and their congregation.

At the clinic, Jared encounters a host of colourful fellow inmates (including cameo roles from director Xavier Dolan and YouTuber-turned actor Troye Sivan) all forced to sit and absorb the doctrine of head therapist Sykes (Joel Edgerton, who also directs). A more confrontational approach is meted out, however, by assistant Brandon (Flea).

Based on Garrard Conley's source memoir, Boy Erased is a tale for our times, one that exposes archaic beliefs for what they are while triumphing the human spirit to overcome oppression. In this sense, it is something of an own-goal and unlikely to bowl anyone away with an illuminating take on a plainly one-sided issue.

What it does achieve, however, is efficiently crafted film drama featuring a robust array of acting turns, even in periphery roles beyond the Hedges-Crowe-Kidman-Edgerton core. As an actor himself, Edgerton clearly displays a talent for getting results from his fellow colleagues. ★★★ Hilary A White

 

If Beale Street Could Talk

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Although largely positive this is another film that has seen some quite different views and takes. It is a measure of the film's depth that there is room for so much different interpretation.

Moonlight was always going to be a hard act to follow, but Barry Jenkins has done it, delivering a warm, exquisite and heartbreaking movie. He adapted the James Baldwin novel -but from the beginning the film lays down a different aesthetic. Baldwin favoured flaws and the funny looking; this film and these people are studiously beautiful and gorgeously dressed.

Nineteen-year-old Tish (Kiki Layne) has to tell her imprisoned boyfriend Fonny (Stephan James) that she is pregnant. She promises he'll be out before the baby comes because he is innocent.

The non-linear narrative has the events that took them to the opening scene told in pieces, beautiful pieces. To me that different aesthetic is about marking how, although the events are set 45 years ago, the essential reality has not changed that much. What could have happened then could still happen now. Tish's mother (Regina Kin), father (Colman Domingo) and sister (Teyonah Parris) show unerring support for the young couple, although Fonny's snobby mother (Aunjanue Ellis) does not - and the story's heart of love and family allows the audience to feel a certain rage at injustice and powerlessness. It's probably best to just go see for yourself. ★★★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Alita: Battle Angel

Cert: 12A; Now showing

"No goodies 'til the trilogy finale," might as well be the tagline of this latest attempt to build another huge fantasy-sci-fi franchise with the customary tired tropes (orphaned children, hidden powers, grandiose destinies, etc).

Brought from the pages of Manga to the screen by producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez, Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a bit like a lethally dangerous Pinocchio.

We're in the 26th Century. She has been reassembled from the cyborg scrap heap by Dr Ido (Christoph Waltz), who sees something special in her. Wide-eyed and lovely she certainly is but this kitten has formidable claws. Not only is she a supreme fighter who quickly puts manners on all class of cut-throats but she has a talent for the brutal sport of "motorball".

Not everyone is happy about her, including two corrupt scientists (Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali).

The CGI-heavy action is super slick, but at the expense of storytelling, coherence and soul - the very things that really foster devoted brand fanbases. ★★★ Hilary A White

 

The Lego Movie 2

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The cast of Lego Movie 2 features old faces and new ones too
 

Cert: G; Now showing

If it ain't broke don't fix it - so here's the sequel. The first film was about father and son, this is about siblings. In live action world, Finn is now a teenager who won't play with his sister Bianca. This means potential ar-mama-geddon for the Lego characters - something Emmet (Chris Pratt), Lucy (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) must avoid. But first they have to deal with a Duplo threat under Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi (Tiffany Haddish).

It's more of the same fast, clever, knowing, tune-filled good fun that made the first film so enjoyable. Inevitably it doesn't have the innovation factor, it can feel like one massive product placement and it is possibly a little too pleased with itself - but that is nitpicking. This will delight lots of people.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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