There’s a fairly obvious reason why films about writers tend not to focus very much on the actual act of writing itself.
After all, not many people would pay to watch a four hour film featuring a single static shot of a man slumped at his desk exuding a general aura of resignation and quiet despair (at least, not if the number of clicks on my YouTube channel are anything to go by).
Instead, we’ll see them as shambolic wrecks lurching from crisis to crisis like Michael Douglas in Wonder Boys, or, at the other end of the scale, helpless prisoners getting sledgehammered by Kathy Bates like James Caan in Misery.
Still more fun than staring at a blank Word document while your tea goes cold…This week sees two new additions to the pantheon of big screen scribes, as Bryce Dallas Howard gets embroiled in international espionage in Argylle and Jeffrey Wright pens an accidental bestseller in American Fiction.
Bryce Dallas Howard leads a starry cast in this globe-trotting spy caper from director Matthew Vaughn, the man behind Kingsman and Kick-Ass.
Howard plays reclusive author Elly Conway, the creator of a series of bestselling espionage novels starring the debonair and deadly Agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) – but like Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone, she finds herself propelled into an adventure of her own when it transpires that her plots are overlapping a little too closely with those of a real-life spy organisation.
Sam Rockwell co-stars as the deceptively schlubby-looking operative with whom Elly teams up, while the film also boasts supporting turns from the likes of Bryan Cranston, Dua Lipa and Samuel L. Jackson – though it’s Howard’s feline co-star Chip (the real-life pet of Vaughn and his wife Claudia Schiffer) who picked up the lion’s share of the attention at the film’s premiere.
Jeffrey Wright (No Time to Die) has picked up his first Oscar nomination for his starring role in this satirical comedy – one of five which the film is in the running for, including Best Picture.
Wright plays frustrated novelist Thelonius “Monk” Ellison, who writes a deliberately bad novel that plays to all the cliches of Black ‘ghetto’ life – only to find that his joke flies over the heads of his white publishers, who make it into a runaway bestseller.
Writer-director Cord Jefferson (who’s worked on TV hits including The Good Place and Watchmen) has received huge plaudits for his debut feature, not least for the way in which it grounds its comical flights of fancy in the everyday dramas of Monk’s family (including Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross and Sterling K. Brown, who’s up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance).
The Zone of Interest
A new film from director Jonathan Glazer is always an event, not least because they don’t come along very often – this is only his third release since his breakout debut hit Sexy Beast in 2000, and his first since his enigmatic sci-fi opus Under the Skin in 2013.
Adapted from Martin Amis’ novel, Glazer’s latest is a chilling look at the banality of evil, following the daily life of Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his family, whose home was situated directly outside the walls of Auschwitz.
The horrors of the camp are heard rather than seen, forming an aural backdrop as Höss’ wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller, Anatomy of a Fall) and their children go about their day blissfully ignorant of the atrocities going on just outside their front door – as Empire’s five-star review concludes, “This is (a film) about what we don’t see – and what we choose not to see.”
We could all do with a few days out of the world every now and then, and in the words of acclaimed French director Céline Sciamma, that’s exactly what her films provide – none more so than South Bank Community Cinema’s selection this month.
Conceived and shot during the pandemic and clocking in at just over an hour and 10 minutes, Sciamma’s wonderful 2021 childhood fable Petite Maman is a mini masterpiece – and one which would make a poignant double bill with the new Andrew Scott film All of Us Strangers.
The story follows eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), who has gone with her mother and father to clear out her recently deceased grandma’s house – but when she sets out to explore the surrounding woodland, Nelly is surprised to meet a young girl with her mother’s name who appears to live in a house exactly like her grandma’s…
Head down to Clements Hall, South Bank on Fri 2nd to see the film Mark Kermode hailed as “(one) of the greatest films ever made for children of all ages” – the screening starts at 8pm (doors 7:30pm), tickets are £4 (cash only), and SBCC advise that it’s best to book in advance by e-mailing [email protected].
Other new releases and previews
Grab a ringside seat for a preview of new Zac Efron-led wrestling drama The Iron Claw at City Screen on Sat 3rd – this true-life tale of a family of professional wrestlers is the latest film from acclaimed US indie director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene).
Meanwhile, on Tues 6th City Screen are paying tribute to a legend of cinema with Werner Herzog – Radical Dreamer, a new documentary about the iconic German director (and occasional Star Wars villain) whose own life of strange adventures is every bit the equal of the stories he has brought to the screen.
Over at Vue, Blue Story’s Stephen Odubola stars as a young man who gets caught up with a gang of moped thieves in London-set crime drama Gassed Up on Mon 5th, while the travails of the Wolański and Zawada clans continue in Polish comedy sequel Baby Boom Czyli Kogel Mogel 5 (daily from Fri 2nd).
Hit stage play Dear England, starring Joseph Fiennes as Gareth Southgate, goes into extra time with encore NT Live screenings at Everyman (Thurs 8th) and Vue (Sat 3rd, Thurs 8th), plus a captioned screening at City Screen on Thurs 8th.
The ROH Live series of screenings direct from the Royal Opera House continues on Weds 7th with a new production of romantic tragedy Manon, showing at City Screen, Everyman and Vue, while Cineworld are offering encore screenings of Kinky Boots: The Musical and Pet Shop Boys Dreamworld on Sun 4th.
A family of ducks wind up in New York after their planned migration to Jamaica takes a wrong turn in new animation Migration, flying into cinemas just in time for half term and featuring the voice talents of Awkwafina and David Mitchell (I know, together at last) – catch it at Cineworld, Everyman and Vue from Fri 2nd.
There’s more fowl play at City Screen with a Kids’ Club screening of Chicken Run on Sat 3rd (tickets £3.30), while Kung Fu Panda 2 is Everyman’s Toddler Club selection on Fri 2nd and Sat 3rd (£6.25 for children, £8.25 for adult plus toddler), followed by the next chapter Kung Fu Panda 3 in Cineworld’s Movies For Juniors slot (Sat 3rd/Sun 4th, £2.50) – Cineworld also have an Autism-Friendly screening of superhero caper Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom on Sun 4th (£6.99).
Over at Vue, Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie is this week’s Mini Mornings offering (Sat 3rd/Sun 4th, £2.49), plus there’s a Julia Donaldson double bill of Zog and the Flying Doctors & The Snail and the Whale (Sat 3rd/Sun 4th, £3.99), and the prehistoric saga comes to a close with Ice Age 5: Collision Course (Sat 3rd/Sun 4th, £6.99 – £9.99).
Niven’s stairway to heaven and things I hate about you – fewer than eleven: old favourites back on the big screen
City Screen kick off a season celebrating visionary British directing duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger with one of their best-loved films, 1946’s A Matter of Life and Death, on Mon 5th.
Steve Rawl of York St. John University will introduce this classic romantic fantasy, which stars David Niven as a plucky British pilot who cheats certain death due to an administrative error on the part of the afterlife – forcing him to appeal to the celestial bureaucrats for his right to continue his life on earth with the woman (Kim Hunter) he has fallen in love with.
Meanwhile, Buster Keaton turns detective in Sherlock Jr. as City Screen’s celebration of the iconic silent comedian continues on Sun 4th.
A new sci-fi season blasts into orbit at Cineworld with Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey on Tues 6th, while Everyman are swapping Timothée Chalamet for Gene Wilder with Throwback screenings of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on Sun 4th and Tues 6th – and there’s a welcome big screen return for Jordan Peele’s modern classic Get Out in their Late Nights strand on Fri 2nd.
Kate and Leo head to their own Sunken Place over at Vue, where they’re gearing up for Valentine’s Day with screenings of James Cameron’s indestructible weepie Titanic (Sun 4th, Tues 6th) and 90s teen movie fave Ten Things I Hate About You (Sat 3rd, Sun 4th, Thurs 8th).
And finally, as the world’s most famous weatherman prepares to make his prognostications once more, it’s no surprise to find Vue marking the occasion by putting Bill Murray through Groundhog Day hell on the day itself (Fri 2nd) – and then, appropriately enough, doing it all over again on Sat 3rd and Tues 6th.