It’s been hard not to notice that the gush of Hollywood blockbusters we’re accustomed to seeing over the summer has slowed to something of a trickle this year.
Where there might normally be two or three big releases every week, more recently there’s tended to be just one (and last week it was a film about Superman’s dog).
We’re likely seeing the effects of the Covid-enforced halt to film production in 2020, and I’m sure it will right itself soon enough – but it also gives us a chance to explore beyond the usual headline-grabbing releases.
This week alone, if you don’t fancy the action hijinks of Bullet Train, you can take your pick from an Iranian road movie, two 1990s teen classics, a 1970s gangster thriller with a killer soundtrack, and two of the greatest horror movies of recent years.
All this, and an Encanto sing-along in the Museum Gardens. Sometimes, less really is more…
Six assassins, one briefcase, and a high speed train – that’s the basic premise of this fun-sounding action comedy from Atomic Blonde director David Leitch.
Brad Pitt stars as hitman Ladybug, on the verge of quitting the game but, as is traditional, pulled back in for one last job by his handler Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock), who asks him to collect a briefcase full of cash on a bullet train heading from Tokyo to Morioka.
Inevitably, it’s not as simple as all that, as Ladybug finds that several other colourfully-monikered mercenaries are also on board for the self-same mission, including London gangsters Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) and Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and The Prince (Joey King), a fiendishly manipulative sociopath masquerading as an innocent schoolgirl.
As either director or producer, Leitch has been responsible for some of the biggest action hits in recent years, from John Wick through Atomic Blonde to last year’s sleeper hit Nobody – not bad for a man who started his Hollywood career as a stunt double working with, among others, a certain Mr. Brad Pitt…
Hit the Road
There have been rave reviews across the board for this Iranian road movie, which won the Best Film award at last year’s London Film Festival.
The debut feature of Panah Panahi (son of celebrated director Jafar Panahi, whose arrest for criticising the Iranian government made headlines around the world recently), it follows a family’s long car journey through the rugged Iranian countryside.
The father nurses a broken leg while the mother fusses over her children – the quiet, pensive elder brother in the driver’s seat and his hyperactive younger sibling singing along to pop songs in the back.
It might not sound like the most dynamic set-up, but reviews suggest that it’s a journey well worth taking, with Variety enthusing that ‘its 93 minutes whip by so airily, it’s possible not to realize how much you’ve learned to love the family whose road trip you’ve shared in, until the credits roll and you immediately start to miss them’.
City Screen is heading back to the Museum Gardens for another trio of outdoor movie screenings this weekend.
You can enjoy dystopian sci-fi under the stars on Fri 5th courtesy of Blade Runner – The Final Cut, take a trip to 1950s New York with Steven Spielberg’s recent West Side Story remake on Sat 6th, and join the magical Madrigal clan for an Encanto Sing-along on Sun 7th.
Tickets are at City Screen’s reduced Summer Sizzler Sale price (£7.99 adults/£4.99 kids/£4.99 members), doors are at 7:30pm and the films will start after sundown (approximately 8:30 – 9pm). And if you’re in the mood for more, you can book now for the Luna Cinema outdoor screenings taking place at the Minster later this month.
Summer holiday round-up
It’s raining! TikTok’s down! And Auntie Iris is threatening to visit!
Should you and your family find yourselves faced with such a triple threat in the next few days, then cinema has your back, with a plethora of family-friendly options on offer.
Your budget screenings this week are Sonic the Hedgehog 2 at Cineworld (daily, tickets £2.50) and Chicken Run at Vue (daily, £2.49) – the latter is also showing at City Screen on Sat 6th, followed by daily screenings of Sing 2 from Mon 8th – Thurs 11th (tickets £3.00 for all).
Cineworld’s Autism-Friendly screening this month is Minions: The Rise of Gru, showing on Sun 7th (tickets standard price).
Vue are also bringing back a couple of old favourites in the form of the original, Robin Williams-starring Jumanji and Aardman’s high seas caper The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!, screening daily at the standard price – I’ve still never seen the latter, but if it’s half as fun as its tremendously excitable title I really ought to get round to it someday. Hugh Grant! As a pirate captain!! What’s not to love!!!
As I mentioned earlier, we really are spoilt for choice this week when it comes to reissues, with a bevy of classics getting their moment to shine again on the big screen.
Top of the list is a 50th anniversary outing for influential Jamaican gangster thriller The Harder They Come, showing daily at City Screen this week.
Starring the legendary Jimmy Cliff and credited by many as the film which introduced reggae to the world, it boasts an iconic soundtrack including the likes of You Can Get It If You Really Want, Many Rivers to Cross and of course the title track.
City Screen’s Wim Wenders season continues on Sun 7th with Kings of the Road, which, as the title would suggest, is another of the director’s celebrated road movies, and follows the growing friendship between two men as they travel through the German countryside.
The next instalment in City Screen’s Kids in America season, celebrating the US teen movies of the 90s, is a film that’s been on my watchlist for a long time – 1993’s coming-of-age comedy Dazed and Confused (Mon 8th).
Hailed as a classic of the genre, this early cult hit from the great Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise, Boyhood) is actually set in 1976 and follows the exploits of a group of small town Texas teenagers on the last day of high school – with future stars such as Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Milla Jovovich among their number.
They’re not the only ones cutting loose this week – Audrey Hepburn’s princess slips free of her entourage to enjoy a Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck in the 1953 classic, showing at City Screen on Tues 9th.
It’s not all golden oldies at City Screen, though – anime Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko (Weds 10th) keeps the holiday vibe going with its tale of a chalk-and-cheese mother and daughter in a sleepy seaside town, while the Aesthetica Film Club continues on Thurs 11th with The Doclover, a selection of six documentaries based around the theme of community.
I promised you two 90s teen classics, and the second one comes courtesy of Everyman, who are bringing Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet back to the big screen on Weds 10th – the flamboyant director’s much-loved take on Shakespeare’s tale is one of the BFI’s 50 films to see before you’re 15 so if that’s you, chop chop!
Everyman’s odyssey through Middle Earth continues on Sat 6th with another screening of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Over at Vue, the 007 season ushers in a new era with the 1995 classic GoldenEye (Sat 6th), as Pierce Brosnan’s “sexist, misogynist dinosaur” faces off against a vengeful Sean Bean in one of the Bondiest Bonds of all, and an undoubted series highpoint.
With horror maestro Jordan Peele’s eagerly-awaited new one Nope hitting cinemas next week, there’s a welcome return to the big screen for his brilliant first two releases at Cineworld, as Get Out takes us back to the Sunken Place on Tues 9th, and the Tethered come out to play in Us on Weds 10th.
And finally, stool industry bedrocks (take that how you will) Westlife are Live at the Wembley Stadium on Sat 6th – you can catch the boys banging out the ballads at Cineworld, Everyman and Vue (with an encore at Vue on Sun 7th).
Speaking of which, does anyone remember their slightly bizarre appearance at the Brits in 2001, when their performance was interrupted by a particularly puce-faced Phil Mitchell, aggressively demanding they perform something more up-tempo? (I swear this happened. They responded with Uptown Girl, which seemed to placate the furious grease monkey. And then only a few weeks later Phil was shot on his own doorstep. Clearly you do not mess with Kian and co…)