Without wishing to indulge in the digital version of “I can remember when it was all fields round ‘ere”, there’s no doubt the world of gaming has moved on quite a bit since my eight-year-old self sat patiently waiting for his ZX Spectrum to load up Space Invaders.
The pace of innovation has long since left me behind I’m afraid, but I’ve always liked the idea of “open world” video games: the ones where yes, you can follow the mission set for you, steal a car, beat up a pimp and so on – or you can just wander about, feed the ducks in the park, maybe attend a poetry recital, that sort of thing.
It’s a mystery why my friends never invite me to their all-day gaming marathons, really… Anyhow, the reason I’m rambling like a forty-something dotard is that this week’s big new release is set in just such a game, as Ryan Reynolds sees through the Matrix in Free Guy.
Ryan Reynolds and Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer star in this Truman Show-esque action comedy.
The plot sees Guy (Reynolds), an unassuming bank teller, discover that he is actually a non-playable character in a video game called Free City – setting him off on a mission to break the rules and play the game his way.
Comer plays Millie, a developer in the real world who believes that Free World’s megabucks publishing company ripped off her more idealistic project, and enters the game in the alter ego of ‘Molotov Girl’ to find proof.
Joe Keery (aka Stranger Things’ babysitter-par-excellence Steve Harrington) stars as Millie’s fellow coder Keys, while Thor: Ragnarok mastermind Taika Waititi is said to be on scene-stealing form as a particularly obnoxious Silicon Valley tech boss.
An introverted teenager becomes embroiled in her family’s dark and dangerous lifestyle in this brooding Danish thriller co-starring Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen.
Following her mother’s death in a car crash, Ida (Sandra Kampp) is taken in by her estranged aunt Bodil (Knudsen) and her three grown sons – but while the atmosphere at home is warm and loving, Ida soon discovers that Bodil is also the cold-blooded matriarch of the family debt collection business, with her sons the violent enforcers.
As Ida negotiates her place in this murky new world, an unforeseen event challenges family loyalties in a drama which the Guardian said ‘has the makings of a big hit’.
Based on a true story, this Cold War thriller stars Benedict Cumberbatch as a British businessman recruited by MI6 and the CIA to help them defuse the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne, who is approached by the spy agencies to work as a courier bringing them vital Soviet intel – the reason being that his business connections in Moscow will allow him to come and go without suspicion.
Tense, le Carré-esque scenes follow as Wynne gets to grips with the world of spycraft, coming to form a deep bond of friendship with his KGB source, Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) – whilst back home his increasing overseas visits are a source of friction with wife Sheila (Jessie Buckley).
Also out at Cineworld and Vue this week is horror sequel Don’t Breathe 2, the follow-up to 2016’s well-received original about a blind Gulf War veteran who proves more than a match for the criminal gang who attempt to break into his house.
The new film sees antihero Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) now living a peaceful life in an isolated cabin – until a gang of villains (who apparently didn’t get the memo) turn up to try their luck.
And sticking with things that go bump in the night, Friday 13th (when else?) sees the beginning of A Terrifying Uprising at City Screen.
That’s the name they’ve given for their new season celebrating the recent explosion of female-led horror movies, which will see the critically acclaimed likes of Saint Maud and Raw screening over the next few weeks.
Things kick off this week with a preview of a hotly-tipped British chiller Censor – the feature debut of Welsh director Prano Bailey-Bond is set during the 1980s ‘video nasty’ era, and concerns a film censor who finds that one of the horror movies she watches has a disturbing connection to her sister’s mysterious disappearance.
The film was a hit with online audiences when it had its premiere at the Sundance Festival back in January, and Mark Kermode is already a big fan – the film is out on general release on 20th August, but you can catch the preview at City Screen on Fri 13th.
Meanwhile, on Sunday 15th, City Screen’s Wong Kar Wai season continues with 1990’s Days of Being Wild, the Hong Kong director’s second film, which is a 1960s-set tale centring on a disaffected playboy who discovers that the woman who raised him is not his mother.
City Screen have encore screenings of romantic Japanese anime Josee, the Tiger and the Fish (Sat 14th) and documentary The Most Beautiful Boy in the World (Tues 17th), which details the troubled aftermath of childhood stardom.
There are also a couple more chances to catch Edgar Wright’s ace music doc The Sparks Brothers at City Screen on Mon 16th and Thurs 19th – I managed to see this last weekend and it was absolutely worth getting completely soaked on the walk home.
Finally, if Censor doesn’t sound quite your cup of tea, head over to Everyman on Thurs 19th for a preview of another promising British film, but one that’s more Hail Mary than Hail Satan – set in the mid-90s, Our Ladies is a coming-of-age tale following a gang of Catholic school girls on a riotous trip to Edinburgh for a choir competition.
Summer holiday round-up
It’s a quiet week for new family-friendly releases, but The Croods 2: A New Age, Space Jam: A New Legacy, Jungle Cruise and Spirit Untamed are still readily available at Cineworld, Vue, and Everyman while Paw Patrol: The Movie continues at Cineworld, Vue and City Screen.
Cineworld’s Movies For Juniors offering this week is the Noah’s ark-inspired CGI adventure Two By Two: Overboard! (daily, tickets £3.25), while Vue’s Mini Mornings are catering for younger kids with Bing’s Animal Stories (daily, £2.49), which is sadly not a Jackanory-style Friends spin-off.
If neither of those take your fancy, then jump in the Mystery Machine and head over to City Screen, where Scoob! is showing in the Kids’ Club slot (Sat 14th, Mon 16th – Thurs 19th, £3.00) – and can I just take a moment to salute the transformative power of an exclamation mark at the end of a title. Imagine what a giant shrug of a movie it would have seemed like if they’d just called it Scoob.
I think more films should do it – how about Taxi Driver! (“One crazy thrill ride you’ll want to hail again and again!”)
You missed a trick there, Marty…