From The Rock to John Cena and Andre the Giant to, er, Hulk Hogan, many an American wrestler has gone on to carve out a successful career in the movies after they step out of the ring.
You don’t tend to see many actors embarking on the reverse trajectory – but having bulked up his physique for this week’s big new release The Iron Claw, maybe Zac Efron could be the man to make the journey from Hollywood to the WWE arena.
What would he call himself though? Zac Attack? The Zefronator?
Yes, I can see him hyping up the crowds now: “Ladies and gentlemen, I am The Zefronator and you are about to witness…a High School Bruisical!”
Stranger things have happened, that’s all I’m saying – but if you’re a lover not a fighter, then there’s a celluloid chocolate box of Valentine’s favourites for you to gorge on this week, from bumbling booksellers to revolutionary romance…
The Iron Claw
Director Sean Durkin follows up his acclaimed 2020 drama The Nest with another portrait of familial tensions here, but whereas his previous film played out in the chilly confines of an English manor house, the action here takes place in the all-American world of professional wrestling.
Set in 1980s Texas, this true-life sporting tale follows the tragedies and triumphs of the Von Erich brothers, members of a wrestling dynasty who were egged on by their domineering father and coach to achieve the fame and glory in the ring that he once enjoyed in his 1960s heyday.
A seriously beefed up Zac Efron plays eldest son Kevin, while Jeremy Allen White (The Bear), Harris Dickinson (Triangle of Sadness) and newcomer Stanley Simons make up the rest of the close-knit fraternal unit, who strive for success even as they live in fear of becoming victims of the so-called ‘Von Erich curse’.
Stephen Odubola (Blue Story) leads this British crime drama set in the world of moped thieves, which won the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2023 London Film Festival.
The story follows 20-year-old Ash (Odubola), who steals phones in order to look after his younger sister and pay for his mother’s rehab, bringing him to the attention of an Albanian crime syndicate – but the thrill of ever-bigger risks lures him into dangerous territory.
Rising star Taz Skylar (who also co-wrote the screenplay) plays Ash’s friend Dubz, while the supporting cast also features a liberal sprinkling of up-and-comers from the UK music scene including rappers Yung Filly and Ms Banks and last year’s Eurovision entrant Mae Muller (look, it was always going to be hard following Sam Ryder, OK?).
The Jungle Bunch: World Tour
A penguin raised by tigers takes on a nefarious beaver in this animated…why yes, it is a quiet week for new releases, what made you ask?
Waddling into cinemas just in time for half-term, this follow-up to the 2017 original sees stripey hero Maurice and pals team up once more when their jungle home is threatened by a pink foam that explodes on contact with water, just as the rainy season is approaching.
People pay good money for that sort of thing in Ibiza, but this being a more toddler-friendly tale, it’s up to the gang to track down an antidote to neutralise the foamy menace.
|Cert U, 89 mins
|From Fri Feb 9
Other new releases and previews
12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen makes a return to the big screen with epic new documentary Occupied City, which juxtaposes contemporary life in Amsterdam with memories of its past under Nazi occupation.
You can catch it at City Screen on Sun 11th, followed by a satellite Q&A with McQueen and his partner Bianca Stiger, whose book Atlas of an Occupied City: Amsterdam 1940-1945 inspired the film – but be warned, with a runtime of over four hours, you’ll need to block book out your afternoon for this one (the screening will include a 15-minute intermission).
Later in the week, there’s a preview of the latest work by another legendary filmmaker in the form of Perfect Days – showing at City Screen on Thurs 15th, this meditative drama about the day-to-day life of a Tokyo toilet cleaner is directed by Wim Wenders of Paris, Texas fame.
Expect thrills and chills aplenty in Malayalam-language horror Bramayugam, screening at Cineworld and Vue on Thurs 15th, while on Sun 11th Vue have another screening of Hindi-language comedy-drama Dunki, following four friends in Punjab who attempt to realise their dream of moving to England.
And as ever, those up for a night at the theatre without paying West End prices (but also alas without those little ice cream tubs at the interval) are well catered for with specially-filmed screenings of footballing drama Dear England (City Screen matinee on Mon 12th; Vue, Mon 12th, Thurs 15th), ballet Manon (City Screen, Tues 13th) and musical revue My Favorite Things: The Rodgers and Hammerstein 80th Anniversary Concert (Cineworld, Vue, Weds 14th, and yes, that’s how they’re spelling it).
Half-term holiday round-up
It’s heartening to see Disney backtracking on its bizarre decision to let several of Pixar’s recent films bypass cinemas entirely and debut on Disney+, effectively rebranding one of the most recognisable and beloved names in big screen entertainment as a straight-to-streaming enterprise.
Perhaps inspired by the slow-burn box office success of last year’s Elemental, they’re giving a belated cinema release to three of the studio’s outings that never got their chance to shine first time round – starting this month with 2022’s coming-of-age tale Turning Red, which is showing daily at Cineworld (tickets £5.00) and Vue (tickets standard price: £6.99 – £9.99).
Also escaping from the small screen is everyone’s favourite porcine puddle-splasher in Peppa’s Cinema Party, which sees our heroine celebrate 20 pigging years in the industry – join the festivities at Cineworld (daily, tickets £2.50), Vue (daily, £3.99), City Screen (Mon 12th, Weds 14th, £3.30) and Everyman (daily, standard price: £6.25 child/£10.75 adult in the week, £9.55 child/£14.60 adult at the weekend).
There’s more farmyard fun at City Screen when Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget shows in their Kids’ Club slot on Sat 10th, followed by an Autism-Friendly screening of the film on Sun 11th (tickets £3.30 for both); then on into the half-term week there are Kids’ Club screenings of Wonka (Tues 13th to Thurs 15th) and new Studio Ghibli release The Boy and the Heron (Fri 9th to Mon 12th, plus Thurs 15th) – again, tickets are £3.30 for all.
More budget-priced options are available at Cineworld in the form of Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie (Weds 14th, Thurs 15th, £2.50), and at Vue courtesy of Julia Donaldson double bill Zog and the Flying Doctors & The Snail and the Whale (daily from Sat 10th, £2.49) – while Everyman’s Toddler Club is showing Turning Red on Fri 9th and Sat 10th (£6.25 for children, £8.25 for adult plus toddler).
And with Po’s latest adventure due out in cinemas next month, you can catch a triple bill of the Kung Fu Panda saga to date at Vue over the weekend, with parts one and two screening on Sat 10th, followed by the third chapter on Sun 11th (tickets standard price, £6.99 – £9.99).
Chalamet gets sand in his shoes and Julia calls round at Hugh’s: old favourites back on the big screen
It’s nearly time to head back to Arrakis as Denis Villeneuve’s concluding chapter in his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi opus Dune lands in cinemas next month – and if you need a refresher course in Timothée Chalamet’s sandy shenanigans (or if, like me, you didn’t fully understand it all the first time round), then part one is helpfully back in cinemas this week, showing at City Screen (Sat 10th), Everyman (Fri 9th), Vue (Fri 9th to Sun 11th), and in full IMAX glory at Cineworld (Fri 9th to Sun 11th).
You can seek out more new life and new civilisations at Cineworld with IMAX screenings of Christopher Nolan’s 2014 space odyssey Interstellar on Mon 12th and Tues 13th.
City Screen’s Buster Keaton season concludes in fine style on Sun 11th with the film widely hailed as the silent comic’s masterpiece, his 1926 comedy Western The General, while their celebration of British filmmaking greats Powell and Pressburger continues on Mon 12th with 1947’s Black Narcissus, a simmering psychological drama set in a convent in the Himalayas (more recently adapted as a BBC TV series starring Gemma Arterton in 2020).
With Valentine’s Day almost upon us, there are plenty of cinematic options available if you’re looking to say it with popcorn this year.
First up, noughties weepie The Notebook is Everyman’s Throwback screening on Sun 11th and Tues 13th, while two turn-of-the-millennium favourites are back for 25th anniversary screenings in the form of 10 Things I Hate About You (Cineworld, Everyman, Weds 14th; Vue, Sun 11th, Weds 14th) and Notting Hill (Cineworld, Weds 14th; Vue, Sat 10th, Weds 14th).
There’s a romance of a very different Hugh (sorry) in Les Misérables, the 2012 film adaptation of the iconic stage musical, back to rally the masses once more at Cineworld (Weds 14th) and Vue (Weds 14th, Thurs 15th).
And finally, two classic love stories featuring the same leading lady: Kate Winslet remembers the Leo she loved and lost in Titanic (Vue, Sun 11th, Weds 14th, Thurs 15th), while Jim Carrey loses it trying to remember he once loved Kate Winslet in Michel Gondry’s mind-bending masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (City Screen, Weds 14th) – on which note, here’s Beck to sing us out with this highlight from the soundtrack.