Have you ever wondered how the star that all those Disney characters wished upon came to be?
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s probably not anywhere near the top of your Wonder List – perhaps sandwiched somewhere in the lower echelons among the likes of “What if Ian Beale and Phil Mitchell did an album of Christmas duets?” and “If Trevor McDonald and Spongebob Squarepants got in a fight, who would win?” – but if it has been keeping you awake at night, you’re in luck, as the studio’s 100th anniversary celebrations culminate with the release of Wish this week.
Plus, Joaquin Phoenix sallies forth in historical epic Napoleon (warning to the uninitiated: do not listen to Waterloo by ABBA before seeing this film – massive spoiler in the first verse), and it’s two Tilda Swintons for the price of one in The Eternal Daughter…
An animated musical fantasy about a plucky heroine who wishes upon a star…it’s fair to say Disney haven’t exactly broken the mould with their latest release, which caps off a year of centenary celebrations for the House of Mouse.
The formulaic nature of the tale is, though, partly the point, giving the studio a chance to embark on an Easter egg-laden homage to its own legend, built around a new story from the team behind its biggest latter-day megahit, Frozen.
Taking her place in the pantheon of Disney princesses is Asha (Ariana DeBose, West Side Story), a sharp-witted idealist in the Kingdom of the Rosas who teams up with a cosmic force named Star to defeat the evil King Magnifico (Chris Pine), the man with the power to grant or deny his subjects’ dearest wishes.
Joaquin Phoenix dons the famous bicorne hat (yours for just €1.9m) in director Ridley Scott’s epic retelling of the life and times of the diminutive French Emperor.
The film follows Napoleon’s rise from humble artillery officer to all-conquering military genius, a journey fuelled by his tempestuous relationship with his wife Joséphine (Vanessa Kirby).
Fans of infantry porn certainly won’t go away disappointed, with the film boasting a succession of Scott’s trademark spectacular battle sequences – whilst also, according to Empire, slyly subverting the conventions of the genre: “This is a historical epic which is constantly on the lookout for subtle ways to undercut historical epics.”
The Eternal Daughter
Tilda Swinton stars opposite…Tilda Swinton, in this atmospheric ghost story from acclaimed director Joanna Hogg.
An exploration of mother-daughter relationships, the film sees Swinton playing both middle-aged filmmaker Julie and her elderly mother Rosalind, who make a journey to their former family home, a remote, gothic building in the Welsh countryside which is now a hotel.
As the pair settle into the eerie, almost deserted old pile for a birthday minibreak, they find long-buried secrets and mysteries rising out of the winter mist to meet them.
While you don’t need to have seen Hogg’s critically adored Souvenir films to see this one, fans will recognise that Rosalind and Julie were also the names of the characters played by Swinton and her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne in the earlier films…what can it all mean?
Other new releases and previews
Previewing at City Screen on Tues 28th ahead of its release next week, Fallen Leaves is the latest film from Aki Kaurismäki, the celebrated Finnish director famed for his charming, deadpan tales of outsiders and misfits – here, he brings us a love story about two lost souls who meet at a karaoke bar.
Over at Vue, documentary Is There Anybody Out There? (Weds 29th) sees filmmaker Ella Glendining challenging ableist attitudes as she sets out on a search to meet other people who love and celebrate their unusual bodies.
Plus: Call that an Eras tour? This is an Eras tour…the twinkle-eyed old charmer shows Tay-Tay how it’s done as Cliff Richard: The Blue Sapphire Tour 2023 (Cineworld and Vue, Sat 25th, Sun 26th) sees the Millennium Prayer hitmaker celebrate 65 years in the biz.
Emmet and pals take arms against a sea of Duplo in The Lego Movie 2, which is this week’s Kids’ Club selection at City Screen on Sat 25th (tickets £3.30).
Cineworld’s Movies For Juniors strand offers Russian animated caper How to Save the Immortal (Sat 25th, Sun 26th, £2.50), while Vue have two small screen toddlers’ faves in the form of Hey Duggee Cinema Outing (Sat 25th, Sun 26th, £2.49), plus daily screenings of Bing’s Christmas and Other Stories (£3.99).
Vue also have a welcome big screen return for Wallace and Gromit with a double bill of their first two adventures, A Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers, screening to mark 30 years since their encounter with the dastardly Feathers McGraw (Fri 24th – Mon 27th and Weds 29th, £3.99).
Nolan blasts into space and Hitchcock takes second place: Old favourites back on the big screen
With Oppenheimer doubtless set to appear in many best-of-the-year polls, there’s a chance to revisit a similarly ambitious Christopher Nolan blockbuster in the form of 2014’s sci-fi odyssey Interstellar, showing at Vue on Sat 25th.
City Screen’s Haunted season concludes on Sun 26th with what feels like one of Guillermo del Toro’s more underrated films, 2015’s opulent gothic romance Crimson Peak, while their Dementia-Friendly screening this month is the Ealing Studios classic The Ladykillers (Mon 27th), in which a sweet little old lady proves a surprisingly hard target for Alec Guinness and his motley crew.
It’s been a year since the publication of Sight and Sound’s once-a-decade poll of the best films of all time came with the shock revelation that previous winner Vertigo had been knocked off the number one spot – you can catch Alfred Hitchcock’s heady tale of obsession at City Screen on Sun 26th, as their countdown of the top 10 nears its end (the surprise victor, the relatively obscure Belgian film Jeanne Dielman, screens at the end of next month).
And finally, Everyman’s Late Nights strand is getting in the Christmas spirit (sort of) with a screening of Batman Returns (Fri 24th) in which the festive season provides the backdrop to Michael Keaton’s face-off with the villainous triumvirate of Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito and Christopher Walken – not to mention DeVito’s troupe of rocket-launching penguins.
Pick of the week: Santa Claus: The Movie
I’ll be honest here, this 1985 oddity is pick of the week on the basis that it turns up on the big screen a lot less often than many of the other hardy seasonal perennials – but, well, there’s probably a reason for that…
In Quality Street terms, this is definitely one of the strawberry creams – a daft and disjointed tale about a disgruntled elf (Dudley Moore) who sacks off his job working for Santa (David Huddleston, aka the guy who calls The Dude a bum in The Big Lebowski) and joins up with an evil toymaker (John Lithgow, chewing magical candy canes and the scenery in equal measure) to launch an entirely mercenary and cynical cash-in holiday called Black Fri…sorry, Christmas 2.
It’s back in cinemas in a swanky new 4K restoration, so if you spent many an 80s Christmas sat on your mum’s knee carping at the atrocious picture quality of the copy you taped off the telly, then here’s an early stocking filler for you – and for full-on retro vibes, I recommend Barry Norman’s decidedly Bah Humbug Film ‘85 review as a nice aperitif.
|Cert PG, 108 mins
|Sat Nov 25, Sun Nov 26
Other festive treats
“If Disney made Christian movies, they would look like this” is the Guardian’s verdict on new nativity musical Journey to Bethlehem (Vue, Tues 28th) – so probably not one for the Studio Ghibli-loving Satanist in your life, but that does mean they’ll miss out on a scene-stealing turn from Antonio Banderas as King Herod.
Elsewhere, cinemas are ripping open the selection box on all your festive favourites: Love Actually (Cineworld, Fri 24th, Sun 26th; Vue Sun 26th, Mon 27th) and The Holiday (Cineworld, Tues 28th) bring the noughties romcom vibes, while the ever-resourceful Willis and Culkin dish out a world of pain to their respective seasonal interlopers in Die Hard (Vue, Fri 24th, Sat 25th) and Home Alone (Everyman, Sun 26th, Tues 28th), and Jack Skellington bites off more than he can chew in cautionary cultural appropriation tale The Nightmare Before Christmas (Vue, Sat 25th, Sun 26th).