Keiron Self is at the cinema this March, or the virtual cinema, or maybe the cinema of the mind because some of these brand new films are very much under wraps – which is why we need the testimony of the likes of he…
Yes, it’s another Batman film. After Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, Matt Reeves (director of Cloverfield and the excellent Planet Of The Apes sequels) takes on the caped crusader, producing a seemingly gritty noir. Stepping into the cowl is Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne, tortured vigilante billionaire in, hopefully, not another origin story. Wayne apparently does more detecting as well as hitting people; Andy Serkis plays butler Alfred, Zoe Kravitz is Catwoman, whilst the baddies are supplied by Colin Farrell’s heavily prostheticed Penguin and Paul Dano’s psychotic serial killer the Riddler. Whether the world needs another Batman film after Ben Affleck’s grumpy chin is open to question. Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy seems the definitive take, but this has an edgy, intriguing look to it, an epic runtime and a supposedly grounded Gotham. An eclectic cast with serious acting chops adds to the attraction, The Batman could go with a real Pow! Zap! and Boing!… but, you know, dark.
Dir: Matt Reeves (15, 175 mins)
The Batman opens Fri 4 Mar
Read our review of The Batman below:
ALI AND AVA
A heartfelt, gritty relationship drama seems on the cards in this latest feature from Bradford filmmaker Barnard, who also brought us the superb The Arbour and The Selfish Giant. Ali & Ava, however, looks to be lighter fare imbued with her naturalistic verve as a writer and director, moments captured rather than heavily staged. The excellent Adeel Akhtar and Claire Rushbrook are the titular couple: both lonely, Ali estranged from his partner and Ava still reeling from the legacy of her past, dealing with her son now being a parent and how he feels about a new man on the scene. The film, set over a lunar month, shows their relationship develop, facing challenges and obstacles, coming from different backgrounds while realising they have much in common. Expect gentle humanity, unfailing truthtelling and a very personal snapshot of a burgeoning relationship anchored by two brilliant actors.
Dir: Clio Barnard (15, 97 mins)
Ali & Ava opens Fri 4 Mar
PARIS 13th DISTRICT
Modern French society comes under the microscope of Jacques Audiard again, as in his excellent A Prophet and Dheepan. Co-writing with another giant of contemporary French cinema, Cecile Sciamma, this intertwining tale brings together a bored call centre worker (Lucie Zhang), a real estate agent (Noemie Merlant), a teacher (Makita Samba), and a webcam model (Jehnny Beth). Shot in black and white, the film follows the foursome as they find out about each other, love lives crisscrossing in sexually explicit trysts, arguments and jealousies. Audiard and Sciamma once again explore warts-and-all foibles of affairs and romance in an arthouse drama that should intrigue any cineaste. Paris 13th District may seem lighter than the heavyweight issues of Audiard’s previous work, but it looks to be ravishingly shot by Paul Guillaume, Paris itself being a fifth character, and there’s an interesting electronic score by Rone to compliment the work of the actors.
Dir: Jacques Audiard (15, 105 mins)
Paris, 13th District opens Fri 4 Mar
Based on a true story, Hive, set in the aftermath of the war in Kosovo, has plenty to say about the plight of women as they try and pick up the pieces left behind following conflict. Yllka Gashi plays Fahrije Hoti, the inspiration for the film: her husband has been missing since the war, and though she still searches for him, she must move on and provide for her children. Widows are not expected to work, but she has no choice; banding together with other war widows, Hoti sets up her own business making ajvar, an aromatic sauce and side dish. The patriarchal community in which she is trapped are not happy about it – she already has the audacity to drive a car! – and her struggles continue. Already award-winning, this powerful drama deals with grief, misogyny and ambition in unexpected ways.
Dir: Blerta Basholli (12A, 84 mins)
Hive opens Fri 11 Mar
A former porn star returns to his Texas hometown, where no one really wants him in the first place, in Red Rocket – writer/director Sean Baker’s follow up to The Florida Project and Tangerine. At its heart is the charismatic, if annoying and often unlikeable, Mikey Saber, played with brio by an actual ex-porn star, Simon Rex. He hustles relentlessly, worming his way back into the house of estranged wife Lexi (Bree Elrod), dealing with his false-teethed mother-in-law and attempting to try and make things work. Then he sees Strawberry (Suzanna Son), a young doughnut shop waitress, and things become complicated. A grooming begins as Mikey sees himself making his way back into the world of porn as a pimp with a new star – setting in motion what will be a funny, often uncomfortable, glimpse at a desperate man, no doubt given immediacy and verve by Baker’s idiosyncratic eye and ability to capture and empathise with outsiders.
Dir: Sean Baker (15, 130 mins)
Red Rocket opens Fri 11 Mar
OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE
Professional mockney and Aladdin remake director Guy Ritchie returns to the world of espionage after his disappointing Man From U.N.C.L.E. reboot for Operation Fortune, reteaming with Jason Statham for some swaggery nonsense. Statham is the ludicrously monikered Orson Fortune, a special agent with a team of highly skilled operatives, including the ever-snarky Aubrey Plaza and smooth boss Cary Elwes in a battle with Hugh Grant’s gorblimey-guvnor billionaire. Grant’s got hold of some deadly tech that threatens to overthrow the world as we know it, but to get to him they’re going to need the help of his favourite Hollywood film star Danny Francesco. Let the comedy violence begin: throats are punched, stuff blows up and Grant chews the scenery. Hopefully, this will be more fun than Ritchie’s last, smug film The Gentlemen, with over-the-top action, swipes at the film industry and Statham owning his character name. Or it might be pants.
Dir: Guy Ritchie (15, 120 mins)
Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre opens Fri 18 Mar
The world of exploitation horror is actor/writer/director Ti West’s playground. He brought us nasty segments in compendium gory chillfests VHS and The ABCs Of Death, as well as creepily excellent haunted hotel film The Innkeepers. In X, things get worse in an homage to the full-on theatrics of 70s and 80s horror. Set in 1979, it follows a group of young filmmakers – Brittany Snow, Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega and Kid Cudi amongst them – who are going to make an adult film in deepest rural Texas with their producer, Martin Henderson. Their studio, however, is a barn in the middle of nowhere, rented from a creepy elderly couple who obviously have some other stuff going on. Grainy and scary, with a grubby visual gonzo style for the porn, this looks set to provide hardcore scares and schlocky dread for those willing to risk it.
Dir: Ti West (18, 96 mins)
X opens Fri 18 Mar
Paul Verhoeven – the director behind Basic Instinct, controversial drama Elle and the violent excesses of the original Robocop and Total Recall – is no stranger to controversy. In Benedetta, he sets his sights on the Catholic church in a drama about a nun, Benedetta, based on an actual account from 17th century, plague-gripped Tuscany. Played by Virginie Efira, Benedetta’s religious devotion is thrown into disarray when Daphne Patakia’s Bartolomea arrives in her abbey and a rumoured lesbian relationship begins. Benedetta is also haunted by visions of Jesus, speaks in tongues and has stigmata – much to the distress of the austere Mother Superior, Charlotte Rampling. The nun’s relationship and visions are examined by an inquisitor (Lambert Wilson) and charges of heresy are brought. This erotic drama won’t be for the easily shocked, with Verhoeven’s trademark provocative nature appearing to be in full effect.
Dir: Paul Verhoeven (18, 131 mins)
Benedetta opens Thurs 24 Mar
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD
Chronicling four years in the life of a young woman in Oslo as she hurtles towards her 30th birthday, Joachim Trier’s film is a rich examination of one woman’s life as she negotiates her way through relationship and career choices, with a glorious – award-winning – central performance from Renate Reinsve. Julie is at a continual crossroads, flitting from possible career to possible career, man to man, as she stumbles her way through life. She grabs opportunities when they come at her, only to be disappointed. Striking up a relationship with an older man, a cartoonist played by Anders Danielsen Lie, he suits her in many ways, but ultimately she cannot stay with him. An awkward party with his friends makes her crash a wedding where she flirts with another man – the sweet-hearted Eivind, played by Herbert Nordrum – but will he be the antidote for her wandering soul? Capturing nuances of relationships with gritty aplomb, this should be a Scandi treat.
Dir: Joachim Trier (15) (127 mins)
The Worst Person In The World opens Fri 25 Mar
Read our review of The Worst Person In The World below:
Let the Bayhem commence! Thankfully, there’s no Transformers in sight in Ambulance, the latest kinetically edited vehicle for director Michael Bay: Ambulance is a remake of a 2005 Danish film about a heist gone wrong. Jake Gyllenhaal and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II are adoptive brothers; Mateen has medical bills to pay for his wife’s surgery, Gyllenhaal is just keen for a big payday, $32 million to be exact. When the bank robbery doesn’t go to plan, a botched getaway forces them to hijack an ambulance containing a wounded policeman and paramedic Elza Gonzalez. The chase is on, the police are closing in and tensions within the emergency vehicle are also running rather high. Expect a high-octane action movie with lens flares, outrageous stunts and probably a slo-mo shot of an American flag… but no Transformers, unless the ambulance goes Autobot.
Dir: Michael Bay (15, 107 mins)
Ambulance Opens Fri 25 Mar
words KEIRON SELF
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