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Le Mans ‘66 (12A)
Directed by James Mangold
FASTEN your seatbelts for an exhilarating, high-octane drama, inspired by the real-life battle between Ford and Ferrari and the powerful friendship which shaped 1960s motor racing.
It’s driven by masterclass performances from Matt Damon and Christian Bale as renowned racing driver-turned-car designer Carroll Shelby and his hot-tempered British test driver Ken Miles.
The film chronicles their turbulent friendship and their passion for excellence and innovation, along with the unbridled love for racing which unites them.
When Ford hires Shelby (Damon) to design the ultimate race car to beat world-leaders Ferrari at the 1966 24-hour Le Mans race, the pair jump to it. But Shelby has to fight hard with Ford to keep Miles (Bale) on the team because they see him as a maverick and not on brand.
Directed by James Mangold from a script by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, the film delivers visually astounding and nail-biting race action scenes, balanced with gripping human drama, to satisfy both petrol heads and non-racing fans alike.
Mangold puts the cinemagoer in the driving seat, giving a taste of what it must have been like for the fearless drivers who put their lives and reputations on the line each time they raced — deaths were commonplace.
A riveting and moving portrait of two men who fought fiercely against corporate interference to make motor-racing history.
Little Monsters (15)
Directed by Abe Forsythe
THE LIVING Dead have been a horror-film staple since 1942’s The White Zombie.
Now they’re back for the nth time, stumbling, slavering and seeking slaughter in a splendidly gruesome and unexpectedly amusing shocker that smartly blends blood-soaked terror with gratifying black comedy, strongly flavoured with a slew of mostly appropriate four-letter expletives.
When washed-up musician Dave (Alexander England) volunteers to join the class of kindergarten teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o) on a field trip to Pleasant Valley Farm, they are faced with Josh Gad’s foul-mouthed American entertainer Teddy McGiggle and, worse still, a gory outbreak of slavering zombies.
In what transpires, writer-director Abe Forsythe happily prevents good taste from infecting a splendid shocker, memorably graced by Nyong’o, whose ukulele-playing teacher anchors the monstrous proceedings.
Her charm and feistiness give this filthy, funny and scary show a human heart.
Last Christmas (12A)
Directed by Paul Feig
IF YOU love the festive season, rom coms, George Michael and Wham! music then all your Christmases will have arrived at once.
Inspired by Wham!’s song Last Christmas, it stars an enchanting Emilia Clarke and Harry Golding as a couple of adorable, star-crossed lovers. She is a walking mess following a health scare and he is charming and full of naive wonderment, urging her to put her mobile phone down and look up at her surroundings.
Directed by Paul Feig and co-written by Emma Thompson, the film is set in London — which has never looked so gorgeous — in December 2017 in the wake of the Brexit vote and alludes to racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and the genuine fears of immigrants of being kicked out of the country despite living here for years.
Kate (Clarke) plays down her former Yugoslavian roots and has a prickly relationship with her overbearing refugee mother, played brilliantly by Thompson, who is frightened of being deported.
Even so, it is a surprisingly sweet and fun Christmas rom com with an unexpected heartfelt twist.
Just leave cynicism at the door, as I had to, and remember that “sometimes you just gotta have faith.”
Directed by Ken Russell
MUSICALS don’t come much crazier than Ken Russell’s unique 1975 rock opera, which makes its return to cinemas.
Russell’s seriously strange screen story, derived from The Who’s celebrated rock opera, has Roger Daltrey playing Tommy and he gives his all and then some in this story of the pinball champion who becomes a messiah after witnessing the murder of his father.
Don’t worry about the plot, because Russell doesn’t. Instead, he creates a series of increasingly visually bizarre sequences sung for all their worth, and often rather more, by Daltrey and Elton John. There’s zestful overacting from Ann-Margret and Jack Nicholson — as a smooth-talking doctor, no less — and Oliver Reed.
Fun, but in essence Tommy now resembles nothing so much as a series of expensive pop-music promotional plugs.
Marriage Story (15)
Directed by Noah Baumbach
NOAH BAUMBACH delivers an exquisitely nuanced and moving love story about two people undergoing a divorce while desperately trying to keep their family together.
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are married couple Nicole and Charlie, who are keen to keep their split amicable for their young son until LA divorce lawyers (played superbly by Laura Dern and Ray Liotta) get their teeth stuck into them.
The Netflix film opens with an inspired montage of the pair paying a wonderful loving ode to each other before reality sinks in.
Baumbach, who also wrote the film, comes up with an incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breakdown with a dash of humour, powered by tour-de-force performances from Johansson and Driver.
The pair are magnificent and no doubt the awards will come a-calling.
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