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Starring Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould & Kathryn Hahn
Every good director makes bad movies. David Lynch made Dune, Francis Ford Coppola made Jack. Even Steven Spielberg made 1941. But M Night Shyamalan has made many bad movies. Although it’s hard to believe now, almost 20 years ago he was considered to be a leading light of cinema, an Oscar-nominated genre director who could do no wrong. Until The Village, The Happening, and- shudder – The Last Airbender. Eventually, he was considered to be such a joke that his new movie, The Visit, doesn’t even put his name on the trailers. This is a shame, because it’s a remarkable return to form for the former wunderkind.
The Visit starts off with a mother being contacted out of the blue by her estranged parents, who would like to see their grandchildren. Her husband left a few years before and she’s finally got a new boyfriend, so the kids – older Becca and younger Tyler – decide to go to give their mother some space. Tyler is frustrated he can’t text his ladies, and works on his rap skills – despite being a weedy little kid with a germ phobia. Becca decides to create a documentary about her grandparents with a view to helping them reconcile with her mother.
Starring O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell
It’s taken America by storm, netting around $60M in its opening weekend, and it’s already doing the same here. Straight Outta Compton is being talked about as a surprise Oscar contender; I’d be surprised if it didn’t make the shortlist. Set in the late 80s and early 90s, the film details the origins and the explosiveness of gangsta rap pioneers N.W.A, hammering home the uncomfortable truth that almost 30 years later, we’re still talking about the same issues.
Director F. Gary Gray gave himself a plethora of tasks with this release; he not only had to do right by Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr Dre, Ice Cube and DJ Yella themselves, not to mention their legions of fans, but he had to make sure that the voice he gives through his work to the city of Compton, and the wider African-American community, is justified. That so many people who were there themselves during N.W.A’s infancy – and the Rodney King riots – approve of Gray’s portrayal, proves he has done this difficult, compelling and important story justice.
Starring Kristen Stewart, Juliet Binoche & Chloe Grace Moretz
“Kristen Stewart won the French Oscar.” That’s the sentence that will probably pull the most people to this film, and there’s nothing wrong with it- although it’s the Cesar, if you want to be precise. Stewart gets the first line, and in a sense, she gets the final say; everything else about the film is sort of up for grabs.
The film follows Juliette Binoche as Maria, an ageing actor who has built a huge career from a small but world-renowned play and film. She’s en route to an award ceremony to collect the award on behalf of the director, Wilhelm Melchior, when he dies. Later that evening, she’s invited to star in the same play that made her famous- but as the older character, not the young seductress. The bulk of the film then follows Maria and Valentine (Stewart) as they escape to the Alps to study the play, and focuses in on Maria’s journey through understanding how her own life and performance has changed since she started in the same play at 18.
Assayas storms through the first part of the film- it’s a whirlwind of press engagements and paparazzi. He’s aided in part by the physical setting of the first few scenes, a train en route to Zurich- as the vehicle moves inexorably forward, so does the plot, and right from the first shot (Valentine answering a phone call between carriages), the camera sways with the motion of the train, carrying its energy through scenes that could otherwise be maudlin.