Movies to watch this week at the cinema: Grandma, The Forbidden Room, more...

Out on Friday 11 December

A comedic road trip with Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner. A non-comedic road trip with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. A kaleidoscopic head trip with Guy Maddin. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of Sisters, Grandma, By The Sea, When Harry Met Sally, The Forbidden Room, Swung, Shelter, Grazing The Sky, Hector, Ice And The Sky, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Rise Of The Footsoldier Part II and Essex Boys: The Truth. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.

SISTERS

Pairing Tina Fey and Amy Poehler for a nostalgic party flick should be like detonating a comedy powder keg. Who could forget their incendiary golden globes 2015 intro, in which they roasted George Clooney, Boyhood and (perhaps most controversially) Bill Cosby with the kind of butter-wouldnt-melt glee that rocketed their TV comedies (30 Rock and Parks & Recreation respectively) to ratings heaven? Its no surprise, then, that Sisters their third movie collaboration after Mean Girls and Baby Mama leans heavily on the duos comic prowess, but even this seasoned duo struggles to rescue what is comparatively flimsy material. Having discovered their parents are selling their childhood home, rebel sis Kate (Fey) and sensible sis Maura (Poehler) decide to throw one last party. Mauras got her eye on a cute neighbour (the hugely likeable Ike Barinholtz), and so Kate agrees to be sober sister for the night, safeguarding their parents pad from spillages and scraps. Of course, its not long before things start to go wrong, especially when one-time high school rival Brinda (Maya Rudolph) arrives, miffed that she wasnt invited to the party and intent on pulling the plug. Between the dance routines and tiffs with their on-screen rents (James Brolin and Dianne Wiest, superb), its clear Fey and Poehler are having a hoot, and Sisters soars when director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect) lets them off the leash. Run-ins with pedicurists, changing-room attendants and the cops zing with off-the-cuff humour, and the improvised moments stand out amid the increasingly weary genital gags. Our central duo arent the only ones transcending the material, either, with support players like SNL regular Bobby Moynihan (as a manic ex-classmate) and even John Cena (in a white vest and black beanie) scoring big laughs. Standout scenes are peppered throughout (the wardrobe malfunction glimpsed in the trailer; Rudolph on great mean girl form), but Sisters lacks the absurdist nous of 30 Rock and the satirical bite of Parks & Rec. Fey and Poehler have never written a vehicle for themselves (its hard to imagine Fey lumbering herself with the mother-daughter subplot she gets here), but theyre clearly able to mine gold from average material their likeability is what bumps Sisters from fine to good. It may be time for them to put pen to paper, though, and gift themselves the movie they deserve. THE VERDICT: Laugh-out-loud in places. Frustratingly flat in others. Sporadic giggles guaranteed. Fey and Poehlers comic chemistry is undeniable; shame the script didnt get a Liz Lemon rewrite. Director: Jason Moore Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz, Maya Rudolph, James Brolin, Dianne Wiest, John Cena Theatrical release: 12 December 2015 Josh Winning

GRANDMA

The sort of nana more likely to kick your boyfriend in the balls than bake him a cake, Lily Tomlins foul-mouthed, misanthropic lesbian is about as far from Mary Berry as you can get. Still, theres something wonderfully sweet about Grandma, a tough-love grey-pound comedy that doesnt treat pensioners like old people but still makes you feel like you need a big hug afterwards. We meet ex-poet Elle (Tomlin) at her worst: still stinging from the death of her long-term life-partner but finding enough bile to dump her new girlfriend (Judy Greer) with a few cutting jokes. And then her 18-year-old granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up short of $630 for an abortion If Elle hadnt cut up her credit cards to make a wind chime, it might not be a problem, but her own empty bank account prompts the duo to embark on a road trip to try and scrounge the cash from old flames and angry exes. Director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About A Boy) wrote the film especially for Tomlin after she stole Tina Feys best scenes in his 2013 romcom Admission. Riding around in her own 55 Dodge, riffing on her cranky hippy act in Netflixs Grace And Frankie, Tomlin absolutely owns Grandma through and through. It might be a tough act to compete with, but everyone tries. Taking the front passenger seat, Garner shines as the nave, knocked-up teen (getting a forked-tongue lashing from Elle when she confuses The Feminine Mystique with one of the X-Men). Meanwhile, Marcia Gay Harden bulldozes as the mother in the middle and Sam Elliot gets some of his most animated scenes in years as Elles ex-husband. Playing her first leading role in almost 30 years, Tomlin relishes every moment. She handles both the hard-won emotion and lacerating one-liners with more than enough nuance to earn a place on every Best Actress prediction list going. THE VERDICT: Lily Tomlin makes a welcome comeback in a heartfelt, ballsy comedy with a full set of teeth. Consistently funny and genuinely moving, it brings out the best (and maybe the worst) in everyone involved. Director: Paul Weitz Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Paul Bradshaw

BY THE SEA

Ten years ago, Brangelina whammed and bammed their way through action-comedy Mr. & Mrs. Smith. if youve been holding your breath for a follow-up as fun n frothy as that film, its time to exhale in bitter disappointment, because By The Sea is a bird of a much duller feather. What we have here is essentially the home videos of the dreariest beautiful people you could ever meet. Roland (Brad Pitt) and Vanessa (Angelina Jolie) are a distant, detached couple tumbling through the twilight of a troubled marriage in the early 70s. They settle in at a French resort to stare out the window, smoke cigarettes, and not talk to each other. And thats pretty much it. Eventually, Vanessa finds a hole in the wall and starts spying on the happy newlywed couple staying next door and, even more eventually, Roland joins in and somewhere out there at the edge of eternity it comes to some bitter resolution. But at that point you really find yourself wondering if its really worth this cinematic purgatory just to stare at the two most beautiful people on the planet. By The Sea was written and directed by Jolie (her third film after In In The Land Of Blood And Honey and Unbroken); Lord knows, shes done enough for the world that we ought to grant her an indulgence here and there, but the movie is so punishingly slow and uneventful that it almost feels like a prank. To be fair, it does look gorgeous (with lensing by frequent Michael Haneke collaborator Christian Berger), but its still a stretch to call this entertainment. Its like being stuck in the worlds most upscale waiting room for two hours. THE VERDICT: Stare at the wall for two hours and youll get more thrills than this glacially paced mope-fest offers. Its Eyes Wide Shut. Without the Wide. Director: Angelina Jolie Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Mlanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Ken McIntyre

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY

Assuming such people even exist, even those whove never seen Rob Reiners 1989 romcom benchmark know this is the one with the fake orgasm and the Woody Allen fixation. And those people are right, to a point. But theres more to the brief-turning- long encounters between Billy Crystals horny Harry Burns and Meg Ryans sensitive Sally than this reputation suggests. Sure, Allen-isms linger in the titles, in the jazzy music, the Casablanca references, the New York fetish and the study of romantic mores. But when Harry meets Sally on a cross-country trek in 1977, she mocks his belief that an obsession with death makes him deep and a lighter, brighter version of Allens playfield unfolds. The ending is a shoo-in but its none the worse for it when the path there is plotted with charm, nuance and Nora Ephrons crisp, compressed scripting. The talking-point claim that men and women cant actually be friends (because: sex) seems well-worn now, but it hardly matters because Harry/Sallys positions shift subtly over their years-on meetings. Thirty-something melancholy creeps in, judiciously eased by the way they gradually grow into each other, turning into the lifers in the talking-heads interludes. Despite their chalk/cheese coupling, Crystal and Ryan manage to make us believe (and care) that they do, helped by the docu-like way of framing the films vignettes with life in motion around them: the ball-game bit is a keeper, while Bruno Kirby and Carrie Fisher are convincing as our leads lived-in friends. Ephrons influence itself is now well lived-in on film and TV, from suds-coms (Friends) to gently lewd, playfully predictable on/off/on romances (Richard Curtis, Bridget Jones...). But her breezy sweetener hasnt aged much and the copycats prove it has distinction. Basically, the Allen copycat spawned its own litter. Well still have what shes having. THE VERDICT: Its about old friends Sweet, sparky, mildly saucy, Ephron and Reiners romcom holds up down the years. The script zings, the leads sing: Crystal and Ryan were never better. Director: Rob Reiner Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Kevin Harley

THE FORBIDDEN ROOM

After an opening lecture on bathing, maverick director Guy Maddins latest head trip dives into a maelstrom of giddy silent-era visions. An off-shoot of his Seances project legendary lost films re-imagined the result unfurls like faded film stocks wayward ghost, its florid images and cheeky intertitles mixing sinking subs, bladder-slappers, butt-pinchers, banana vampires, sentient volcanoes Follow the lava-like flow and slippery themes (memory, manhood, desires absurdity) emerge, given feverish allure by the delirious visuals and hysterical humour. Luxuriate in it like a steamy bath. Directors: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson Starring: Charlotte Rampling, Udo Kier, Louis Negin, Gregory Hlady Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Kevin Harley

SWUNG

Brit cinema tends to titter about sex rather than explore it frankly, so its refreshing to see such a confident, non-judgmental take on the swinging scene. First-time director Colin Kennedy handles risqu material with class and a sense of humour, offering a convincing portrait of coupledom in David (Owen McDonnell) and wife Alice (The Skin I Live Ins Elena Anaya). Involvement with other couples may be the cure for davids impotence; the sex scenes are driven by dramatic tension as the pair expand their horizons and work on their relationship problems. Original, thoughtful and bold. Director: Colin Kennedy Starring: Elena Anaya, Owen McDonnell, Elizabeth McGovern Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Stephen Puddicombe

SHELTER

Paul Bettanys directorial debut casts his wife Jennifer Connelly as a homeless New York junkie who, at one point, injects heroin into her crotch. (Thats very nice dear, but could you just buy me some flowers next time?) Into her life comes fellow down-and-out Tahir (Anthony Mackie), a Nigerian immigrant with a violent past. Gradually we learn of the reasons they are on the streets, and together they forge a bond that blossoms into romance when they stumble upon an apartment left empty for the summer. This, though, is only a brief respite from misery in a film whose good intentions and poetic flourishes cant mask its prevailing dramatic clunkiness. Director: Paul Bettany Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Mackie Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Neil Smith

GRAZING THE SKY

Horacio Alcals documentary follows eight different circus performers, detailing the tenacity, commitment and significant sacrifices required to be part of a profession where one slip can mean debilitating or even fatal injury (as was the case when acrobat Sarah Guyard-Guillot died during a Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas in 2013). Alcal elegantly records his subjects as they spin, flip and dangle and takes them back to their homelands to see what drives them. His uncritical stance, alas, gives Grazing The Sky all the objectivity of a corporate video. Director: Horacio Alcala Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Neil Smith

HECTOR

Writer/director Jake Gavin makes an auspicious debut with this sensitive study of a homeless man making his annual pilgrimage from Scotland to a London shelter for Christmas. Played by Peter Mullan with both strength of character and world-weary vulnerability, Hector meets prejudice, good Samaritans and opportunistic bullies along the way, making for a realistic depiction of life on the road for someone used to life on the streets. The film unravels the circumstances of Hectors downfall as he tries to reconnect with old family; the result is intimate and quietly powerful. Director: Jake Gavin Starring: Peter Mullan, Keith Allen, Natalie Gavin, Sharon Rooney, Sarah Solemani, Stephen Tompkinson, Gina McKee Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Matt Looker

ICE AND THE SKY

Theres something a bit Steve Zissou about Claude Lorius. Maybe its the way the French glaciologist is filmed in 1956, sitting on a desolate Antarctic rock in a woolly jumper, casually trying to offer a cigarette to a penguin. Credited with bringing global warming to worldwide attention, the eccentric eco-explorer is now an old man, capturing the attention of documentary director Luc Jacquet (March Of The Penguins). Taking Lorius own incredible expedition footage and giving it a whimsical bent and a voiceover, Jacquet shapes a powerful portrait of the world and its soothsayer Director: Luc Jacquet Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Paul Bradshaw

PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT

As chic, art-focused and well-connected as its subject legendary collector and museum-maker Peggy Guggenheim this sleek doc looks briskly rather than deeply at a life spent buying and bedding modern arts great names, from Marcel Duchamp to Jackson Pollock. Plump with art-world anecdote and glossy archive footage Peggy swung with the 20s Surrealists in Paris, and introduced Kandinsky and Rothko to wartime London and New York its missing the fun and flamboyance of director Lisa Immordino Vreelands similar voyage round Diana Vreeland. Still, it conveys Peggys acquisitive acumen: My motto was Buy a picture a day, and I lived up to it. Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Kate Stables

RISE OF THE FOOTSOLDIER PART II

Brace yourselves for another couple of numbing hours spent in the company of psychopathically violent and sweary career criminal Carlton Leach (played by writer/director Ricci Hartnett). Set in the late 90s after the Rettendon Range Rover murders of three drug dealers in an Essex country lane, and including a sub-GoodFellas voiceover from its hard-man protagonist, this sequel follows a cocaine-fuelled leach and his associates as they batter and torture their way past rival crews, both in England and Europe. As repetitive as it is unenlightening. Director: Ricci Harnett Starring: Luke Mably, Steven Berkoff, Craig Fairbrass Theatrical release: 11 December 2015 Tom Dawson

ESSEX BOYS: THE TRUTH

Aiming to separate first-hand fact from movie-adaptation fiction, this doc offers true insight into the notorious Essex firm led by Damon Alvin in the aftermath of the brutal murder of previous top dogs Tony Tucker, Pat Tate and Craig Rolfe in 1995. Former insider Bernard OMahoney uses extensive interviews with firm and family members to provide personal accounts of power trips and paranoia, undermining the sensationalist media coverage that followed the events. Pre-knowledge is recommended, though, as the onslaught of names and anecdotes will be near-impenetrable to newcomers. Director: Chris Matthews Starring: Bernard OMahoney Theatrical release: 6 December 2015 Matt Looker

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