Movies to watch this week at the cinema: Pan, Suffragette, more...

Out on Friday 16 October

With a bit of help, Ben Foster cycles to glory. Carey Mulligan leads the suffrage movement. Colin Farrell may or may not become a lobster. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of Crimson Peak, Pan, The Program, Suffragette, The Lobster, Superbob, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Censored Voices, Rough Cut, The Diabolical, Hotel Transylvania 2 and Howl. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.

CRIMSON PEAK

Guillermo del Toros recent movie history is haunted by so many half-formed projects, its become something of an event whenever he gets a film into cinemas. His last, 2013s Pacific Rim, offered blockbusting robots vs. monsters thrills, but only after the Mexican auteur had stumbled around Hobbiton for two years before exiting without a movie to show for it small wonder he then almost lost his marbles At The Mountains Of Madness, a project thats still in limbo. And with Pacific Rim 2 now in a holding pattern, Crimson Peak should be a cause for celebration. Sadly the partys only half warranted, even if del Toros ninth feature sees a welcome return to horror. Over a decade on from Pans Labyrinth and Cronos, theres been much talk of this being the directors first adult movie in the English language (no robots fighting monsters here). For all its unforgiving violence, gothic romance and haunted house hijinks, though, Crimson Peak struggles to match the vigour of the directors Spanish-language films. At times its almost phantasmal in comparison, an insubstantial echo of those superior efforts. Still, del Toro effectively sets out his goth stock early on. We meet the waif-like Edith (Mia Wasikowska) stumbling through a snow storm, beaten, ghostly pale, her hands smeared scarlet. A flashback invites us into her childhood, where her mothers sinister spectre hisses a warning: Beware of Crimson Peak. Between the gorgeous, rain-soaked cinematography and textured production design, these early, period spook scenes contain compelling nods back to del Toros great ghost story, The Devils Backbone. Somewhat boldly, a sharp first-act tonal shift (signalled by a shot of a storybook opening in classic Disney style) quickly sweeps Crimson Peak into the ballrooms and creaky mansions of grim fairytales. Before her snow storm walk and now in her 20s, wannabe author Edith may have a father (Jim Beaver), but shes ostensibly a bookish Cinderella, mocked by clownish socialites, mooned over by Charlie Hunnams strapping doctor, and dreaming of a life removed from turn-of-the-century New York. Oh, and she sees dead people. That her Prince Charming is waxen inventor Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) is a neat twist, but his romantic gestures inspire narrative stutters. It can be no mistake that Edith balks at her publishers suggestion she add a love story to her manuscript Crimson Peak is the first time del Toro has tackled romance face on, and the result is stilted, hampered by hammy dialogue and a sped-up timeline that gives the relationship little room to breathe. A midpoint shift into haunted house territory doesnt help. The big problem is the films mystery. Centred around the shadowy pasts of Thomas and his brooding sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain channeling Norma Bates), the twists are signposted early on, the surprises bogged down in clich and melodrama. These narrative shortcomings are particularly frustrating given the strength of del Toros vision. No matter what the scripts doing, feverish creativity fills every frame, not least when Edith, newly betrothed to Thomas, moves to Cumberland, England to live with him and his sister. Here, she discovers the crumbling ruin that is Allerdale Hall. Shes soon visited by tortured, blood-red apparitions, and they are the films spectral treat; an artful, unnerving blend of real and CGI puppetry. Meanwhile, the mansion set constructed at Pinewood Studios in Toronto is a marvel of horror movie engineering; grand, claustrophobic, a groaning monster that consumes its occupants. Theres invention, too, in the clockwork precision of del Toros efforts behind the camera. While Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen lenses Allerdale Hall in swampy greens and fiery reds (a tribute to Italian filmmaker Mario Bava), some of Crimson Peaks most effective tension-cranking scenes are scored not by composer Fernando Velzquez, but the monotonous pumping of an industrial clay machine. If ghosts really are, in Ediths words, a metaphor for the past, the metaphor gets somewhat confused in Crimson Peak. Is this a story about the past coming to bear on the present? Of love conquering all? The industrial revolution? Its never really clear, and while Wasikowska is a solid heroine, Hiddleston and Chastain are shackled by roles made frustratingly opaque by the clunky mystery. Del Toros artistry is definitely something to celebrate, but theres one thing about Crimson Peak thats unforgivable its just not scary. THE VERDICT: A curious hybrid of grim fairytale and gory horror, del Toros ninth feature is striking but sorely lacking in surprises. Great ghosts, but del Toro is capable of so much more. Director: Guillermo del Toro Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Charlie HunnamTheatrical release: 16 October 2015 Josh Winning

PAN

Does Peter Pan just not work in live-action film? And will origin stories always strip fairytales of their magic? If the answer to either of these questions is no, theres little supporting evidence for the case in Pan. A solid but uninspiring look at the time before young orphan Peter becomes the feather-capped flying swashbuckler, the films decision to strip J.M. Barries evergreen tale of its iconic elements is never vindicated by the alternatives offered. Joe Wrights prequel begins with a baby left at the door of a London boys home in a noirish sequence; 12 years later, during WW2, mischievous Peter (Levi Miller) and some of his fellow orphans are kidnapped by bungeeing pirates and whisked away to Neverland where theyll be interned in a work camp. Captain Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) keeps a close eye on Peter, as he might just be the prophesised whippersnapper who'll pose a threat to the pirate rule. Soon teaming with James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) a two-handed goodie in the prequels timezone - Peter plots an escape from the camp to find a magical mcguffin and, hopefully, some closure with his absent mother. Miller handles the lead role with confidence, but theres little depth to his relationship with Hook, and no hint of the tension to come. Hedlunds eyes-wide, teeth-bared style also gets irritating quickly. Jackman is much more fun, having a ball as the scenery-chewing villain who seemingly takes style cues from Versailles, but hes too quickly sidelined. Wrights visual sense is as keen as ever the Neverland sets make an ideal kids playground, and Jacqueline Durrans eye-popping costumes warrant close inspection. The biggest problem is that its just not that much fun. Peter and Hook plod through the various zones on the treasure map, but the new mythology feels flimsy, and theres never any palpable tension or drama. Even during the aerial chase sequences, pulses rarely quicken. Sub-par CGI doesnt help, miniaturising the flying ships and making a floating synthespian Peter look like a missing Tintin extra. A late-doors attempt to sprinkle some fairy dust (literally) on the climactic battle is an eyesore, while the emotional payoff is borderline laughable. As Peter Pan should be one of the ultimate wish-fulfilment heroes for kids, its baffling to see how hes been appropriated for such an awfully middling adventure. THE VERDICT: Stripping J.M. Barries story of its most magical elements without replacing them with anything substantial, its hard to imagine anyone really caring about Pan. Director: Joe Wright Starring: Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara, Amanda Seyfried Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Matt Maytum

THE PROGRAM

Cyclist Lance Armstrongs return from cancer to a record seven consecutive victories in the Tour de France is one of the great sporting stories of our time. Or was, until he was exposed as a serial doper and had his titles stripped from him in disgrace. This is meaty stuff for a film, and a pedigree British team Philomena director Stephen Frears and Trainspotting writer John Hodge tear into it with gusto, methodically demonstrating how Armstrongs rise went hand in hand with not only a sophisticated doping programme but the disgrace and intimidation of anyone willing to speak out. At times it can feel oddly like a heist movie, with the various cloak-and-dagger schemes Armstrong and his team concoct to avoid detection playing out surprisingly like a criminal conspiracy. Which makes sense, since as the film makes clear, the cash Armstrong was bringing in meant that his story was much about corporate corruption as simple cheating. This is a bigger narrative than just pulling a fast one, and Ben Fosters lead performance more than rises to it. As an impersonation, its astonishing Foster already looks a little like Armstrong, but with the aid of some subtle make-up the resemblance is uncanny. Plenty of high-level athletes have borderline sociopathic tendencies, and Foster leans into this, displaying the charm Armstrong could turn on and off like a light, and the simmering rage beneath every smile. However amazing, though, its a fundamentally external performance or at least, the script makes it one. Based on the work of crusading journalist David Walsh (played capably here by Chris ODowd), this is very much a docudrama we see plenty of the mechanics of Armstrongs deception, and how exposure crept slowly to his door, but Frears has clearly chosen not to root too deeply into Armstrongs psyche. Where did this will to succeed and capacity for deception on a grand scale come from? You wont find even a hint of it here even in the scenes where hes staring death in the face, Armstrongs family are barely glimpsed. In fact, his personal life gets no time at all. A narrative feature can do things documentary cant, and there are already several corking docs out there that over this material. What price a little glimpse under the helmet? Still, thats a quibble so much here hits the mark, from the spot-on 90s period detail to Guillaume Canets fun turn as Armstrongs dodgy doctor. As much about Walshs journalistic tenacity as Armstrongs bullshit, this is All The Presidents Cyclists, urgent, intelligent and compelling. THE VERDICT: This fearless reconstruction drives home the dark lie that Lance Armstrong lived its just a pity it doesnt dig a little deeper. Director: Stephen Frears Starring: Ben Foster, Chris ODowd, Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Andrew Lowry

SUFRAGETTE

Poppycock! snaps Mr Banks at his ditsy wife in Mary Poppins, brushing aside one of mainstream cinemas few mentions of the womens suffrage movements. Criminally neglected in film, literature and national curriculums for the past 100 years, the balance is redressed by Sarah Gavrons (Brick Lane) angry, emotional history lesson about this significant landmark in British civil rights. Leading the way through the seamy morass of Edwardian social politics is Carey Mulligans washerwoman Maud Watts, a fictional working-class mum whos drawn into the criminal underworld via Helena Bonham carters firebrand Edith Ellyn. Medieval working conditions, predatory factory owners and an increasingly stubborn government spur Mauds shift from washing sheets to smashing windows; after the bloody events of Black Friday, she becomes a full-blown revolutionary. Ripped from her family, beaten into prison and force-fed through a tube, Maud travels an impossibly rough road that heaps shame upon everyone who wasnt chained to the railings outside Westminster. The character might be a bit of a cipher, but Mulligan throws herself into the role with such intensity and raw emotion that the abrupt ending feels like it abandons her too soon in favour of the headline story. Elsewhere, a heroic Bonham carter exudes the confidence that Mulligan slow- builds, Ben Whishaw impresses as the husband who slams the door on his rebel- rousing wife, and Meryl Streep puts in an inspirational cameo as Emmeline Pankhurst. Its a strong cast, shouldering with aplomb the (necessarily) ugly details of Abi Morgans (Shame) fact-intensive script. Directed, written and produced by women, the film holds a defiant banner up to an industry still dominated by men. Theres quality in every department. If it surface-skims to an extent, and is arguably more worthy than weighty, those are forgivable flaws in a film whose story hasnt been told before. THE VERDICT: A long overdue depiction of a crucial chapter in British history, this will likely score a different kind of vote come awards seasons. Director: Stephen Frears Starring: Ben Foster, Chris ODowd, Jesse Plemons, Lee Pace Theatrical release: 12 October 2015 Paul Bradshaw

THE LOBSTER

Greek director Yorgo Lanthimos deadpan surrealism and blackly comic absurdism are perfectly engineered to make laughs choke in throats. Best known for the Oscar-nommed Dogtooth, he here attracts a stellar cast for his English-language debut, a low-key, dystopian sci-fi in which singletons are corralled into a hotel on the coast of Ireland and given 45 days to find true love or else be turned into an animal of their choice. Widower David (a pot-bellied, droop-mouthed Colin Farrell with a sad-sack moustache) wishes to be a lobster because they live long and he loves the sea. But first he must quest for romance in this strictly managed, soulless environment, forced by the hotels stern manager (Olivia Colman) to throw himself into automated interaction with fellow residents (including John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw and Ashley Jensen) at least until he eyes a chance of escape. Narrated by Short Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz), a loner who lives in the forest with a breakaway faction of fundamentalist singletons, The Lobster is a deliciously off-kilter satire on the Tinder-era dating game, and the pressure that society puts on individuals to pair up. Its opening hour, set in the corporate-hell hotel, is cerebral and coolly composed, as funny as it is sad. Only by cleaving to the norm can happiness be found is the fervent worldview, and would-be suitors are encouraged to find common traits and interests surely Lanthimos skewering the narcissism thats often inherent in giving yourself to another. What a shame, then, that focus dissipates in the latter stages, with The Lobster struggling for ideas once it leaves the pressure-cooker environment of the hotel. Weve already seen enough to tickle us and haunt us for months to come, but the loss of direction will leave viewers flailing like the dinner guests in Bunuels The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (a big influence) promised a feast that is ultimately withheld. THE VERDICT: A spot-on cringe-com dating satire that looks like a sure thing to be one of the films of 2015 but fails to go all the way. Director: Yorgos Lanthim Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Jamie Graham

SUPERBOB

Why arent there any British superheroes? Jon Drevers droll comedy, based on his acclaimed 2009 short, provides plenty of answers. Six years ago, Bob Kenner (Brett Goldstein) was struck by a meteorite, giving him the usual powers: flight, strength, laser vision. This affably hapless Peckham resident has now been co-opted into serving MoD mandarin Catherine Tate, but dont call him a superhero. Bobs a civil servant, with copious forms to fill in and a U.N.-sanctioned day off every Tuesday. Drevers conceit is that an interviewer is shadowing Bob on such a day, which is not only a convenient excuse to dial down the FX budget but also a smart means of focussing the film as a satire of bumbling British manners. Despite his in-built indestructibility, Bob requires a live-in bodyguard to tick the health & safety boxes and is called upon by the public to deal with such life-threatening crises as waiting in line at the Post Office. Co-writer Goldstein, familiar from Ricky Gervais Derek, is the films MVP. Playing matinee-idol looks against manchild naivety, Bob is a puppyish yes-man for whom it seems not to occur that he neednt be a wage slave. Heres a superhero who spends less time saving the world than he does visiting his elderly mother (the ever-reliable Ruth Sheen) or fretting about going out on a date. here are flaws. The mockumentary format comes and goes, while the day-in-the-life structure is dominated by a blandly predictable love triangle between Bob, object of affection June (Laura Haddock) and his non-nonsense Colombian cleaner (Natalia Tena). With the only real threat being a U.S. senator who wants Bob to defect, depending on your viewpoint theres either a refreshing antidote to the genres usual third-act bombast or a big hole in the dramatic stakes. Fortunately, the loose structure allows Drever to punctuate events with some consistently infectious humour, whether from Bobs flustered attempts to celebrate a couples diamond anniversary to the admission that SuperBobs moniker is a bit wank. THE VERDICT: The films modest ambitions are perhaps too grounded to scale the superhero genres heights in a single bound; nonetheless, the laughs come fast enough to outrun a speeding bullet. Director: Jon Drever Starring: Brett Goldstein, Catherine Tate, Natalia Tena, Laura Haddock, Ruth Sheen Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Simon Kinnear

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL

Holy Grail turns the big 4-0 this year, so we can forgive the Pythons Arthurian send-up a slight middle-aged flabbiness; the odd skit that goes creak rather than Ni. However, while it might lack the polish of Life Of Brian, theres still plenty to celebrate: those politically engaged peasants, Cleeses French taunter, and a very unfluffy bunny, along with Terrys Gilliam and Jones near-peerless and ridiculously influential evocation of the dark Ages. Plus, in true cult cinema spirit, you can sing along to this version yes, you too can push the pram a lot at Camelot. Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin Theatrical release: 14 October 2015 Ali Catterall

CENSORED VOICES

Offering something of a revisionist reflection on 1967s Six-Day War, docu-maker Mor Loushy takes a celebrated victory for Israel and highlights the less-publicised harrowing effects on the soldiers. Revealing original recordings of previously censored interviews with young kibbutzniks, Loushy shows the latter in the present day listening back to tapes of their younger selves as they are questioned about the conflict. It humanises an almost mythological triumph, but the film seems to exist solely as a framework for the recordings, making it an odd fit for the big screen. Director: Mor Loushy Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Matt Looker

ROUGH CUT

A private eye investigates a dodgy synthetic diamonds trade, eliciting the help of an old flame whose father owns the mine the diamonds are thought to originate from, and whose son is mysteriously murdered. Then theres the daughter who begins a romance with a man who himself has just inherited one million euros from his estranged father... confused yet? Even with long stretches of (dull) exposition, its very hard to follow whats going in this crime thriller. Occasionally amateurish editing means the title serves more as a description of the film than as a clever pun. Director: Owen Carey-Jones Starring: Stanley J. Browne, Matt Gras Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Stephen Puddicombe

HOWL

Decent British werewolf movies are rare; 2010s Outcast was the last to make the grade. FX expert Paul Hyett directed the stylish, sexually degrading The Seasoning House (2012), but his Howl is much tamer. Conductor Ed Speleers must prove his mettle when his train of horror alumni The Descents Shauna Macdonald, Splintereds Holly Weston comes under attack, though pacing and tonal problems soon spoil the ride. The most interesting character, Elliot Cowans Darwinian businessman, wouldnt be out of place prowling Wall Street, but in the survival of the fittest, Howl falls behind. Director: Paul Hyett Starring: Ed Speleers, Holly Weston, Elliot Cowan, Amit Shah Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Rob James

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2

We dont have time for zingers, moans Dracula, advice little heeded by Genndy Tartakovskys sweet, daft but overly pun-packed sequel. Room for a plot at this hotel? Just: when daughter-of-Drac Mavis (Selena Gomez) and human hubby Jonathan (Andy Samberg) procreate, Vampa Drac (Adam Sandler) looms in to make baby Dennis(ovitch) less man, more monster. Themes of acceptance are implied then swiftly buried under barrages of hit/miss gags. Between the giggles and groans, the max-everything approach to sequels leaves an otherwise amiable romp gasping for air. Director: Genndy Tartakovsky Starring: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Keegan-Michael Key, Molly Shannon, Fran Drescher, Mel Brooks Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Kevin Harley

THE DIABOLICAL

A mid-way twist gives this dull haunted house story the potential to be a much more interesting film, but it is entirely wasted on a second half that devolves into an absurd ending. Ali Larter plays a single mum with two kids, though shes oddly unconcerned about their safety considering their house is frequently visited by horrifying manifestations of faceless men and gory corpses. Overall, its a fairly pedestrian and domestic ghost show, made vaguely interesting by flashes of gruesome make-up and effects, but the kernel of a good story idea is completely lost amid a head-scratching script. Director: Alistair Legrand Starring: Ali Larter, Arjun Gupta, Chloe Perrin, Merrin Dungey, Kurt Carley, Patrick Fischler Theatrical release: 16 October 2015 Matt Looker

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