Out on Friday June 16
Brian Cox puffs a mean cigar as Winston Churchill. Nick Broomfield’s portrait of Whitney Houston’s rise and plummet. Neneh Cherry walks through the streets of Sweden.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Churchill, Whitney: Can I Be Me, Stockholm My Love, Rock Dog, Slack Bay, Gifted, Resident Evil: Vendetta, Destination Unknown, Dying Laughing, Nails, and A Good Day to Die – Hoka Hey.
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With The Crown’s John Lithgow fresh in the mind and Gary Oldman’s Darkest Hour due later this year, our screens are hardly bereft of Winston Churchills at the moment. If anything, though, Brian Cox is a better physical match than either, his imposing bulk making him ideally suited to playing the legendary prime minister who led Britain to victory in World War 2.
The burly Scot puffs a mean cigar too in a selective biopic from Jonathan Teplitzky (The Railway Man) that focuses exclusively on the build-up to D-Day in June 1944. The way historian-turned-screenwriter Alex von Tunzelmann tells it, the iconic leader had serious misgivings about the audacious operation, full of dread that the invasion of France would result in another Gallipoli, the disastrous WW1 offensive that he had masterminded while he was the political head of the Royal Navy.
The drama in Churchill, then, lies in whether Winston will continue to hold out or give in to pressure from US general Eisenhower (John Slattery) and Field Marshal ‘Monty’ Montgomery (Julian Wadman), both of whom were eager to get Operation Overlord started.
If you’re after epic battle sequences, best hold out for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. But if you’re in the mood for a thoughtful character study, then Churchill certainly fits the bill, not least thanks to Miranda Richardson’s compassionate turn as Winston’s loyal wife Clemmie.
THE VERDICT: A war movie about indecision? Not the greatest hook. Yet Cox’s sturdy performance makes it worth your time.
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky; Starring: Brian Cox, Miranda Richardson, John Slattery; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
Whitney: Can I Be Me
Massive talent, inner turmoil, dead too soon: Nick Broomfield’s portrait of Whitney Houston’s rise and plummet shares more than a first-name title with recent docs about Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin. It lacks the all-access density of Amy, but doc vet Broomfield tackles Houston’s tale with similar tools, navigating choppy emotions with old-school docu-rigour.
Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney) works reams of archive matter into narrative shape and shakes them up for revelations. Houston’s ’hood upbringing and long-rumoured lesbian relationship with Robyn Crawford (not interviewed, sadly) are explored. We learn, too, how Houston’s mainstream-targeted image drew criticism. Though hurt, Houston’s talent shines through: in Rudi Dolezal’s up-close 1999 live footage, her voice roars.
Yet the roar became a rasp when drugs took hold. Exacerbated by family troubles and industry pressures, Houston couldn’t stall her 2000s fall. Grimly, she couldn’t save her daughter, either. Broomfield doesn’t address Houston’s painful 2010 return, but he hardly needs to. As a richly detailed portrait of showbiz tragedy at its cruellest, Whitney is heart-wringing enough already.
THE VERDICT: Fame eats its own: Broomfield deepens an archetypal tale with the aches of human loss and talent wasted.
Directors: Nick Broomfield, Rudi Dolezal; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
Stockholm My Love
Another freewheeling city-symphony from writer/director Mark Cousins (I Am Belfast), exploring the Swedish capital in the company of an architect (singer Neneh Cherry), who’s traumatised by her involvement in a fatal accident.
Occasionally rambling, it’s kept afloat by an eclectic soundtrack and Christopher Doyle’s striking urban lensing.
Director: Mark Cousins; Starring: Neneh Cherry; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
This Chinese-American animation is about a Tibetan mastiff named Bodi (voiced by Luke Wilson) who fantasises about being a rock god and meets Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard, funny), a cool-cat musician struggling with writer’s block.
The colours are loud, the gags silly – Sam Elliott voices Fleetwood Yak – but writer/ director Ash Brannon keeps it (just) groovy enough for grown-ups.
Director: Ash Brannon; Starring: Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
Bruno Dumont continues his journey from sombre (Humanité) to sportive (P’tit Quinquin) with this farce involving inbreeding, cannibalism and mussel-farming, as two families and a pair of detectives (Didier Desprès and Cyril Rigaux) are brought together by a spate of disappearances.
French acting royalty including Juliette Binoche gamely play up, but the theatrics are an acquired taste.
Director: Bruno Dumont; Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Juliette Binoche, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
Chris Evans shucks off Cap’s cowl for Marc Webb’s sweet but slight tale, playing a slacker battling his mother (Lindsay Duncan) for custody of Mckenna Grace’s seven-year-old maths genius.
Less melodramatic than 1991’s similarly themed Little Man Tate, it’s got the understated charm of Webb’s (500) Days of Summer, but little of its originality. You’ll need a tissue, not a calculator, for the tender-hearted finale.
Director: Marc Webb; Starring: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
Resident Evil: Vendetta
Still hungry for more Resi? Better to revisit the series’ greatest hits than watch this daft CG movie. Set between the sixth and seventh videogames, it sees franchise favourites Chris Redfield, Leon S. Kennedy and Rebecca Chambers team up to stop a zombie virus.
The anime-inspired action is intermittently entertaining, but story, voice acting and animation are dead rubbish.
Director: Takanori Tsujimoto; Starring: Matthew Mercer, Kari Wahlgren, Cristina Valenzuela; Theatrical release: June 14, 2017
Personal testimonies lend a fresh perspective to the Holocaust in this meticulously researched doc focusing on 12 survivors.
Comprising archive footage and first-hand accounts, Claire Ferguson’s film feels vital in sharing harrowing stories of life in concentration camps, while the message is clear: even 70 years later, these survivors will never be fully free.
Director: Claire Ferguson; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
There’s nothing radical about this comedy doc’s talking-head format, but it’s a sharply edited masterclass with a formidable roll call: Seinfeld, Silverman, Rock, Coogan, dozens more.
Their insights into the process and psychology of making audiences laugh offer a rare glimpse behind the mic – but it’s also proof, via hilarious tales of dealing with hecklers, that some people can’t help being funny.
Directors: Lloyd Stanton, Paul Toogood; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
Poor Shauna Macdonald (The Descent) has no luck at all. After a hit-and-run accident, she’s left bedbound and requiring a machine to speak, in a shabby hospital under the care of orderly Ross Noble. But who – or what – is coming into her room at night?
Dennis Bartok’s sparse horror has a spooky central conceit, and just about overcomes its budgetary bumps, while Macdonald excels as the innocent.
Director: Dennis Bartok; Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Ross Noble, Steve Wall; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017
A Good Day to Die – Hoka Hey
Harold Monfils’ doc profiles award-winning British war photographer Jason Howe. Covering conflicts in Colombia, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan, Howe created some stunning images, but became increasingly damaged by what he witnessed.
We get to-camera footage from Howe himself, plus sympathetic testimony from his colleagues. Vivid and moving.
Director: Harold Monfils; Theatrical release: June 16, 2017