Out on Friday June 23
Naomi Watts deals with a dangerous neighbour. Diane Keaton finds romance on Hampstead Heath. Mike Nichols’ classic returns to cinemas.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Transformers: The Last Knight, The Book of Henry, Hampstead, The Graduate, Summer in the Forest, Souvenir, and Edith Walks.
And come back later in the week for our review of Transformers: The Last Knight.
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Transformers: The Last Knight
England. The Dark Ages. The opening prologue to Transformers: The Last Knight might briefly convince you that Part 5 is going to serve up something very different. But before long, the MacGuffin is established and the robotic parts are mechanically stomping along to exactly the same template as ever. So while fans are likely to rejoice over the explosively staged Bayhem and impressively CGI-ed behemoths, five films in there’s little to convert anyone not already committed to the franchise’s trademark brash and brawny style.
Adhering so closely to formula means that, like previous films, it starts strongly, before the regular problems become apparent. The aforementioned prologue shows what a medieval Michael Bay movie might look like (pretty awesome, actually), as King Arthur, Lancelot and their armies face down a legion of non-specific barbarian invaders before a Transformer intervenes. It’s a fun sequence that establishes a mystical staff as this film’s sought-after, all-powerful artefact.
Jump forward 1,600 years, and robot-sympathiser Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is living off the grid, providing a refuge of sorts for wandering Autobots (good Transformers), as the war between flesh and metal rages on. Cade picks up a spirited sidekick in the form of Izabella (Isabella Moner), but she disappears for the most of the film, a victim of the film’s too-dense call sheet.
During one of many inventively shot skirmishes with the Decepticons (bad Transformers), Cade is gifted a talisman that brings him to the attention of Anthony Hopkins’ eccentric English lord, and his robot butler, Cogman. It takes a while to learn how Laura Haddock’s Oxford professor fits in, but given the film’s bladder-straining length, there’s plenty of time for her to become crucial to the plot’s complicated mythology.
As the unconvincing ‘chosen one’ stuff is playing out, a corrupted Optimus Prime sets out to do something unthinkable to save his homeworld, and Megatron reassembles his Decepticon crew, -style, in a fun but illogical sequence that flaunts the series’ disregard for internal rules.
True to form, TLK sidelines its robo-protagonists to put the far less interesting humans up front. Stanley Tucci (one of ’s saving graces) thankfully returns in a brief alternative role, bringing a much-needed injection of funny that’s a breath of fresh air compared to the rest of the mostly mean-spirited humour.
The Transformers films have always been critic-proof, and TLK is unlikely to be any different. But for everyone not entirely sold on the concept, it’s something of an endurance test, tacking on another climactic set-piece just as it feels like it should be drawing to a natural conclusion.
A generous trim of the flabby middle act would’ve helped the pace, but better yet would’ve been to shift the focus on to the robots, and particularly their historical counterparts, which would’ve provided a welcome respite from the same-iness of this entry. But judging from a reveal in the credits sequence, we’re in for more of the same all over again.
THE VERDICT: By now you know exactly what to expect from a Transformers film: undeniably epic action spectacle at the cost of character, logic or genuine drama. Predictably formulaic.
Director: Michael Bay; Starring: ark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel; Theatrical release: June 22, 2017
The Book of Henry
Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow delivers a film packed with heart. Jaeden Lieberher (Midnight Special) impresses as genius Henry, supporting his mum (Naomi Watts) and brother (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) while trying to rescue an abused girl.
Part Amblin-esque adventure, part weepy drama and part thriller, it’s still sweet, compelling and highly emotional.
Director: Colin Trevorrow; Starring: Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay; Theatrical release: June 23, 2017
Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson are an odd couple in this genteel charmer about a widow who champions a man facing eviction from his Hampstead Heath shack.
Watching them tiptoe towards romance makes for a pleasing diversion for mature audiences, though Joel Hopkins’ cosy depiction of the titular enclave opens him up to the same criticisms Notting Hill (opens in new tab) faced in 1999.
Director: Joel Hopkins; Starring: Diane Keaton, James Norton, Brendan Gleeson; Theatrical release: June 22, 2017
Enjoying a 50th birthday 4K restoration, Mike Nichols’ 1967 sex comedy shot Dustin Hoffman to stardom, established Anne Bancroft as the all-time movie cougar, and hoisted Simon & Garfunkel atop the charts.
Hoffman’s the uni lad, Bancroft the predatory mother of his girlfriend. The dialogue’s a joy and Nichols furnishes impeccable comic timing. Utterly of its period, yet timeless.
Director: Mike Nichols; Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross; Theatrical release: June 23, 2017
A far cry from her powerful, Oscar-nominated turn in Elle, Isabelle Huppert offers a warmer, more fragile turn in this French dramedy – and still utterly captivates.
Sadly, the story, which sees Huppert’s failed singer encouraged to make a comeback by her lover, struggles with a balance between whimsical comedy and relationship drama. A charm persists, but it all too often hits a flat note.
Director: Bavo Defurne; Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Kévin Azaïs, Johan Leysen; Theatrical release: June 23, 2017
Summer in the Forest
In 1964, Canadian philosopher Jean Vanier founded L’Arche, a communal living centre for people with developmental disabilities. Randall Wright’s sophomore doc (after 2014’s Hockney) takes a look at this work, interviewing Vanier and many of the residents.
The subject matter inspires and the lensing is beautiful, but the loose structure gives it a somewhat formless feel.
Director: Randall Wright; Theatrical release: June 23, 2017
Paying homage to Edith Swan Neck, the wife of King Harold II, Brit auteur Andrew Kötting sets off on a pilgrimage in her honour, documenting the journey and the people encountered en route.
Partly shooting with Super 8 iPhone apps and making no attempt to mask the on-the-fly process, Kötting conjures a certain amateurish charm in an otherwise perplexing film that – ironically – lacks clear direction.
Director: Andrew Kotting; Starring: David Aylward, Claurdia Barton, Anonymous Bosch; Theatrical release: June 23, 2017