Out on Friday 3 July
Arnie's back. Channing Tatum works his Magic Mike. Amy Winehouse receives the documentary treatment. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of Terminator: Genisys, Magic Mike XXL, Amy, Magician: The Astonishing Life And Work Of Orson Welles, Faberg: A Life Of Its Own, Comet, How To Lose Jobs And Alienate Girlfriends, La Grand Bouffe, 51 Degrees North, All American High Revisited and Still The Water. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
Time-travel makes my head hurt, yells Kyle Reese, midway through the mindbending Terminator Genisys. His words are sure to be echoed by a good few viewers.
With an alternate timeline wiping out most of what you know about Skynet, Sarah Connor and those deadly Terminators, this fifth instalment is easily the most headscratching of a franchise already built on Mbius-strip logic. But, with the welcome return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, this Alan Taylor-directed effort is a vast improvement on McGs Salvation and Rise Of The Machines.
We begin with Reese (Jai Courtney) recapping: how defence program Skynet went sentient, how Judgement Day came in 1997, how the machines took over, how the humans fought back. The year is now 2029, and Reese volunteers to time-travel back to 1984 to protect the future mother of resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke), after Skynet sends a T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, de-wrinkled thanks to digital trickery) back to kill her.
So far, so James Cameron but thats where the similarities to the directors 1984 classic The Terminator ends.
When Reese arrives back in the mid-80s (naked, of course), things arent how you remember them. For starters, John Connors mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) is well aware of the Terminators, unlike Linda Hamilton in the original. She even has her own ageing T-800 (Arnie, again) or Pops as she calls him to protect her. Turns out he was sent back to 1973, when she was nine, to look after her, staying with her ever since.
While Sarah and Arnies T-800 despatch the younger Terminator thats come back through time, theres another problem: a shape-shifting T-1000 (I Saw The Devils Byung-hun Lee, excellent), even dressed as a cop to remind us of Robert Patricks liquid-metal Terminator in Camerons 1991 bar-setting T2. As the trio fight off the T-1000, the first third is relentless and arguably the most fun part of the film playing out on freeways, and in cop shops, shopping malls and abandoned factories.
But then the plot really thickens. The twist or one of them is that Terminator Genisys is really Kyle Reeses story. This time, the protector of Sarah Connor who is sent back in time by her son John to ultimately father him is having flashbacks to a sun-dappled past he never knew. In this alternate past/future, Judgement Day never happened. But Genisys will. The ultimate killer app, its a Skynet-sponsored Trojan Horse, set to launch in 2017, to link all our tech-gadgets and leave unsuspecting users vulnerable to attack.
Yet this doesnt even begin to cover a plot so dense that even the trailer succumbs to spoilers. The complexitys hinted at early on when Matt Smiths mystery man pops up to attack John Connor as Reese is sent back to 1984. Thank heavens then for J.K. Simmons detective, who brings some much-needed humour to the really, really complicated story. Told that Reese and co are here to save the world, he quips: I can work with that.
What doesnt work quite as well is the Arnie humour, not least a tiresome running gag where he tries to blend in by smiling. The obligatory Ill be back line is casually used and dismissed, though this model prefers bite me as a signature phrase. Better are the references to his ageing appearance; explained with the idea that a Terminators flesh ages just like a humans, it gives this T-800 (and its actor) a creaky look. Im old, he says. Not obsolete.
Schwarzeneggers return is vital, of course, after his CGI cameo in Terminator Salvation, and his relationship with Sarah does provide some emotional heft. Clarke is excellent: action-adept and able to convey her attachment towards her Pops amid the constant rush of plot. Courtney, too, is a worthy successor to Michael Biehn from the Cameron original (a nice touch even has him dress up in the same trench coat when he first arrives back in 1984).
Indeed, there are numerous points when the script by Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis feels like a Greatest Hits, as if the earlier movies have criss-crossed together like the plots overlapping time-lines. Is it smart meta-writing? Or simply ripping off the originals? Arguably its both. But at least the script attempts something brave; in a franchise where the time-travel element has always been a Class A head-shag, this takes things to a whole new level.
Thankfully, Taylor as he did in Thor: The Dark World proves capable of keeping this 10-ton juggernaut of an action movie running at full pelt. Whether its watching Arnie smashing windscreens, a school bus somersaulting or some set-piece spectacle involving the Golden Gate Bridge, the polished visuals are ample distraction from the time-travel shenanigans.
Sadly, the ending has one WTF moment that lacks credibility, even in this logic-defying loopy universe. But by then, youll have most likely given in and just accepted this as the barmiest Terminator yet. THE VERDICT: Fresh cast, fresh ideas and full-on action gives Taylors reboot momentum, even if an overloaded script threatens to topple it at times. Doesnt touch Camerons two movies, of course. Director: Alan Taylor Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Matt SmithTheatrical release: 2 July 2015 James Mottram
MAGIC MIKE XXL
Making good on its XXL, the Magic Mike sequel delivers what youd want in a follow-up about male strippers: more flesh, more abs, more dances, the phworr factor cranked up to eleven.
If this is your thang, then best watch it in an air-conditioned cinema, because the temperature is about to soar. An early scene where Tatums Mike gets his groove on in his garage, gyrating on a workbench and using his, er, drill, sets the tone.
The story sees Mike now working at his own furniture business in Tampa, Florida, away from the striptease life, until a call from old buddy Tarzan (Kevin Nash) reconnects him with his former strip pals: Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias). (Missing in action: Matt McConaugheys club owner Dallas, who has taken Alex Pettyfers the kid to Macau.)
The gang decide to head to a striptease convention in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for one last hurrah; for his part, Mike convinces the lads they need to drop their routine fireman and hard-hat acts and find something more personal.
Like the best strips, its all about the tease and MMXXL takes its sweet time before Tatum and co. drop trou. For the first hour, the script by returnee writer Reid Carolin allows us to hang out with the chaps. All well and good, except there isnt much beneath the boyish banter unlike its predecessor, which dealt with recession-era economics in a very real and telling way.
True, it pleases to see characters who were minor in Magic Mike given more screen-time. But the sequel undeniably misses the presence of McConaughey, who gave the original added flavour.
Arguably, it also misses Steven Soderbergh, who announced his retirement from cinema shortly after Magic Mike. Credited here as executive producer, he hands over the directorial reins to his long-time producer/first AD Gregory Jacobs (2004s underwhelming Criminal). At least he got his hands dirty Soderbergh worked on both photographing and editing the film (credited under pseudonyms).
While the chemistry he manufactures among his cast isnt always on the money, Jacobs certainly understands that in a film like this you need to give em what they want. Each member of the team gets to strip everything from chocolate sauce to stirrups gets used before Mike comes on to perform his final Magic trick. Its an exuberant sequence, one that should get Channing fans all a-tingle. Boy, these boys can dance THE VERDICT: Packed tight, Jacobs straightforward sequel may boast less up top than the Soderbergh-directed original, but still bulges where it counts. Director: Gregory Jacobs Starring: Channing Tatum, Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Elizabeth Banks Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 James Mottram
Just as the controversies surrounding Amy Winehouses life shouldnt blind us to her talent, so mounting issues around Asif Kapadias docu-portrait shouldnt muffle its strengths. Winehouses dad, Mitch, has castigated the filmmakers for misrepresenting him. That argument simmers on but, as a portrait of Mitchs daughter, Amy is rigorous: with old-school detail, depth and research, Kapadia teases out the human from the headlines until her tragedy guts you. As with 2010s Senna, Kapadia dodges the talking heads of standard retro-docs and taps archive footage a huge wodge of it for immersive, intimate and illuminating ends. A winningly show-stealing teen-Amy sings Happy Birthday to a friend; later, we see her slaying label execs with an acoustic performance and hiding from a camera in a cabs backseat. Like a perfect storm gathering, what emerges is a carefully plotted study of a forthright and fulsomely talented but, potentially, fragile woman edging surely into fames uncaring spotlight. The rise/fall arc is familiar, but Kapadias exhaustive detailing of the decisive factors distinguishes it. Amys parents divorce when she was nine may have been a factor. As an adult, Winehouses move to Camden certainly was, steering her towards bad love, drugs and booze. After a break-up, the damage showed as Winehouse recorded 2006s unimpeachable Back To Black album, slugging back JDs in the studio between bouts of bulimia. When the album goes stratospheric, the ensuing flashbulb frenzy hits you in grim pap-o-vision. As you blink in its wake, the point stings: imagine how Winehouse felt. Along the way, Kapadia interviews absolutely everyone involved while keeping his focus on the likeably cocky but vulnerable woman centre-stage. Winehouses nerves endear when she panics while duetting with her hero, Tony Bennett; later, her struggles turn more painful. She looks ghoulish in home photos from 2008, then worse at some gigs. Decamped to St Lucia, she avoid drugs but flails in the booze battle. As friends, family and professional aides struggle to help, Kapadia addresses without laying blame the question raised by a heartbreakingly disastrous 2011 gig in Serbia: why were gigs booked anyway? Another question left painfully unresolved: could she have been saved? If opinions will splinter on that, one certainty emerges. As Amys tight friends sob through their accounts of her last days, all those eulogies for her lost talent suddenly fall short. Kapadias rigorous, empathetic film laments something more: the loss of the person. THE VERDICT: Kapadia lays bare the tragedy of Winehouses story. Its a tough, unfiltered watch but a thoughtful, thorough, feeling one. Director: Asif Kapadia Starring: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Lauren Gilbert, Blake Fielder, Mos Def Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 Kevin Harley
MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES
Released as part of the BFIs two-month season marking Orson Welles centenary, Chuck Workmans documentary is an intriguing primer for any fan of the man behind Citizen Kane. While that 1941 movie debut made when he was just 26 has come to symbolise his greatness, Kane is just one aspect of a career that embraced movies, film, theatre, radio and television. Divided into segments, Workmans film traces Welles journey chronologically, beginning with his emergence as a child prodigy. Among his early achievements: playing Mary, mother of Jesus, in a production at the Todd School in Woodstock, where he studied. As he tells one chat-show host later on: I began as a star and Ive been working my way down ever since. Contributors include such directors as Peter Bogdanovich, Julie Taylor and Martin Scorsese, as well as Welles scholars like Simon Callow and Jonathan Rosenbaum. But its the rare footage of the man himself that captivates, such as speaking to reporters in the aftermath of his sensational radio broadcast of H.G. Wells The War Of The Worlds. Workmans film carefully charts Welles post-Kane years from The Magnificent Ambersons, via Hollywood exile, to later films Touch Of Evil, The Trial and Chimes At Midnight. Room is given to his turbulent personal life too (he had three daughters, with three wives, including Rita Hayworth). With so many treasures on display not least grainy footage of Voodoo Macbeth, his 1936 stage production of Shakespeares Scottish play with an all-black cast Welles geeks will have a field day. Its not perfect unfinished film The Other Side Of The Wind gets short shrift. But even those with only passing interest in the destitute king, as Jeanne Moreau dubs him, will find this fascinating. THE VERDICT: Solid, straightforward but immaculately researched, Chuck Workmans documentary is a fitting tribute to the maverick Welles. If he were alive today, hed surely raise a glass. Director: Chuck Workman Starring: Simon Callow, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Jeanne Moreau Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 James Mottram
FABERG: A LIFE OF ITS OWN
One of the OEDs definitions of decadence is this: Moral or cultural decline as characterised by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury. If thats your bag, then this is the puff piece for you! Maybe thats harsh: theres no denying the beauty of the jewellery made by the House of Faberg, and its probably unfair to expect a doc on the companys interesting history to also examine the feudal system that birthed the outfit. All the same, in these austere times, seeing well-offs enthusing over their latest status object will stick in many viewers throats. Director: Patrick Mark Theatrical release: 29 June 2015 Andrew Lowry
Fragments of a doomed relationship are dissected in writer/director Sam Esmails tricksy but disappointing drama. As Dell (Justin Long) and Kimberly (Emily Rossum) get together and fall apart, Esmail builds intrigue by scrambling the chronology. Yet, despite hints of something weirder (the otherworldly title, references to The Sixth Sense or the opening captions promise of parallel universes) the structure is mostly a gimmick to hide emotional linearity. Its impossible to invest in the couple; even when courting, they make a fairly insufferable pair. Director: Sam Esmail Starring: Justin Long, Emmy Rossum Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 Simon Kinnear
HOW TO LOSE JOBS AND ALIENATE GIRLFRIENDS
The perils of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking are entertainingly laid bare in this first docu-feature from Tom Meadmore, an ex-Neighbours actor turned Lonely Planet video editor whose plan to record the musical aspirations of his girlfriend and his employer sabotaged his relationships with both. The result succeeds as both an exploration of fragile egos and a cautionary tale about telling truths to people we love. In rocker Tony Jackson, meanwhile, it has a hilarious anti-hero whose thirst for stardom is almost as implausible as his haircut. Director: Thomas Meadmore Starring: Thomas Meadmore, Tony Jackson, Amanda Medica, Tim Rogers, Bojana Novakovic, Monique Brumby Theatrical release: 4 July 2015 Neil Smith
LA GRANDE BOUFFE
First released in 1973, the best-known movie from Italian director Marco Ferreri is an extravagantly bad-taste satire (rough translation The Big Nosh) that sees four well-off middle-aged men get together in a country villa to gorge themselves literally to death on food, wine and women. Stars Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi and Philippe Noiret have fun besmirching their distinguished screen personas, while Andra Ferrol memorably plays the sexy schoolteacher they invite to join them. You probably wont want dinner afterwards. Director: Marco Ferreri Starring: Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 Philip Kemp
ALL AMERICAN HIGH REVISITED
The currency of nostalgia for a life never lived delivers ripe returns in this revealing docu-charmer. The first hour is Keva Rosenfelds long-lost 1986 doc about a year in a California high school, its time-warp strangeness boosted by a winning foreign-exchange girls outsiders point of view. We see Ozzy T-shirts, mall proms, perms, keggers Fast Times At Ridgemont High, we lived it, says a student 30-ish years on, as Rosenfeld plays his trump card: a modern-day catch-up with the kids. As they look back in wistfulness, a tale of change, American excess and pre-internet teenage innocence becomes almost exotic: to them and to us. Director: Keva Rosenfeld Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 Kevin Harley
51 Degrees North
You learn a bit about asteroids from Grigorij Richters inventive DIY genre-spinner, but like bigger disaster-blasters its human drama lands with a thud. Motorize Von Mannered plays a London-based online filmmaker whose proof of asteroid threat falls in a sly genre twist on deaf comments-board ears. Sadly, his personal apocalypse (ew, messy desk) is dreary and glib dialogue (Stephen Hawking, yknow, the guy in the wheelchair) doesnt help. But Richters visual collages show no-budget ambition, notably in the climax: Piccadilly Circus has never looked scarier Director: Grigorij Richters Starring: Moritz von Zeddelmann, Dolly-Ann Osterloh, Steven Cree Theatrical release: 30 June 2015 Kevin Harley
STILL THE WATER
The waters are often choppy in this island-set slow-cinema exercise from Japans Naomi Kawase: its the drama thats still, even listless. If you can stomach the opening goat slaughter, a coming-of-age story unfolds about the connections between a teen girl (Jun Yoshinaga), a boy she fancies (Nijiro Murakami), her dying mum and a mystery corpse. Kawases serene eye brings a fresh flavour to teen travails, but any subtleties wind up swamped by strained metaphors and stilted exchanges about lifes biggies (death, love, fate). And all the mystical-tree footage in the world cant lift the torpor. Director: Naomi Kawase Starring: Nijiro Murakami, Jun Yoshinaga, Miyuki Matsuda Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 Simon Kinnear
THE FIRST FILM
Move over Edison; sorry Lumires. According to director David Wilkinson, cinema was born in Leeds, where French inventor Louis Le Prince shot the worlds first moving pictures before mysteriously disappearing. Wilkinsons crusade to prove Le Princes pre-eminence is a dogged riposte to official history, illuminating his fascinating career and the frantic gold rush among cinemas pioneers to beat their rivals. Despite diligent research and expert help, the excitable presenter readily gives in to mythmaking, especially when conjecturing on Le Princes uncertain end. Director: David Wilkinson Theatrical release: 3 July 2015 Simon Kinnear