Out on Friday 30 October
Daniel Craigs back as Bond, with brand new foes will Christoph Waltz sing the theme tune? Rhys Ifans takes charge of a Dylan Thomas adaptation. Still banned from filmmaking, Jafar Panahi now drives a taxi, but happens to have a camera on the dashboard. Yes, heres this weeks new releases. Click on for our reviews of Spectre, Under Milk Wood, The Vatican Tapes, Taxi Tehran, Do I Sound Gay? and Fresh Dressed. For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
From the gun barrel opening to the gadgets in Qs workshop, everything is back where it belongs in Spectre, an everything or nothing, kitchen-sink Bond that goes to epic lengths to deliver all you could conceivably want from this invincible and indefatigable franchise. Buoyed and emboldened by the worldwide success of Skyfall, the tireless Sam Mendes and the fearless Daniel Craig go hell for leather in a film that practically fizzes with brio, even at points when its circuitous plot comes perilously close to unravelling. If, as many suspect, it will be the last Bond for both of them, they can at least depart confident they have left it all on the field and are leaving the series stronger than how they found it. Mendes sets his stall out early on with a stunning Touch Of Evil-style tracking shot that begins high above the heads of a gargantuan Mexico City Day of the Dead parade before zeroing in on a skull-masked 007. Weaving in and out of the legions of ghoulishly made-up revellers, incoming DoP Hoyte Van Hoytema follows Craig up stairs, down hallways and out on a ledge in a sequence so fluid you can barely spot the joins. Then the fun really starts: a deluge of falling masonry sends Bond and his quarry back onto the streets and into the air in a loop-the-looping chopper. As pre-titles sequences go, its the equal of any that has gone before it and that includes the ski-jump gotcha from The Spy Who Loved Me. Back in London, Bonds rogue mission has set the cat among the pigeons. Ms MI6 is at risk of being subsumed by an umbrella outfit run by the oily C (Andrew Scott) and can ill afford to let its chief assassin go AWOL. Bond, however, has other ideas, not to mention a Tolkien-esque ring whose octopus engraving points to some seriously sinister shenanigans. So off to Rome he pops, there to seduce a widow (Monica Bellucci, age-appropriate yet criminally underused) with information to impart on a certain acronymic syndicate Mendes film is at its most atmospheric here. A clandestine gathering of Spectre bigwigs in a gothic Roman palazzo exuding all the brooding menace of an Eyes Wide Shut sex orgy. Oddly, though, the nocturnal car chase that follows fails to stir the blood, hampered as it is by an incongruously jaunty tone and the sneaking suspicion that, even with man-mountain Dave Bautista at the wheel of the Jaguar chasing Craigs Aston Martin along Romes cobbled thoroughfares, there isnt much at stake. Things quickly improve when the action moves to Austria, where Bond has a chilly encounter with old adversary Mr White (Jesper Christensen, finally making good on the promise of his all too fleeting cameos in Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace). From this point on theres nary a let-up. A dust-up on the slopes involving one wingless plane and three 4x4s leads seamlessly to train-based fisticuffs straight out of From Russia With Love, an explosive desert confrontation, and a denouement involving a familiar place in unfamiliar shape. Ok, so sparks dont exactly fly between Craig and eventual leading lady Lea Seydoux or, for that matter, between Craig and Christoph Waltz, dismayingly bland as an overly genteel adversary whose primary beef, once revealed, verges on the petulant. (It does lead to a doozy of a torture scene, though.) Dovetailing Spectres plot with those of Craigs previous Bonds is a dubious move, while the edifice that houses Scotts Centre of National Security resembles nothing so much as Stark Tower. The influence of Marvel is felt elsewhere too: a plan to combine the worlds intelligence capabilities into one all-seeing, all-knowing supersnoop bears striking similarities to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Only Bautista makes the crossover unscathed, this Guardian Of The Galaxy projecting the kind of brutish physical threat that like the Rolls Royce Phantom that pops up in one scene brings back happy memories of Goldfingers Oddjob. Craig, for his part, tempers his customary steely determination with a welcome lightness of touch (a scene in which he interrogates a mouse the idea, one suspects, of co-writer Jez Butterworth would have been unimaginable back in the doleful days of Quantum), while Ralph Fiennes M has some ace bants with Scott over their respective code names. The real delight, though, is Ben Whishaw, whose donnish Q is given much more to do this time around and inflects his scenes with a deliciously offbeat energy. THE VERDICT: Though not as dramatically rich or emotionally compelling as Skyfall, Spectre still ranks as a sleek, pulse-pounding if slightly overlong entertainment that should have little trouble emulating its predecessors box office. Director: Sam Mendes Starring: Daniel Craig, La Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Monica Bellucci, Christoph Waltz Theatrical release: 26 October 2015 Neil Smith
UNDER MILK WOOD
In Kevin Allens adaptation of Dylan Thomas 1954 radio play, Under Milk Wood, the fantasies of dwellers in the Welsh village of Llareggub (Bugger all backwards) provide a bawdy 50s-set buffet for the eyes and ears. To unpeel it from Richard Burtons richly-voiced radio version (and the clunky 1972 film he starred in), Allen has to create moving images as potent as Thomas poetic ones, for a vast cast of characters. But he and co-writer poet Murray Lachlan Young succeed only with the sturdiest of their gamey vignettes Mr Pugh (Boyd Clack) the tangoing wife-poisoner, the hopeless letter-borne love of draper for confectioner, or Mrs Ogmore Pritchards S&M memories of torturing her husbands. Alongside these slyly enjoyable Carry On Cymru interludes, though, theres a fair amount of sub-ken Russell tits-and-landscape surrealism thrown in, all to keep your peepers occupied during rolling orations about the sloeblack, slow black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea. however, the cheerful gloss of sex on everything from Dai Bakers breast-shaped bread to Sinbad the publicans satyr fantasies doesnt solve all the films problems and, an hour in, it can get a little tedious, more seaside postcard than sensual symbolism. The problem is, the play is a looping mass of lusty private longings, and Allen struggles to translate that into a solid cinematic story. Yet its full of engaging details, as oddball sequences parade in popping colours through striking Pembrokeshire scenery. Allen also makes smart use of Charlotte Churchs star wattage as village good-time girl Polly Garter, shoehorning in a Hollywood-style ballad to add glamour to the eccentric gaiety. Worth the seat price alone, however, is Rhys Ifans, veteran of Allens long-ago Trainspotting-lite comedy Twin Town. Ifans mellifluous, unshowy narration and restrained performance as blind dreamer Captain Cat make the ripe language leap suddenly to life. THE VERDICT: Kevin Allen and Rhys Ifans colourful, carnal but careful reboot ensures that Thomas richly-written dreamscape doesnt go for a Burton. And welsh warbler Charlotte Church finds herself in good company Director: Kevin Allen Starring: Rhys Ifans, Charlotte Church, William Thomas, Julian Lewis Jones Theatrical release: 30 October 2015 Kate Stables
THE VATICAN TAPES
Mark Neveldine breaks away from Crank collaborator Brian Taylor for his first solo directorial effort, and it lacks the creativity of the filmmaking partnership that made his name. In fact, this bland, run-of-the-mill horror, in which Michael Peas priest engages two Vatican exorcists to help save a young woman possessed with an evil spirit, is remarkable only for somehow being the latest in a long line of generic horror films still following the exact template and tropes laid down by The Exorcist 40 years ago. As such, the power of Christ is the only thing compelling here. Director: Mark Neveldine Starring: Michael Pena, Dougray Scott, Kathleen Robertson, Djimon HounsouTheatrical release: 30 October 2015 Matt Looker
Banned in 2010 from filmmaking by the Iranian regime for anti-Islamic propaganda, director Jafar Panahi has since devised ingenious ways of circumventing the ayatollahs prohibition. In the latest, he adopts the profession of taxi driver and, with a dash-mounted camera, uses his various passengers a conservative loudmouth, an injured workman and his hysterical wife, two superstitious women and their precious goldfish as devices to comment on his situation, and that of Iran. He leaves us to guess whether these encounters are staged, while masking his own anger with subversive humour. Director: Jafar Panahi Starring: Jafar Panahi Theatrical release: 30 October 2015 Philip Kemp
DO I SOUND GAY?
A newly single gay man sets out to sound less like a stereotype in a provocative documentary that asks where the so-called gay voice came from and whether it can ever be gotten rid of. Drawing on everything from Truman Capote and Liberace to Disneys parade of supercilious villains, journalist David Thorpe juxtaposes testimony from George Takei, David Sedaris and others with his own half-hearted attempts to straighten out his larynx. The result is an engaging yet self-conscious film that spends so much time tiptoeing around its subject that it ends up forgetting what it originally wanted to say. Director: David Thorpe Starring: David Thorpe, David Sedaris, Dan Savage, Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, George Takei Theatrical release: 30 October 2015 Neil Smith
Classic hip-hop fashion wasnt just about my Adidas, although as this fascinating and quirky documentary about raps threads stresses, being fresh taking a pride and swagger in your appearance started from the feet up. (In an era where Bronx-dwellers could be killed for their sneakers, the opening question Whats your size? was to be avoided at all costs.) Here, the likes of Nas and Kanye reminisce, while legendary Harlem designer Dapper Dan explains how hed illegally customise his clothes with established brands like Louis Vuitton: I blackenised it I made it look good on us. Director: Sacha Jenkins Starring: Nas, Kanye West, Jay Z Theatrical release: 30 October 2015 Ali Catterall