Out on Friday 1 April
Eddie The Eagle goes against the slope. A bank heist takes place in a one-shot thriller. Yes, here's this week's new releases.
Click on for our reviews of Eddie The Eagle, Victoria, Ran, Black Mountain Poets, Papusza, Battle Mountain: Graeme Obree's Story, Anguish, Motley's Law, Martyrs, A Warrior's Tail, Pandorica, and E. Nesbit's The Railway Children.
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EDDIE THE EAGLE
If, when you hear the name Eddie The Eagle you think 'gurning, speccy bloke who was rubbish at ski jumping in the 1980s', you need to see this movie. If, when you hear the name Eddie The Eagle you think 'who?' you still need to see it. Because despite the slightly bizarre subject matter – the tale of a man who desperately wants to compete at the winter Olympics, fully aware he's far from world-class – Dexter Fletcher's semi-biopic dramedy is likely to be the most purely uplifting film of the year.
Recap for anyone under 35: Eddie Edwards was a slightly odd, very longsighted guy who – against the Olympic Committee's protests and without proper funding or training – bagged a place at Calgary in 1988, charming spectators and becoming an overnight celeb. Fresh from his breakout role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Taron Egerton turns strawberry blonde and dons bottle- bottom glasses to transform himself perfectly into the embodiment of Eddie – rubber-faced and full of tics and twitches.
Hugh Jackman is Eddie's fictional coach – a disgraced former ski-jump champ who's hit the bottle hard. Yes, it's a terrible cliché. Fletcher's film is undeniably corny, but also so sincere and tear-inducing that it ultimately doesn't matter. Although he's dealing with an underdog, the director approaches his material with ambition of which Eddie himself would be proud.
The vertiginous POV shots from the top of a 70-metre ski jump are dizzying and terrifying, while Jackman's easy charm and Christopher Walken's cameo bring a dash of Hollywood glamour. ETE will inevitably draw comparisons to that other Calgary Olympics tale Cool Runnings (there's even a gag acknowledging the 1993 hit).
But in many ways Eddie is also the spiritual sibling of Rush; like Ron Howard's film, it's adrenaline-pumped and packed with men competing at a sport that genuinely might kill them. Our hero even has a rival/ally in Finnish star ski-jumper Matti Nykänen (Edvin Endre) who in real life won three gold medals that year. Only Eddie doesn't go in for champagne, fast cars and women; instead, he drinks milk and dotes on his mum.
Reminiscent of vintage Richard Curtis, this is a celebration of Britishness that will no doubt export well. Except it's not about floppy hair and posh flats in Notting Hill, but a plasterer from Cheltenham who fearlessly refused to be judged by anyone's standards but his own.
THE VERDICT: From niche subject matter, Fletcher's crafted a movie that's both universal but also unashamedly, gloriously British. Very funny, genuinely moving and endlessly good-natured. Director: Dexter Fletcher Starring: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken, Jo Hartley, Edvin Endre Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
No editor is credited in German writer/director Sebastian Schipper's high-concept drama, which was shot in one uninterrupted take lasting two and quarter hours on the streets of Berlin. Leaving a techno club in the middle of the night, lonely 20-something Victoria (Laia Costa) is befriended by genial hoodlum Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his pals, but what starts out as a sweet-natured romance swiftly finds its lovers mounting an armed bank robbery.
There are some huge narrative implausibilities, but Schipper's virtuoso style propels us through his characters' highs and lows. Ace performances, too.
Director: Sebastian Schipper Starring: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
Kurosawa's third Shakespeare adaptation and his last great film, 1985's Ran is his epic version of King Lear, transposed to strife-torn 16th-century Japan. Ageing warlord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) decides to abdicate and divide his realm between his three sons; as in the original, it's a disastrous move.
Ran means 'chaos', and that's what Kurosawa unleashes – but meticulously orchestrated chaos, as armies wheel and clash, and death and desolation overwhelm the senses. At the time, this was the most expensive Japanese production ever – and it magnificently looks it in this 4k restoration.
Director: Akira Kurosawa Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Mieko Harada Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS
Inept petty-criminal sisters Lisa (Alice Lowe) and Claire (Dolly Wells), escaping from a botched robbery attempt, hijack a car belonging to two sister poets heading for a bardic retreat in the Welsh hills. Arriving in the Black Mountains, the fugitive pair find themselves obliged to impersonate the poets and perform.
Cue comedy of embarrassment and some seriously crap poetry. Jamie Adams' (Benny & Jolene) movie devotes rather too much time to routine flirtations and jealousies within the new-ageist group, and the ending turns soggy. But until then it passes the time divertingly enough.
Director: Jamie Adams Starring: Tom Cullen, Alice Lowe, Dolly Wells, Rosa Robson Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
Sumptuous black-and-white images don't quite compensate for choppy plotting in Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze's (My Nikifor) ambitious but awkward quasi-biopic of Polish-Romani poet Bronisława Wajs (played over 80-ish years, with effective ageing work, by Jowita Budnik). Immaculately composed in loving widescreen, the portrait of the gypsy camps brims with life.
But the non-linear narrative makes getting a fix on the film's subject hard: as Wajs retreats into the rapturous images, the sensory feast leaves the emotions under-engaged.
Directors: Joanna Kos-Krauze, Krzysztof Krauze Starring: Jowita Budnik, Zbigniew Walerys, Antoni Pawlicki Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
BATTLE MOUNTAIN: GRAEME OBREE'S STORY
Graeme Obree, the bipolar speed cyclist whose attempts at record-breaking were dramatised in 2006 biopic The Flying Scotsman, tackles another challenge in David Street’s doc: breaking the world human-powered speed record in a home-made two-wheeler partially constructed out of a saucepan.
The jittery, garrulous Obree travels to Nevada to compete against well-financed teams with superior technology: a David-Goliath battle that keeps us invested, for all the film's circuitous longueurs and a score that seeks to steer our emotions rather than stir them.
Director: David Street Starring: Graeme Obree Theatrical release: April 1. 2016
Producer Sonny Mallhi (The Strangers, Shutter, Old Boy) turns director with this sensitive take on the possession genre. Disenfranchised teenager Tess (Ryan Simpkins) arrives with her mum in a new town for a fresh start only to get possessed by the spirit of a similarly aged girl who tragically died weeks earlier.
With Tess already suffering from an identity disorder and the mums of both girls connected by a shared grief, there's no shortage of psychological or domestic drama. The end result is a refreshingly character-focused horror story, garnished with creepily effective visuals.
Sonny Mallhi Starring: Ryan Simpkins, Annika Marks, Karina Logue Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
"I came here for the money and it just became… something else." So explains Kimberley Motley, the first foreign lawyer to work in Afghanistan, who fights for justice in human-rights cases despite the dangers.
Danish documentarian Nicole Nielsen Horanyi follows Motley between 2013 and 2014 as international troops are leaving the country, using confrontations with abuse and corruption in the Afghan legal system to ask questions about what the occupation achieved. But what draws focus most is Motley's unique story: an ex-beauty queen, she left her family in the US to pursue an obligation to help potential clients.
Director: Nicole Nielsen Horanyi Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
Where Pascal Laugier's 2008 horror can make a decent claim to the word "masterpiece", Kevin and Michael Goetz's Blumhoused update can barely justify its existence. Not what you could call bad – just depressingly pointless – it follows similarly shrieky beats into unpleasant and underwhelming territory.
Bailey Noble screams hard as the innocent drafted in to clean up after troubled friend Troian Bellisario commits a terrible crime, but the addition of a softer ending and some CG fire (perhaps because it has none of its own) suggest you can't remake art, only diminish it.
Directors: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz Starring: Troian Bellisario, Bailey Noble, Kate Burton Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
A WARRIOR'S TAIL
This animated family adventure offers a familiar story wherein a plucky young boy (voiced by Milla Jovovich in this English dub of the Russian original) embarks on a quest to save his family, making chums and defeating evil along the way.
The set-up is lent some originality by a winningly bonkers cast of animal characters – like the three-headed, Jabba the Hutt-esque gorilla voiced by Whoopi Goldberg – all animated with a vivid colour palette. Shame that the plot bogs down in some baffling mythology – but when the parts do click the result is perfectly passable.
Director: Maksim Fadeev Starring: Maksim Chukharyov, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
Given the obvious budget constraints, writer/director Tom Paton manages to inject his feature debut with some visual sizzle. A pity, then, that the small cast and night-forest setting do little to sell the scale of this supposedly epic post-apocalyptic tale.
It centres on three tribespeople locked in a leadership contest that involves heading to a remote neck of the woods to attempt a series of trials. A promising set-up and interesting twists of fate give way to more standard horror fare, as sulky heroine Eiren (Jade-Fenix Hobday) fends off a masked attacker. A case of smart ideas, so-so execution.
Director: Tom Paton Starring: Jade Hobday, Marc Zammit, Adam Bond Theatrical release: April 1, 2016
E. NESBIT'S THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Audiences have been going loco for this stage version of E. Nesbit's novel ever since it first rolled into the National Railway Museum in York in 2008. Whether cinemagoers will be as entranced by this one-night-only screening is less certain, given its main(line) attraction – a real, chuffing, vintage choo-choo – can't hope to have the same thrilling impact on the screen as it does up close and personal.
Still, the nostalgic pleasures of this portrait of three children (disconcertingly played here by adult actors) come across well enough in a piece whose moving parts are both literal and figurative.
Director: Ross MacGibbon Starring: Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey, Beth Lilly, Izaak Cainer Theatrical release: March 28, 2016