Out on Friday October 27
Taika Waititi’s buoyant comic blast of excess-all-areas colour and character. Luca Guadagnino’s luminous, sun-kissed Italian love story. Andy Serkis’ warm, often witty directorial debut.
Yes, here's this week's new releases. Click on for our reviews of Thor: Ragnarok, Call Me By Your Name, Breathe, Deliver Us (Liberami), Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, Property of the Slate, Battle of Soho, The Princess Bride, and Jigsaw.
For the best movie reviews, subscribe to Total Film.
When a Twitter follower asked Thor 3’s director if a certain job opening in another major saga might lead to a “@TaikaWaititi #StarWars movie”, his reply was chuckle-some. “Lolz. I like to complete my films.”
Despite the Thor saga’s past issues with departing directors, Taika Waititi completes with rollicking style on his Asgard trip. While Ragnarok delivers the mythical soap-opera business you expect from the MCU, Waititi blows away The Dark World’s indistinct hammer thuds, instead aiming blasts of fresh, flavour-rich comic air at a tricky title character’s Th-tory. Those ‘Asgardians Of The Galaxy’ puns will stick: despite minor niggles with the drama, Ragnarok is both the MCU’s funniest outing yet and its clearest beneficiary of a playful, character-ful director’s voice since Guardians.
The Waititi-ish drollery arrives fast with a belly-laughs piss-take of monologue-ing monsters and a mock-macho meeting with Karl Urban’s Skurge, dolt-com stand-in for Idris Elba’s Bifrost sentry Heimdall. Between some cavalier plot lurches and cracking cameos, Anthony Hopkins also has fun impersonating Loki impersonating Odin, before returning as real-Odin to warn of a bigger menace than Loki (Tom Hiddleston, refreshingly re-deployed as an ensemble player rather than a sneak headliner).
Enter Cate Blanchett’s Hela, Goddess of Death and spoiler-y grievances, who crushes Thor’s sense of his manhood (his hammer), occupies Asgard and – effectively – boots Thor/Loki to the retro-hedonist sci-fi planet that time forgot: Sakaar, where decadent ancient Rome meets Studio 54.
Between Jeff Goldblum’s delirious Grandmaster, his goofy guards and the mismatched colour schemes, this gleeful planet-disco sojourn sends Ragnarok’s camp dial shrieking into the red. It’s like the arcade game-style Flash Gordon reboot you never dared hope for, complete with a power-boosting synth score from Devo veteran Mark Mothersbaugh that’ll have your fingers playing air console.
Ragnarok finds its supremely funny footing here, starting the minute Tessa Thompson’s perma-drunk Valkyrie tipsily loses her footing and swipes Hiddleston’s comic scene-stealing crown. Hemsworth is also terrifically tapped for self-mocking mirth; finally, he owns centre-stage in his own gig. After another prime cameo and a riotous workmates’ reunion in the gladiator arena, Thor and Mark Ruffalo’s best-movie-Hulk-yet maintain the mock-male comic momentum beautifully as surly, sniping men-children in their apartment-sharing intimacy, knob gags included.
A buddy romp about men out of place folded into a pop space opera, it’s a set-up that recalls Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s vamp-com What We Do In The Shadows even before we reach the ace vampire joke. And, lest you doubted his ownership, Waititi makes every one-liner kill as the voice of rock revolutionary Korg the Kronan, whose misunderstanding (perhaps…) of Thor’s special bond with Mjölnir numbers among the many gags you might miss through the laughter gales.
Meanwhile, Blanchett faces her own gladiatorial battle: with the curse of the squandered Marvel villains. She wins by dint of blazing charisma but she is underused, reduced to oozing malignantly around Asgard and spearing victims. Aside from a brought-to-heel Skurge, Hela lacks someone to grapple with, to bounce off.
But every character gets to shine in the above-par end-stretch. Waititi’s variant on Marvel’s climactic mega-rucks suffers from ‘giant CGI thing’ cliché, but it gives each lead their moment, shakes the Thor saga’s foundations, lands Hulk’s best sight-gag yet, and opens vistas of promise for Thor’s return in Infinity War and beyond. Here’s hoping Waititi returns for Thor 4, assuming he’s free. After this rocket up Asgard’s rump, he’ll surely be in heightened demand whether Star Wars wants him or not...
THE VERDICT: Quoth Thor: “Yes!” A buoyant comic blast of excess-all-areas colour and character, Waititi’s MCU entry gives old Shakespeare-in-the-park an injection of full-bore fun.
Director: Taika Waititi; Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blancett, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo; Theatrical release: October 24, 2017
Call Me By Your Name
“If only you knew how little I knew about the things that matter,” drawls Elio (Timothée Chalamet) halfway through Call Me By Your Name. Seventeen, quietly creative, loudly bored, he’s talking to the handsome grad student who’s spending the summer of ’83 at his parents’ Italy home. It’s the culmination of weeks of furtive flirtation. “What things?” asks the object of his affection. “You know what things,” murmurs Elio. Indeed, we do.
In a film that floats between coming-of-age ennui and heart-stopping moments of beauty, this is the first time Elio talks openly about his feelings. Up until this point, Luca Guadagnino’s alluring adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel luxuriates in ambiguity. Between bright cups of apricot juice and tins of Illy coffee, the story unspools of Elio’s crush on 24-year-old grad student Oliver (Armie Hammer), an all-American jock in tiny shorts whose breezy geniality aggravates as much as it allures.
As the duo embark on winding country bike rides and circle each other in sun-dappled courtyards, Chalamet and Hammer cast a beguiling spell. In a giant step up from playing Matthew McConaughey’s son in Interstellar, Chalamet is remarkable, etching an unshowy portrait of a boy on the cusp of adulthood; constantly pretending, seemingly unsure how to behave. Chalamet speaks fluent English, Italian and French, plays the piano and, in the film’s boldest holdover from Aciman’s novel, fearlessly enacts an unforgettable moment with a peach.
Hammer, meanwhile, is a revelation. Departing each scene with a maddening “later”, he’s a million miles from big-budget blow-outs such as The Lone Ranger and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Pivotally, he’s unafraid of allowing Oliver to be unlikeable, lending this luminously optimistic film an edge that kills sentimentality in its tracks.
Guadagnino is a master of the slow build but, unlike the mounting hysteria of I Am Love and the shock rug-pulls of A Bigger Splash, this feels more urgently personal, capturing the pleasures and pains of youth with bracing sensitivity. When Elio talks of “things that matter” it’s relatable no matter your gender or orientation. CMBYN finds a neat balance between heart and art (something Guadagnino has struggled with), whether it’s referencing Heraclitus or playing on Hellenic male relationships.
Of course, there are also Ray-Bans and ‘Love My Way’ by The Psychedelic Furs; the magic of Guadagnino’s film is in its deceptively freewheeling style. In its final moments, CMBYN offers a powerfully emotional full stop; those things that matter have rarely been more arrestingly captured.
THE VERDICT: Peachy keen. A luminous, sun-kissed Italian love story brimming with warmth, passion and feeling. This is utterly unmissable.
Director: Luca Guadagnino; Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg; Theatrical release: October 27, 2017
With Jungle Book: Origins’ release date postponed, Breathe has inadvertently become Andy Serkis’ directorial debut. And unlike that creature feature, Breathe is just about the opposite of what you’d expect from the actor best known as LOTR’s Gollum. There are no digital avatars here, but there’s plenty of heart and a transformative turn from Andrew Garfield.
This is very much a personal story, based on the life of Robin Cavendish, father of Serkis’ producer Jonathan Cavendish. After a whirlwind romance and marriage to Diana (Claire Foy), Robin (Garfield) becomes ill with polio and is paralysed from the neck down. Confined to a hospital bed, he’s effectively imprisoned by his breathing apparatus. Robin and, crucially, Diana’s determination leads to his becoming a trailblazing ‘responaut’, pioneering a new type of wheelchair.
Despite examining some of the tough realities that accompany a debilitating condition, Breathe is not a gritty endurance test, and arguably presents a somewhat sanitised version of events. But go with its chocolate-box charm and you’ll be rewarded with a poignant celebration of love trouncing adversity.
Lush lensing by cinematographer Robert Richardson and plenty of humour make for a much less stuffy movie than you expect, and it’s all grounded by Garfield’s consistently engaging performance.
THE VERDICT: A warm, often witty story that showcases Serkis’ grasp of character. Sparkling performances – particularly from Garfield and Foy – make it impossible not to be moved.
Director: Andy Serkis; Starring: Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Tom Holland; Theatrical release: October 27, 2017
Deliver Us (Liberami)
Exorcism is all too real in Federica Di Giacomo’s sobering doc about a specialist in the casting out of demons – but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Without ever interrogating the faith of priests or the “possessed”, the film’s observance of ancient rituals (ex)poses serious questions.
By shaming traumatised parishioners as “evil”, is the Church denying them effective help?
Director: Federica Di Giacomo; Theatrical release: October 27, 2017
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami
Despite the candid vérité stylings, art-dance powerhouse Grace Jones remains a magnetic enigma in Sophie Fiennes’ docu-study.
Shot over several years, the entertaining but meandering off-stage material seems too dazzled by Jones’ mega-watt persona. The real action happens on stage, where Jones is a one-woman riot.
Director: Sophie Fiennes; Theatrical release: October 27, 2017
Property of the Slate
This under-dramatised account of Irish murderer Brendan O’Donnell’s grim upbringing sticks stubbornly to the page. Director Kit Ryan plods through Brendan’s story of abuse, but the narrative flails.
Patrick Gibson tries hard as the troubled/troubling Brendan, though Aisling Loftus’ Ann Marie remains naggingly blank, leaving no emotional focus.
Director: Kit Ryan; Starring: Elaine Cassidy, Aisling Loftus, Patrick Gibson; Theatrical release: October 27, 2017
Battle of Soho
Rallying against the gentrification – or “sanitisation” – of London’s most culturally rich district, this rousing documentary presents a compelling case for protecting its history, not to mention its standing as a creative haven for the LGBTQ community.
It’s bookended by indulgent artistic flourishes, but interviews with several of Soho’s passionate eccentrics capture the locale’s unique seedy beauty.
Director: Aro Korol; Starring: Stephen Fry, Jenny Runacre, Lindsay Kemp; Theatrical release: October 28, 2017
The Princess Bride
A princess, a pirate, a drunk and a giant have the adventure of a lifetime in Rob Reiner’s delightful fantasy, a fractured fairytale in which Peter Falk supplies the narration, Cary Elwes and Robin Wright provide the romance and a host of comedy greats generate the laughter.
Thirty years old but as spry as ever, it manages to be both tongue-in-cheek and achingly sincere.
Director: Rob Reiner; Starring: Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Robin Wright; Theatrical release: October 23, 2017
“The game is simple – the best ones are,” says Tobin Bell’s John Kramer, aka Jigsaw back from the dead (again) in the Spierig brothers’ neat revival of the Saw franchise.
Like its predecessors, the conceit – five morally questionable captives facing grisly torture contraptions – certainly keeps things uncomplicated, even if there’s a narrative rug-pull late on. Still as hokey as ever, mind, but gore-seekers should enjoy.
Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig; Starring: Laura Vandervoort, Tobin Bell, Keith Rennie; Theatrical release: October 26, 2017