Going to ‘the pictures’ during the pandemic isn’t much different for film reviewers. We usually experience social distancing at press shows anyway – what’s different is the hygiene regimen, the sanitisation, the often eerie silence.
And of course the contactless payments. I feel like Jeff Bezos flashing my Visa card around. It will be difficult to go back to hard cash if and when this terrible pestilence ends. I’ve had a fiver in my wallet since February that must have cobwebs on it by now.
Now that we’re apparently in the ‘second spike’ – depending on who you ask – everyone is going around the streets looking like bank robbers. We’re all washing our hands like Lady Macbeth. And if you feel brave enough to venture into a multiplex, you’ll find lots of old favourites popping up.
The crippling effect of the virus on the industry has forced distributors to go back to films like La La Land, Jurassic Park, The Shawshank Redemption, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, A Star is Born, etc. to fill the gap. If you haven’t seen these during their first run you might find them worth a look.
In terms of new releases, Tenet is a time-travelling espionage tale about a man journeying through a twilight zone. He’s armed with just a single word, the palindromic one of the film’s title. It’s directed and written by Christopher Nolan. Nolan gave us the recent Dunkirk as well as Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.
In more light-hearted vein, Pixie is a comedy thriller about a girl who masterminds a heist to avenge the death of her mother, fleeing across Ireland afterwards.
Unhinged is a violent and often ludicrous road rage film. Caron Pistorius plays a recently-divorced woman who has the misfortune to annoy the murderous Russell Crowe in what she regards as an innocuous altercation on the motorway – he doesn’t, though. Cue much over-the-top revenge histrionics. Crowe is not, repeat not, the kind of man you want to give out to for delaying you at the traffic lights.
In Black Water Abyss, five friends exploring a remote Australian cave become endangered by a crocodile. Onward is an animated comedy set in a suburban fantasy world. Two teenage elf brothers try to meet their father – he died many years ago – for one precious day in this endearing fable.
Dreambuilders is another animated film. It features a young girl who has the ability to control other people’s dreams. She misuses it here to put manners on her annoying stepsister.
Last but not least, this is the 70th anniversary of arguably the greatest film ever made about Hollywood, Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. Gloria Swanson is sublime as the faded diva locked into a solipsistic world of memories and self-delusion. William Holden is her reluctant inamorato in Wilder’s gothic melodrama.
Swanson was cruelly denied an Oscar for her performance but it’s gro-wn with stature over the decades. If you haven’t already seen this you have a treat in store.