Films around Cheltenham from 11/9/2021

Another week in what could be the death-throes of the most significant and life-affirming cultural invention since the novel, namely the shared experience of watching the world’s stories in the presence of other human beings. Sadly, the people whose job it is to foster the future of the art, while preserving its vital heritage, seem not to be all that bothered.

Oh well. If they are going to be able to sell their sites for retail, bingo or office space, they are sadly deluded. More housing in places no-one wants to live, quite possibly. Despite the encouragement of City cheerleaders, I won’t be buying any Cineworld shares. Here’s a typical example from The Motley Fool. I found it on, a useful ‘news aggregator’ site. And here’s what I got when I mistyped and misremembered slightly: O Brave New World, that has such a wealth of business opportunities.

Moving swiftly on.

The Guildhall

I popped into the Guildhall in Gloucester early on Tuesday evening, waiting to meet a friend.  The box office wasn’t staffed. A notice stuck to the window told me that if I wanted to buy a ticket for a film, I had to go to the bar upstairs. The bar upstairs was closed. Apparently the bar doesn’t open until immediately before the films. 

The Guildhall is a lovely little community venue, smarter than anything in Cheltenham, and the cafe/bar is quiet, cheap and friendly, which is unique in Eastgate Street: unfortunately, no-one will ever discover that, if the council can’t be bothered to staff and open it. I went back outside to wait on a bench and within about two minutes I’d been hustled by a guy wanting £1, because he’d lost a £20 note and needed to get a coach to Exeter (a likely story), and a couple of sweet young girls flirty-fishing for The Gospel Tabernacle Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic Inc. The suffix is a bit of a giveaway as to its origins. If I’d wanted begging and street evangelism, I could have stayed in Cheltenham’s renowned shopping destination, the High Street.

To the films. This week the Guildhall is offering a few more chances to see Johnny Depp’s Minamata, if you don’t mind crossing the daunting picket-line of Twitter disapproval. I forgot to mention last week that it co-stars Bill Nighy, as the pioneering photographer W. Eugene Smith’s long-suffering editor (is there any other kind?). Nighy is in everything worthy these days, and in this one he’s a hard-bitten American. Good for you, Bill. It’s on Saturday (11/9) at 19:30, Monday (13/9) at 14:00, Tuesday (14/9) at 11:00, Thursday (16/9) at 14:00. 

New at the Guildhall is From The Vine (2019). Art-house film by numbers, sadly. A mega-rich corporate lawyer with a conscience and an Italian background walks away from a top job in a hi-tech car firm in Canada because he isn’t allowed to keep the environmental promise he made to its deceased founder. So he persuades his beautiful wife to leave their beautiful Canadian home to go to take the terrible risk of moving to a beautiful estate in Italy where he attempts to revive his grandfather’s beautiful vineyard and the beautiful nearby town, which is a bit run-down, though still picturesque. Aimed squarely at the idle American rich. It’s showing on Friday (17/9) at 14:00. 

There’s also Our Ladies on Friday (17/9) at 11:00. Lassies Behaving Badly after escaping from their Catholic alma mater. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie it’s not.

The Sherborne

The Sherborne this week has Free Guy and The Courier, neither of which is new. But if you are interested, the little cinema, just across the road from Kingsholm Stadium, is a really fun place to see them. Mark reminded me that the cinema is entirely his own business and receives no subsidy from politicians, the lottery or charities. That’s why he makes more effort and there are very few axe-grinding, box-ticking films in his programme. 

The Roses

Thinks: ‘I wonder how the Robins are getting on?’

The Roses in Tewkesbury this week has The Courier and Limbo, both of which have been seen elsewhere recently, plus The Last Letter From Your Lover, which is new to me. It’s a British romantic saga, based on a silly book by JoJo Moyes. I always feel obliged to watch films about journalists, the numbers of which have increased in inverse proportion to the number of people actually allowed to practice the inky trade. This one is supposedly set in the present day, but it is based in a dream-world in which a reporter (Felicity Jones, also executive producer) is given the task of writing about her dead editor with the help/hindrance of the newspaper’s archivist. Archivists? Librarians? I think not. ‘Google it, mate.’

In parallel we are told the story of the editor as he was in the 1960s, a foreign correspondent flying to glamorous locations, having lunch with plutocrats and sleeping with their wives. But that was in another Britain, and besides, the trade is dead. Almost inevitably, it is a Netflix film. They’re welcome to it.

If you want to find the days and times of these films, you can navigate the Roses’s elaborate website for yourself. You’ll find that the films have little symbols alongside the dates and times, saying R, E, P, and S. Good luck finding an explanation of what they mean. Maybe ring them: 01684 295074. 

By the way, our little spoken word event after the rap film was very good fun. There will be more. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

The Multiplexes

The Cheltenham and Gloucester Cineworlds both have Copshop, Malignant and Respect. It’s really not worth sitting through the IMDB adverts (most of which seem to be for Cineworld or IMDB) to watch the trailer for Copshop. It’s a stupid, cliché-ridden feature for wannabe criminals who think guns are cool. It stars Gerard Butler. On the other hand, it may be worth watching the trailer for Malignant, if only to see director James Wan tell us that ‘Audiences are starved for something that’s new and different’ while promoting a slasher/horror that is anything but. Neither of these films look as inventive as Cleaver, the farrago Tony Soprano’s nephew Christopher put together as a lucrative mafia innovation to complement running whores, fleecing gamblers, manipulating drug addicts and intimidating small business owners.

Respect, on the other hand, is a well-funded and glossy product, funded by MGM, which may or may have fallen under the wheels of Amazon’s self-driving juggernaut. The soul legend Aretha Franklin is played by Jennifer Hudson, notable for not winning the TV singing circus American Idol and playing a less tragic version of Florence Ballard, the sidelined Supremes singer, in the near-biopic Dreamgirls. It’s directed by Liesl Tommy and Tracey Scott Wilson, two New York drama figures, who opted a while back to take the steady money offered by series TV.

I could only stand about 15 minutes of it, but on the basis of that and the trailer it looks as though they have managed to make Aretha Franklin – a difficult, complicated, insecure performer with a weakness for powerful and obnoxious men – into a sort of promotional video for empowered black womanhood and the Harlem Renaissance era, when African-Americans enjoyed a great deal of economic, educational and artistic autonomy and achievement. Also, it begins with a perky child actor dubbed with a full-size soul diva’s voice (I would wager).

This kind of nostalgia-drenched date-movie nonsense is clearly more acceptable to the multiplex audience than asking questions about the parlous state of American race relations today. I wonder whether they will cover Aretha’s years in the career doldrums, which only ended when she was cast as a diner chef in The Blues Brothers

On the other hand, I do admire Tracey Scott Wilson for joining the screenwriters’ legal action against the Big Four cartel of agents for setting up boring movies that enhanced their own income at the expense of that of their clients. Even overpaid Hollywood hacks have a right to the fruits of their creativity.

As for Cineworld, it can’t really be worth them opening their doors at the moment, especially given their gargantuan losses and the failure of the projected upturn in admissions to materialise. 

The Tivoli

Well, Cheltenham’s ’boutique cinema experience’ is still supposed to be opening on September 24, with the James Bond movie everyone else will be showing on bigger screens. But nobody seems to know anything beyond that. The marketing department of Empire Cinemas can’t be bothered to respond to my enquiries. The risible SoGlos this week enhanced its reputation as a source of local news by rerunning the press release it published in August 2019, with no extra information, presumably because it is being paid to. It would be nice to have a bit of actual information, enjoyable though gossip can be. 

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