The Cineworlds

New this week at the Cineworlds is Cry Macho, which sees Clint Eastwood getting back in front of the camera at the age of 91, playing a clapped-out rodeo rider who his hired to go to Mexico and bring back an old boss’s teenage son. Along the way, ‘the world-weary horseman finds unexpected connections and his own sense of redemption’. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? The trailer doesn’t look terrible, but the film has not had great reviews, most concluding, sadly, that Clint is just too old for the part. The story had an interesting journey to the screen. It was written as a screen play in 1975, then novelised by its author in two weeks, then acquired as a book by the studio that had rejected it as a screenplay. Attempts were made to produce the film in 1991, 1998 and 2011 before Warner Bros and Clint finally took it on in 2020. It’s on all week at various times.

Then at Cheltenham there’s Mothering Sunday, a star-studded period piece set in that mythical between-the-wars cut-glass England we might call Downtonia. Actually, that’s a bit mean. It comes from a novel by the excellent Graham Swift, has a strong (but over-familiar) cast, including Olivia Colman (looking very like HM the Queen), Colin Firth (with terrible hair) and Glenda Jackson. The attractive leads are Aussie newcomer Odessa Young and Cheltenham’s own movie star, Josh O’Connor. We are assured every effort has been taken to avoid the usual period clichés, although on paper the story looks a bit familiar: a young housemaid gets involved with a survivor of the First World War, scion of a big house. This is, of course, not what was planned for him. The housemaid grows up to be a writer. Directed by Eva Husson, who is French, with fascinating Spanish roots: her great-uncle was in POUM, like George Orwell. And it’s written by Alice Birch, who did a really good job with Normal People on TV. The reviews have mostly been good, although waspish Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian said it was so slow that it reminded him of that time when John Peel put a 45rpm single on at 33rpm.

On Sunday, Cheltenham has a one-off showing of a film about the Narnia author, called C.S. Lewis: The Most Reluctant Convert. Cineworld’s website says it’s a documentary and provides no other information. It’s not really a documentary, it’s an adaptation of a one-man stage show by Max McLean, described as ‘a forceful Christian’ on one website I consulted. It’s based on Lewis’s own memoir Surprised by Joy, in which he recounted his journey from angry atheist to prolific God-botherer and Christian allegorist.

Gloucester, meanwhile, has Wesele, a drama by Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski. It’s about a wedding, the second Polish wedding feature to hit Gloucester in two months. Tesciowie, which I saw in October, was a comedy. Smarzowksi’s film is an altogether tougher proposition, a savage attack on Poland today and in the past, in which elderly wedding guests recall the murder of Jews during the Second World War. The only comprehensive review I have found of it, by a Polish blogger, is pretty ambivalent: ‘The director throws anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia, criticism of the church and political classes, human pettiness, jealousy and hatred, sexism, alcoholism, economic emigration, veganism and animal slaughter, human trafficking, football fans, and even a pandemic into one cauldron. Everything is seething, gurgling and often it just spills out to the side, leaving a mess that was completely alien to Smarzowski’s cinema.’ Read the rest of it here. On the other hand, Stephen Ilott says Smarzowski’s Wolyn was the best Polish film he has seen in recent years, as well as the most shocking.

Then on Thursday, Ghostbusters: Afterlife arrives at both Cineworlds. The fourth in the franchise, this has a single mother and her two children arriving in a small town where they discover a connection to the original Ghostbusters. Directed by Jason Reitman, whose Dad Ivan directed the first two films and now produces, with cameos from original cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver. Liked by critics but also criticised for relying too much on what is called ‘fan service’. This is a new one on me, but is apparently a Japanese term meaning the inclusion of elements designed to please the audience, ‘often sexual in nature, such as nudity’. Thank you, Wikipedia.

On Friday, Gloucester also gets King Richard, a biopic of the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, who drove them from Compton to the top of the sport. Will Smith plays it straight. There is also Pitbull: Exodus by the Polish action director Patrick Vega. Part of a popular organised crime franchise. I’ve read the synopsis but can’t make head nor tail of it.

The Tivoli

Mothering Sunday (see above) is the only new film at The Tivoli this week, plus Ghostbusters: Afterlife from Thursday. It also has Spencer, No Time to Die, Eternals, The French Dispatch and Dune. When I think about The Tivoli, I feel I’ve fallen into an alternate universe in which putting on the same films as everybody else and charging a lot more for them is a good business strategy.

The Sherborne

The Sherborne starts the week with The Addams Family 2 and Dune, then closes until Friday (19/11) for improvements, which include better sightlines, more generous legroom and, says Mark, ‘no expense spared – there won’t be a car-shaped hole in the wall of the gents’ toilet’. It starts again with Dune, plus Ron’s Gone Wrong on Saturday and Sunday. The cartoon might be more interesting than I originally thought. It’s co-written by Peter Baynham, who has a fabulous TV and radio comedy CV, having worked with Armando Iannucci, Chris Morris, Steve Coogan, Sacha Baron Cohen and others on shows like Blue Jam, The Day Today, I’m Alan Partridge and Brass Eye. The premise is that in the future all children demand a robot companion called a B-Bot. Unfortunately, one of them malfunctions and behaves inappropriately. This seems prescient. In the future, only androids will be allowed to behave inappropriately. Children will have been programmed not to.

The Guildhall

The Guildhall continues its French Film Festival, as described last week, and offers, by way of contrast, Spencer, yet another version of the everlasting story of Diana, Princess of Wales. Surely it’s time to let the woman rest in peace? Screenings every day at various times, morning, afternoon and evening, to suit all preferences. Then it has The French Dispatch from Friday (19/11).

The Roses

This seems like a good week for Polish films. The Roses has Never Gonna Snow Again. A Poland-Netherlands-Germany collaboration, directed by Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert, it has not been widely shown in UK. It is a variation on the theme of the enigmatic stranger visiting a closed and troubled community, in this case a masseur who works in a gated community in a Polish town and whose clients think he has special powers. As he was born in Chernobyl, seven years after the disaster, maybe he does. Described as a “meditation on class, immigration and global warming with ravishing cinematography and subtle humour”. Sounds intriguing. Just the one screening, despite previous announcement indicating two, on Thursday (18/11) at 19.30.

And The French Dispatch also arrives in Tewkesbury on Friday (19/11) at 19:30. The latest offering from Wes Anderson, whose films tend to divide opinion. The film’s title is the same as that of a periodical published in the French town of Blasé-sur-Ennui, which is probably enough to indicate the arch tone of the film, and has the characters reminiscing about the most famous stories and journalists during the history of the journal. In typical Anderson style, the story is told in a series of chapters and has his trademark style of colourful set design and attention to period detail. It stars many of his regular actors: Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, amongst many others.  In case you missed it at CFS last week, there is another chance to see Balloon on Wednesday (17/11) at 19:30.

There’s also an oddity. The Drum’s Fox, on Saturday (13/11) at 19:00, is a historical-musical show telling the story of Tewkesbury in Quebec, Canada. By a multidisciplinary artist, Arielle de Garie, from our Gloucestershire town’s namesake, which may have been founded by a man who arrived there from England in 1764. The show is in French, with subtitles, and is free.

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