3D 5th Wave 70s Culture 80s Cinema A Night of Horror AAustralian film Action Activism Adaptation Adelaide Film Festival Adventure Advocacy African American Age of Adaline AI albanian Alien Abduction alien covenant aliens Alpha alt-right altzheimers amazon Amitabh Bachchan Animal Animation anime anthology Anti-vaxx Ari Gold Art Asia Pacific Screen Awards Asian Cinema Australian film AV Industry Avengers Bad Robot BDSM Beach Boys Berlinale BFG Bianca Biasi Big Hero 6 Biography Biopic Blade Runner Blake Lively B-Movies Bollywood Breast Cancer Brian Wilson Brisbane Bruce Willis Camille Keenan Canadian Cancer candyman Cannes cannibalism Cannon Films Cesars CGI Chapman To Character Actors Charlie Hunnam Charlize Theron Chemsex China Lion Chinese Chloe Grace Moretz Chris Hemsworth Chris Pratt Christchurch christian cinema christmas Christopher Nolan Classic Cinema Clint Eastwood Close Encounters Cloverfield Comedy Coming-of-Age Conor McGregor Conspiracy Controversy Crowd-sourced Cult Cure Dakota Johnson Dance Academy Dardennes Brothers darth vader Debut Deepika Padukone Depression Disaster Movies Disney Diversity Documentary doomsday Dr Moreau drama Dunkirk Dustin Clare Dystopic EL James eli roth Elizabeth Banks Entourage Environmental Epic Erotic Cinema Extra-terrestrial Extreme Sports faith-based Family Film Fantasy Father Daughter Feminism Fifty Shades of Grey Film Film Festival Foreign found footage French Cinema Friendship Fusion Technology Gareth Edwards Gay Cinema Ghostbusters Ghosts Golan Globus Gothic Graphic Novel green inferno Guardians of the Galaxy Guillermo del Toro Gun Control Hacker Hailee Steinfeld Han Solo Happiness Harrison Ford Harry Dean Stanton Hasbro Haunted house Hhorror Himalaya Hitchcock Hollywood


In his engaging, remarkably frank memoir Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies, Variety chief film critic Owen Gleiberman reveals the five trade secrets that have helped him cope with what he calls “festival fever”. After 24 years as the founding movie critic at Entertainment Weekly and in his current gig as one of the last paid film commentators on Earth, he knows the pitfalls of film festival overload, declaring in Chapter 17 that “After six or seven days, I’m sated, bloated, reduced to the movie equivalent of a food coma.”

On the eve of the 2018 Sydney Film Festival, SCREEN-SPACE looks to the author’s experience and festival survival criteria to help navigate the twelve daunting days of the 65th anniversary program. We hope that drawing upon incisive passages of Gleiberman's brilliant prose (Ed: a dog-eared copy of Movie Freak never leaves my desk) will ensure our Emerald City readers maintain good movie-going mental health in the weeks ahead... 

Gleiberman has deduced that, “three movies a day…creates a nice sustainable flow.” Four movies is doable but not advised (“…it’s not bricklaying, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to feel good.”) He recounts the first time he tried to conquer a four-movie sit-in - a retrospective marathon of Beatles films, when he was 12. “Halfway through Let It Be, I felt my interest dissolving faster than the Beatles’ love for one another,” he writes. Sydneysiders might be tempted to multi-movie quadrella one of the weekend days; for example, Saturday, June 9 has 46 films scheduled across 14 locations, starting with a 10am session of the 234-minute Chinese drama An Elephant Sitting Still (pictured, right). Best not to, though; as Gleiberman concludes, by the seventh or eighth hour of film immersion, “your system is literally fed up with images.”

The shared rhythmic urgency of great (and/or loud) music and great (and/or loud) sex makes for rousing movie watching. Or, as Gleiberman pens it, “it’s a way of revitalizing the primacy of your responses.” Throughout his book, he cites moments in his musical education that have impacted his worldview (jump ahead to page 257 for his account of how Nina Simone changed his life). And the title ‘Movie Freak’ carries its own double meaning, given the open-door authorial policy re his psycho-sexual complexities. So it is no surprise that the cinema of ‘sex’ and ‘rock’n’roll’ should so energise Gleiberman. SFF programmers get the music part; one of the festival’s most popular strands has always been Sounds on Screen, which in 2018 includes Bad Reputation, a bio-doc on hard-rock goddess Joan Jett, and director Travis Beard’s Muslim-metal odyssey RockAbul. Porn, not so much, although there’s promise in Sari Braithwaite’s [Censored], a montage-doc made entirely of frames excised by Australian censors, and the late inclusion of Gaspar Noe's (non-doc) Cannes sensation, Climax.   

Oh, we are so on board with this! Writes Gleiberman, “Watching movies is all about pleasure, and so is evaluating them, so I say that you need to remain in a constant dialogue with your pleasure centers.” His global standing as a critic means he has gorged on the best festival food options the world over, from Sundance (“…Burgie’s, the low-down grease-pit burger diner on Main Street [it closed in 2005]…the Vietnamese place up the block… Davanza’s, where the ground-beef-and-mushroom pizza is an orgy of crusty tasty delight”) to Cannes (“…where you can have the greatest pizza you ever tasted…Even the name of the place is perfect: It’s called…La Pizza”). Rookie festivalists in Sydney may find themselves drawn to the fast food haunts of George Street (don’t…just, don’t). Instead, stick to the ‘three films a day’ rule and use the down time to partake of the event’s restaurant partners, which include Abode, Bloodwood, Bar Machiavelli, Azuma (pictured, right), Chef’s Gallery or The Ritz Bar. Most have specials for fest patrons; all will hurry you through if a session beckons. 

In Movie Freak, Gleiberman's favoured festival bud is Elvis Mitchell (pictured, right), one of America's finest film critics (Movieline; The New York Times), scholars (lectures at University of Nevada), broadcasters (hosts KCRW’s The Treatment podcast) and curators (oversaw LACMA’s Film Independent series). “An exciting bebop maestro of a critic,” says Gleiberman. But Mitchell won't be at SFF 2018, so who can you hang with to ensure that, in Gleiber-speak, “you will always wind up at a better party or be privy to more gossip - and film insight – than you would with anyone else”? Debonair festival director Nashen Moodley, ideally, but penetrating his high society realm and unforgiving schedule is tough, so ingratiate yourself with this lot – Mathieu Ravier, tireless social gadfly and film sector advocate who in past years has overseen the after-hours hangout, 'The Hub'; Garry Maddox, veteran critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and one of the festival’s favoured Q&A hosts; and, Lisa Malouf, contributor to The Limerick Review site, ebullient lover of classic film culture and the savviest person with whom to spend ten minutes if you need a 'Best of the Fest' update.


One of the key messages in Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies is ‘Back Your Own Voice With Conviction.’ Gleiberman has found himself at odds with editors and audiences alike, his observations often running counter to popular opinion. To wit, his inherent dislike of ‘the Sundance crowdpleaser’, or in his words, “watchable polished-turd entertainments posing as organic movies”. Here’s what he wrote about that flag-bearer for Sundance sweetness, 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine: “…each of its characters – loser dad! surly teen son who refuses to speak! schticky naughty grandpa played by Alan Arkin! – a walking, talking screenwriter’s index card.” We’re not so on board with his ...Sunshine bashing, but we essentially agree with him; in our 2016 SFF wrap, we gave ‘Worst of the Fest’ to an awful, already-forgotten Sundance spawn, Coconut Hero. SFF 2018 programmers weren’t swayed from their sunny Sundance predilection. The festival closes with a Sundance premiere, Brett Haley’s Hearts Beat Loud (we’ll hold judgement, but…wow, that title); there are Sundance-endorsed pics such as Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Grand Jury Prize winner; pictured, right), Jesse Peretz’s Juliet, Naked, an adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel (uh-oh) about a romance in the indie-rock scene (UH-OH!) and Sara Colangelo’s The Kindergarten Teacher (US Dramatic Directing Award). They are probably fine films, but if not, we’ll speak up, as should you. Don’t be afraid, writes Owen Gleiberman, of “branding yourself as the kind of curmudgeonly pariah who doesn’t know how to run with the crowd. Because you’re right and they’re wrong.”

THE 65th SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL runs June 6-17. Ticket and session details are available at the official website.

MOVIE FREAK: MY LIFE WATCHING MOVIES is currently available via Amazon (Australia/US) in print and audiobook and wherever all good books are sold.



Few men have conjured the spirit of American movies from outside a darkened cinema more than Bill Gold. Since he began designing posters for Warner Bros in 1942 (his first being the James Cagney classic, Yankee Doodle Dandy), Gold has crafted some of the most iconic movie one-sheets in Hollywood history. So great was his reputation, directors such as Frederico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick approved his designs personally; Clint Eastwood would only use Gold's services. At the time of his death on Sunday May 20 at the age of 97, Gold had been credited with over 2000 designs.

SCREEN-SPACE honours the work of one of the film community's greatest unsung artists with eight posters from Bill Gold's eight decades of sublime cinema marketing...

The 1940s:

CASABLANCA (Dir: Michael Curtiz; 1942)
With only his second design assignment from the Warner Bros brass, Gold created a poster that would become as famous as the film itself. It was Bill Gold's hand that etched star Humphrey Bogart and the visages of all his co-stars... 

The 1950s:

DIAL M FOR MURDER (Dir: Alfred Hitchcock; 1954)
Hitch's foray into the latest theatrical fad known as 3D was perfectly captured in Gold's evocative representation of the film's most chilling moment - Grace Kelly's hand reaching towards the audience as the murderer strikes.

The 1960s:

MY FAIR LADY (Dir: George Cukor; 1964)
Collaborated with artist Bill Peak in creating the poster art for the musical adaptation that would become a cultural phenomenon, winning 8 Oscars in the process. The legendarily cranky director George Cukor claimed to have contributed to the design work, which Gold and Peak respectfully deny.

The 1970s:

THE STING (Dir:George Roy Hill; 1973)
Simple, elegant, superb representation of the star power on offer in George Roy Hill's Oscar smash. A perfect example of Gold's skill at capturing the essence of a film - in this case, the chemistry and class of Redford and Newman.

The 1980s:

THE UNTOUCHABLES (Dir: Brian de Palma; 1987)
Another example of Gold's remarkable ability to convey a film's star dynamic (the might of a malevolent De Niro; the fight faced by a small but defiant Costner) as well as capturing such crucial elements as mood and location.

The 1990s:

GOODFELLAS (Dir: Martin Scorsese; 1990)

The 2000s:

MYSTIC RIVER (Dir: Clint Eastwood; 2003)
Retiring from full-time design work, Gold would only be drawn out to work on the occasional prestige pic, usually for his lifetime friend, Clint Eastwood. Mystic River was a career peak of sorts for Eastwood and his troupe of actors (both Sean Penn and Tim Robbins earned long overdue Oscars); also achieving one of his greatest triumphs was Gold, whose inverted imagery and atypical use of foreboding blacks and blues (not unlike Goodfellas) was a masterwork.


The 2010s:

J EDGAR (Dir: Clint Eastwood; 2011)
Gold's career came to a close with a special project for Eastwood. J EDGAR was not the best work from anyone involved - it got some of Eastwood's most mixed reviews, fell out of favour with the Academy early in Oscar season and featured an uncharasterically miscast Leonardo Di Caprio as the FBI boss. Gold, however, captured more in his poster image of a ranting Di Caprio than Eastwood managed in his entire film.





The 65th Sydney Film Festival has announced its 2018 line-up – a whopping 320ish films, from 60 countries in 160 different languages. The programming team want audiences going in and coming out of the 12 day event with smiles on their faces. Opening night honours go to the New Zealand laffer The Breaker Upperers; closing the event will be Brett Haley’s daddy-daughter feel-good dramedy, Hearts Beat Loud. In between, however, there are emotions of all kind to experience. Here are 10 films that immediately earned ‘must watch’ status at this year’s SFF… 

BEIRUT (Dir: Brad Anderson; U.S.A., 109 mins)
Two of Hollywood’s smartest talents combine to provide Mad Men hunk Jon Hamm (pictured, above) with the meaty role he’s been biding his time for – Mason Skiles, a CIA negotiator sent into the Middle East to secure the release of a colleague. After a couple of hired-hand movies (Stonehearst Asylum, 2014; The Call, 2013), Anderson looks to have returned to the hard-edged drama of his 2004 break-out film, The Machinist; script is by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, 2007; State of Play, 2009; Rogue One A Star Wars Story; 2016).

WEST OF SUNSHINE (Dir: Jason Raftopoulos; Australia, 78 mins)
Inner city Melbourne is the backdrop for this father-stepson drama, the directorial debut of Jason Raftopoulos. Cast is lead by Damian Hill (Pawno, 2015; Spin Out, 2016), whose life is crumbling under family issues and gambling addiction. The actor’s real-life stepson, non-actor Ty Perham, is remarkable in his film debut. Music by Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator; Whale Rider); world premiered at Venice 2017.  

A VIGILANTE (Dir: Sarah Daggar-Nelson; U.S.A., 91 mins)
Australian-born Daggar-Nelson makes her directing debut with this harrowing drama about a domestic-abuse survivor who turns vigilante to help others escape their attackers. Olivia Wilde is past due on the role that will put her on Oscar’s A-list (The Hollywood Reporter calls her performance, “nakedly emotional”); Daggar-Nelson’s willingness to muddy the morality of self-administered payback, makes this potentially one of the toughest yet most rewarding films of the festival.


MAYA THE BEE: THE HONEY GAME (Dirs: Noel Cleary, Sergio Delfino and Alexs Stadermann; Australia | Germany, 85 mins)
The first adventure of Maya the Bee was a solid global performer in 2014 before a huge ancillary life. Three of the animation sectors most respected artist/storytellers, with credits like Blinky Bill, The Lego Movie and Legend of The Guardians to their names, combine talents for this high-concept sequel, a riff on the hugely popular Jennifer Lawrence franchise. Voices include Richard Roxburgh, Justine Clarke and, returning as the lead insect, Coco Jack Gillies.

BlacKkKlansman (Dir: Spike Lee; U.S.A., 128 mins)
Ron Stallworth, an African American detective, went deep undercover into the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. His memoirs seem like perfect material for Spike Lee, who has continued making angry, race-based diatribe cinema (even if the audience hasn’t always turned out for his films). Direct to Sydney from Cannes, where it competed for the Palme d’Or; early Oscar buzz for Topher Grace, whose turn as Klan frontman David Duke is set to shock. Other key players are Adam Driver and John David Washington, son of Denzel. 

HOLIDAY (Dir: Isabella Elköf; Denmark | The Netherlands | Sweden, TBC mins)
Do not let the sunny imagery mislead you. Isabella Elköf’s debut feature is a bleak and brutal love triangle / crime thriller; Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) accompanies her crime boss boyfriend on a trip to the Turkish Riviera, only to have things go bad very quickly. Reportedly contains a rape scene like no other; Variety stated, “a steady female gaze behind the camera tilts the film’s politics in unexpected, deliberately discomfiting ways.”


THE PURE NECESSITY (Dir: David Claerbout; Belgium, 50 mins)
Deconstructing cinema is part of what film festivals have to do to service the ‘serious cinephile’ audience; in 2013, SFF presented the brilliant cinematic montage essay, Final Cut – Ladies and Gentlemen. In 2018, Disney’s 1967 classic The Jungle Book comes under the knife; director David Claerbout has removed all remnants of a narrative, anthropomorphism, human interaction and music, leaving an idyllic paradise for Walt’s animals to live a life of freedom.

DISOBEDIENCE (Dir: Sebastián Lelio; United Kingdom, 114 mins)
All eyes will be on the Chilean director’s first film since his Foreign Film Oscar win for A Fantastic Woman. Having turned her back on her Jewish faith and orthodox family, Rachel Weisz must return to the place of her upbringing; a gay affair with her childhood friend (Rachel McAdams) stirs prejudice even further. Variety called the directeor’s English-language debut, “yet another triumph in what’s shaping up to be a major career.” 

THE LONG SEASON (Dir: Leonard Retel Helmrich; The Netherlands, 118 mins)
Director Helmrich had a heart attack mid-production, the difficult shoot being completed by artist Ramia Suleiman and producer Pieter van Huystee. And difficult it was; the small crew was embedded in the Majdal Anjar refugee camp, an enormous community of Syrian refugees who have fled their ISIS-ruled homeland. Shot sans narration, the cinema verite stylings of the Dutch crew has been called, “compassionate, camly observed, lyrical” by Screen Daily.

ONE DAY (Dir: Zsófia Szilágyi; Hungary, 99 mins)
The debut film for director Zsófia Szilágyi, who was Ildikó Enyedi’s first assistant on last year’s SFF Official Competition winner, On Body and Soul. Direct from a coveted slot in the Cannes‘ Critics Circle line-up, the tightly-wound domestic drama takes place over the course of a single day and stars Zsófia Szamosi as Anna,a mother of three dealing with a failing marriage in addition to her daily family grind.



Festival Director Thierry Frémaux faced some serious challenges and undertook some bold decision-making ahead of yesterday’s announcement at a press conference in Paris of the official selection of films to screen at the 71st Cannes International Festival du Film. (Pictured, below; Frémaux, left, and festival president Pierre Lescure announce the selection.)

After pressure from the French exhibition sector, no Netflix productions would be deemed eligible in 2018 (shutting out Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, Paul Greengrass' Norway and the restored version of Orson Welles’ The Other Side of The Wind); the axing of the traditional early morning press screenings, which allowed critics to pen their reviews and have them ready for publication in line with the film’s evening premiere; and, in a move met with disgust by self-absorbed film types globally, red-carpet selfies are outlawed from this year forward.

So has Frémaux, who joined the organizing committee in 2001 as artistic director before his appointment as festival director in 2004, continued in this statement-making frame-of-mind with his 2018 programme? Yeah, kind of. Despite being a longtime advocate for women filmmakers (he appointed the first female Jury President, Jane Campion, in 2013), he was not swayed by the current socio-political climate, anointing only three films with women directors in competition slots. Several Cannes alumni that most pundits expected to feature were no-shows,, including Claire Denis (in post on her 28th film, High Life) , Terence Malick (prepping his WWII drama, Radegund), Mike Leigh (readying Peterloo), Lars von Trier (the highly-anticipated serial killer thriller, The House That Jack Built) and Xavier Dolan (keen to find favour again with The Death and Life of John F. Donovan). And Frémaux has implemented a ‘World Premiere Only’ policy, effectively shutting out films that had premiered at Berlin, Venice or Sundance (hence very few American films will be competing for this year’s Palme d’Or).

The 71st Festival de Cannes will run May 8-19. Below are the full line-up of titles announced last night; films to screen in Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week programs, which run concurrenty with the strands below, and the coveted Closing Night attraction will be announced in late April (pictured, above, clockwise; Under the Silver Lake, Solo, Shoplifters, Everyone Knows)

In Competition
Everybody Knows (Dir: Asghar Farhadi) OPENING NIGHT
At War (Dir: Stéphane Brizé)
Dogman (Dir: Matteo Garrone)
Le Livre d’Image (Dir: Jean-Luc Godard)
Asako I & II (Dir: Ryusuke Hamaguchi)
Sorry Angel (Dir: Christophe Honoré)
Girls of the Sun (Dir: Eva Husson)
Ash Is Purest White (Dir: Jia Zhang-Ke)
Shoplifters (Dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Capernaum (Dir: Nadine Labaki)
Burning (Dir: Lee Chang-Dong)
BlacKkKlansman (Dir: Spike Lee)
Under the Silver Lake (Dir: David Robert Mitchell)
Three Faces (Dir: Jafar Panahi)
Cold War (Dir: Pawel Pawlikowski)
Lazzaro Felice (Dir: Alice Rohrwacher)
Yomeddine (Dir: AB Shawky)
Leto (L’Été) (Dir: Kirill Serebrennikov)

Un Certain Regard
Angel Face (Dir: Vanessa Filho)
Border (Dir: Ali Abbasi)
El Angel (Dir: Luis Ortega)
Euphoria (Dir: Valeria Golino)
Friend (Dir: Wanuri Kahiu)
The Gentle Indifference of the World (Dir: Adilkhan Yerzhanov)
Girl (Dir: Lukas Dhont)
The Harvesters (Dir: Etienne Kallos)
In My Room (Dir: Ulrich Köhler)
Little Tickles (Dir: Andréa Bescond & Eric Métayer)
My Favorite Fabric (Dir: Gaya Jiji)
On Your Knees, Guys (Sextape) (Dir: Antoine Desrosières)
Sofia (Dir: Meyem Benm’Barek)

Out of Competition
Solo: A Star Wars Story (Dir: Ron Howard)
Le Grand Bain (Dir: Gilles Lellouche)
Little Tickles (Dir: Andréa Bescond & Eric Métayer)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Dir: Bi Gan)

Midnight Screenings
Arctic (Dir: Joe Penna)
The Spy Gone North (Dir: Yoon Jong-Bing)

Special Screenings
10 Years in Thailand (Dir: Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnon Sriphol & Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
The State Against Mandela and the Others (Dir: Nicolas Champeaux & Gilles Porte)
O Grande Circo Mistico (Dir: Carlo Diegues)
Dead Souls (Dir: Wang Bing)
To the Four Winds (Dir: Michel Toesca)
La Traversée (Dir: Romain Goupil)
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (Dir: Wim Wenders).

Main photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images



Australian exhibitors could not be more grateful for the annual Easter Holiday box-office surge. With the award season favourites closing out their runs and the American summer blockbusters just around the corner, the March/April window would be bring patchy revenue if not for the Easter break and the accompanying school holidays (the rainier, the better). From virtual realities to gay romances to prehistoric soccer, the Easter 2018 line-up offers an eclectic mix. SCREEN-SPACE reviews eight new bigscreen entries vying for your non-chocolate Easter dollars (with apologies to SHERLOCK GNOMES, but you kinda know what you’re in with the punny sequel)…

Director: Kay Cannon
Stars: Kathryn Newton, John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Gideon Adlon, Geraldine Viswanathan (pictured, above).
Plot: Julie, Kayla and Sam are three high school seniors who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Lisa, Mitchell and Hunter are three overprotective parents who flip out when they find out about their daughters' plans. They soon join forces for a wild and chaotic quest to stop the girls from sealing the deal - no matter what the cost.
Verdict: The ‘capital-C’ comedy moments deliver the pacing and skill that have become de rigeur in this post-Apatow movie world; anything goes, if the timing is right. But the narrative works best when debutant director Kay Cannon applies her understanding of strong independent women; she wrote the Pitch Perfect films and was a key creative on TV series 30 Rock and Girl Boss. Leslie Mann gets an all-too-rare shot at a leading role, and nails it; John Cena and Ike Barinholtz share scene-stealing honours. Admirably, the teen characters are as fully-fleshed out as the protagonists. Middle section sags, but Acts 1 and 3 are hilarious. RATING: 3.5/5

Director: Ava Duvernay
Stars: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey (pictured, right), Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Levi Miller.
Plot: Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg's classmate Calvin O'Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.
Verdict: The desperation of all involved to make this adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s beloved YA fantasy novel soar infests this monumental dud. From director Ava Duvernay’s heavy-handed direction to the suffocating special effects to the cumbersome, plodding sentimentality and bloated self-importance that imbues the grinding plot, A Wrinkle in Time throws everything at the screen with no idea as to how to make it gel. A lifeless lead performance from Storm Reid and utter lack of humour doesn’t help; garish set/costume/production design proves nauseating. RATING: 1.5/5  

Director: Armando Iannuci
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Jeffrey Tambor.
Plot: Moscow, 1953; Soviet leader Joseph Stalin collapses unexpectedly of a brain haemorrhage. A frenetic surge of raw panic spreads like a virus amongst the senior members of the Council of Ministers, as they scramble to maintain order, weed out the competition, and, ultimately, take power. In the end, who will prevail after the death of Stalin?
Verdict: There is ‘political farce’ and then there is Armando Iannuci’s The Death of Stalin, a comedy so black as to almost absorb one’s capacity for laughter. Iannuci’s past pointed barbs designed to tear apart the hypocrisy and immorality of our leaders (TV series Veep and The Thick of It; the feature In The Loop) did the job but left us with one finger grasping humanity; not so The Death of Stalin. It’s funny, but in the same way that joke about the uncle who walks into the woods with his nephew at sunset is funny; we laugh, and we get why we laugh, but everything about the humour is painfully uncomfortable. RATING: 3.5/5


Director: Greg Berlanti
Stars: Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel, Jennifer Garner, Tony Hale, Katherine Langford.
Plot: Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, it's a little more complicated. He hasn't told his family or friends that he's gay, and he doesn't know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he's fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing.
Verdict: Far too many contemporary teen comedies anoint themselves as ‘Hughes-ian’, desperate to align themselves with the smart, sweet, insightful teen movies of the genre’s golden years, the 80s. Finally, a film earns the accolade; Greg Berlanti’s Love, Simon is a deeply moving, genuinely funny, gorgeously cinematic film that recalls the iconic filmmaker’s outsider classics Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful, as well as Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. That Berlanti’s film might also be at the forefront of the next great teen film era – in which teenage protagonists alter how their world understands and accepts who they are on their terms – makes it an extraordinary achievement. RATING: 4.5/5   

Director: Aki Kaurasmaki
Stars: Sherwan Haji, Sakari Kuosmanen, Janne Hyytiäinen, Ilkka Koivula.
Plot: When the authorities turn down his application for asylum, Syrian refugee Khaled is forced underground, where travelling-salesman-turned-restauranteur Wikström finds him sleeping in the yard behind his establishment. He offers him a job and a roof over his head and, for a while, they form a Utopian union with the restaurant's waitress, the chef and his dog.
Verdict: The best films from Finnish director Aki Kaurasmaki find the faintest glimmer of hope amongst the darkest deadpan melancholy (Leningrad Cowboys Go to America; The Man Without a Past; Le Havre). The Other Side of Hope may be his most effortlessly constructed yet deeply affecting film to date; it won him the Best Director Silver Bear in Berlin last year. One immigrant’s seemingly insurmountable struggle to deal with his new life in modern Helsinki is real-world funny; there is not a false note in the film’s humanity, despite a reality that at times seems entirely cinematic. RATING: 4/5

Director: Nick Park.
Voices: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Miriam Margolyes, Timothy Spall, Rob Brydon, Richard Ayoade
Plot: Plucky caveman Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat from Lord Nooth, who plans transform their land into a giant mine. Not ready to go down without a fight, Dug and Hognob must unite their people in an epic quest to defeat a mighty enemy - the Bronze Age. The field of battle – the newly-invented realm of the soccer pitch.
Verdict: The Aardman Animation oeuvre aren’t the films you go to for gut-busting laughs. Curse of The Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run and their masterpiece, Shaun the Sheep, were sweet, gentle, character-driven charmers; when Aardman went for broad schtick, with 2012’s The Pirates! Band of Misfits, it produced their least satisfying film. Early Man falls somewhere in between. The high concept comedy seems to circle around inspired moments of mirth; one senses there is a better movie lurking inside director Nick Park’s hit/miss grab at World Cup football fever relevance. The stereotypically ethnic bad guys feel anachronistic in 2018, too. RATING: 2.5/5 


Director: Andrew Hyatt
Stars: James Faulkner, Jim Caviezel, Oliver Martinez, John Lynch, Joanne Whalley.
Plot: Risking his life, Luke ventures to Rome to visit Paul -- the apostle who's bound in chains and held captive in Nero's darkest and bleakest prison cell. Haunted by the shadows of his past misdeeds, Paul wonders if he's been forgotten as he awaits his grisly execution. Before Paul's death, Luke resolves to write another book that details the birth of what will come to be known as the church.
Verdict: The resurgent faith-based film genre grows sturdier with Andrew Hyatt’s retelling of the story of apostle Paul and his mentoring of friend and follower, Luke. Well-crafted and solidly dramatic, the film rises above recent shoddy, preachier Biblical renderings (notably the God-awful Samson, featuring Billy Zane and Rutger Hauer). Not likely to convert any heathen non-believers; the narrative feels deceptively fictitious, which may not please the devout. It is, however, an immensely watchable story, with solid performances from Jim Caviziel (returning to the flock 14 years after his iconic role in The Passion of The Christ), Oliver Martinez and the terrific James Faulkner. RATING: 3/5

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Ben Mendehlson and Hannah John-Kamen.
Plot: In an overpopulated 2045, people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant if eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg, hidden somewhere in the OASIS. When unlikely hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger.
Verdict: Should Steven Spielberg, arguably the most influential pop culture figure of the last 40 years and inspiration for much of what author Ernest Cline celebrated in his bestselling novel Ready Player One, be the filmmaker that oversees the blockbuster adaptation? Of course he should; who better to reflect upon the decades that made Spielberg the most successful filmmaker of all time than Spielberg himself. The result is the most playful, exciting and beautifully envisioned Spielberg-directed movie since 2002’s Catch Me If You Can. The great director has some issues wrapping up all the strands of the story; the last half-hour is a bit clunky and he allows some awkward sentimentality to seep in. The journey, however, is filled with some truly wondrous sequences that confirm the director can still craft thrilling popcorn entertainment better than anyone on the planet. RATING: 4/5