Directed by Neil Jordan. Starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, Jessica Lange, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Colm Meaney, Ian Hart, Alan Cumming, Danny Huston, Seána Kerslake. 15A cert, Sky, limited release, 109 min
Neeson stars as Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s sardonic PI, in the first cinematic outing for the character in close to 50 years. Adapted from an effective post-Chandler novel by John Banville, the screenplay takes the now-ageing Shamus on (what else?) a search for a missing ne’r no well. The film offers neither a convincing recreation of the noir aesthetic nor the sort of bold deconstruction we might expect from the Jordan of Mona Lisa and The Good Thief. But the supporting actors are having a ball and Neeson creaks with sincerity. Full review.
[ Oscars 2024: Donald Clarke predicts next year’s best-picture nominees ]
Rye Lane ★★★★★
Directed by Raine Allen-Miller. Starring David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah, Karene Peter, Benjamin Sarpong-Broni, Malcolm Atobrah. 15A cert, gen release, 82 min
Delightful, sparky romantic comedy that begins with a couple taking a long stroll around a vibrant quarter of south London. Yes, it does for Peckham what Before Sunrise did for Vienna. Allen-Miller maintains a remarkable balance between the innovative and the traditional – as if guiding a speeding car safely round a corner on just two wheels. An unlikely cameo from a Richard Curtis regular reassures us that the film retains a connection with a more polite school of comedy, but it also plays endless tricks with form and tone. A hugely encouraging, charming debut. Full review.
Directed by Ti West. Starring Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Alistair Sewell. 16 cert, gen release, 102 min
Intriguing prequel to last year’s hit slasher X. During a Covid break in production, Goth – who double jobbed as an aspiring porn star and as the frustrated crone – conceived of a wild backstory. We get a campy horror which – thanks to Elliot Rocket’s cinematography – liberally quotes from The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins. Goth, in a fiercely committed turn, even emulates Margaret Hamilton’s frenzied bike peddling. The 1918 setting, during the Spanish Flu, allows for the wearing of Covid-friendly masks. The star sinks her teeth into the goose-killing heroine and spits out all the feathers.
[ Twenty new horror films to scare the living daylights out of you ]
Shazami Fury of Gods ★★☆☆☆
Directed by David F Sandberg. Starring Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Rachel Zegler, Adam Brody, Ross Butler, Meagan Good, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, Gal Gadot. 12A cert, gen release, 130 min
Sequel to the fizzy, mildly amusing comic-book romp from 2019. Can the lighter-toned, kid-friendly Shazam provide some relief for the underperforming DC sandbox? Absolutely not. One would be hard-pressed to spot that David F Sandberg, the talented no-budget horror director formerly known as ponysmasher, had presided over this mishmash of slumming actors, dreary world-building, and eye-watering CGI. The kind of kids that hide behind the couch during Scooby Doo may well feel emboldened by the fuzzy feelings, silly quips, and toothless villains. But it feels pointless for the non-meek community.