Six of the best films to see in cinemas this weekend

New this weekend: Blue Story, La Belle Epoque, Judy & Punch, Frozen 2, Harriet

Divide, conquer: Stephen Odubala and Micheal Ward in Blue Story

Divide, conquer: Stephen Odubala and Micheal Ward in Blue Story

 

BLUE STORY ★★★★☆
Directed by Rapman. Starring Stephen Odubala, Micheal Ward, Karla-Simone Spence, Rohan Nedd, Kadeem Ramsay, Khali Best, Junior Afolabi Salokun, Eric Kofi Abrefa , Andre Dwayne, Hannah Lee. 16 cert, gen release, 92 min
YouTube star Rapman (aka Andrew Onwubolu) makes a sensational directorial debut with this moving, urgent, energetic drama inspired by south London’s postcode gang rivalries. Inspired by events from Rapman’s childhood, Blue Story follows teenagers Timmy (Odubola, the director’s son, making an auspicious debut of his own) and Marco (Top Boy’s Ward), who are as close as brothers but, crucially, hail from different postcodes. Comparisons to John Singleton’s seminal Boyz N the Hood are warranted, but Rapman’s intermittent appearances as a one-man Greek Chorus make for a unique viewing experience. The fresh young stars are excellent. They might be chatting about Stormzy and Game of Thrones, but the denouement is nothing short of Shakespearean. More than one star is born with Blue Story. Full review TB

LA BELLE EPOQUE ★★★★☆
Directed by Nicolas Bedos. Starring Daniel Auteuil, Guillaume Canet, Doria Tillier, Fanny Ardant. 15A cert, lim release, 115 min

Fanny Ardent in La Belle Epoque
Fanny Ardent in La Belle Epoque

This French comedy sounds, on paper, like one of the unlikely films around which the action turns in the TV series Call My Agent. Auteuil plays an aging illustrator who pays a mysterious company to restage the moment in 1974 when he met his now estranged wife (Ardant). The high concept should run out of steam quickly, but Bedos keeps enough plates spinning to distract even the most unforgiving observer. Ardant is particularly strong in a film that eventually gains real emotional traction. DC

JUDY & PUNCH ★★★★☆
Directed by Mirrah Foulkes. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Damon Herriman, Tom Budge, Benedict Hardie, Lucy Velik, Gillian Jones, Terry Norris, Brenda Palmer, Daisy Axon. 15A cert, lim release, 105 min

Mia Wasikowska in Judy & Punch
Mia Wasikowska in Judy & Punch

Wasikowska is again excellent as a puppeteer struggling with a violent husband in a beautifully rendered post-medieval Nowhere. You could describe the film as an origin story for Punch and Judy. That does not, however, get across its delectable oddness. All the crucial elements of the genre are in place – sausages, dogs, policemen, crocodiles, sticks – in a film that balances playfulness with a profound concern about the evil men do to women. A surprising delight. Full review DC

FROZEN 2 ★★★☆☆
Directed by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. Voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews. PG cert, gen release, 103 min

Frozen 2
Frozen 2

Disney risks a sequel to its deservedly enormous Snow Queen variation. The thinness of the story – something about an enchanted forest – invites us to ponder inadequacies that were easy to ignore amid the delicious clockwork of the first film. Olaf the snowman is more like the mascot for a Slovakian fast-food chain than one would prefer. Kristoff works better as a comic turn than as a romantic lead. Anne is kind of . . . boring? But Frozen 2 just about gets by on slick professionalism. Full review/trailer DC

HARRIET ★★★☆☆
Directed by Kasi Lemmons. Starring Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr, Joe Alwyn, Janelle Monáe. 12A cert, gen release, 126 min

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet
Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

The most implausible aspects of of this laudible biopic are, in fact, historically accurate. Harriet Tubman walked 100 miles to escape from slavery in Maryland in 1849, only to return, via the Underfround Railroad, to rescue other family members. Armed with a pistol, she made that same dangerous trek to the South more than a dozen times to free others, earning the nickname Moses. During the civil war, she and the Union army unit were involved in a daring operation that freed more than 750 slaves. And yes, she was guided by narcoleptic visions which, by her account, were messages from God. English actor Erivo puts in a performance that is as spirited as it is moving. But in common with many biopics, there’s simply too much incident to cram into two hours. A fine and essential primer, nonetheless. Full review TB

MARRIAGE STORY ★★★★★
Directed by Noah Baumbach. Starring Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever. 15A cert, lim release, 136 min

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story

Charlie (Driver), a theatre director, and Nicole (Johansson), an actor, are hacking their way through a particularly bloody divorce. He has remained in Brooklyn; she has moved to Los Angeles. They start out playing nice, but when lawyers get involved the gloves come off. Baumbach’s best film yet combines his taste for insidious comedy and upper-class Boho angst to endlessly diverting effect. The dialogue sparkles. The actors play skilfully off one another. Humour colours every bitter moment. An absolute marvel that should not be missed. Full review DC

Other ★★★★★  and ★★★★☆  films out and about: The Aeronauts, Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Farewell, The Irishman, Joker, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Le Mans ’66, Luce, Monos, The Report, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Sorry We Missed You

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