THE BIG RELEASE
Crazy Rich Asians
A smash hit in the US, where it’s already grossed a record-breaking $120 million (against a budget of $30 million), this fabulous bit of froth proves there’s still plenty of life (and cash) in the romcom yet. Based on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling trilogy (expect sequels), it’s a shamelessly formulaic Cinderella tale that blings with Hollywood magic despite its lack of Hollywood stars.
When poor New York economics professor Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) falls for Nick (BBC Travel Show’s Henry Ewan Golding) she has no idea he’s the scion of one of Singapore’s wealthiest families and one of the country’s most eligible bachelors. But that quickly becomes apparent when Nick invites her home — as does the fact that his mama (a tremendous Michelle Yeoh) does not approve of Rachel’s progressive American ways. Nor is Rachel prepared for being shunned as a gold-digger and a ‘banana — yellow on the outside, white on the inside’. Can love conquer all?
Cue the usual romcom shenanigans: the bonkers/gay BFFs, the princess makeover transformation, the last-minute dash to the airport. But the fresh angle in Crazy Rich Asians is obviously representation: directed by a Chinese-American (Jon Chu), this is the first mainstream Hollywood studio release since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club to feature an almost entirely Asian-American cast in a contemporary setting.
The real reasons for its success, though, are that it’s funny, there is terrific chemistry between its leads and there’s a whole host of wealth porn — if this film wasn’t sponsored by the Singapore Tourist Board, it should have been. ‘I can’t believe this airport has both a butterfly garden and a cinema,’ says Rachel. ‘JFK just has salmonella and despair.’
Above all, it’s got that romcom magic. Like any of the best real-life weddings, it makes you simultaneously laugh and cry and go ‘awww!’ in the kissy bits. Suffering from post-summer holiday blues? Consider them banished.
Move over, Mamma Mia 2 — this is the feel-good romcom of the year
The King Of Thieves
Michael Caine, Ray Winstone, Michael Gambon, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courteney, Paul Whitehouse: with diamond geezers like that you can’t help but produce something watchable. Yet even these ‘lads’ can’t pull off this heist caper.
Incredibly it’s the third film to be based on 2015’s Hatton Garden heist, which saw a bunch of OAPs make off with £200 million from safe deposit boxes. The burglary itself is oddly low-key but the main problem is that director James Marsh can’t seem to decide if this is a Dad’s Army version of The Italian Job or something steelier, as suggested by the darker glints in Joe Penhall’s script. Amid all the sub-sitcom jokes about hip replacements and old boys not understanding eBay, there’s a sense that these men aren’t the cuddly, incorrigible rogues beloved of British cinema but brutal criminals — particularly Broadbent’s volatile sadist.
A sad waste of gold-plated talent.
The (very slow) escape of a 100-year-old tortoise is the biggest thing that happens plot-wise, yet this little story encompasses a profoundly impressive large canvas. Old-timer Lucky (Harry Dean Stanton, 90 and never better) is an atheist bachelor living in a small nowhere town.
His daily routine of yoga, a pack of American Spirits, a bloody Mary and a stint of TV game shows is disrupted when he topples over and hits his head. He’s in great shape, his doctor tells him, but ‘none of us makes it out of this thing alive’.
Sounds grim but character actor John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut is a wonderful and warm meditation on mortality, enriched by a soundtrack that includes Johnny Cash and a cast that includes David Lynch (no relation). A final moment where Stanton, who died shortly afterwards, smiles into the camera is one of the most beautiful moments of cinema this year.