The Big Release
THEY’VE done it again! Given the first Paddington film earnt $268 million worldwide (from a $38.5m budget), all this needed to do was have the beloved duffel-coated bear show up and bump into the furniture.
However, British director Paul King isn’t one to rest on his marmalade sandwiches and this labour of love will go down as one of cinema’s most treasured sequels.
This time Paddington is out to find a 100th birthday present for Aunt Lucy back in darkest Peru. He decides on a pop-up book and saves up his pennies to buy it by doing odd jobs — cue many kiddie-pleasing physical antics with buckets and barbershop shears. But Paddington’s neighbour, a has-been actor called Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), is also out to get his mitts on the book, for more nefarious purposes…
As with the first film immigration themes are woven throughout, be it via Peter Capaldi’s shouty, newcomer-loathing Mr Curry or the calypso background band. And there’s a lovely, gentle curiosity to Paddington (beautifully voiced by Ben Whishaw), who has been raised to be polite and see the good in everyone — a pleasing message for us all.
The script, co-written this time by King with Simon Farnaby, taps into but doesn’t over-manipulate issues of abandonment. But the secret weapon here is Grant: as a vain, once-A-list actor reduced to advertising doggie dinners, he hams it up with just the right amount of self-loathing. At his finest, no one can do comedy quite like him and this is an incomparable performance — a Golden Globe nomination is surely a must.
In the meantime, all I want for Christmas is to watch this on repeat.
Christmas comes early with this perfect young family movie. Warm, fuzzy feelings guaranteed
This is the sort of thing I would watch on a plane as my third film choice – though the first one was good, wasn’t it? Headline could have been No Trouble With The Lines From Paddington… but it’s too long!
Professor Marston and The Wonder Women
THE real-life Wonder Woman origins story is an eye-popping tale of lesbianism and bondage. It’s 1928 and Dr Marston (Luke Evans) is a radical psychology professor whose eye is caught by a student (Bella Heathcote). Yet he is already hitched to a frustrated, brilliant academic (Rebecca Hall) — so the trio form a loving, cohabiting marriage.
When Marston stumbles into a specialist boutique, he is introduced to a hidden world of fetish wear and Wonder Woman is born. Director/writer Angela Robinson exposes this fascinating story with delectable consideration complemented by fine performances and kinky humour. A timely and astute exploration of gender power.
The Florida Project
SEAN BAKER shot the award-winning Tangerine entirely on his iPhone. He’s upgraded to a more traditional 35mm lens here, yet what he sees through it is just as zesty and thrilling.
Where Tangerine was an alternative Christmas tale of transgender sex workers that showed the flipside of Tinseltown, The Florida Project is a non-patronising underclass yarn spun from the shadows of Disneyland.
It’s shot from the fleetingly innocent perspective of Moonee (the astonishing Brooklynn Prince), a feral, irresistibly cute six-year-old who lives on the edge of poverty in the Magic Castle motel with her chaotic young mum (Bria Vinaite, cast from Instagram). And while you know Moonee’s magical summer of begging for ice cream and committing light arson is unlikely to end well, the tone is far from doomy.
Willem Dafoe gives a career-best turn as the kindly motel manager – with Caleb Landry Jones cameoing as his son – but for the most part what you get here are raw, non-star performances combined with knockout neon visuals. Heartwrenching and peppy, it’s one of the films of the year.