Every film that should be on your watchlist this summer

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  • Looking for some filmspiration? There are so many brilliant movies to be found on Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Sky Cinema and BFI at the moment whether you’re after a comedy, drama or cinematic masterpiece.

    Take a look at the movies that need to be added to your summer watchlist immediately…

    Emma

    Emma movie 2020

    Rising star Anya Taylor-Joy (recently seen as Gina Gray in Peaky Blinders) takes on the role of Jane Austen’s misguided heroine in this terrific new literary adaptation, the feature debut of rock photographer turned director Autumn de Wilde. If that suggests an edgy rock ‘n’ roll makeover for Austen, think again. De Wilde and her screenwriter, Booker- Prize-winning novelist Eleanor Catton, have been eminently faithful to their source, while giving it a slight tweak here and there to make things new. The story certainly comes up fresh. Taylor-Joy’s 20-year-old heiress Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever and rich, tries to meddle in the romantic lives of her friends – including her naïve orphaned protégé Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). But she is blind to her own heart’s affections. Can her wise friend Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn) set her straight? Austen’s needle-sharp irony remains intact here, and the sumptuous costumes and settings tick all the period rom-com boxes. At the same time, Taylor-Joy and Flynn give Emma and Knightley real flesh and blood and vigour. Flynn’s Knightley strips down to the buff and Taylor-Joy’s Emma hitches up her dress to warm her bum by the fire. And when the pair dance together for the first time, their touch is electric.

    Director: Autumn de Wilde
    U, 124 mins

    Available on iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store

    A Rainy Day in New York

    Two cast members of A Rainy Day in New York

    Woody Allen is back on familiar turf with this romantic comedy starring Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning as a pair of well-heeled college sweethearts whose planned romantic weekend in New York turns instead into a series of amorous adventures and misadventures with other people – look out for Selena Gomez, Liev Schreiber, Jude Law and Diego Luna. As you might expect from Allen, the movie is full of wisecracking banter and brilliant one-liners, although the lines do sound strange in the mouths of the film’s young stars. Chalamet’s sardonic, world-weary beyond his years student, improbably named Gatsby Welles, certainly doesn’t sound like any millennial alive. Stooped and tweedy, he sounds an awful lot like Allen (as do, to be fair, most other actors cast as the director’s leads for the past two decades), and his cultural touchstones – Gershwin tunes played in piano bars, pony rides in Central Park, Guys & Dolls, Sunset Boulevard, Gigi, and 40s film noir Out of the Past, all belong to someone of Allen’s vintage. Fanning’s Ashleigh isn’t any more plausible. Yet as her clueless nitwit of a character gets in and out of scrapes with the trio of older men played by Schreiber (jaded film director), Law (cuckolded writer) and Luna (philandering actor), Fanning is simply hilarious. Indeed, if you can handle the movie’s fogeyish spirit, it really is huge fun.

    Director: Woody Allen
    12, 92 mins

    Available on Curzon Home Cinema, iTunes, Amazon

    Days of the Bagnold Summer

    Days of the Bagnold Summer

    Best known for playing misfit teen Will in The Inbetweeners, comic actor Simon Bird makes his directing debut with a delightfully bittersweet comedy-drama that will chime with viewers experiencing the claustrophobic privations of lockdown. Based on Joff Winterhart’s acclaimed graphic novel, the film finds a divorced middle-aged mum, Sue Bagnold (Monica Dolan), and her shy, moody, heavy-metal-loving 15-year-old son, Daniel (Earl Cave, son of rock icon Nick), forced to spend rather more time in each other’s company than they had wished over the summer of the title. Daniel has been all set to spend the six-week vacation with his father at his new home in Florida. Then his unreliable dad pulls out of the arrangement and he’s obliged to stay at home in suburbia with dowdy mum. Not a lot happens for the pair. Daniel tries to pluck up courage to audition for a local metal band and Sue goes on a date with her son’s history teacher (a creepily flirtatious Rob Brydon), much to his dismay. Boring for them, exquisite for us, as the film blends gently toe-curling humour with tender insight, all set to a soundtrack of wispy pop songs by Scottish indie group Belle and Sebastian.

    Director: Simon Bird
    12, 86 mins

    Available on Curzon Home Cinema, iTunes, Amazon

    Echo In The Canyon

    Echo in the Canyon

    Anyone who thrills to the radiant jangle of a Rickenbacker guitar will want to catch this evocative documentary about LA’s Laurel Canyon music scene in the mid-1960s. Fronted by Jakob Dylan (son of Bob), the film hears from some of the era’s leading figures, including Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, who recall how folk and rock came together at the time to produce a unique sound and spirit. The cross-pollination between British and American bands was another key ingredient, as The Beatles and The Beach Boys traded influences back and forth to produce such masterpieces as Pet Sounds and Sergeant Pepper. Phillips and Crosby also remember the freewheeling love lives that provided inspiration for such songs as ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’ (written by Phillips’ husband, John, after one of her affairs) and ‘Triad’ (Crosby’s account of a ménage a trois). Dylan also chats to a number of current performers about the enduring appeal and influence of the California Sound, with such figures as Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Jade Castrinos and Regina Spektor joining him on stage at LA’s Orpheum Theatre to perform stirring covers of ‘In My Room’, ‘I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times’, ‘Expecting to Fly’ and other classics of the era. Then and now, the songs sound great.

    Director: Andrew Slater
    12, 82 mins

    Available iTunes, Amazon.

    7500

    7500 movie

    Nervous flyers won’t be the only ones gripping their armrests during this airborne thriller. Everybody will want to hang on tight as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s young American co-pilot, Tobias, strives to avert disaster when Islamist terrorists try to seize control of a flight from Berlin to Paris. Director Patrick Vollrath puts us on edge from the start. Fuzzy CCTV surveillance picks out shifty-looking figures moving through the airport. And things get seriously claustrophobic when we board the plane. From here on, the camera is confined to the cockpit occupied by Tobias and Carlo Kitzlinger’s captain, Michael, and the ensuing drama unfolds in real time. Which means no pause to the knuckle-blanching suspense as Tobias wrestles with a series of physical perils and moral dilemmas – as well as the controls of the plane. The plot creaks and strains in places, but the very capable Gordon-Levitt keeps the film in the air even when the twists seem contrived.

    Director Patrick Vollrath
    Unrated (equivalent to a 15), 92 mins

    Available on Amazon from 19 June.

    Bombshell

    best summer films

    © 2019 LUCITE DESK LLC AND LIONS GATE FILMS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

    Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie bring movie-star wattage to this explosive and very timely real-life drama. It’s about the women at giant US cable TV network Fox News who put their heads above the parapet in 2016 and brought down their powerful boss for sexual harassment. Theron and Kidman play two of the actual women involved: Oscar-nominated Theron, with subtle help from prosthetics and makeup, is an uncanny match for primetime news anchor Megyn Kelly, and Kidman plays her fellow Fox News luminary Gretchen Carlson, the woman who lit the fuse for the scandal. Robbie’s character, Kayla Pospisil, is a fictional composite representing the stream of women who endured harassment and abuse from Fox News co-founder and CEO Roger Ailes. Creepily played by John Lithgow, Ailes was the man who set the network’s right-wing agenda and who insisted on the big-haired, tiny-skirted, ‘Anchor Barbie’ look of its female presenters – and ensured they sat behind clear-glass desks to show off their legs to the viewer. Slickly directed by Jay Roach (maker of the Austin Powers movies) from a tartly witty script by Charles Randolph (The Big Short), the account of Ailes’ belated downfall is sharp, satirical, and as exciting as a thriller.

    Director: Jay Roach
    15, 109 mins

    Available on Curzon Home Cinema, iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store

    The Assistant

    best summer films

    Credit: The Assistant

    We never see the unnamed boss for whom Julia Garner’s self-effacing young assistant, Jane, works in this quietly chilling drama for the era of #MeToo and Time’s Up. But it’s not hard to imagine the toxic presence of a Harvey Weinstein – or someone equally sleazy – looming just out of sight. We keep Jane company as she goes through a typical day at the Manhattan film company she has recently joined – making the coffee, printing reports, fending phone calls from her boss’s vexed wife. And we share her pent-up unease as it dawns on us what he is getting up to with the young aspiring actresses who visit his office. (Cleaning the boss’s sofa is Jane’s ickiest task.) Australian writer-director Kitty Green, her background in documentaries apparent in her film’s humdrum realism, ensures we also share Jane’s sense of helplessness – underlined on this day by her trip to see Matthew Macfayden’s smoothly condescending HR boss. However much we may wish this to be the tale of a heroic whistleblower bringing down a sexual predator (you’ll need to watch Bombshell for that), Jane is powerless in this particular office environment. All the same, Garner dominates the film, her mesmerising performance conveying the inner steel that’s needed to survive a workplace like this.

    Director: Kitty Green
    15, 87 mins

    Available on Curzon Home Cinema, iTunes, Amazon

    The Whistlers

    best summer films

    Credit: The Whistlers

    Film noir is not a genre one readily associates with Romanian Cinema – best known for neorealist fare about the grey misery of life under communism. But this playfully slippery thriller doesn’t only boast such familiar elements as a world-weary detective, a gorgeous femme fatale and a twisty plot, it’s also cracking fun. Cristi (Vlad Ivanov), the movie’s surprising hero, is a shady middle-aged cop striving to play off a crime cartel and his equally bent police colleagues against each other. Along the way, the gangsters send him to La Gomera in the Canary Islands to learn a secret whistling language (Silbo Gomero; it really exists), and his fate becomes bound up with the beautiful, enigmatic Gilda (Catrinel Marlon), girlfriend of one of the crooks. There is so much double dealing and double crossing going on, it will make your head spin. Don’t worry if the plot slips out of your grasp. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

    Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
    15, 98 mins

    Available on Curzon Home Cinema

    The Man who Killed Don Quixote

    best summer films

    Credit: The Man who Killed Don Quixote

    Three decades in the making, Terry Gilliam’s fabulously quixotic updating of Miguel de Cervantes’ famous tale finally sees the light. At the turn of the millennium, Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort were all set to play the leading roles of loyal squire and dotty knight – until the project collapsed amid a series of flabbergasting disasters, including a flash flood, overflying NATO warplanes and sudden illness, as related in 2002’s tragicomic fly-on-the-wall documentary Lost in La Mancha. The film now stars Adam Driver as Toby, a cynically jaded director of commercials who revisits the Spanish village where he once cast Jonathan Pryce’s local cobbler, Javier, as Quixote in his student film. The delusional Javier, it turns out, now believes he really is the knight and that Toby is his squire, Sancho Panza. It’s a role Toby finds himself forced to play for real, more or less, when the pair go on the run from the police. The resulting adventure is inventive, chaotic, funny, and touchingly melancholy, giving Gilliam the opportunity to tilt his satirical lance at the modern world and offer a salute to die-hard dreamers everywhere.

    Director: Terry Gilliam
    15, 133 mins

    Available on Curzon Home Cinema, iTunes, Amazon, BFI

    1917

    best summer films

    © 2019 NBCUniversal All Rights Reserved

    Inspired by his grandfather’s tales of his experiences during the First World War, Sam Mendes’ epic war movie vividly brings home the horrors of the Western Front. Filmed as if in one continuous shot, 1917 plunges us into the heat of the action as young British soldiers Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) undertake a seemingly impossible mission through no-man’s land to deliver a message that will stop their comrades, including Blake’s own brother, from falling into a German trap. Mendes has produced a thrillingly immersive movie with moments of heart-clutching tension. We might be even more involved in the soldiers’ fates were we not also boggling over the staggering technical feats that went into the film’s making. A triumph none the less, the film swept the board at the Baftas, bagging seven awards including Best Film and Best Director, and went on to win Oscars for Roger Deakins’ remarkable cinematography and for visual effects and sound mixing.

    Director: Sam Mendes
    15, 119 mins

    Available on iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store

    Never Rarely Sometimes Always

    best summer films

    © 2020 Friends In Trouble LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    A bright 17-year-old high-school student living in small-town Pennsylvania, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) has her fears confirmed when she learns she is pregnant. She can’t obtain an abortion in her home state without parental consent, so she travels to New York with her supportive cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) by her side. But with no place to stay and limited resources, the pair face problems and obstacles at every turn. Without ever resorting to melodrama, writer-director Eliza Hittman (It Felt Like Love, Beach Rats) has created a powerfully understated, quietly political and touchingly empathetic drama about a young woman’s all-too-recognisable ordeal. From first to last, it’s supremely naturalistic, with performances to match from superb newcomers Flanigan and Ryder.

    Director: Eliza Hittman
    15, 101 mins

    Available on iTunes, Amazon

    Downhill

    best summer films

    © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

    All-American couple Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are on a skiing holiday in the Alps with their two young children when a near miss from an avalanche puts their relationship to the test. Indeed, the snow has barely settled before the wrangling and recriminations begin, exposing perilous cracks in their relationship. As you would expect from the presence of comic stars Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus, this Hollywood remake of Swedish director Ruben Östlund’s deliciously unsettling 2014 movie Force Majeure broadens the original’s dark humour (squirming discomfort has rarely been this fun), but along with the laughs goes a portrayal of a fraying marriage that is every bit as keenly observed and insightful. Ferrell’s goofy everyman persona pays unexpected dividends here, while Louis-Dreyfus is magnificent as his seething spouse. Together they hit the spot in a film that will have couples debating the characters’ actions as soon as the credits roll.

    Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
    15, 86 mins

    Available on iTunes, Amazon

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