WEEKEND WEB: STOP PRESS: The Post is up for an Oscar

Liam Neeson stars in THE COMMUTER
Liam Neeson stars in THE COMMUTER
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GAVIN MILLER and MIKEY CLARK review the latest cinema releases.

FILM REVIEW:

THE POST (12A)

SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: MERYL STREEP, TOM HANKS, BOB ODENKIRK, BRADLEY WHITFORD, TRACY LETTS, BRUCE GREENWOOD, MATTHEW RHYS, DAVID CROSS, CARRIE COON, SARAH PAULSON, JESSE .BRIE & MICHAEL STUHLBARG

RUNNING TIME: 1 HRS 56 MINS

DIRECTOR: STEVEN SPIELBERG

This Spielberg/Streep/Hanks collaboration is well deserving of its Best Film Oscar nomination.

It may have just fallen shy of this year’s major players – Three Billboards, Lady Bird and The Shape of Water – but seeing the stellar acting force of Meryl Streep (who also garnered an Academy Award nom) and Tom Hanks is worth the admission price alone.

Steven Spielberg helms the duo in this biographical political drama that chronicles the cover-up that spanned four US Presidents and pushed the country’s first female publisher, Kay Graham (Streep) of the Washington Post, and its hard-driving editor, Ben Bradlee (Hanks), to battle the government in publishing the top-secret Pentagon Papers.

After the New York Times drew first blood by writing initial articles about the report – which showed The White House had lied about their involvement in the Vietnam War – a Federal Court prevented them from publishing further articles.

But when Bradlee’s right-hand man Ben Bagdikian (Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk) locates the ‘in-hiding’ American military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) – who leaked the papers in the first place – Graham has to make a decision whether to gazump the Times by re-commencing the revelations.

The only problem is Graham has just taken the paper public on the Stock Exchange and has to not only make the decision to back her editor – who is looking to go to press with the story despite a restraining order that could get them indicted for contempt – but make sure potential investors are not left disillusioned by the Vietnam War expose.

What unfolds is a taut and tense movie that is generally enthralling from start to finish, despite sometimes giving away its rushed production time with some choppy editing and quick scripting.

It doesn’t quite go as in-depth with the scandal as some viewers may expect, but there’s no denying that Streep and Hanks – along with a noteworthy supporting cast under the tutelage of Spielberg – still print a headline story, with some stellar work.

With a touch more care and attention it could have got among the awards – but as it stands, The Post strongly delivers.

Rating: 4/5 Gavin Miller

Neeson fails to rail against formula

THE COMMUTER (15) SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX, PETERBOROUGH

OUT NOW

CAST: LIAM NEESON, VERA FARMIGA, PATRICK WILSON, JONATHAN BANKS, FLORENCE PUGH, SHAZAD LATIF & SAM NEILL

RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 45 MINS

DIRECTOR: JAUME COLLET-SERRA

It’s probably time Liam Neeson showed us a different set of skills – despite this again being serviceable action fare.

In recent years, you pretty much know what to expect when walking into a Neeson film – an action-packed B-movie thrill-ride that really has little new to say.

The Commuter fits somewhere in between Taken and Non-Stop as Neeson plays Michael, an insurance salesman whose train commute (which he’s been doing for 10 years) becomes far from routine.

He is approached by a mysterious stranger (Bates Motel’s Vera Farmiga), who blackmails him into finding someone on the train who ‘does not belong’ in return for a cash reward.

Michael must discover the identity of the passenger before the last stop, but as he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realises a deadly plan is unfolding and is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy – one that carries life and death stakes for himself and his fellow passengers.

The biggest criticism is that for a ‘guess who’ movie, the director didn’t really give us a chance to . . . well, guess who.

Other than one little minor thing that happens near the start of the commute being relevant, discovering who doesn’t belong on the train is just a guessing game – as that takes a back seat when the trademark Neeson action kicks in.

The familiarity of The Commuter is perhaps heightened by this being the fourth collaboration between Neeson and Non-Stop, Unknown and Run All Night director Jaume Collet-Serra – but actually more of the same isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this pretty much does what it is predictably expected.

At the end of the day, if Liam Neeson films are a guilty pleasure – like they are mine – then you’ll probably enjoy this too. It’s as simple as that.

Rating: 3/5 Mikey Clarke

Disney and Pixar create another winner

COCO (PG)

SHOWCASE CINEMA DE LUX PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

VOICE CAST: ANTHONY GONZALEZ, GAEL GARCIA BERNAL, BENJAMIN BRATT, LANNA UBACH, ANA OFELIA MURGUIA, RENEE VICTOR, JAIME CAMIL, SOFIA ESPINOSA & EDWARD JAMES OLMOS

RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 45 MINS

DIRECTOR: LEE UNKRICH & ALFRED MOLINA

Pretty much everything that a Disney/Pixar collaboration touches turns to gold – and they’ve done it again with another colourful enchanting tale.

For anyone who has been to the Mexico land in Epcot’s World Showcase in Florida – this movie takes that Disney-based setting and gives it a musical pulse.

Aspiring young musician Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) – baffled by his family’s generations-old musical ban – dreams of becoming as accomplished as his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Miss Congeniality’s Benjamin Bratt).

Miguel’s great-great grandmother Imelda – whose daughter Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) is still alive but in declining health – banned music in the family after her husband left her and her daughter to pursue his own career.

This left a sour taste and has been supported by the family – who turned their hand to shoemaking – ever since, including Miguel’s parents.

But when Miguel inadvertently damages a photo of Imelda during some family festivities, it shows her husband holding Ernesto’s guitar – but with his face torn from the image.

Concluding that he’s Ernesto’s descendant, Miguel enters his mausoleum shrine and steals his legendary instrument – which propels him into the Land of the Dead.

As he aims to track down Ernesto – with the aid of his deceased relatives and a charming trickster (Gael Garcia Bernal’s Hector) – Miguel gets more than he bargained for as this beautifully-rendered world opens his eyes and reveals the truth to his family’s heritage.

But while this maybe isn’t a Pixar film that will satisfy the entire children’s age demographic – my nearly four-year-old son Joshua enjoyed it for the most part but probably preferred Cars 3 – there’s no denying there’s a tender and emotional story that unfolds to its melancholic musical backdrop, probably better suited to kids eight and up.

It might not linger in the memory like some other more obvious Pixar outings due to that, but it is still another truly inspiring entry – that also boasts arguably the most lifelike animation yet seen on-screen – that has oodles of charm.

And for that reason it’s well worth going loco for Coco.

Rating: 4/5 Gavin Miller

Out this week at Showcase de Lux, Peterborough:

MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE (12A), FROM FRIDAY

In this epic finale to dystopian teen trilogy Maze Runner – which was delayed after lead star Dylan O’Brien was seriously injured in an on-set accident – Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet.

To save their friends, they must break into the legendary last city, a WCKD controlled labyrinth – which just may turn out to the deadliest maze they’ve ever faced – and try to find a cure for the deadly disease, known as the Flare, which has blighted mankind.

ALSO SHOWING:

EARLY MAN (PG), FROM FRIDAY

12 STRONG (15), FROM FRIDAY (TBC)

DOWNSIZING (15), OUT NOW

Coming up at South Holland Centre, Spalding:

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (12A)

FROM MONDAY

In the wake of the sexual revolution, this 1973 tennis match between women’s champ Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-male player and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the Battle of the Sexes.

It became the most watched television sports event of all-time – reaching more than 90 million viewers worldwide – and is chronicled here by the acclaimed directors of Little Miss Sunshine.

ALSO SHOWING:

MOLLY’S GAME (15),FROM FRIDAY

MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE (U), FRIDAY 4.30PM & SATURDAY AT 2PM