‘Still’

Raw and honest yet suffused with humour, Still is a moving portrayal of actor Michael J. Fox’s personal battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Diagnosed with the incurable ‘old person’s disease’ at the height of his fame and months shy of his 30th birthday, Michael J. Fox went public a decade later in 2000 and, in founding the Michael J. Fox Foundation, has raised more than $2 billion for research. But Still, as directed by Davis Guggenheim (He Named Me Malala, Waiting For Superman) is the story of the more personal battle as Fox, along with wife Tracy Pollan and their (now adult) kids, come to terms with the progressively debilitating effects of the disease.

The charm of Still is Fox himself. He matter-of-fact talks of pain management and the black eyes and broken limbs during the making of the documentary, the result of falling over in domestic places such as the kitchen. Through interviews and the interweaving of archival footage from early television and film hits with playing more recent television characters openly suffering from Parkinson’s, Still creates an unexpectedly warm tale of a quite and quietly extraordinary person.

Rating: 74%

‘Ghosted’

Gender reversal all action, gun blazing rom com as Cole discovers the woman of his (first date) dreams is a CIA operative.

Having moved back home to help his dad on the farm, the romantic Cole (Chris Evans – Captain America: the First Avenger, Knives Out) is looking for love. A sparky contact at the farmers market with Sadie (Ana de Armas – Blonde, Knives Out) results in what seems the perfect first date. But over the next few days, there’s no response from Cole’s 30+ texts. Discovering she is in London, what could be more romantic than surprising Sadie at her hotel? Wrong!

Packed with Marvel cameos, an excess of everything follows as every cliché in the book is packed into Ghosted by director Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman, Sunshine on Leith). The result is a tedious hotchpotch of OTT, predominantly Pakistan-set action (dead bodies galore) as the intrepid two look to prevent Leveque (Adrien Brody – The Pianist, The Jacket) selling a WMD to the highest bidder.

Rating: 30%

‘Tetris’

Based on the true story of the development and marketing of what was to become one of the world’s most popular video games, Tetris is as knife-edge as any espionage thriller as American companies lock horns with the Soviet Union.

With Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton – Rocketman, Billionaire Boys Club) looking to secure the Japanese rights to a new video game, so a complex web of ownership unravels as the author of the game is revealed to be a Russian, Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov – Leto, Syostry), living in Moscow. A global bunfight ensues as claim of ownership is countered by a second and third claim, all overseen by Soviet bureaucrats and corruption within the KGB. Rogers travels backwards and forwards between them all in an attempt to protect Pajitnov and his own interests, but each move is thwarted by would-be buyer, British media baron Robert Maxwell (Roger Allam – Tamara Drew, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) and Moscow.

There’s an overload of dry wit and 1980s nostalgia (the launch of handheld Game Boy consoles!) in Tetris, directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth, Stan & Ollie). And, whilst the thrills are exagerated to beef up the narrative, Tetris is an exuberant, engaging, crowd-pleasing entertainment.

Rating: 64%

‘The Greatest Beer Run Ever’

There’s something uncomfortable about watching The Greatest Beer Run Ever. Well intentioned though barfly Chickie Donahue (Zac Efron – Gold, The Disaster Artist) may have been, taking beer to 1967 Vietnam to show support for ‘our boys’ is incredibly glib and naive.

Extraordinarily, Peter Farrelly’s latest film (his last was the Oscar-winning Green Book but he is also responsible for Dumb and Dumber) is based on true events. From Inwood, Manhattan to Saigon and beyond, Donahue weadles his way across country, erroneously thought to be, on occasions, CIA. But deliver beer he does to the boys from Inwood.

From flag-waving patriotism to a sneaking realisation that maybe the US should not be in Vietnam, Chickie’s rites-of-passage is limited. Bemused recipients of the beer, disbelieving journalists (including Russell Crowe – Gladiator, The Nice Guys) help that awareness of the realities of a war zone. Yet, like Green Book, the narrative skims only the surface.

Rating: 50%

‘Raymond and Ray’

A wry, buddy buddy narrative as two half brothers head to a funeral of their estranged father that offers a number of surprises.

Uptight Raymond (Ewan McGregor – Moulin Rouge, Trainspotting) persuades a reluctant former addict Ray (Ethan Hawke – Boyhood, Training Day) to travel with him – only to find the final wish is for them to dig his grave along with leaving them personal items and a few unexpected revelations.

It’s a complex, occasionally laugh-out-loud character-driven slow reveal of a feature written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, Mother and Child). As the two men come to terms with a man they never knew and the impact he had on them, so the people they meet at his funeral provide a different side to their father’s character.

Rating: 64%

‘CODA’

An English-language remake of the French hit La famille Bélier, CODA moves the action to a coastal fishing village in New England as teenage Ruby (Emilia Jones – High-Rise, One Day) struggles to be the only hearing member of her family.

It’s a feelgood narrative underpinned with wry humour and serious issues – the isolation of the family in a close-knit community and the pressures placed on Ruby to translate for her family. As school years come to a close, Ruby’s dream is to enrol in Berklee College of Music in Boston. But with the family having no idea how good a singer she is, the concern is for their fishing business.

A sincere and heartwarming crowd pleaser, CODA, with an exceptional cast, provides rare mainstream focus on its subject. Writer/director Sian Heder (Tallulah) allows the film to evolve into total predictability, but when you have Troy Kotsur (The Number 23, Wild Prairie Rose) in the cast as dad, it’s best to simply go with the flow.

Expect Oscar nominations.

(Update: Nominated for 3 Oscars in 2022, won 3 – best film, best supporting actor (Kotsur), adapted screenplay)

Rating: 73%

‘Finch’

Finch is no mean achievement for Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan, Castaway) as he holds the screen for the entirity of its two hour running time.

A dystopian future, the result of a catastrophic environmental disaster that has left the Earth unprotected from the Sun’s UV: the eastern States is one giant dust bowl. As an engineer living in St Louis, Hanks has managed to survive with only his dog for company. But constant massive electrical storms put that survival in doubt. Always wanting to see the Golden Gate Bridge, they head west – with a newly built, talking automoton to break the monotony.

Quirky and child-like, Jeff (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones – Nitram, Get Out) adds much-needed humour to an otherwise safe, staid narrative with surprisingly few thrills along the way. A second-half shift adds pathos to an engaging enough road trip in good company with minimal dialogue. But the vast open vistas are visually stunning – and then there’s a scene-stealing canine.

Rating: 63%

'The Banker'

Inspired by true events, two African-American entrepreneurs buck the 1960s US real-estate system, buying up buildings and housing black residents in white areas. Their successes founder on buying a couple of banks and illegally lending money to black-owned businesses and home-buyers – in small-town Texas.

It’s a fascinating story as the gregarious Samuel L Jackson (The Avengers, Pulp Fiction) and more serious Anthony Mackie (The Avengers, The Hurt Locker) use a not-so-bright white-boy Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Favourite) as the public front to their business – and teach him the art of success.

Director George Nolfi (The Adjustment Bureau, Birth of the Dragon) keeps the narrative ticking along even if it’s all overly sanitised.

An Apple+ original.

Rating: 57%