Clown-for-hire and aspiring stand-up Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) lives with his mother, Penny (Conroy), but feels ignored by the world. Deeply troubled, but with his mental health support withdrawn due to budget cuts, his comedy unremarked and his efforts as a clown met with scorn and violence, he falls into a scenario where he ends up shooting three bullying rich kids on the subway. Finding solace in a new relationship with his neighbour, Sophie (Beetz), he begins to revel in his notoriety as the ‘clown killer.’
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett Starring Samara Weaving (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Adam Brody (Shazam!), Mark O’Brien (Bad Times at the El Royale), Henry Czerny (The A-Team), Andie MacDowell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Nicky Guadagni (Silent Hill), Melanie Scrofano (Robocop), Elyse Levesque (Slumber Party Slaughter), Kristian Bruun (The Space Between) and John Ralston (On the Basis of Sex)
Grace (Weaving) is anxious about her marriage into the wealthy and eccentric Le Domas family, but very much in love with Alex (O’Brien), the youngest of the Le Domas. At the family estate, the two are married in front of Alex’s parents, Tony (Czerny) and Becky (MacDowell), brother Daniel (Brody), sister-in-law Charity (Levesque) and aunt Helene (Guadagni). All but Helene seem welcoming, as do Alex’s sister Emilie (Scrofano) and her husband Fitch (Bruun), who arrive just in time for the family’s traditional wedding night ritual, in which a new addition to the family must draw a card from a box and play a game. Grace’s game is hide and seek, however, which it turns out transforms the eccentric custom into a deadly game of cat and mouse in which the family hunt down the unsuspecting spouse and sacrifice them to their patron, Mr La Bail, for continuing wealth and life.
Following a series of disasters caused by an energy surge from space, astronaut Major Roy McBride (Pitt) is assigned to travel to Mars and try to contact his father, Clifford (Jones), whose research mission to Neptune in search of extraterrestrial life may be the source of the ongoing surges.
Directed by Michael Engler Starring Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Allen Leech, Jim Carter, Robert James-Collier, Phyllis Logan, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Lesley Nichol, Kevin Doyle, Sophie McShera, Raquel Cassidy, Michael C. Fox, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, Geraldine James, Simon Jones, Max Brown, Tuppence Middleton, Stephen Campbell-Moore, David Haig and Imelda Staunton
Downton Abbey was a wildly successful and critically-acclaimed British period drama, created by Julian Fellowes and following the fortunes of the family of the Crawley family, hereditary Earls of Grantham, and their domestic staff between 1912 and 1925, somewhat in the style of the earlier hit Upstairs, Downstairs. The current Earl, Robert Crawley (Bonneville), and his wife Cora (McGovern) – an American heiress – had three daughters – Mary (Dockery), the fabulous one, Edith (Carmichael), the plain one, and Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay), the socially conscious one – and no sons, leading to the co-option into the family of heir presumptive Matthew (Dan Stevens), an upper-middle class solicitor and his mother, Isobel (Wilton). After much humming and hahing and a World War, Mary married Matthew. Sibyl married the Irish Republican chauffeur, Tom (Leech), while Edith had a series of desperately tragic romances. Sibyl and Matthew both died in childbirth (men can do this in Downton, as a result of what I assume to be a family curse which means that every time a baby is born, someone dies,) and Mary later married the dashing Henry Talbot (Goode) after a series of flings, and Edith finally got her happy ending with Bertie Pelham (Hadden-Paton), Marquess of Hexham.
Below stairs, the Butler Carson (Carter) and housekeeper Mrs Hughes (Logan) ran herd on a rotating staff of footmen and maids, including slowly-reforming bastard and future under-butler Barrow (James-Collier) and nice new boy Andy (Fox), older footman Moseley (Doyle) and maid Baxter (Cassidy), will-they-won’t-they personal servants Bates (Coyle), Grantham’s valet, and Anna (Froggatt), Lady Mary’s maid, and the cook Mrs Patmore (Nicol) and her long-suffering, socially-ambitious kitchen maid Daisy (McShera). Bates and Anna got married after being the dumping ground for about 70% of the Abbey’s melodrama (and a rape subplot, because that was apparently necessary,) and Barrow became Butler when Carson retired due to ill-health.
By the final Christmas special, all ended happily, and all under the gimlet gaze of Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Smith), she of the acid tongue and the silent ‘bitch’.
…and a movie
Flash forward a mere four years, and they made a movie, at which point half the country went absolutely mad for fear that their favourite happy ending would be scotched, that Barrow would revert to type, or that Edith would be plunged back into the misery she was left in when her past fiance left her pregnant after being murdered by the SA in the Beer Hall Putsch.
Directed by Ric Roman Waugh Starring Gerard Butler (Gods of Egypt), Morgan Freeman (Lucy), Jada Pinkett Smith (The Matrix Reloaded), Lance Reddick (John Wick), Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four), Piper Perabo (Beverly Hills Chihuahua), Nick Nolte (The Spiderwick Chronicles) and Danny Huston (Wonder Woman)
Struggling with the health impact of too many action blockbusters, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) is faced with the possibility of a desk job and more time with his wife Leah (Perabo) and daughter, while his old army buddy Wade Jennings (Huston) is struggling to make ends meet with the US government no longer employing his PMC and totally not planning to betray his old buddy.
In the reasonably distant future of 2029, the AI Skynet sent two Terminators back in time to eliminate resistance leader John Connor. One was sent to 1984, to kill John’s mother and mentor, Sarah Connor (Hamilton), before he could even be born; the second was sent to kill the young John Connor (Furlong) in 1995, if the first should fail.
Nigh-unstoppable super-soldier Brixton (Elba) and his magical motorbike interrupt an MI6 mission in the heart of London to try to steal a supervirus, killing all of the agents bar one (Kirby), who escapes after injecting the virus into herself in slowly-dissolving plot-delivery devices, but is framed as the thief. The CIA tap DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and rogue former MI6 operative Deckard Shaw (Statham) to retrieve the virus, and the surviving agent, who is revealed to be Shaw’s sister Hattie.
Directed by Jon Favreau Starring Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and James Earl Jones
Touted at the time as Disney’s first original feature film, The Lion King was the fifth film in the Disney Renaissance, and the most successful offering of that period by a substantial margin, as well as playing a substantial role in the spread of major animation studios such as Dreamworks Animation. The film is a coming of age adventure, folowing young lion Simba (Matthew Broderick) as he grows up in exile and returns to face his wicked uncle Scar (Jeremy Irons) and avenge the murder of his father, Mufasa (James Earl Jones). It caught a storm of controversy over similarities to Kimba the White Lion, the English language dub of a Japanese anime film called Jungle Emperor Leo, but remains one of the iconic products of the House of Mouse.
In 2019, The Lion King became the latest movie from the Disney back-catalogue to receive a ‘live-action’ remake, directed by the man who did the same to The Jungle Book. I use sarcastic quotes because, unlike the 2016 The Jungle Book, there is no human presence, and in fact what we have is almost – or perhaps actually – entirely computer animation.
Simba (JD McCrary) is the son of Mufasa (Jones) and Sarabi (Woodard), the King of the Pridelands and the leader of the lionesses who hunt for and defend the pride. While Mufasa and his adviser the hornbill Zazu (Oliver) try to guide Simba towards a positive model of altruistic monarchy, his brooding uncle Scar (Ejiofor) plots to seize power.
Directed by Jon Watts Starring Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Zendaya, Cobie Smulders, Jon Favreau, J. B. Smoove, Jacob Batalon, Martin Starr, Marisa Tomei and Jake Gyllenhaal
In the wake of the global catastrophe now known as ‘the Blip’, Peter Parker (Holland) is looking forward to taking a break from a) being Spider-Man and b) fielding questions about when he’s going to take on Iron Man’s mantle as public head of superheroing by taking a trip to Europe with his classmates, including bestie Ned (Batalon), cool punk and subject of Peter’s crush MJ (Zendaya), academic jock Flash (Tony Revelori) and Brad (Remy Hii), a rival for MJ’s affections who is notionally five years younger than the rest of the group, but didn’t vanish during the blip so is chronologically the same age. Alas, this holiday is soon interrupted by the appearance of a monster made of water and a mysterious hero in Venice.
“On The Road Of Life, There Are Old Friends, New Friends, And Stories That Change You.”
Directed by Josh Cooley Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan and Joan Cusack
1995’s Toy Story was a game changer, the first fully CG animated feature and the film that put Pixar on the map. It told the story of Woody (Hanks), a cowboy doll and the leader of a playroom full of animate toys belonging to a boy named Andy, whose position as ‘favourite toy’ was challenged by a newcomer, astronaut toy Buzz Lightyear (Allen). Through a series of adventures after being lost, Woody and Buzz bonded, and across two sequels and a series of trips outside the playroom their friendship grew, until at last they were passed on by the now-teenaged Andy to a young girl called Bonnie (McGraw). Toy Story 3 brought the story to a fairly natural close, so the creation of a fourth movie became a bit of a running joke in the industry, even making it into the opening number of The Muppets Most Wanted.
And then they made it.
The Late Sequel
After a brief flashback to the departure of his former love interest, Bo (Potts), Woody is in a slightly uncomfortable situation, no longer favourite toy, with his Sheriff’s badge often given to his line-mate Jessie (Cusack) and control of the playroom in the hands of Bonnie’s long-time ‘head toy’ Dolly (Bonny Hunt). When he goes against protocol to accompany Bonnie to her first day at kindergarten, he ends up escorting a new toy home: Forky (Hale), a craft project made from a spork, who feels a natural impulse to become trash.