Isle of Dogs
Wes Anderson – cinema’s great master of twee – returns for his second stop-motion animation, after 2009’s Fantastic Mr Fox. Furry, four-legged friends are the stars once again, but this film, utilising the voice talents of Anderson regulars Ed Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum, takes place in a near future where a “dog flu” has spurred the evil mayor of Japan’s fictional Megasaki City to exile all canines to Trash Island.
In her four-star review of the film after its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, BBC Culture’s Emma Jones wrote, “Isle of Dogs emerges as a profoundly Andersonian tribute to his love of Japanese cinema, particularly to Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of animation house Studio Ghibli, as well as the late, legendary Akira Kurosawa.” Released 23 March in the US, 29 March in Australia and 30 March in the UK (Credit: Fox Searchlight).
A Wrinkle in Time
All over the English-speaking world 12-year-old schoolchildren have read A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 fantasy novel about a young girl, Meg Murry, who travels across space and time to find her missing father. It’s shocking that it’s taken this long for the story to get the lavish blockbuster treatment, but enter Ava DuVernay, the dynamic auteur who brought Martin Luther King Jr and the American Civil Rights Movement to crackling life in the 2014 film Selma.
After that film DuVernay was one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood, and now her version of A Wrinkle in Time, which looks from trailers to push fantasy blockbuster film-making towards the pleasingly hallucinogenic, is one of the most anticipated films of the year. Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon play three mysterious guides for Meg (Storm Reid) on her quest. Released 8 March in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Singapore, 9 March in the US, Poland and Spain and 23 March in the UK (Credit: Disney).
Lara Croft first jet-skied her way across the big screen in two Angelina Jolie-starring action films. Those were based on the original concept for the character in the Tomb Raider series of videogames: a Wimbledon-born British aristocrat educated at Gordonstoun (Prince Charles’s alma mater) who becomes something of a female Indiana Jones in short shorts and a crop top..
Then in a 2013 reboot game, Lara received a feminist-friendly overhaul: gone were the short shorts, replaced with practical trousers, and a new backstory that emphasised that she’s a human being, not a walking wish-fulfillment fantasy for anyone with a Y-chromosome. It’s this more vulnerable Lara that Alicia Vikander plays in this Tomb Raider, an origin story about the mercenary’s quest to find her deceased father’s missing research. The 29-year-old Oscar winning-actress is a major casting coup and raises hope that Tomb Raider might become the first film based on a videogame that’s actually watchable. Released 9 March in India, 15 March in Brazil, Colombia, Australia and New Zealand, and 16 March in the US, UK and Pakistan (Credit: Warner Bros).
You Were Never Really Here
Scottish auteur Lynne Ramsay has excavated grief, guilt, and regret with stunning immediacy in films like Ratcatcher and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Her new film, starring Joaquin Phoenix as a private investigator hired by a politician to find his missing daughter, has drawn comparison to Taxi Driver – except that it becomes something quite different as it goes along. Phoenix, who looks much like he did when he fooled the world with his staged eccentricity during his I’m Still Here phase, won the best actor prize at Cannes, where the film experienced a bit of drama. It was apparently being edited, with Jonny Greenwood putting the finishing touches to the score, just hours before it first played there. Bilge Ebiri vividly recounted for the Village Voice all the questions surrounding the film at Cannes: “Would the screening even happen? Would we all show up at the Salle Debussy and be confronted with a tie-askew [festival director] Thierry Frémaux tearfully streaming a trailer and reading an apology letter? Would Last-Minute Lynne make it in time?” Well, she did, and Ebiri, for one, declared You Were Never Really Here the best film of the festival. Released 9 March in the UK and Norway and 22 March in Greece, Croatia and Russia (Credit: Amazon Studios)
Ready Player One
Ernest Cline’s popular, and acclaimed, 2011 novel gets the Steven Spielberg treatment.
The high-concept premise is that, in a near future, earth has become so miserable that most people choose to spend their leisure time in a Matrix-style computer simulation called Oasis that includes pre-existing characters such as the Iron Giant, Chun-Li from Street Fighter, Lara Croft, Freddy Krueger and various inhabitants of Middle Earth: basically whichever characters to which Warner Bros, the studio releasing the film, has the rights. When the inventor of Oasis dies (Mark Rylance, Spielberg’s most consistent regular these days) he reveals that there’s a treasure hidden inside the simulation that will grant ownership of the whole realm to whoever finds it. Basically, think Tron: Legacy meets Wreck-It Ralph. The first trailers have been underwhelming to say the least, though, and Spielberg has eliminated most of the references to his own films that were included in the book. So even if it’s lacklustre, you have to admire Spielberg’s modesty. Released 29 March in the US, UK, Ireland, and Russia and 30 March in Canada, Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam (Credit: Warner Bros).
Ruben Östlund picked up the Palme d’Or, and an Academy Award nomination for best foreign language film, for this pitch-black satire of the art world, the eagerly awaited follow-up to his highly acclaimed 2014 family drama Force Majeure.
The Square concerns itself with the redemptive power of art – and questions the capacity for art to make the world a better place at all. Claes Bang plays Christian, a Stockholm art curator committed to the idea of presenting an exhibition that will be a social good. Disaster ensues. The Square hasn’t just been acclaimed by film critics, but by art critics too, such as The New York Times’ Jason Farago who called it “the first movie to depict the world of contemporary art with true insight…. The inane art-speak, the awkward fund-raisers, the drinking, the Teslas: this brutal indictment of the liberal culture sector ridiculed me and everyone I know, and it hurt so good.” Released 1 March in Hong Kong and 16 March in the UK and Ireland (Credit: Magnolia Pictures/Magnet Releasing).
With Foxtrot, director Samuel Maoz’s latest film about life in Israel today, you never know what you’re going to get. It starts out as a devastating portrait of grief, as the parents of a young soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces learn he has been killed.
But half an hour in, the action shifts to the checkpoint where he was stationed. We see him spending his days checking the IDs of Palestinians trying to pass through, but mostly monotony is the order of the day – with some decidedly surreal occurrences along the way. The Guardian’s Xan Brooks writes, “Maoz’s terrain is so cockeyed and surreal, it’s hard to get your bearings… His] message is plain. This world is off-balance – and every day it gets worse.” Adds [Indiewire’s Eric Kohn, “Maoz pierces his milieu with flashes of perceptive satire, an animated interlude, and a touching, romantic finale, all of which adds up to a wonderfully unexpected hodgepodge of insights into intergenerational Israeli frustrations.” Released 1 March in Greece and 2 March in Spain, Taiwan and the US (Credit: Sony Pictures Classics).
Photographer Chris Hondros documented human suffering in its many forms throughout his career – he snapped pictures in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, in Haiti following the devastating earthquake of 2010, and, most notably, in Iraq.
One image of a young child covered in the blood of his parents, who had been mistakenly killed by US soldiers, resulted in the child being flown to the US for medical treatment. Hondros was ultimately killed himself, along with war correspondent Tim Hetherington, in a mortar attack by pro-Gaddafi forces in Libya in 2011. This documentary, directed by his longtime friend Greg Campbell and which premiered to acclaim at 2017’s Tribeca Film Festival, is about the storytelling power of images. Campbell’s included some incredible anecdotes, such as how he and Hondros, straight out of university, used fake press badges to sneak into Bill and Hillary Clinton’s inner circle during the 1993 Presidential Inauguration. Released 2 March in the US (Credit: Netflix).
So it was just a little over a four-year ‘retirement’? Steven Soderbergh famously quit the film industry in 2013 to pursue TV work with Behind the Candelabra and The Knick. Deft working in any genre – in a ranking of Soderbergh’s expansive list of films, Indiewiredeclared the heist caper Ocean’s Eleven to be his best film – he returned to the big-screen with the one-two punch of last August’s Logan Lucky and now Unsane, a horror film shot entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus.
And this indeed looks like a film from a director whose best movie is a remake of a Rat Pack vehicle: Claire Foy stars as a woman who thinks she’s being stalked even after moving to a new city – she chalks up her nagging fear as paranoia and consults a behavioral management clinic for help. Before she knows it she’s been institutionalised in a hospital for those suffering from mental illness, and she thinks her stalker is there to torment her once again. Is she the victim of a terrible conspiracy? Or is she truly mad? If the latter, perhaps that explains the British actress’s unconvincing US accent? (Credit: Bleecker Street).