After eight long months without a cinema fix and a successful outdoor Berlinale, the city’s cinemas are finally reopening their doors and punters are getting the motherload. Indeed, this week alone sees an avalanche of (mostly excellent) films heading to the big screen: repeatedly delayed titles, worthy Oscar winners, blockbuster flicks a-go-go, top-notch Berlinale titles and some terrific indie gems.
There’s something for everyone and it’s almost too much to handle. Thankfully, your weekly This Week At The Kino column is also back to take you by the hand and guide you through a stacked release calendar.
The big release is obviously Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, which reigned supreme at this year’s Oscars, nabbing Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. It’s the furthest thing from a traditional crowd-pleasing Oscar winner, but audiences will be rewarded to a lyrical road movie that’s unmissable. This week’s other Oscar alumnus is Judas And The Black Messiah, Shaka King’s ferocious and confident breakthrough feature, featuring two knockout performances from Lakeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya, the latter having won Best Supporting Actor this year. Equal parts nuanced biopic of Fred Hampton – the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in the late 60s – and thrilling chronicle of American history that offers no easy answers, it’s a must-see on the same level as Nomadland.
Finally, if you’re in the mood for an award-winning modern classic, Wong Kar-wai’s In The Mood For Love is getting a brand spanking new restored 4K re-release for its 21st anniversary. The timeless romantic drama, voted second-best film of the 21st century, is a sumptuous achievement that’s well worth seeking out to watch on the big screen once more. (See below for Freiluftkino screening dates.)
After taking a year off, blockbuster season is back, all guns blazin’. There are several titles vying for your attention and pennies, so let’s get the dud out of the way: avoid Chaos Walking like the plague. Based on Patrick Ness’ excellent sci-fi trilogy, this botched YA adaptation of the first book – 2008’s The Knife of Never Letting Go – features lots of walking and not enough chaos. Thankfully, it’s uphill from here. Godzilla vs Kong is big dumb fun that does exactly what it says on the tin, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is yet another instalment in the unkillable Conjuring Universe that’s a damn sight better than previous entries The Nun and The Curse Of La Llorona – even if that is damning with faint praise – and to everyone’s surprise, Peter Rabbit 2 is miles better than the first. It’s got nothing on Paddington and its glorious sequel, but nevertheless manages to entertain due to its self-aware humour and a delightful second act.
Our two standouts are the eternally-delayed A Quiet Place Part II and Freaky. The former was supposed to have opened two years ago and finally gets a release this week – it’s a mostly satisfying sequel that’s essentially more of the same, giving fans what they liked the first time around but never truly equals the thrills provoked by the 2018 original. The latter is without a doubt our top pick and a welcome surprise: Christopher Landon (Happy Death Day) puts a self-aware twist on Freaky Friday and scores points as both a slasher comedy and a body-swap adventure with unexpectedly inventive (and bloody) flourishes.
BERLINALE STANDOUTS AND INDIE GEMS
Following the Berlinale’s successful Summer Special, several of this year’s festival alumni are heading straight to the kinos. So fear not if you missed out on getting tickets and try a strange AI double-bill: 2021’s I’m Your Man and 2020’s The Trouble With Being Born. The first is Maria Schrader’s crowd-pleasing Berlin-set sci-fi romcom that can be loosely described as a gender-flipped Weird Science with added meditations on individuality within relationships; the second, which screened at last year’s Berlinale and won the Special Jury Award in the Encounters section, is I’m Your Man’s unnerving yin. It sees Austrian filmmaker Sandra Wollner also deal with androids, but this time through an eerily captivating Frankenstein update which delves into questions of memory and the grief humans struggle to overcome. We applaud you should you decide to give these two the back-to-back treatment, and if you’re not convinced, check out our interviews with both I’m Your Man’s Maria Shrader and The Trouble With Being Born’s Sandra Wollner.
Another 2021 Berlinale alumnus is the excellent documentary Courage, by Aliaksei Paluyan. Chronicling the protests that erupted after Belarus’ contested presidential elections last summer and the actions of a trio of actors who quit the Minsk State Theatre in protest against repression, it’s a rousing and powerful film that shows civil disobedience as a moral imperative. It is best encapsulated by the director’s own words: “Courage and audacity is when you say ‘I’m afraid, I’m horribly afraid, but I’m still going to continue’.”
Berlinale aside, we recommend you watch Proxima, an authentic-feeling space film that doubles up as an equally authentic mother-daughter story. We spoke to the award-winning French director Alice Winocour about her film, as well as the challenges of filming in real space-station locations: you can read our interview here.
If you’re in the mood for an old school Cold War spy thriller, you could do a lot worse than The Courier, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as an unassuming salesman-turned-spook. It’s hardly up there with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (which also starred Cumberbatch) but achieves what it sets out to do. And as for those jonesing for a disturbing mix of heady ideas about one’s identity and some impressive body horror, rush to watch Possessor, which shows that Brandon Cronenberg is a bloody good chip off the old filmmaking block.
Lastly on the week’s dizzyingly busy release slate is Icíar Bollaín’s Goya-nominated tragi-comedy La Boda de Rosa (Rosa’s Wedding). The film did the festival rounds last year – premiering at the Málaga Film Festival – and follows a 45-year-old woman who has devoted her life to pleasing others. When work and family drama finally become too overwhelming to bear, she decides to shake things up: she looks to start her own business and wants to get married… to herself.
TOP EVENTS AND FREILUFTKINO DATES
Events wise, there’s plenty going on. Consider the following:
The newly reopened Il Kino are screening Nomadland on the daily and if you fancy catching it outdoors (which is a great call), head to Freiluftkino Hasenheide tomorrow (21:45). The gorgeous setting surrounding Hasenheide’s outdoor screen is also perfect for the preview screening of the Oscar-nominated Minari (which comes out in cinemas in two weeks’ time) on 3rd (21:45), and should contrast quite interestingly with the claustrophobic atmosphere which permeates In The Mood For Love’s, showing on the 6th (21:45). Another perfect location you should be rushing to is ARTE Sommerkino Schloss Charlottenburg, which is also screening In The Mood For Love on 5th (21:30).
Freiluftkino Friedrichshain also have a preview screening of Minari on the 3rd (21:45), as well as a preview of The Nest on the 5th (21:45). It stars Jude Law and Carrie Coon – both on career-best forms – and is Sean Durkin’s first feature since his brilliant 2011 debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene. Released in kinos next week, it explores the disintegration of the family unit through a deceptively nuanced portrait of class and clashing UK-US cultures in the 80s.
Freiluftkino Kreuzberg are showing one of our favourite films of last year, Never Rarely Sometimes Always on the 3rd (21:45) – if you haven’t managed to find time for it, now’s that time – and don’t forget to read our interview with director Eliza Hittman, who won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize last year for her raw and honest depiction of American youth and the topic of a woman’s right to choose. Also, don’t forget to book your tickets for the premiere of this year’s Golden Bear winner, Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn, on the 6th (21:45) – one of the most outrageous and risqué Golden Bear winners to date, it comes out in cinemas in a week’s time. Keep an eye out for our full review, as well as our interview with the director Radu Jude, out next week.
Elsewhere, Sinema Transtopia is in full swing at bi-bak kino. It explores cinema as a space for social discourse, bringing together diverse social communities and decentring a Eurocentric view “through transnational (post-) migrant and postcolonial perspectives”. Head to their website to check out the programme and book tickets for their Imagining Queer Bandung open air line-up, curated by Sarnt Utamachote, Popo Fan and Ragil Huda: it includes Trans-Gressive tonight (21:30), Female + tomorrow, and Blood And Bounds on the 3rd (21:30). All films screen in OV with English subs.
Arsenal are also back with their “What Now?” programme (July 1-5), in reference to Joaquim Pinto’s moving essay E Agora? Lembra-Me. Posing the question: “How does cinema react to the crises of the present?”, the line-up consists of five contemporary Portuguese films from 2013-2019, all exploring lasting upheaval in the aftermath of colonialism, the fascist Salazar dictatorship and EU austerity policies. E Agora? Lembra-Me, which sees Pinto embark on a one-year treatment for his HIV and Hepatitis C, screens tonight (19:30) and Pedro Cabeleira’s excellent debut film Verão Danado is on tomorrow (20:00). Our main recommendation is Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela on 3rd (20:00): it’s an arrestingly atmospheric tale of a Cape Verdean woman navigating her way through Lisbon and uncovering her late husband’s secret life, one which raises fascinating questions about postcolonial immigration.
Finally, a shout out to Creepy Crypt, who resume their always terrifying 22:30 Saturday screening slot at Rollberg. This weekend, it’s The Empty Man, David Prior’s supernatural horror based on Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey’s graphic novel of the same name. Future cult classic for some, turkey for others, we’re in the first camp on this one. It’s tough to articulate why without delving into spoilers, but safe to say that for a debut feature, it has ambition to spare and features some fantastic visuals. Granted, its bloated runtime does it no favours and the ending lets it down somewhat, but the first two-thirds work well and the last act’s outrageous camp silliness is what late-night horror screenings are made for.
There we have it. Support your newly reopened local cinemas, make sure to show a negative Covid test or proof of vaccination when you get there and happy screenings to you all!