This week our pick of the week is Widows, where Viola Davis leads a group of women to finish the heist that killed their husbands. Elsewhere, Chris Pine stars in Netflix’s Games of Thrones-ish slice of Scottish history, Benedict Cumberbatch voices a rebooted Grinch, and JJ Abrams asks the question “What if World War 2, but aliens?”
Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Eviro, Daniel Kaluuya
Run time: 130 minutes
Widows could easily have been made as a comedy. In another world, a story about several widows who try to pull off a heist to recoup the debt with which their late criminal husbands left them is being filmed as a farce with Coen brothers overtones. Known for somewhat more distressing movies, however, director Steve McQueen – he of Shame and 12 Years A Slave – plays this straight as a ruler.
We begin, as all films should, with Liam Neeson snogging with tongues. Then he’s in the shower. It’s a strong start. He and his wife Veronica (Viola Davis) are besotted, but within five minutes police have killed him and his fellow crooks. It might be tempting to storm off at this point, shouting, “No Neeson, no watchy!” but you’d be missing a sizzling cast (Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell and Daniel Kaluuya are about 10 per cent of it) chomping on a plot full of violence, betrayal, and a twist so delicious you look for M Night Shyamalan in the closing credits.
Though it may be 20 minutes over-long, a film with this many fully realised female characters trying not to be defined by the men in their lives is something to celebrate. In cinemas now.
Most engaging animal: Veronica’s dog, constantly under her arm like a handbag as she carries out errands, is essential in inadvertently uncovering key plot details.
Best line taken out of context: “Reverend, I’m in the driving seat, I just don’t have a set of wheels.”
Do they reference the title in the script?: Hallelujah and praise the Lord, yes they do!
Unexpected MVP: Robert Duvall is on delicious form, insulting modern art and spitting furiously at his son (Colin Farrell).
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rashida Jones
Run time: 86 minutes
In 2000’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Jim Carrey had to endure four hours of make-up every day for 92 consecutive days. The process frustrated him so much that he booted a hole in his trailer and threatened to quit. Eventually the movie was finished, but not before the producers enlisted the help of a CIA operative who specialised in torture endurance techniques in order to calm him down. No such operatives were needed in this Cumberbatch-starring version of the Dr Seuss classic, being as it is, a fully CGI animation from the studio behind Despicable Me. Yet another example of computers automating humans out of a job. In cinemas from 9 Nov.
Cast: Wyatt Russell, Pilau Asbek, Jacob Anderson
Run time: 110 minutes
It is strange that as a society we often deem the Second World War insufficiently scary to act as the premise of a horror film. Tens of millions of people died, many of those in inconceivably horrific circumstances. It was the stage on which history’s most evil dictator performed the worst genocide of all time. The movie industry’s response? “Could do with some zombies, mate.” Here, after landing behind enemy lines, a group of American paratroopers are forced to fight off a host of Nazis – as well as the hordes of zombies that the Nazis have secretly been creating, obviously. In cinemas now.
Cast: Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Howle
Run time: 121 minutes
Hollywood loves seeing the English get a historical pasting, and why not? They did fight a whole war of independence against auld Blighty. Anyway, when they’re done re-enacting that one, they like to turn their attentions to the Scottish, who also fought for independence against the Three Lions, albeit less successfully. Braveheart turned this loss into a heroic defeat, while Outlaw King, set during the same period, goes one further and turns it into a heroic victory. Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) took over William Wallace’s mantle and managed to repel those damned English and secure his right to the Scottish throne. But there’s a less well-documented aspect to this tale, one that went untold until now: turns out ol’ Rob had a magnificent penis, which Pine brings to life with meticulous full-frontal accuracy. On Netflix and in cinemas from 9 Nov.
Cast: Jeannie Chesser, Thomas DeLonge (as themselves)
Run time: 103 minutes
Sorry Mr Corbyn, this isn’t a doc about grassroots Labour. It’s actually about the Nineties surfing explosion that made Kelly Slater, Rob Machado and Kalani Robb household names. Well, teenage-bedroom-hold names, at least. This charts their rise from Hawaiian teens with dreams to competing pros with simmering tensions to the present, where they’re pals again. Listen, Jez, it might not instinctively seem like ‘your thing’, but if you like riding gnarly waves, drinking in permanent sunsets and clinking beers with your broskis around a beach bonfire – and I’m pretty sure you do – then get on this. On digital download now.
The Sinner (Season 2)
Cast: Bill Pullman, Carrie Coon, Natalie Paul
Run time: 8x40 minutes
Detective Harry Ambrose returns to his New York hometown to investigate a disturbing double murder involving a 13-year-old suspect in the second season of this excellently disturbing mystery drama.
Coming to Netflix on 9 November
Patriot (Season 2)
Cast: Michael Dorman, Kurtwood Smith, Michael Chernus
Running time: 8x60 minutes
Take another spin through this espionage black comedy as John must make a choice at the train platform - be free from his obligations and adversaries by letting Agathe take the money or pursue her, at great risk to himself, in an effort to protect his brother, father, and country. Meanwhile, his father presents a perilous way out of it all: find and assassinate Cantar Walley in Paris.
Coming to Amazon Prime Video on 9 November
Cast: Nature, David Attenborough’s voice
Running time: 60 minutes
“Five extraordinary animals, each in a heroic struggle against rivals and against the forces of nature, fighting for their own survival and for the future of their dynasties” is how the BBC describes this show but let’s be honest, we just wanna see some beautiful shots of animals as we listen to David Attenborough’s even beautifuller voice.
On BBC One this Sunday 11 November at 8.30pm.