Alistair Harkness casts an eye over Minions, Magic Mike XXL and more in this week’s film round-up
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A much-hyped, moderately entertaining spin-off from the hugely successful Despicable Me movies, Minions finds the titular pill-shaped yellow henchmen in 1960s London on the hunt for an evil master to serve. The film is at its best during the delightfully absurd prologue that sketches out the existential crises that repeatedly befall the Minions as they accidentally kill one detestable boss after another. Thenceforth it struggles to maintain a consistent gags-to-giggles ratio. But it’s brightly coloured and fast-paced and should keep kids entertained for the summer.
Magic Mike XXL (15)
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The plot may be stretched as thin as one of Channing Tatum’s gold lamé thongs, but this sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s surprisingly thoughtful stripper opus still works as an entertainingly outré odyssey as Magic Mike (Tatum) joins his preening, baby-oiled “male entertainer” cohorts for a road trip to a stripper convention for one last blowout. New director Gregory Jacobs maintains consistency with the original by deploying Soderbergh as his cinematographer, who once again strips away the blockbuster gloss. Tatum, meanwhile, demonstrates his super-sized star power with insane bouts of floor-humping, ass-thumping, crotch-pumping action.
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Amy Winehouse was already on a downward spiral when her second album, Back To Black, made her a household name. What got forgotten amid the headlines was just how talented – and how ill – she really was. That makes Amy a welcome and much-needed corrective. Directed by Asif Kapadia in a style similar to his game-changing Senna, the film eschews the talking-head format to reconstruct Winehouse’s short, troubled life through a wealth of home movies, archival footage and news reports – all contextualised with painfully raw and reflective testimony from family members, friends and colleagues, many opening up for the first time about the Amy they knew.
Magician: The Astonishing Life And Work Of Orson Welles (12A)
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An entertaining, but hardly radical, primer on Hollywood’s first real auteur, this runs through all the expected Orson Welles biographical highlights and offers some entertaining insights from the likes of Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Richard Linklater.
The First Film (PG)
The culmination of an obsessive quest by director David Nicholas Wilkinson to prove that cinema began not with the Lumière brothers, but with a Yorkshire-based Frenchman by the name of Louis Le Prince, The First Film has an intriguing and mysterious story to tell that’s worthy of cinema itself. Alas, Wilkinson’s presenting style is a bit Alan Partridge and he just isn’t very good at making the story come alive on screen.
Still The Water (15)
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The discovery of a dead body floating in the sea provides a disturbing backdrop for Japanese director Naomi Kawase’s dreamy and surreal tale of first love and the encroaching complications of adulthood.
Kawase’s imagery is haunting but oblique, resulting in a film that’s beautiful to look at, but a tad baffling.
Slow West (15)
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Ex-Beta Band keyboardist turned director John Maclean makes an ambitious debut with this darkly humorous, off-kilter western about the young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) of a Scottish aristocrat who runs off to America in pursuit of the girl he loves. Woefully unprepared for life on the frontier, he teams up with Michael Fassbender’s bounty hunter, little realising his protector might have ulterior motives for offering to help. Maclean imbues this classic western set-up with entertainingly strange digressions, hard-hitting shoot-outs and gnarly action.