Cinema offers rocket-fuelled movies that reach for the stars

OWEN HETHERSAY previews November’s films at the David Lean

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born is the best yet

It’s no secret that the BBC’s Graham Norton Show long ago abandoned any pretence to being an old-school chat show, where the guests might offer anecdotes and talk about themselves, and instead morphed into a weekly parade of glitzy Hollywood stars eager just to plug their latest release.

But for David Lean Cinema-goers, this does at least have the advantage of offering some sort of preview of next month’s movies, as last week Norton was able to invite on to his sofa Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling, the headliners in two of the Clocktower’s arthouse cinema’s offerings for November, A Star Is Born and First Man.

Questions such as “Can Cooper direct?”, “Can Cooper sing?” and “Can Lady Gaga act?” were all addressed, in the usual, slightly deferential style of the BBC show, and all were answered in an enthusiastic affirmative for those Croydon film-lovers who might have wondered whether there really is a need for a fourth version of A Star Is Born.

Besides, how could Gaga, in her movie debut, ever match la Streisand? Or, for that matter, Judy Garland?

The answer, according to Cooper, is that anyone who was around to see Barbra in the previous A Star Is Born with Kris Kristofferson would now be over 50 (“And your point is?” Norton failed to ask).

In any case, his version of this American Dream movie is set in the music business of 2018, where old rockers never fade, they just get to croak their way through long, self-reverential sets at Glastonbury…

As USA Today put it yesterday, this is far from a conventional remake, but more a “romantic revival that happen every couple of decades when filmmakers and actors take the same template and narrative threads but put their own special sauce on them”.

There are some who maintain, in any case, that the 1976 version of the film, the Streisand rendition of “Evergreen” aside, was not a patch on Garland and James Mason’s 1954 iteration of the love story.

USA Today affirms that Cooper and Gaga’s 2018 version is in fact the best yet.

With next year’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landings, Gosling has shot for the stars alongside the seemingly ubiquitous, but always compelling, Claire Foy in First Man, the latest in a growing collection of blockbusters about the American space programme of which Apollo 13 gave the world the memorable entry to the Top 10 of all-time understatements: “Houston: we have a problem.”

Gosling’s movie involves much about of the consideration and delivery of another space age sound byte which has become remembered as if handed down on tablets of stone.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” was the first utterance of Neil Armstrong to a global TV audience estimated to be 530 million when he stepped upon the moon in July 1969, and this is something which Gosling – who got to know the astronaut in preparation for the film – maintains was never scripted or prepared, but simply delivered in that awe-inspiring moment.

Directed by the Oscar-winning Damien Chazelle (La La Land), First Man offers an often insight to the fears and dreams, and the sacrifices, made by Armstrong and his family to make the mission.

Also at the David Lean in November is The Wife, a fascinating drama about the patriarchy, starring Jonathan Pryce and with Glenn Close delivering what might be an Oscar-winning performance, plus there’s the suspenseful thriller, A Simple Favour, starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively and Henry Golding. According to Wendy Ide in The Guardian: “The lip-smacking, acid drops of malice in the latest film from Paul Feig (Bridesamids) makes this unexpectedly cruel comedy as intoxicating as the mid-afternoon martinis swilled by the two central characters.”

  • Unless otherwise stated, tickets for all screenings are £8.50. Concessions (Freedom Pass-holders, full-time students, claimants and disabled) £7. Rush tickets may also be available for under-25s.

David Lean Cinema programme for November

All films are at 2.30 and 7.30pm unless stated

Thu Nov 1 A SIMPLE FAVOUR (15)
2018 USA 117min. Dir: Paul Feig
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Single mother and vlogger Stephanie (Kendrick) is befriended by successful business woman Emily (Lively), and begins hanging out with her, as well as baby-sitting for her. She starts to worry when Emily disappears, having failed to pick up her son, and starts her own investigation. As you would expect from the director of Bridesmaids and the Ghostbusters reboot, Feig brings a fine comedy touch to this post-modern film noir, with terrific performances from the two leads.

Tue Nov 6 CRAZY RICH ASIANS (12A) (7.30pm)
2018 USA 120min. Dir: Jon M Chu
Stars: Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan
A professor of economics in New York, Rachel Chu accompanies her boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore – only to learn that Nick’s family is extremely wealthy, making him a highly eligible bachelor. Thrust into the spotlight, Rachel must contend with jealous socialites and quirky and disapproving relatives, pressing her to choose between love and her career. Mining comic gold from the curious lives of the rich, this  is “hugely enjoyable” (Wall Street Journal).

2018 UK/Ire/Fr 111min. Dir: Lenny Abrahamson
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, Will Poulter
Lenny Abrahamson follows the award-winning Room with this well-crafted adaptation of Sarah Waters’ modern gothic novel. In 1947, Dr Faraday begins to minister to the Ayres family, who are finding it difficult to live at Hundred Hall, their stately home which Faraday remembers from his childhood, but which is now run-down and subject to supernatural disturbances. A subtle mystery, exposing the social upheaval of post-war Britain, well-acted by the cast, especially Ruth Wilson.

Sat Nov 10 THE GUARDIANS (15) (2.30pm)
2017 Fr/Switz 138min (French with subtitles). Dir: Xavier Beauvois
Stars: Nathalie Baye, Laura Smet, Iris Bry
Les gardiennes were the women left to manage the farms of rural France while their men went off to fight in the First World War. Nathalie Baye relishes the role of the matriarch who, with her two sons away at war, struggles to keep the farm going. The arrival of hardworking land girl Francine seems to be a godsend, until love and death arrive to complicate the situation. A measured, beautifully photographed film, with great performances, including newcomer Iris Bry in the role of Francine.

Tue Nov 13 TEHRAN TABOO (15) (7.30pm)
2017 Ger/Austria 96min (Persian with subtitles). Dir: Ali Soozandeh
Stars: Elmira Rafizadeh, Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, Arash Marandi, Negar Mona Alizade
Life is tough for anyone who steps outside the Islamic Republic’s harsh moral prescriptions and double standards. A woman seeks divorce from her drug addict husband, another is keeping secrets, while a musician can’t make a living without state authorisation, and a night club tryst puts him and the girl he meets in deadly jeopardy. Telling their compelling stories, Soozandeh makes the lively yet mysterious city a character in itself – and evades the censors by rendering Europe-shot performances in vibrant Rotoscope animation.

Thu Nov 15 THE WIFE (15)
2017 UK/USA/Swe/Switz 100min. Dir: Björn Runge
Stars: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons
Is this the film that finally gets Glenn Close an Oscar after six nominations? She would certainly deserve it for playing the wife of lionised author Joe Castleman (Pryce), who is being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Hounded by a sleazy hack (Slater), their marriage starts to seem less the perfect match that they have portrayed to the world. Based on the acclaimed novel by Meg Wolitzer, this “is a smart, supremely watchable and entertaining film” (The Guardian).
* The 2.30pm screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss.

Tue Nov 20 LUCKY (15) (7.30pm)
2017 USA 88min. Dir: John Carroll Lynch
Stars: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston
Featuring a career-defining performance from the late Harry Dean Stanton, Lucky follows an atheist nonagenarian who spends his days drinking, smoking and watching television in his small Texas town. When a sudden incident occurs Lucky must reassess his life as he searches for some meaning he can accept, whilst also helping a few friends out along the way.

Thu Nov 22 A STAR IS BORN (15)
2018 USA 135min. Dir: Bradley Cooper
Stars: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott
Bradley Cooper directs and stars in this update of a cinema classic, alongside Lady Gaga. Cooper plays Jackson Main, a hard-drinking country musician who discovers and falls in love with a young struggling singer, Ally. Jackson helps Ally realise her potential but as Ally’s career takes off, rifts in their relationship are drawn as Jackson begins to grapple with his inner demons. Boasting deft direction from Cooper and an electrifying performance from the leading duo, this tragic romantic saga is an enthralling chronicle of the dark side of fame.

Tue Nov 27 COLUMBUS (12A) (7.30pm)
2017 USA 104min. Dir: Kogonada
Stars: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey
When his lecturer father is taken ill there, Korean-born Jin (Cho) flies into Columbus, Indiana, famed for its exceptional modern architecture. He encounters Casey, who has foresworn college to stay in this unique little city and care for her mother. As Casey shares her hopes and fears, the pair consider what they owe to their families and themselves. This beautiful, gently stirring film, and its breakout star Richardson, share “the gem-like fire of a precocious genius” (New Yorker).

Thu Nov 29 FIRST MAN (12A)
2018 USA 141min. Dir: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke
Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle (La La Land) collaborates once again with Ryan Gosling in this rousing depiction of one of the most dangerous missions in modern history: landing a man on the moon. Based on the book by James R Hansen, First Man tells of the sacrifices of a trepidatious nation and the valiance of its astronaut, Neil Armstrong. Written by Academy Award-winner, Josh Singer (Spotlight). Gosling embodies Armstrong’s character with aplomb.
* The 2.30pm screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss.

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