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Directed with a light touch by Gary Winick, 13 Going On 30 is Big with lipstick and heels, chronicling the madcap misadventures of a teenage girl who yearns to grow up and then gets her wish in one of those magical twists of fate that only happen in the movies.
Like Tom Hanks, Jennifer Garner is lovable and goofy as a 13-year-old trapped in the body of a successful fashion magazine editor.
Her natural charm carries the film, most notably when she sparks a disastrous work party to life by recreating the dance routine from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, cajoling other guests to join her by impersonating zombies.
Garner spends much of the film affecting a wide-eyed stare as life throws one obstacle after another in her way, including the startling realisation that her nerdy best friend from school has blossomed into a handsome photographer (Mark Ruffalo).
The soundtrack fizzes to retro 1980s hits from the likes of Madonna and Pat Benatar.
Gliding through every frame in swathes of Galliano, Valentino and, of course, Prada, Meryl Streep is utterly breathtaking as the sadistic reigning queen of fashion torn from the pages of Lauren Weisberger’s international bestseller, who is armed to her polished teeth with knockout one-liners.
As despicable as her character may be, Streep expertly reveals tiny flaws in her villainess’s designer label armour, showing glimmers of humanity and vulnerability beneath the impeccably coiffed facade.
We come to love this silver-haired bully – the way she terrorises her staff, her refusal to tolerate fools – at the expense of the heroine, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a graduate from Northwestern University who lands a plum job as second assistant to fearsome Miranda Priestly (Streep).
Emily Blunt is adorable as a permanently stressed-out gopher on a new diet: “I don’t eat anything and then when I feel like I’m about to faint, I eat a cube of cheese.”
Cheltenham-born athlete Eddie Edwards became a media sensation in 1988 when he represented Great Britain in the ski jump in Calgary.
His remarkable story of triumph against gravity, which swelled the patriotic hearts of a nation, provides the creative spark for Dexter Fletcher’s comedy drama.
Eddie The Eagle is an unabashedly crowd-pleasing delight for all ages.
Screenwriters Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton don’t let the truth get in the way of telling a good yarn, slaloming between historical fact and humorous artistic licence to ensure their film remains giddily airborne.
Fletcher’s light touch behind the lens concentrates on the camaraderie between a remarkable underdog (Taron Egerton) and his fictional trainer (Hugh Jackman), who defied the snooty naysayers to prove that anything is possible when you take a leap of faith.
In real life, Edwards never climbed on to the Olympic winner’s podium but Fletcher’s charming film is champion.
Based on Gail Carson Levine’s best-selling novel, Ella Enchanted re-imagines the Cinderella fairytale in a sassy world of giants, elves, witches and talking serpents.
Director Tommy O’Haver’s fantasy is 96 minutes of rollicking entertainment, crammed to bursting with visual gags, smart one-liners and some rousing song and dance numbers including Queen’s Somebody To Love and a fabulous full cast rendition of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.
Anne Hathaway recaptures the sweetness and steely determination of her Princess Diaries character and she gels nicely with Hugh Dancy’s dreamboat royal (the cover boy of Medieval Teen magazine, no less).
Supporting performances are suitably larger-than-life from Aidan McArdle’s overly sensitive elf (“Elves aren’t that short you know. That’s just a stupid myth created by that Elves And The Shoemaker story … stinkin’ Grimm Brothers”) to Joanna Lumley in full pantomime mode as a monstrous stepmother.
If Cary Elwes’ villain twiddled his moustache any more maniacally, it would surely fall off.
Love it or mistakenly loathe it, nothing embodies the spirit of togetherness and creative joie de vivre quite like the Eurovision Song Contest.
The 65th edition of the annual spectacle of cheesy pop, outlandish costumes and on-stage theatrics, due to be held in Rotterdam, was cancelled in response to the pandemic.
Thankfully, nothing can stop director David Dobkin’s feelgood comedy, which follows the exploits of Icelandic double-act Fire Saga, aka Lars Erickssong (Will Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams), as they proudly represent their nation in front of a worldwide television audience of 180 million viewers.
Written by Ferrell and Andrew Steele, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga wears campness on its sequinned sleeve with pride.
Festivities reach a crescendo with a “song-along” of Believe by Cher, Ray Of Light by Madonna, Waterloo by Abba and I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas featuring previous contest winners Jamala, Loreen, Netta, Alexander Rybak and Conchita Wurst.
Resistance is futile.
Inspired by a real-life friendship, Oscar-winning comedy drama Green Book follows the tyre prints of Driving Miss Daisy to spark mutual appreciation between a chauffeur (Viggo Mortensen) and his back-seat employer (Mahershala Ali).
In the case of Peter Farrelly’s charming picture, the lead characters – an Italian American bouncer and a black pianist – stand on opposite sides of a racial divide at a time when American motels and restaurants could segregate or exclude clientele based on the colour of their skin.
The script fine-tunes conflict between the two men during an eight-week pre-Christmas concert tour, which screeches from the bright lights of New York City to the Mississippi Delta.
Mortensen gained 45lb to convincingly portray his brutish family man with a penchant for fried chicken.
Co-star Ali walks a tightrope of repressed emotions as his mannered musician tentatively rewrites the soundtrack to a conflicted life.
Both actors are handsomely cast, confronting insecurities far from home on the road to understanding and acceptance.
Writer-director Armando Iannucci OBE realises great expectations with his madcap take on Charles Dickens’ indomitable literary hero.
The Personal History Of David Copperfield breathlessly abridges the mid-19th century serial and novel to focus on the quixotic and colourful characters, whose fates intersect with the titular tyke.
A galaxy of stars in the British acting firmament sparkle in small yet perfectly formed roles including a delightfully bonkers Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood, who mistakes salad dressing for smelling salts, and Peter Capaldi as lovable rapscallion Mr Micawber.
The setting may be pungently Victorian but the tone is unmistakably modern from the hero’s knowing narration to nudge-nudge wink-wink flashes of directorial brio that bookmark each chapter.
Dev Patel plays the likeable comic foil in the midst of madness, who is slowly educated in the whims of his fellow man.
Flecks of tragedy are always hand-tied with fanciful ribbons to humour.
Sandra Bullock is in sparkling form in Anne Fletcher’s screwball romantic comedy, which proves the path to true love can sometimes begin with some good old-fashioned blackmail.
She plays a New York book editor, who hopes avoid deportation to Canada by forcing her long-suffering assistant (Ryan Reynolds) to walk her down the aisle and pose as her husband until she has her US citizenship.
Bullock takes Peter Chiarelli’s screenplay by the scruff and wrings every giggle out of it with her pratfalls, then finds some tears too at a crucial moment.
She endears her boss from hell to us even when she is engaged in shocking behaviour such as baiting a bird of prey with a helpless family pet.
On-screen chemistry with impossibly buff leading man Ryan Reynolds sizzles and threatens to melt the snowy Alaskan locales, including a hilarious centrepiece sequence of gratuitous nudity which sees the two stars fall on top of one another in their birthday suits.
It must be love.
Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Meat Loaf do the Time Warp again as Richard O’Brien’s cult cross-dressing musical celebrates its glorious 45th anniversary.
Fancy dress such as suspenders, fishnet stockings and bright red lipstick are lovingly encouraged from the comfort of your armchair or sofa to complement a kitsch soundtrack of sexual empowerment anthems including I Can Make You A Man and Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.
Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Sarandon) are stranded on a country road in the dead of night.
Glimpsing lights in the distance, they seek sanctuary in the home of sweet transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter (Curry).
The mad medic’s buff creation, Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood), catches Janet’s eye as house staff spy on the new arrivals.
Meanwhile, Brad is seduced by Frank-N-Furter disguised as Janet and jealous ex-delivery boy, Eddie (Meat Loaf), screeches into the castle on his motorcycle, determined to steal back his sweetheart Columbia (Nell Campbell).
An emotionally troubled swimmer gains a new perspective on life in a raucous road trip reminiscent of The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, co-directed by Maxime Govare and Cedric Le Gallo.
Channelling the spirit of a real-life LGBTQ water polo team, The Shiny Shrimps is a life-affirming celebration of diversity and acceptance.
The upbeat soundtrack includes a rousing chorus of Sabrina’s 1987 Italo disco anthem Boys (Summertime Love) to accompany an open-top bus journey through the sun-kissed French countryside.
Nicolas Gob plays Olympic champion Matthias Le Goff, who issues a homophobic slur during a testy exchange with a TV reporter.
The national swimming federation forces Matthias to atone by coaching a gay water polo team, the Shiny Shrimps, who are hoping to qualify for a berth at the forthcoming Gay Games.
While the polo team’s founder, restaurant owner Jean (Alban Lenoir), welcomes Matthias with open arms, other members like fervent activist Joel (Roland Menou) are less forgiving.
Marc Forster’s surreal comedy is an ingenious and unexpectedly touching account of a middle-aged man’s rebirth at the very moment life is about to be snatched from him.
With echoes of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, screenwriter Zach Helm accomplishes a tricky narrative conceit with elan, so our sympathy is always with Internal Revenue Service agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) as he comes to the realisation that he is the literary creation of a renowned novelist (Dame Emma Thompson).
Ferrell tugs the heartstrings as the supposedly doomed everyman, delivering a beautifully nuanced performance in stark contrast to his boisterous, over-the-top comic turns in Anchorman and Talladega Nights.
Screen chemistry smoulders with Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is simply adorable as a one-time law student turned culinary maestro: “I just figured, if I was going to make the world a better place, I was going to do it with cookies.”
Forster’s film takes the biscuit.
Lovingly adapted from the award-winning 2012 novel by RJ Palacio, Wonder is an exquisitely calibrated drama, which eschews mawkish sentimentality but still has us weeping uncontrollably by the end credits.
An elegant script by director Stephen Chbosky, Steve Conrad and Jack Thorne confidently navigates the choppy emotional waters that threaten to separate four members of a Manhattan family, who have learnt the hard way that beauty comes from within.
A simple bookmark structure alternates between narrators, exposing chinks in characters’ armours as they wrestle with insecurities and learn life lessons from a 10-year-old boy with a rare genetic syndrome, which has resulted in 27 agonising operations to painstakingly rebuild his face.
A stellar cast led by Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and 11-year-old wunderkind Jacob Tremblay makes light work of the two-hour running time.
Only a stone-cold heart will be able to resist the film’s sincere and heartfelt charms.
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