This week at the cinema - March 14, 2018

Times of Malta takes a look at the latest big screen releases

Margot Robbie’s world comes crashing down in I, Tonya.

Margot Robbie’s world comes crashing down in I, Tonya.

I, Tonya (2018)
Genre: Drama
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, Caitlin Carver, Paul Water Hauser
Duration: 120 minutes
Class: 15
KRS Releasing Ltd

The 2017 biographical film follows the life of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection to the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan.

The film sees how the talented figure skater, played by Margot Robbie, becomes the first American woman to complete a triple axel during a competition.

In 1994, however, her world comes crashing down when her ex-husband conspires to injure Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), a fellow Olympic hopeful, in a poorly conceived attack that forces the young woman to withdraw from the national championship. Harding's life and legacy instantly become tarnished as she is forever associated with one of the most infamous scandals in sports history.

Directed by Australian film-maker Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl,  The Finest Hours), I, Tonya received very good reviews and was nominated for three Academy Awards. It ended up winning one, for best supporting actress for Allison Janney, who plays Tonya’s mother LaVona.

Critics showered the film, which they describe as a dark comedy, and its cast with praise.

“This is a feel-real film, a sharp-witted, tough-minded biopic about Tonya Harding,” wrote Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal.

Chris Agar of Screen Rant said: “I, Tonya is a wild and entertaining exploration of one of sport’s most controversial figures, spearheaded by excellent performances from the cast.”

As regards Janney’s turn, Michael O’Sullivan of the Washington Post said: “It is Janney who steals every scene she’s in, as LaVona, a witch-like harridan whose noodging goes well beyond tough love.”

And the critics’ consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads: “Led by strong work from Margot Robbie and Alison Janney, I, Tonya finds the humour in its real-life story without losing sight of its more tragic – and emotionally resonant – elements.”

Released in the US on January 19, the film has so far grossed $29.5 million.

IMDB: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Empire: 4 stars

Alicia Vikander becomes an action heroine in Tomb Raider.Alicia Vikander becomes an action heroine in Tomb Raider.

Tomb Raider (2018)
Genre: Action
Director: Roar Uthaug
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Giggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi
Duration: 118 minutes
Class: 12A
KRS Releasing Ltd

The reboot of the Tomb Raider film franchise, based on  the 2013 video game of the same name, sees Alicia Vikander as explorer Lara Croft, a role made famous on the big screen by Angelina Jolie.

In this origin story, Lara is portrayed as the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery ofher father’s (Dominic West) disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination – a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan.

Directed by Norwegian film-maker Roar Uthaug (The Wave),  Tomb Raider is opening in major Western markets this week (it will open in Malta tomorrow). But it has already been released in Asia, where it received poor reviews.

Critics lambasted the special effects-laden film and the “tedious” plot and some were at odds over the performance of Vikander, who had won an Oscar for her role in The Danish Girl (2015).

Mihir Fadnavis of wrote: “Vikander, although impressively muscular, is a rather bland Croft. The only thing the film-makers manage to do is make her less sexually objectified than Jolie’s incarnation, but there’s a coldness to Vikander’s presence that makes her much less interesting.”

Rohan Naahar  of the Hindustan Times disagrees as regards Vikander. He commented: “Angelina Jolie would be slightly envious of Alicia Vikander’s Lara Croft. That being said, the film feels like a gruff handshake when it should have felt like a warm hug.”

This criticism does not augur well for a film that aims to kick off a new franchise, but it does not seem to have dampened Vikander’s spirit as she said at the European premiere of the film last week that she would gladly take on the role of Lara Croft again.

IMDB: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A
Empire: 2 stars

Rooney Mara plays the title role in Mary Magdalene.Rooney Mara plays the title role in Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene (2018)
Genre: Drama
Director: Garth Davis
Starring: Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Duration: 139 minutes
Class: TBA today
KRS Releasing Ltd

The biblical drama puts Mary Magdalene at the heart of Jesus of Nazareth’s story and focuses on her role as his best known female follower, rather than on her fame as a prostitute.

Set in the Holy Land in the first century AD, the film depicts a young Mary who leaves her small fishing village and traditional family behind to join a radical new social movement led by a rabbi named Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix).

As more are drawn to follow Jesus’s inspirational message, Mary’s spiritual journey leads her to Jerusalem, where she must confront the reality of Jesus’s destiny and her own place within it.

The film received mixed reviews. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian wrote: “Rooney Mara brings her customary intensity to the title role as Jesus’s ‘favourite pupil’, but the result is a bit too solemn to be a convincing reinvention.”

Stephen Dalton of The Hollywood Reporter complains: “Mary Magdalene is an uneasy viewing experience, ponderous and disjointed in places, constantly straining for a gravitas it never quite achieves.”

And Eric Kohn of Indiewrite commented: “What emerges is the definition of a mixed blessing: a film of [often literal] peaks and troughs, scattering occasional moments of grace.”

The film opens  in Malta on Friday.

IMDB: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
Empire: 3 stars

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