Now Showing in Cinemas Round-Up: Ticket to Paradise, The Woman King, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris and Halloween Ends

Dec 8, 2022

What’s in theatres? Not a question people find themselves asking much these days. We’re in a major lull in theatre attendance at the moment, as audiences stay away till the return of franchise blockbusters like Avatar and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. But did you know that they make movies in between those as well? Right now, you could go see a romcom, an action epic, an escapist dramedy, or a franchise horror flick. All that’s left to do is to decide which is worth your time.

Ticket to Paradise

The opening of Ticket to Paradise doles out the film’s draw straight away; it’s stars. David (George Clooney) and Georgia (Julia Roberts), acrimoniously divorced long ago (the result of a hasty marriage after college), are forced to stifle their hatred for each other while attending their daughter Lily’s (Lucas Bravo) college graduation before seeing her off on a vacation to Bali, and then bidding each other a fond “see you never”. Neither are so lucky, as two months later Lily has fallen in love and invited the two of them to her wedding on an island paradise (shot on location… in Australia). Now they’ve really got to get along, if they have any hope of covertly sabotaging this wedding in time.

The saving grace of Ticket to Paradise, an insubstantial but cushy watch, are Clooney and Roberts, whose abrasive chemistry allow the barren wasteland of a plot to coast on charisma. Clooney leans into the smarm and Roberts maintains her magnetism, even for films less than deserving of it. As you might expect, Georgia and David reconcile by the end of the film, but their shift in temperament towards each other comes on a bit suddenly, and undercuts what wisps of regret the stars are later allotted by the script to do with what they can. It should be noted that calling this a rom-com may be overstating it.

The rest of the cast are serviceable. Georgia’s over-eager puppy dog of a boyfriend (Lucas Bravo) does well with what could have been a disastrously one-note foil, though Maxime Bouttier as Lily’s fiancé is left stranded by his total blank slate of a character. It seems as though director Ol Parker, who brought us the excellent Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!, has applied that film’s ‘on vacation’ attitude, but none of its flair.

Is this idle, touristic wish-fulfillment? Maybe, though there are worse things a rom-com can be. Ticket to Paradise is breezy and not offensively brainless.

The Woman King

1823; we enter the Kingdom of Dahomey as King Ghezo (John Boyega) begins to reconsider Dahomey’s practice of selling their captives to slave traders. With the neighbouring Oyo empire rearing to attack, Ghezo instructs Nanisca (Viola Davis), the general of the Agojie, to begin instructing new recruits.

The Agojie are an all-female regiment of elite warriors who train and live together, abiding by a strict code of total commitment, swearing off relations with men. Nawi (our very own Thuso Mbedu) is among the young recruits. Having refused marriage to a number of abusive prospects, Nawi’s father hands his daughter over to the Agojie, so that she can see how good she’d have it if she’d only accept a proposal. Instead, Nawi takes to her training, and occasionally finds her rebellious self in trouble. Other warriors include: the captivating Izogie (Lashana Lynch who walks away with my admiration wholesale) and commander Nanisca’s right hand woman Amenza (Sheila Atim). All of these characters are highly driven, and thereby highly likable, heroes. There is a reason that Viola Davis is already being touted for Oscars consideration (beyond her obvious talent). The Academy is fond of her style of performance, being interior and controlled while bottlenecking trauma and turmoil until a cathartic release (which is then clipped to play during the ceremony). Her character here fits the bill, harbouring buried pain, but being defined by ferocious conviction.

In the leadup to The Woman King’s release, many pundits levied criticism preemptively, presuming that historical fantasy would be employed to unearth the inspiring historical subject of these women warriors while shirking the kingdom’s involvement with slavery, but far from it: their culpability in the slave trade is the central conflict of the film. Historical fantasy does come into play in how the movie moves satisfy the demands of a crowd-pleaser, and in suggesting a hopeful future that didn’t exactly pan out. And as a crowd-pleaser, The Woman King is at its best, typically garnering applause after a satisfying victory in combat, or the comeuppance of its bland but easy-to-hate villains. Those battles are staged well, being brutal and matched with pulsating drums. The soundtrack features more great work by Terence Blanchard, who matches the ensemble’s physicality. All the same, there is an unwelcome sense of Hollywood production throughout the film.

What, on the face of it, could be a somewhat cold, by-the-books action-epic blossoms into a well-rounded emotional experience, developing among its characters a robust sense of sisterhood. This means that The Woman King has a strong emotional core to ground its blockbuster ambitions, allowing director Gina Prince-Bythewood to touch on a few weighty subjects, while maintaining the broad strokes of popcorn entertainment.

This impassioned storytelling must weave its way through a series of conventional but satisfying story beats, which does mean that the film is a little overstuffed in parts, as revelations are sprung, complications arise and romances dispense in short succession, leaving some characters underdeveloped and scenes perfunctory. All the same, The Woman King is a rewarding experience, and an enjoyable action film to boot.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs Harris (Lesley Manville) is a war widow and cleaning lady who hasn’t lived for herself in a long time. Early on in the film, the pea-soup coloration of her morning commute across London informs us she’s in a funk, and, with the support of her friends Vi (Ellen Thomas) and Archie (Jason Isaacs) back home, Mrs Harris flies every cent she has to the house of Dior so that she might buy something beautiful to help unlock her still beating heart; a personalized Dior ‘frock’. While there, she will meet and romantically guide the bookish accountant André (Lucas Bravo) and the (covertly) bookish model Natasha (Alba Baptista), while revitalizing several lives revolving around the house of Dior.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is as substantive as a macaron, but just as delicate and delectable. It’s a good-natured movie, a 50’s fairytale full of open arms and pretty things; ornate dresses, flower carts on cobbled roads, deftly filmed in pastels and charmingly told.

Lesley Manville stars, in a performance that’s stunningly contrary to her work in another haute couture outing; Phantom Thread, where she played a chillingly taciturn fashion house manager dispassionately keeping things in order. Mrs Harris, by contrast, is an oft timid ball of sunshine, disrupting all haughty decorum by her unthinking decency and integrity. Floating by on a cloud of good fortune and kindliness, the film chronicles her endeavor to rediscover joy with little in the way of conflict, though there are the usual obstacles of the obstinate (including a frustrated Isabelle Huppert) who take less warmly to Mrs Harris’ intrusion. After all, if you’re tired of being invisible you may have to thorn a few sides before you get your due.

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris is arguably superficial but it’s also a refreshing dose of twee bliss that, these days, stands alone in being uncomplicatedly lovely.

Halloween Ends

Curiously, the ‘conclusion’ to the Halloween saga owes more to John Carpenter’s Christine than it does to Carpenter’s Halloween. On one level, when you consider how little the series has had in common with the original’s visceral paranoia, how surprising is this divergence really? On another, it’s an admirable decision to take a chance on what could have otherwise been a phoned-in capper that’s guaranteed to make its money either way. It’s a decision that’s sure to split fans (if not infuriate them), but one that, while spotty, is more intriguing than just hauling out yet another showdown between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode, until the film betrays its own sense of direction to meet its obligation to the pompous mythos David Gordon Green has sewn into the Halloween story, going truly off the rails in its concluding passages.

But now, what you come to see a Halloween film for: Is it scary? Not particularly; the ominous omnipresence of ‘the shape’ in every corner and shadow of the screen is deader than a Haddonfield babysitter, and Halloween Ends relies on jump scares more often than can be forgiven. The kills? After some underwhelming yet vile examples (the worst possible combination for a slasher movie), the film goes on to dispense a few series bests, including a laughter-by-way-of-gasps inducing kill that may set the franchise record for most gruesome disposal. As for Laurie Strode, the dependable Jamie Lee Curtis’ character is too removed from proceedings in much of the film for this to feel like a satisfying conclusion to her story (which the film, in all its clumsy philosophizing on the nature of trauma and evil, really wants you to believe it is). Halloween Ends is entertaining (though more meandering than usual), and is enough to scratch the haunted holiday itch, but is mostly an indistinct mash of missed opportunities.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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