The alien invasion film is nothing new – it’s been a sci-fi staple from day one and has produced some classics (War Of The Worlds, Independence Day, Mars Attacks!). Normally, it’s big bad aliens doing the invading, with no intention of making friends – they’ve got big ray guns and they want to end us all for good. But Arrival (not actually a remake of 1996’s E.T. movie The Arrival, with Charlie Sheen) takes a different stance with things – for the majority of the running time, the characters and audience are completely unaware of what exactly the big aliens are doing on this planet.
Also for most of the film, it is genuinely one of the best alien sci-fi movies in existence – its novel approach to its central “invasion” is nuanced and sensible, and the aliens themselves are highly original. Unfortunately, the rest of it causes it to lose its way a bit when an extra fantastical element is introduced. It’s not enough to derail it completely though – this remains an intelligent, moving movie that’s about so much more than aliens and big shiny spaceships. Although they definitely do have pretty shiny spaceships. In cinemas November 10
Idris Elba (aka the man who can do no wrong) spearheads this London-centric drama that focuses on a trio of different stories, all set within the same square mile.
Elba’s tale involves a naughty, cheating ex-rugby player and his estranged wife; then there’s a drug dealer played by Franz Drameh (Attack The Block) who decides to go straight and use his mind for creative expression; and finally, a cab driver and his wife, who are desperately trying to adopt. It’s one of those films where all the different strands overlap at points, but it’s not too unrealistic or strained (Crazy, Stupid, Love take a bow).
It’s chock-full of great actors keeping it firmly on track, and some of the stories are more interesting than others, but it’s a perfectly engaging 90 minutes of home-grown drama. In cinemas November 11
RECOMMENDED: 2-4-1 Tickets to the Black Star Season at the BFI
True Memoirs of an International Assassin
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If you’re a fan of Kevin James’ particular brand of clumsy, physical comedy, then you’re in for a treat with this Netflix exclusive. James plays an author who writes a smash-hit novel under the pretence that it’s a true story. As such, he gets mistaken for a professional hitman and becomes mixed up with a load of scary drug lords. Much like most of James’ oeuvre it’s a ridiculous premise, but what’s different is a surprising amount of rather good action scenes alongside all the pratfalls. It’s not high art, but it’s a perfectly fine and funny comedy, significantly buoyed by James’ everyman charisma. On Netflix November 11
The Secret Life Of Pets
This fun, colourful flick is about two dogs who come to loggerheads as they compete for their owner’s affection. This initial disagreement leads to them almost joining an underground clan of human-hating, sewer-dwelling animals, before subsequently going on the run. The leader of the “baddies” is a psychotic rabbit (Kevin Hart, who you’ll know from, oh, everything) and is easily the best thing in the film. The rest of the cast is top-notch too, featuring many comedians known primarily for their very adult work, like Louis C.K. and Hannibal Buress. There’s no smut here though – this is one for all ages. On DVD November 14
This harrowing French-Polish-Belgian co-production centres on a French Red Cross doctor who secretly helps an order of Polish nuns who have been horrendously abused by a group of Russian soldiers at the end of the Second World War. Based on a true story, it takes a deep look at faith and the subsequent doubt that arises in the sisters’ minds as a result of their tragedies. Not an easy watch, but it’s wonderfully acted, beautifully shot, darkly atmospheric and tremendously emotional. In cinemas November 11