FILM REVIEWS: Mean Girls, The Holdovers and Queen in concert

Have you ever groaned in frustration at trying to reach the Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza cinema by car?

Travelling around the city’s A4540 middle ring road and nearby Five Ways Island can often take you longer than expected.

But a West Midlands Metro tram from outside New Street Station to the Edgbaston Village terminus will spirit you there in less than 15 minutes – and that includes the walking time across Hagley Road and Francis Road.

And if you alight at the Metro’s penultimate stop on Broad Street just before Bishopsgate Street, you could be watching the flicks even more quickly at Cineworld, Westside’s other brilliant 12-screen multiplex…

MEAN GIRLS (12A, 113 mins).

In an effervescent musical remake of the original 2004 hit, naive teenager Cady Heron (Angourie Rice) is living a safari-style life in Kenya.

Moving to the jungle of a US high school, she is soon challenged by teachers, cliques, bullies, various boyfriend options and ‘apex predator’ queen bee Regina George (Reneé Rapp) – plus her underlings Gretchen (Bebe Wood) and Karen (Avantika Vandanapu).

Can Cady’s new friends Janis (Auli’i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey) help her to survive? Date Night star Tina Fey is again playing Ms Norbury, with Tim Meadows also reprising his role as Mr Duvall.

The verdict: **** Based on a 2017 theatrical version, this musical remake of the spikier 2004 hit is 19 minutes longer but much less cruel – for better or worse.

The young cast lack the star quality of the original’s Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried and Rachel McAdams, but the film ticks plenty of diversity boxes and, amidst the inevitable bullying etc, the story generally errs on the positive.

The most toe-tapping musical since The Greatest Showman (2017) offers much more more fun than last summer’s Joy Ride – about South Korean girls travelling in China – and the sets rival Barbie for colour.

The energetic songs by Jeff Richmond and Neil Benjamin include a couple that could even have been used to bring James Bond kicking, screaming – and singing, God forbid – into the Tik Tok era.

Cleverly making some of the brightly-lit ensemble sequences look as if they are part of a series of long tracking shots puts Mean Girls 2.0 in a class above both High School Musical (2006) and the 2022 Matilda remake, too.

THE HOLDOVERS (15, 133 mins – Cineworld Broad Street only).

A curmudgeonly history teacher remains at a remote prep school for the Christmas holidays. What will he learn about himself?

Non-prolific director Alexander Payne loves to work with mature stars – think About Schmidt (2002) with Kathy Bates and Jack Nicholson, George Clooney in The Descendants (2011) and Bruce Dern in Nebraska (2013).

The most favourite film of his for many will be the wine drama Sideways (2004) whose underrated star, Paul Giamatti, plays bow-tied teacher Paul Hunham here.

The verdict: ***** Now 62, Payne has directed seven stars to Oscar-nominations, so the top-dollar performances here are a given.

Set in the 1970s, the engrossing story will activate your laughter muscles and stir your soul in equal measure, especially if you owe your success to a teacher who kept faith in your potential.

Themes include Vietnam-infused grief, mental illness and the kind of pastoral responsibility which puts student welfare above personal reputation.

The interiors are authentic – you will also enjoy organ music, admire stained glass windows and even learn a bit of Latin and French, too. As with Nebraska, there’s also a wintry sense of place. Fabulous.

QUEEN ROCK MONTREAL (12A / 95 mins).

If you never caught Freddie Mercury in his pomp, watch and listen to Queen’s re-mastered 1981 concert film delivering 12 channels of sound inside Cineworld’s Broad Street IMAX theatre. Yes, they really were the champions. Ends Sunday, 21 January.

Picture credits: Focus Features for The Holdovers and Paramount Pictures for Mean Girls.

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