FILM REVIEWS: Challengers, I.S.S., Boy Kills World and Ordinary Angels

The subject of sport leads my film reviews this week which is a nice link for Westside, where workers in local businesses and residents love to keep fit. After all, that’s why there are lots of gyms in local apartment blocks and hotels.

Brindleyplace is also home to the Bannatyne Health Club, while Broadway Plaza includes a Rock Up climbing centre and Nuffield Gym either side of the 12-screen Odeon Luxe cinema.

The Cineworld Broad Street site has 12 more screens including IMAX and – you’ve guessed it – a Pure Gym centre next door at ground level, too. And to watch athletics, gymnastics, basketball or badminton, visitors can head to the Utilita Arena when scheduled.

For tennis fans, the Priory Club is just minutes from Westside in Edgbaston where the global game was invented, and without which there would be no Challengers film at Cineworld Broad Street or Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza this week!

CHALLENGERS (15, 131 mins). Young star Zendaya makes her ‘serious film’ debut as Tashi Duncan, a tennis player turned coach with split allegiances. Her boyfriend is a champion but out of form and now playing her loser ex-boyfriend who was once his own best friend. As she sits on the sidelines, who will win the match and, possibly, her heart?

The verdict: **** Director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) relies heavily on Zendaya’s sizzling star quality and a three-way bedroom sex scene for match point. Yes, Mr McEnroe, they’re serious!

Elsewhere, the Italian introduces quality electronic music to heighten key emotional moments and – new balls, please! – fearlessly chops up the story’s chronology like raw onions.

West Side Story star Mike Faist plays champion Art Donaldson with Josh O’Connor (The Crown) as Patrick. The big question is whether one or both players will survive Tashi’s volleys across a sticky net of intrigue.

Compared with how Formula 1 film Rush (2013) depicted the James Hunt vs Niki Lauda rivalry in more direct fashion, it might take a second serve to fully ‘get’ this story.

I.S.S. (15, 96 mins). US director Gabrielle Cowperthwaite effectively ended SeaWorld’s killer whale breeding programme with her Blackfish (2013) film. Now she’s on board the International Space Station looking down at our fragile planet with ‘no borders’. 

This sci-fi drama at Cineworld Broad Street then explores what could happen between US astronauts and Russian cosmonauts if the two nations went to war down on earth.

The verdict: *** The I.S.S. is a post-Cold War collaboration created long before today’s return to heightened international tensions. This character-driven adventure has an outstanding premise rooted in collaborative trust and includes the Scorpions’ classic whistling song Wind of Change (1991), famously inspired by the perestroika / glasnost era of the late 1980s. 

But even though the astronaut and cosmonaut teams are both ordered to take control ‘by any means necessary’, the slow pace means you might wish Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan was navigating with a bigger budget and IMAX cameras whirring away on earth as well as in ‘heaven’.

BOY KILLS WORLD (18, 110mins). When his family was murdered by Hilda Van Der Koy (former Bond girl Famke Janssen), the title character in this near-future dystopian world was left orphaned, deaf and without a voice. Bill Skarsgård, in the lead role, seeks revenge in standard fashion. Kitchen knives? Tick. Cheese grater on face? Tick.

The verdict: *** Following on from the Death Wish and John Wick franchises and Dev Patel’s current release Monkey Man (which also stars Sharlto Copley), we now get a silent ‘I read lips’ revenge merchant driven by his inner, annoyingly-gruff voice from a video game.

Produced by Evil Dead’s Sam Raimi and showing at both Odeon Luxe and Cineworld Broad Street, Boy Kills World is 15 minutes too long but could become a cult classic for its attention-grabbing design aesthetics alone. 

Little known German director Moritz Mohr ramps up the graphic-novel style thirst for slapstick, gory violence to the point that you will either find the action disturbingly addictive or want to run a mile from a pain fest of stabbings, slashings, severings and decapitations. 

ORDINARY ANGELS (12A, 118 mins). Based on a 1994 true story, when the young daughter of widower Ed (Alan Ritchson) needs a liver transplant, struggling hairdresser Sharon (Hilary Swank) rallies her local community. But will a liver be made available in time? The impact of alcoholism is another theme.

The verdict *** Double best actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry / Million Dollar Baby) is one of the all-time greats. But the 49-year-old is kept low key here because, like the charitable nun film Cabrini earlier this year, the well-intentioned ‘truth’ rules the drama.

Even when snowbound-against-the-odds, the story is as worthy as the bland title suggests. But fans of ‘Sunday afternoon’ style dramas at Cineworld Broad Street will feel the tangible emotion is heartwarming regardless.

PICTURE CREDITS: Challengers, Warner Bros; I.S.S., Universal; Boy Kills World, Signature; Ordinary Angels, Sony Pictures.


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