Film View – January 30

Undated film still from Knock At The Cabin. Pictured: Abby Quinn as Adriene, Nikki Amuka-Bird as Sabrina, Dave Bautista as Leonard and Rupert Grint as Redmond. PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Universal Studios/Morgan ???Mo??? Smith. All Rights Reserved. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature SHOWBIZ Film Reviews.
Damon Smith, PA Film Critic

Damon Smith reviews the latest new releases to watch in cinemas.

This week: M Night Shyamalan puts a gay couple and their adopted daughter through the emotional wringer in the horror thriller KNOCK AT THE CABIN… Shrek's sword-wielding feline (voiced by Antonio Banderas) scratches a new fairytale chapter in the computer-animated adventure PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH… and Brendan Fraser bids for an Oscar as a dangerously obese man determined to make amends in Darren Aronofsky's stage-to-screen drama THE WHALE.


THE WHALE (15, 117 mins) Drama. Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton. Director: Darren Aronofsky.

Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland)

In Herman Melville's 19th-century sea-faring adventure Moby-Dick; Or, The Whale, which features heavily in Darren Aronofsky's claustrophobic character study adapted by Samuel D Hunter from his 2012 off-Broadway stage play, the narrator – a sailor called Ishmael – loses patience with the rambling of a shabbily dressed stranger.

“Look here, friend, if you have anything important to tell us, out with it,” Ishmael implores sternly.

Alas, Hunter and his principal character – a morbidly obese creative writing professor resigned to death from congestive heart failure – ignore the plea and prolong the self-inflicted misery for almost two hours.

Aronofsky's bloated film would be hard to stomach without effervescent performances from an ensemble cast led by a revelatory, career-best turn from Brendan Fraser as the wheezing educator.

Complemented by Oscar-nominated prosthetics and special make-up, Fraser's portrayal of grief-fuelled self-destruction and loathing would have both hands firmly on the Academy Award in a subtler and nimbler translation from stage to screen.

With a tear-filled glance, the rejuvenated actor skilfully guides us through inner turmoil and despair towards the soothing light of forgiveness.

Aronofsky's bold decision to remain almost entirely within the lead character's home, and to seldom stray outside for fresh air, intensifies feelings of stagnation and suffocation but also underlines the film's theatrical origins.

Nineteen-year-old door-to-door Christian missionary Thomas (Ty Simpkins) unwittingly blunders into a medical emergency in a nondescript two-bedroom apartment in northern Idaho.

Gay college lecturer Charlie (Fraser), who weighs about 600 pounds (42-plus stone), is in the throes of cardiac arrest.

Charlie refuses an ambulance – he doesn't have medical insurance – and summons best friend and nurse Liz (Hong Chau) instead.

“Being in debt is better than being dead,” she angrily quips, recording his dangerously high blood pressure.

Over the course of a week, Thomas witnesses Charlie awkwardly rebuilding burnt bridges to his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) and verbally sparring with Liz, who vociferously disapproves of his tactics.

“You haven't seen her since she was eight years old and you want to reconnect with her by doing her homework?” despairs the nurse.

As Charlie's condition worsens, Ellie exploits the situation and her acid-tongued mother (Samantha Morton) pays an unexpected visit to the man who wrecked their marriage by having an affair with a male student.

The Whale takes a sledgehammer approach to delivering emotional blows, exemplified by stomach-churning scenes of Fraser gorging on pizza, candy bars and buckets of fried chicken to hasten Charlie's choking demise.

His mesmerising, layered performance is matched by Chau, who was lip-smackingly delicious in The Menu last year and shows the same steely edge here with glimmers of heartrending vulnerability.

“I was always big but I just let it get out of control,” Charlie tells daughter Ellie during one heated exchange.

The same fate befalls Aronofsky's picture.


also released

KNOCK AT THE CABIN (15, 100 mins)

Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland)

A family faces an agonising decision – save each other or the entire human race – in a psychological horror thriller adapted from Paul Tremblay's award-winning 2018 novel The Cabin At The End Of The World by director M Night Shyamalan, Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman.

Eric (Jonathan Groff), husband Andrew (Ben Aldridge) and their adopted daughter Wen (Kristen Cui) head to a remote cabin in the woods for a family vacation.

The girl enjoys catching grasshoppers to study in a large jar while the parents savour quality time together without a mobile phone signal.

Tranquillity is shattered by the unwelcome arrival of four strangers, Leonard (Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Nikki Amuka-Bird), Redmond (Rupert Grint) and Adriane (Abby Quinn), who are armed with crude, homemade weapons.

The interlopers claim they only want to talk to Eric and Andrew but when the couple barricade the cabin to protect their child, Leonard, Sabrina, Redmond and Adriane break in with force.

After a tense stand-off, the four intruders tie the two fathers to chairs and reveal they have been summoned by shared visions of the apocalypse.

Eric and Andrew have been chosen to make a horrible decision.

“If you fail to choose, the world will end,” explains Leonard.


Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland)

The third film in the computer-animated spin-offs from the Shrek franchise welcomes director Joel Crawford and co-director Januel Mercado for a gung-ho escapade that questions if cats truly have nine lives.

Puss In Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) is too busy swashing his buckle to notice he has used eight of his nine allocated existences.

He joins forces with sexy pickpocket Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and stray dog Perrito (Harvey Guillen) to journey deep into the Black Forest and find the fabled Wishing Star, which can supposedly restore his spent lives.

The furry adventurers are chased by bounty hunter Wolf (Wagner Moura), Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears Crime Family comprising Mama Bear (Olivia Colman), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone) and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo).

Tyrannical pastry chef “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney) also desires the Wishing Star and won't hesitate to kill Puss and his gallant associates to possess all magic.

SAINT OMER (12A, 122 mins)

Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Celebrated documentary filmmaker Alice Diop makes her fiction feature debut with a tense courtroom drama which contemplates the many faces of justice in the modern era.

French-Senegalese mother Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda) stands trial for killing her baby daughter by leaving her on the sands of Berck-sur-Mer at the mercy of a rising tide.

A judge (Valerie Dreville) listens intently to Laurence's evidence, determined to understand the chain of events leading to the beach while defence lawyers and prosecutors trade verbal blows.

Sitting in the courtroom, novelist and professor Rama (Kayije Kagame) – who is pregnant – coolly observes the trial as potential source material for a new book which puts a fresh spin on Medea from Greek mythology.

Instead, Rama becomes emotionally invested in the case and fearfully acknowledges parallels between Laurence's story and her own situation.

EO (15, 88 mins)

Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

A performing donkey embarks on a momentous trek in a Polish drama directed by Jerzy Skolimowski which is nominated for Best International Feature Film at this year's Academy Awards.

Named after his braying, EO performs tricks in a travelling circus under the guidance of his caring trainer Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska).

The protests of fervent animal rights activists propel the circus to the brink of bankruptcy and the donkey is rudely separated from the only person concerned about his welfare.

EO seeks a reunion and travels across contemporary Poland in search of Kasandra, encountering colourful strangers along the way including a despairing mother (Isabelle Huppert), whose lush lawns are a tasty meal for a hungry donkey.

ROMAN HOLIDAY (U, 118 mins)

Released: February 3 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn share the screen in a 70th anniversary rerelease of William Wyler's celebrated romantic comedy, which won three Oscars including Best Actress.

Princess Ann (Hepburn) travels to Rome as part of a meticulously planned publicity tour, where she has little free time to explore the glorious city.

Suffocated by her itinerary, Ann sneaks out of her embassy and heads on to the streets of the capital, where she falls asleep on a bench and is discovered by handsome American reporter Joe Bradley (Peck).

He has no idea of the princess's true identity, even though he is due to attend a press conference for her the next morning. Eventually, Joe offers Ann his couch for the night so she doesn't have to sleep rough.

The next morning, Joe races to his office where he sees a picture of the princess and realises he has an opportunity to snag an exclusive feature.

The reporter bets his amused editor Mr Hennessy (Hartley Power) he can land an interview, then heads back home – where he conceals his profession from Ann to win the wager.


Channing Tatum heads to London with Salma Hayek Pinault for MAGIC MIKE'S LAST DANCE.


1. Pathaan

2. Avatar: The Way Of Water

3. Plane

4. M3gan

5. The Fabelmans

6. Babylon

7. Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical

8. The Wandering Earth II

9. Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

10.Billie Eilish: Live At The O2

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)