Film View – March 15

Damon Smith, PA Film Critic and Imy Brighty-Potts, PA

Damon Smith and Imy Bright-Potts review the latest new releases to watch in cinemas. This week: a teenager harnesses his powers as a spandex-clad superhero in the fantasy action adventure SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS… Jennifer Saunders, Judi Dench and Russell Tovey star in the film adaptation of Alan Bennett's stage play ALLELUJAH… and Mia Goth suffers most grievously in horror prequel PEARL.


PEARL (15, 94 mins) Horror/Thriller/Romance. Mia Goth, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, David Corenswet, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Alistair Sewell. Director: Ti West.

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)

There's no place like an unhappy home.

Director Ti West's luxuriously overwrought prequel to his 2022 horror film X is a disorienting Technicolour fever dream that repeatedly refers to The Wizard Of Oz.

Except here his Dorothy is mentally unstable, wilfully duplicitous and would prefer to greet Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion with a blood-smeared axe than a wicker basket containing Toto.

Fittingly subtitled An X-traordinary Origin Story, Pearl cranks up the horror-saturated melodrama from its heavily stylised opening titles and initial deafening blasts of composers Tyler Bates and Tim Williams' score.

West sustains the queasy conflation of fantastical delirium and nauseating reality until the eponymous farm girl has relinquished her tenuous grasp on sanity.

Goth delivers a jaw-dropping, powerhouse performance that skips fancifully between childlike delusion and psychopathic fury.

The piece de resistance is an incendiary soliloquy in which Pearl tearfully confides: “It seems like there's something missing in me that the rest of the world has”, and fully reveals the malevolence festering in her guts to her sister-in-law Mitsy (Emma Jenkins-Purro).

Filmed in unsettling close-up, the scene includes a six-minute monologue that refuses to cut away from Goth's face as she discloses her diabolical sins.

We're certainly not in Kansas anymore.

Instead we're in 1918 Texas, almost 60 years before the nightmarish events of X.

Teenager Pearl (Goth) begrudgingly completes her chores to appease her domineering German immigrant mother Ruth (Tandi Wright).

The pair have been isolated at Powder Kegs Farm for weeks to prevent the Spanish flu from crossing the threshold and potentially dealing a fatal blow to Pearl's paralysed father (Matthew Sunderland).

Pearl waits impatiently for her soldier husband Howard (Alistair Sewell) to return from The Great War so they can leave the state and realise her burning ambition of becoming a dancer.

“Please Lord, make me the biggest star the world has ever known so that I may get far, far away from this place,” she prays.

During a rare excursion into town, Pearl encounters the projectionist (David Corenswet) from the local cinema and he fans the flames of the teenager's rebellion.

Mother and daughter clash, the former fearfully recognising the monster under her roof, who secretly kills farm animals with a pitchfork for pleasure.

Co-written by West and Goth, Pearl hangs entirely on a fearless central performance that conjures a tormented kindred spirit to Psycho's Norman Bates.

Motifs and themes from the first film, set in 1979, resonate more clearly once their origins are revealed, expanding a gore-slathered mythology that intends to conclude with a sequel to X entitled MaXXXine.

At the end of The Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy dismisses her witch-slaying actions with a plaintive: “I didn't mean to kill her. Really, I didn't.”

Pearl cannot say the same.

Damon Smith



SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS (12A, 130 mins) Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Comedy. Zachary Levi, Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Jovan Armand, Ian Chen, Faithe Herman, Adam Brody, DJ Cotrona, Grace Caroline Currey, Meagan Good, Ross Butler, Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans. Director: David F Sandberg.

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)

Wise-cracking teenager Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and fellow foster kids Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Mary (Grace Caroline Currey), Pedro (Jovan Armand), Eugene (Ian Chen) and Darla (Faithe Herman) wrestle with growing pains as they live under the roof of their guardians, Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews, Marta Milans).

But, growing up looks pretty different when you possess god-like superpowers. Especially when the Daughters of Atlas aka Hespera (Helen Mirren), Kalypso (Lucy Liu) and Anthea (Rachel Zegler) arrive on Earth in search of the stolen magic.

With the sisters threatening their family and humanity, the kids must channel super-human bravery and fight for what they love.

This is Deadpool for kids, a cheesy, comedic superhero movie with every trope of the genre chucked into the mix.

While soundtracked brilliantly by Christophe Beck with a similar vibe to Marvel's Guardians of The Galaxy, the plot and writing sadly fall below the mark, with every relationship, parental, fraternal and romantic in the movie feeling stilted, and many plot points shoehorned in.

Making her DC debut, Rachel Zegler plays the love interest and mysterious woman Ann well, and delivers comic lines with Bambi-like innocence.

“What's Comic-Con?” she asks when being hit on by loveable nerd Freddie. And sure, they are cute, but it all feels a bit too mushy and a bit much for a film that feels more familial.

Unfortunately, the writing of ‘bad guys' Hespera and Kalypso is surface-level, with so much opportunity missed to make the most of two brilliant actors, whose performances are enjoyable, but not ground-breaking.

More could have been made of all of the actors in this film, and no one, except perhaps the engaging and geeky Jack Dylan Grazer, seem to really meet the mark.

DC combined with Greek mythology could have kids more interested in heading to museums, but I'm not sure anyone of any age will be idolising the band of kid superheroes with seemingly unlimited powers.

With so many key heroes, it is a struggle to remember half of their names and so much of this film relies on the flimsy foundations of the first one, instead of being a brilliant watch in its own right.

This is – in both plot and viewership – a family film, with a loving family focus at its heart. But with a script pumped full of flat one-liners, and constant references to Gatorade and Skittles that leave a sickly taste in the mouth, this flick feels more cringe than classic.

Imy Brighty-Potts


ALLELUJAH (12A, 99 mins) Comedy/Drama. Jennifer Saunders, Bally Gill, Judi Dench, Russell Tovey, David Bradley, Derek Jacobi, Vincent Franklin. Director: Richard Eyre.

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)

In 2018, the Bridge Theatre in London staged Allelujah, Alan Bennett's bittersweet anthem to the National Health Service set on the geriatric ward of a beloved community hospital in Yorkshire under threat of closure.

Magical flourishes that soared on stage, including a chorus of patients performing heartfelt renditions of Little Richard's Good Golly, Miss Molly and Cliff Richard's Congratulations, have been surgically removed by screenwriter Heidi Thomas from an entertaining and moving film adaptation that acknowledges the devastating impact of coronavirus on the NHS front line in a succinct and quietly powerful coda.

The play's narrative curveball, neatly dispensed at the end of Act One as a mood shift for the audience, diminishes in translation to the screen but still induces an icy shiver of discomfort.

Opposing attitudes to care and support for the elderly are encapsulated in an early scene, seen through the eyes of a hard-working and effusive doctor born in India, who is culturally hard-wired to respect his elders.

“I like old people,” he affirms without irony. “Even old people don't like old people,” curtly remarks a patient's son.

Allelujah sermonises proudly and unreservedly on the side of the caregivers.

Director Richard Eyre's film strolls down the corridors of a fictional hospital affectionately known as the Beth, short for Bethlehem, so-called because when the facility first opened in the 18th century, there was always room for anyone in need of care.

The chairman of the hospital trust (Vincent Franklin) invites a two-man documentary crew onto the Shirley Bassey and Dusty Springfield geriatric wards to interview residents who will be forced to transfer to a soulless custom-built facility in Tadcaster in the event of the Beth's demise.

The visiting director and cameraman liaise with no-nonsense ward sister Gilpin (Jennifer Saunders) and Dr Valentine (Bally Gill) to capture fly-on-the-wall footage of former schoolmaster Ambrose (Derek Jacobi) and retired librarian Mary (Judi Dench).

Meanwhile, management consultant Colin Colman (Russell Tovey), whose cantankerous father Joe (David Bradley) is a resident of the Beth, arrives from London to finalise his recommendations to the minister who will ultimately decide the fate of patients and staff.

Tension crackles between father and son. Joe is a former miner and vociferously disapproves of Colin's openly gay lifestyle far removed from his northern roots.

Their intergenerational tug of war echoes deep-rooted divisions within the Beth and the wider, target-driven NHS.

Allelujah prescribes a full dose of Bennett's earthy humour, generously distributed among an impressive ensemble cast.

Gill radiates compassion and understanding, strengthening the film's emotional pulse, while Saunders exercises her dramatic range beyond the expertly timed deadpan one-liners.

Some of the script's incisions fail to cut to the bone but overall, Eyre's picture is in rude health.

Damon Smith


Also released:

RYE LANE (15, 82 mins)

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland)

The streets of present-day south London provide the backdrop to a homegrown romantic comedy written by Nathan Bryon and Tom Melia, and directed by Raine Allen-Miller.

Dom (David Jonsson) is devastated when his long-term partner Gia (Karene Peter) breaks up with him after she cheats with his best friend Eric (Benjamin Sarpong-Broni).

Tears flow in the toilets at a friend's art exhibition as Dom tries to compose himself, unaware that his emotional meltdown has been overheard by Yas (Vivian Oparah).

She is a dauntless free spirit facing relationship woes connected to her ex-boyfriend Jules (Malcolm Atobrah).

Dom and Yas connect while they are both in the process of finding themselves and healing wounds.

During a serendipitous day, they encounter old flames and past acquaintances and begin to see the place they call home in a hopeful new light.

WINNERS (PG, 85 mins)

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Iranian film-maker Hassan Nazer, who is based in Scotland, pens a love letter to the artistic traditions of his homeland, shot on location in Garmsar, south-east of the capital Tehran.

Afghan refugee Yahya (Parsa Maghami) lives with his mother in Padeh and escapes arid reality by nurturing a love affair with cinema.

When he's not dreaming of the big screen, Yahya joins other local children at a nearby landfill where scrap dealer Nasser Khan (Reza Naji) and assistant Saber (Hossein Abedini) employ children to scavenge for plastic.

By chance, Yahya comes into possession of director Asghar Farhadi's 2017 Academy Award for The Salesman, which was misplaced in the back of a taxi and then lost again by an elderly postal worker.

Nasser shares Yahya's passion for the moving image and he agrees to help the boy return the trophy to its rightful owner.

LITTLE ENGLISH (12A, 99 mins)

Released: March 17 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

An arranged marriage is thrown into disarray in a comedy drama written and directed by Pravesh Kumar and co-written by Apurva Asrani.

Simmy (Rameet Rauli) travels from India to marry Raj (Simon Rivers), the eldest son of a close-knit Punjabi family who live in a terraced suburban house in Slough.

The groom-to-be refuses to go through with the nuptials and flees, leaving emotional devastation and confusion in his wake.

His domineering mother Gurbaksh (Seema Bowri) locks Simmy in the house along with Raj's younger brother Harry (Viraj Juneja), who is a source of shame because he refuses to speak Punjabi.

Although she doesn't speak a great deal of English and has few allies, Simmy is smart and resourceful and she takes an active role in controlling her destiny in a foreign land.


Released: March 18 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducts Francois Girard's atmospheric staging of Wagner's emotionally wrought opera, broadcast live from the stage of the Lincoln Centre For The Performing Arts in New York.

This reimagining of medieval legend unfolds in 10th-century Antwerp, where cunning sorceress Ortrud (Christine Goerke) enchants her new husband, Count Telramund (Evgeny Nikitin), convincing her spouse that his young ward Elsa (Tamara Wilson) is a murderess.

Telramund publicly accuses Elsa of killing Gottfried, brother of the Duchy of Brabant and heir to a vast dynasty.

She pleads innocence and reveals her dream of a shining knight, who will save her from a grim fate.

As Elsa prays for salvation, a mysterious knight (Piotr Beczala) materialises in a boat drawn by a swan and pledges to protect her unfairly tainted honour.

ROYAL OPERA LIVE: TURANDOT (Certificate TBC, 155 mins)

Released: March 22 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Antonio Pappano conducts Andrei Serban's staging of Puccini's final opera, broadcast live from the stage of the Royal Opera House in London.

Emperor Altoum (Alexander Kravets), ruler of ancient China, is desperate to see his spirited daughter Princess Turandot (Anna Pirozzi) married so she can assume the throne before he dies.

Alas, Turandot refuses to be ruled by a man and instructs all suitors that she will only accept a proposal from someone who correctly answers a series of riddles.

Many try and fail the cryptic challenge, until Prince Calaf (Russell Thomas) from the kingdom of Tartary arrives to woo Turandot and immediately falls in love with the princess.

In disguise, he easily answers the riddles, then sets the princess a riddle of his own.

If she can discover his identity before dawn, he will forfeit his greatest treasure: his life.


Keanu Reeves fights for survival in the bruising action sequel JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4… and a married couple unearth dark secrets at an all-inclusive island resort in the contemporary horror INIFNITY POOL… and Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Rita Moreno embark on a madcap road trip in 80 FOR BRADY.


1. Scream VI

2. Creed III

3. 65

4. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish

5. Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania

6. Cocaine Bear

7. Champions

8. Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

9. What's Love Got To Do With It?

10. Dungeons And Dragons: Honour Among Thieves

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)