If in doubt, put the life of musical icons on screen. Providing studios pick the right people, music biopics come with a readymade fan base, oodles of nostalgia and a great soundtrack. To name just two examples, we’ve already had Brian Wilson this year, and Miles Davis is in sight for awards season. Sandwiched in-between, it’s the turn of hip hop outfit N.W.A., their cinematic outing arriving alongside painful relationship rifts, shooting and fairy tales.
It’s a disheartening signifier that the years are flying by when current cultural developments move into the realm of recent history. The formation of influential hip-hop outfit N.W.A. in the 1980s now fits the bill, and has been duly rewarded with a big screen biopic in Straight Outta Compton. N.W.A. launched the careers of household names such as Ice Cube (whose son plays him here) and Dr. Dre, and the film has attracted much admiration for its portrayal of their rise in one of the most dangerous places in the US, and the way they used music to document their surroundings with brutal honesty. Warm reviews and an unexpectedly stellar box office performance in the states demand attention.
Brutal honesty in an entirely different register abounds in 45 Years, the third feature from British writer/director Andrew Haigh. Built around brilliant performances from Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, it examines the fragile foundations relationships are built on when a shock from the past opens old wounds. Beautifully observed and deftly executed, Haigh demonstrates the British film industry is about more than just period drama and rom-coms. Although it might be best to avoid if you have an anniversary coming up soon.
Hitman: Agent 47 arrives free of the critical acclaim the films listed above are currently basking in. Not that adaptations of video games are strangers to a reaction somewhere between derision and indifference. This is the second time the Hitman franchise has ventured into cinemas, the 2007 effort proving financially robust if unloved. Rupert Friend takes the lead role here as the shaven headed assassin working for a secret non-governmental organisation. There will be shooting, scheming and probably a lot more shooting. If you need something less taxing this Bank Holiday, it might do the trick.
Relaxation of a glossier nature also arrives in the shape of Disney’s live action Cinderella, out now on DVD. Lily James has the title role in Kenneth Branagh’s film, and does a decent job alongside established names like Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter. Not quite the empowering experience expected, it’s still bright and colourful fun that sticks successfully to the tale you should all know well by now.
That’s all for now. I’m off for a couple of weeks so enjoy the long weekend and make sure to check in again next week where you’ll be well taken care of.