Since I don’t get to the cinema to see new releases that often anymore, this is my new weekly feature reviewing the latest releases on Sky Cinema Premiere (and in turn, Now TV). I will write a short review and rating for each of the films that I have watched and then give you the details for the ones that I didn’t get a chance to see.

This week’s feature sees the release of An Actor Prepares, 2036 Origin Unknown, Mario, Freak Show, Red Sparrow, A Wizard’s Tale, and The Senator.

7th January – An Actor Prepares

Synopsis: The dissolute life of hard-drinking actor and philanderer Atticus Smith finally catches up with him when he suffers a heart attack. He’s got to get across country to attend the wedding of his daughter, Annabelle. However, to get there, he needs to make peace with his estranged, politically correct son, Adam.

Director: Steve Clark

Cast: Jeremy Irons, Jack Huston, Matthew Modine, Will Patton, Mamie Gummer, and Ben Schwartz

8th January – 2036 Origin Unknown

Synopsis: Veteran space mission controller Mackenzie “Mack” Wilson is on a trip to Mars, but he is subservient to ARTi, a new artificial intelligence that takes the lead on the expedition. Haunted by a previous, disastrous mission on which her father died, Mack doesn’t know who to trust, least of all her computerised master.

Director: Hasraf Dulull

Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Steven Cree, Julie Cox, Ray Fearon, Joe David Walters, and Noush Skaugen

9th January – Mario

Synopsis: Talented young football player Mario has to choose between a career beyond his small-town Swiss club and love when he becomes romantically involved with fellow teammate, Leon, the new arrival from Germany. When a chance to play in Hamburg comes up, Mario pretends to have a girlfriend. But can he ever be honest with himself?

Director: Marcel Gisler

Cast: Max Hubacher, Aaron Altaras, Jessy Moravec, Jürg Plüss, and Doro Müggler

10th January – Freak Show

Synopsis: Out-and-proud teen Billy Bloom is forced to live with his estranged father in a Bible Belt region and attend a crushingly conservative high school. However, he persists with his flamboyant dress sense, enraging the school bigots to the extent that he runs against the prejudiced Lynette to be crowned Homecoming Queen.

Director: Trudie Styler

Cast: Alex Lawther, Abigail Breslin, AnnaSophia Robb, Ian Nelson, Celia Weston, Willa Fitzgerald, and Bette Midler

Review: Alex Lawther is amazing! He picks such great roles and I can’t imagine anyone else giving as much spark to this character as he does. Freak Show is a charming and uplifting story about non-conformity. I wish every school had a Billy Bloom. He would inspire children to have the confidence to be whoever they want to be and to come out of the shadows together. One day, there will be more freaks than bullies! Let Billy Bloom!

11th January – Red Sparrow

Synopsis: After a horrific on-stage accident, Bolshoi Ballet prima ballerina Dominika is recruited to Russia’s intelligence agency SVR by sociopath Vanya Egorov. Under the tutelage of icy headmistress Matron, she’s tasked with manipulating a “chance” encounter with Nate Nash, an American CIA operative.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds, and Joely Richardson

Review: I think I was too distracted by the darker undertones of this story to enjoy anything else about it, but it really put me off that Jennifer Lawrence’s character was constantly being manipulated. Forced to believe that her body is no longer her own, she is convinced that her body can be used by others and by herself to either get something or just to say thank you. I didn’t see her character as powerful, but as exploited and vulnerable. Aside from this, Lawrence gives a great performance but 140 minutes was far too long a run-time. Had it been more concise, I might have been better engaged with it.

12th January – A Wizard’s Tale (Here Comes The Grump)

Synopsis: Eternally optimistic teen Terry gets the gig of attempting to bring back joy to the day-glo Kingdom of Groovynham. The evil wizard Grump has cast a spell of gloom over the land, so Terry must travel in search of a spell that will help get everyone’s happiness back and, along the way, help Princess Dawn and outwit all manner of strange and wonderful creatures.

Director: Andrés Couturier

Cast: Toby Kebbell, Lily Collins, Ian McShane, David Holt, Emma Tate, and Amy Thompson

13th January – The Senator

Synopsis: Jason Clarke plays Ted Kennedy, the American senator and presidential hopeful, who drove off a bridge, causing the death of campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick in 1969. Through accounts, documented in the inquest from the investigation, the film intimately exposes the broad reach of political power.

Director: John Curran

Cast: Jason Clarke, Kate Mara, Ed Helms, Bruce Dern, Jim Gaffigan, and Olivia Thirlby

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