Wild Rose – new films coming to Portsmouth cinemas

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman but it's harder to be a woman who sacrifices her long-cherished dreams of fame for her children in director Tom Harper's uplifting drama of creative strife and self-empowerment. Blessed with a stellar lead performance from Irish actress Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose resets the rags-to-riches of A Star Is Born to the mean streets of Glasgow with a toe-tapping country music twang.

Wednesday, 10th April 2019, 2:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th April 2019, 2:57 pm
Jessie Buckley as Rose-Lynn Harlan in Wild Rose.

For the opening hour, screenwriter Nicole Taylor seems to be following the frequently plucked chord structures of the genre, composing obstacles that the spirited heroine must overcome if she is to deliver a barn-storming performance on the stage of The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

A charming cameo from BBC radio DJ ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, who encourages Buckley's aspiring songbird with kind words (‘You've got something to say’), enforces our hopes of a triumphant and melodious final act. In its final verses, Taylor's script confidently subverts expectations and propels the lead character in an unexpected direction without feeling convoluted or contrived.

Genuine emotion reverberates in every frame, most obviously whenever Buckley stands at a microphone and rips out her protagonist's heart like every great country diva. She plays Rose-Lynn Harlan, who was still a child when she gave birth to her second bairn.

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Now she has been released from prison with a security tag affixed to her ankle to ensure she observes night-time curfew, Rose-Lynn must tighten her feeble grasp of her maternal responsibilities or lose the respect of her eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son forever.

Rose-Lynn's purse-lipped mother Marion (Julie Walters) fears her daughter will abandon the children again to pursue impossible dreams of becoming a country music singer in Nashville. Unperturbed, Rose-Lynn earns money as a cleaning lady for businesswoman Susannah (Sophie Okonedo). She is dazzled by Rose-Lynn's talent and suggests they crowd-fund the journey to America including a headline set at an impending 50th birthday party.

Wild Rose blooms with a few pleasing narrative thorns, anchored by Buckley's raw power and sterling support from Walters and Okonedo as two very different but equally relatable embodiments of nurturing motherhood. 

 

Wonder Park (PG)

An imaginative girl discovers the theme park from her bedtime stories is real in a computer-animated fantasy co-directed by Robert Iscove, David Feiss and Clare Kilner.

Wonder Park conjures an intriguing premise as the emotionally brittle heroine tries to make sense of knotty philosophical questions posed by scriptwriters Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.

"Oooh an existential crisis. I knew this day was missing something," deadpans a lovestruck porcupine, delivering one crisp aside that will fly over the heads of the target audience.

Unfortunately, Iscove, Feiss and Kilner's rollicking escapade doesn't have the courage of its clumsily articulated convictions, undermining central messages of courage and perseverance with a manipulative final flourish that feels like a big dramatic cheat.

Former Timelord Tom Baker and social media darlings Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee perform robust vocal duties for the UK version of the film, trading verbal quips in the guise of anthropomorphised critters with Hollywood stars Mila Kunis, Jennifer Garner and Matthew Broderick.

From an early age, June Bailey (voiced by Brianna Denski) has spun tall tales with her mother (Garner) about a magical theme park run by her menagerie of stuffed animals.

Peanut the chimpanzee (Norbert Leo Butz) creates rides in Wonderland, Steve the porcupine (John Oliver) oversees safety and Boomer the blue bear (Baker) welcomes guests, when he's not abruptly falling asleep as a result of "late onset hibernation disorder".

Greta the wild boar (Kunis) keeps spirits afloat as beaver mechanics Gus (Sugg) and Cooper (Lee) remedy malfunctions on the attractions.

Fantastical tales of Wonderland inspire June to create daredevil rides in her backyard with the help of smitten best friend Bunky (Oev Michael Urbas).

When Mrs Bailey falls ill and seeks hospital treatment, June abandons happy thoughts of Wonderland and seeks solace in the arms of her distraught father (Broderick).

Soon after, the girl returns home early from a school trip to mathematics camp and stumbles upon the vine-covered ruins of the real Wonderland.

The place of June's dreams exists but it has fallen into dangerous disrepair as a result of her all-consuming sadness.

The plucky girl joins forces with Peanut, Boomer and co to restore the park before an army of Chimpanzombies can tear apart the fixtures and fittings and fling them into a swirling vortex called the Darkness.

As a visual spectacle, Wonder Park proffers fast-paced sequences including a runaway rollercoaster ride that should whiten young knuckles in 3D.

Punchlines are hit and miss, erring more towards the latter, but the running time is trim and June and her four-legged pals don't outstay their welcome.

Above and beyond the colour-saturated eye candy, the film is disappointingly short of awe and wonder.

Out now. 

 

Hellboy (15)

In 2004, Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro launched the Hellboy franchise with his visually stunning but dramatically uneven fantasy based on Mike Mignola's acclaimed Dark Horse Comics series.

A disappointing sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, followed four years later but it has taken more than a decade for this reboot to reach the big screen, replacing Ron Perlman with Stranger Things star David Harbour in the title role.

Hellboy (Harbour) is a wise-cracking operative for the Bureau For Paranormal Research And Development (BPRD), which maintains an uneasy peace between humans and otherworldly creatures.

He works under the command of adopted father Professor Butterholm (Ian McShane), who keeps a tight control of a team comprising Alice Monaghan (Sasha Lane) and Ben Daimio (Daniel Dae Kim).

The BPRD swings into action when an ancient sorceress, The Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich), rises from the underworld to destroy mankind.

Released April 11. 

 

Mid90s (15)

Two-time Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill makes an impressive and assured directorial debut with a self-penned coming of age story set in Los Angeles during a sun-baked summer in the mid-1990s.

Original music composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross jams on the soundtrack with Nirvana, Pixies and a barrage of rap and hip hop courtesy of Beastie Boys, Eminem, Ice Cube, LL Cool J, The Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang Clan among others.

Thirteen-year-old weakling Stevie (Sunny Suljic) is bullied mercilessly by his older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges), whose violent outbursts cannot be controlled by their single mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston).

Consequently, Stevie keeps to himself and silently yearns to be part of a gang.

He gets his wish when he walks into a skateboard shop on Motor Avenue and is taken under the wing of Ray (Na-kel Smith) and his posse comprising Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt), Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin) and Ruben (Gio Galicia).

As the youngest member of the group, Stevie gets a whistle-stop education in disruption, drug experimentation and underage sex.

Dabney struggles to control her youngest boy's wayward behaviour and the downward spiral leads Stevie down a potentially tragic path.

Released April 12.