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Film Talk: Latest Movie Releases – Brad bites bullet in totally loco comedy thriller

There are some Hollywood stars whose awesomeness seems to know no bounds.

Brad Pitt stars as unlucky American assassin, Ladybug, in David Leitch’s new high-speed comedy thriller, Bullet Train
Brad Pitt stars as unlucky American assassin, Ladybug, in David Leitch’s new high-speed comedy thriller, Bullet Train

When it comes to a certain chap from Oklahoma, you’d think the gods may have done handing out the gifts when he became the proud purveyor of the world’s most famous jawline as well as a signature smoulder that has stopped traffic for decades.

Alas, they were far from finished. For as well as crafting a specimen of sickeningly mould-shattering beauty, they chose to pour in pint after pint of acting ability, and then topped it off with the cherry of all cherries. Not only the best-looking bloke to have ever drawn breath, and one of the planet’s most talented thespians, Brad Pitt is funny; in fact, the guy’s hilarious.

Having been raised in the 90s – and therefore having grown accustomed to Pitt while at the height of his sex symbol powers – it took me a long time to notice that behind the suave smile and leading-man muscle was a chap that could not only do comedy well, but do it brilliantly.

Teaming up with Quentin Tarantino, the older yet still absurdly handsome Mr P shone in the black comedic roles of Aldo Raine (Inglorious Basterds) and Cliff Booth (Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood), proving that how he weaved the magic of Mickey O’Neil (Snatch) years before was far from a fluke.

These days, I look forward to any so-called funny flick in which Brad Pitt is due to appear, and with the release of Bullet Train this week, my excitement in the lead-up was running off the rails.

You do the laughs well Brad – but come on lad; can’t you leave something for the rest of us?!

Oh well – time to get on board...

BULLET TRAIN (15, 126 mins)

Released: August 3 (UK & Ireland)

Launched in 1964 to coincide with the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Shinkansen or bullet train has become an enduring symbol of sleek, efficient Japanese design, accelerating to operating speeds approaching 200mph on high-speed railway lines that snake across the islands.

Deadpool 2 director David Leitch’s outlandish comedy thriller, based on Kotaro Isaka’s novel Maria Beetle, gleefully appropriates the locomotive’s key feature – speed – before it reaches the end of the line with an orgy of cartoon violence.

Action set pieces, including bone-crunching brawls in different train carriages, are breathlessly choreographed to deliver lurid blood-letting and dismemberment with minimal dramatic outlay.

“Let this be a lesson in the toxicity of anger,” growls Brad Pitt’s circumspect hit man, channelling the deadpan, dudeish energy of The Big Lebowski with flowing golden locks to match as co-stars perish around him.

The rough and tumble is fitfully entertaining, enlivened by a running joke about Thomas The Tank Engine that allows Aaron Taylor-Johnson to revisit his Liverpudlian accent from Nowhere Boy.

However, over the course of two hours, the hyperkinetic mayhem is exhausting, exacerbated by a fragmented chronology that zigzags between back stories and forcibly interconnects thinly sketched characters as tiny cogs in an elaborate cause-and-effect plot.

On the few occasions that Leitch indulges slow-motion during a melee, he fetishises swordplay or mines humour from bruised passengers flying helplessly through the air, colliding with luggage and airborne contents of a catering trolley.

Our refreshments are a couple of tongue-in-cheek cameos and Pitt’s laidback luminosity.

He portrays notoriously unlucky American assassin Ladybug, who is keen to return to the killing game.

Ladybug’s handler Maria (Sandra Bullock) eases him back into the job with a simple mission: retrieve a metal briefcase on a high-speed train departing from Tokyo.

Ladybug acquires the asset but as he observes, the pick-up is too easy.

Killers for hire including the twins Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), The Wolf (Bad Bunny), The Prince (Joey King) and The Hornet (Zazie Beetz) are also on board with diabolical motives linked to the same briefcase and a shadowy kingpin called The White Death (Michael Shannon).

One venomous stolen snake and a vengeful father (Andrew Koji), whose young son is in hospital after a near-fatal tumble from a roof, become entangled in the bedlam as bullets, knives and other weaponry arc through blood-smeared carriages.

Bullet Train plays to conductor Leitch’s strengths as a stunt coordinator and performer, exploiting every nook and cranny inside an increasingly wrecked Shinkansen as prop-laden backdrops to the frenzied fisticuffs.

Pitt oozes indestructibility from an opening strut down a neon-lit street while Taylor-Johnson and Tyree Henry are an effervescent double-act (the latter’s wavering cockney accent operates to its own timetable.)

Our ticket to ride on this express service takes us in dizzying circles with nowhere to sit quietly and draw breath.

FADIA’S TREE (U, 86 mins)

Released: August 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Fadia is the subject of Sarah Beddington’s documentary

Fifteen years ago, London-based visual artist Sarah Beddington met Palestinian refugee Fadia and the two women struck up a touching friendship.

Fadia lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon, unable to return to her ancestral homeland. She sets Beddington a challenge: to locate a specific mulberry tree with deep connections to her family’s history.

In her debut feature documentary, the filmmaker charts her odyssey in search of the tree, contrasting Fadia’s fortunes with the migration of millions of birds across the Middle East.

Beddington paints a vibrant birds’ eye view of a divided land and a fragmented people, anchored to her enduring friendship with Fadia.

MAISIE (15, 76 mins)

Released: August 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

David Raven aka drag queen Maisie Trollette

Sixty-one-year-old drag queen RuPaul has been celebrating the art of female illusion on his TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race since 2009.

However, the Emmy Award-winning performer is a newcomer compared to Britain’s oldest working drag artiste Maisie Trollette, the sequinned alter ego of David Raven. Director Lee Cooper’s affectionate documentary follows Raven as he approaches his 85th birthday with a special performance in Brighton for adoring fans. Recently diagnosed with health issues, Raven is naturally anxious about the physical strain of performing in his eighties. His sense of unease is compounded by a first-time visit from 87-year-old Walter Cole, who holds the Guinness Word Record as the oldest performing drag queen in the world.

In Cooper’s film, Raven reminisces about decades of transformation with on-screen contributions from Paul O’Grady, Miss Jason and Dave Lynn.

NIGHTCLUBBING – THE BIRTH OF PUNK ROCK IN NYC (80 mins)

Released: August 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

New York City nightclub and restaurant Max’s Kansas City located at 213 Park Avenue South made an indelible mark on the east coast punk rock scene.

It is the place where David Bowie first met Iggy Pop, Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry worked as a waitress, Bob Marley And The Wailers played their first American shows and Sid Vicious gave his final performances supported by members of the New York Dolls and The Clash.

Drawing together unique archive footage and exclusive interviews, documentary filmmaker Danny Garcia pays tribute to the enduring legacy of Max’s, which closed its doors in 1981.

He explores the venue’s proud history as a safe haven for cultural trailblazers including Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis, enriched with rare footage of Iggy & The Stooges, New York Dolls, Sid Vicious and transgender DJ Wayne/Jayne County.

THE HARDER THEY COME (15, 103 mins)

Released: August 5 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Director Perry Henzell’s influential 1972 crime drama starring Jimmy Cliff, who contributes several tracks to the toe-tapping soundtrack, celebrates its 50th anniversary with a re-release in selected cinemas.

Young Jamaican reggae singer Ivanhoe Martin (Cliff), known to friends as Ivan, dreams of stardom but struggles to get his musical voice heard. He ricochets between humdrum jobs and falls victim to chancers, who prey on his naivete.

WESTLIFE: LIVE FROM WEMBLEY STADIUM (Certificate TBC, 120 mins)

Released: August 6 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Groomed as natural successors to Boyzone, Westlife have comfortably outperformed their illustrious predecessors.

In a career approaching 25 years, Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan, Mark Feehily and Shane Filan have never performed at Wembley Stadium. On August 6, they achieve this milestone in front of a sold-out crowd as part of The Wild Dreams Tour.

To mark the occasion, the concert will be broadcast live to cinemas around the UK and Ireland.

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