Our reviewer in…Maysa Moncao has been at the London Film Festival this week and reports back on the highlights of the event. Her review of the Hollywood/McCarthy witchhunts drama Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren is underneath.
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Film review of the true-life drama directed by Simon Curtis and starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds about an elderly Jewish woman suing the Austrian government to reclaim priceless art stolen from her family during WWII.
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Director: Simon Curtis. BBC Films/Origin/2nd District. (PG).
A list of the new movies released in UK cinemas, as of Friday 10 April 2015, with links to official websites. For details of cinemas nearest to you screening them, use Find Any Film.
American crime drama set on the border with Mexico, about two brothers, one a violinist and the other a mercenary and the choices they make in the turbulent American-Mexican drug war. The film stars Thomas Jane and Vincent D’Onofrio. The film will be showing at key cities only. Check out IMDb for the details.
George Mackay, who so sensitively played Joe in Pride (2014) continues to impress with the lead in this drama about a teenager who gets in too deep when he dabbles in petty crime. The official website, with trailer and details of where to see the film, has more info.
Cobain: Montage of Heck
Nirvana fans rejoice, this documentary blends the late lead singer Kurt Cobain’s personal archive of art, music, never seen before movies, animation and interviews from his family and closest friends. The official website has the trailer and everything else you need to know, including details of screenings all over the world.
This documentary from director Tonje Hessen looks at different sides of conflicts that use drones (unmanned, aerial combat vehicles). For more details, check out the Facebook page. Click around Find Any Film to locate your nearest cinema.
Brittle and sardonic sounding Swedish comedy-drama about a man who, in a moment of instant cowardice, abandons his wife and two children when an avalanche threatens them whilst on holiday. His family survive, but it causes a rift between him and his wife and some probing questions from their friends when he refuses to admit what happened. Check out the official Magnolia Pictures webpage for more.
Films about drones are clearly in vogue this week, with this action drama. A Las Vegas fighter-pilot turned drone-pilot (Ethan Hawke) fights the Taliban via remote control for half of his day, then goes home to his wife (January Jones) and kids in the suburbs for the other half. The official Arrow Films webpage has a bit more detail about this film (including the trailer) which will have a wide distribution, so should feature at your local big multiplex.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
There aren’t enough films about Hot Tubs, and precious few about them being time machines. So if you like both prepare to fill your boots with this sequel, as the old gang get back together to rescue one of their number after he is shot by an unknown assailant. The official UK website has the low-down, the film will be playing all across the UK.
Viggo Mortensen leads in this Danish ‘western’ as a man who searches for his daughter, who eloped with her lover in the dead of night. They then journey to a desert beyond the confines of civilization. The official Soda Pictures webpage has details of the cinemas you can catch it at, in key UK cities only.
Crime dramas featuring cute dogs are also all the rage these days. After the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in The Drop with Tom Hardy earlier this year we now have Keanu Reeves seeking revenge against New York underworld figures who killed his cute Beagle puppy, a present from his late, beloved wife. A fantastic colour scheme of neon-electric blues and greens are used in this flashy looking piece, co-starring Game Of Thrones’ Alfie Allen. The official Warner Brothers webpage has the trailer and anything else you need to know. It will have a wide distribution, so should be in your local big multiplex…or check Find Any Film if you want to be extra prepared.
Actor Ryan Gosling makes his debut as a director with this strange sounding, fantastical drama about a young mother who enters a dark lifestyle during financial hardship, leaving her eldest son to look after his younger brother. The reviews thus far have been savage, calling the film self-indulgent and a poor mix of David Lynch and Gosling’s Svengali, Nicholas Winding Refn. See for yourselves though as the film will be released in key UK cities. The official trailer is on Youtube.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
Kevin James returns as the inept mall security guard who decides to take a well-earned vacation to Las Vegas with his young daughter. But when duty calls, Blart is on-hand to help. The official Sony Pictures webpage has the trailer and you should be able to see it at most multiplexes.
Helen Mirren stars as an elderly Jewish woman who tackles the Austrian establishment in order to reclaim part of her heritage, namely the famous Woman In Gold painting by Gustav Klimt that apparently features her sister, who died in the Nazi death camps, as the woman. Ryan Reynolds supports as her plucky but inexperienced American lawyer who helps her seek justice.
Director: Sacha Gervasi. Fox Searchlight/Cold Spring/Montecito Picture Company. (12a)
Producers: Alan Barnette, Joe Medjuk, Tom Pollock, Ivan Reitman, Tom Thayer.
Writer: John J. McLaughlin.
Camera: Jeff Cronenweth.
Music: Danny Elfman.
Sets: Judy Becker.
Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Wincott, Jessica Biel, James D’Arcy, Richard Portnow, Kurtwood Smith, Ralph Macchio.
Renowned and respected by all in Hollywood, film director Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) feels too comfortable in himself and a sudden dip in adoration from his critics. He is looking for his next big film and what he needs is something nasty, dirty and shocking. Despite the consternation of his loyal wife Alma (Mirren) and most of Tinseltown, he finds it in the pulp horror novel Psycho. With no support from Hollywood big-wigs, he remortgages his house to fund the film and assembles cast and technicians, despite everyone predicting this folly will be his down-fall.
Here’s a quirky little cinematic treat. Greatly polished but not greatly accomplished, the enjoyment here lies more in the neat approach taken in presenting the back history to how a well-known (in fact, one of the most well-known) movies came to be made.
Alfred Hitchcock always maintained, possibly with his tongue in one of his portly cheeks, that Psycho, largely credited by everyone else as inventing the modern horror film, was nothing more than a comedy.
This could very well have been part of his own marketing spiel to whip up interest in a film that was clearly not an out and out laugh fest (incest, murder and necrophilia not usually producing a high titter tally with movie audiences). But with this reference at the fore front of their minds, writer McLaughlin and director Gervasi have nonetheless created a fruity comic drama about the genesis and production of Psycho.
The viewer is in fact completely made aware of this point in a neat preamble that sees notorious serial killer Ed Gein (Wincott) casually bumping his brother off on their Wisconsin farm, coolly observed by Hitch, who sips a cup of tea whilst commenting on the action.
These bizarrely comic moments punctuate the film at regular intervals and serve another purpose, as they help develop a seam of psychotic darkness that increases as the action proceeds. Hitch has regular conversations with Gein about how to embellish or improve his film based on Gein’s life and crimes and also for a chit chat about the director’s own black fantasies. Gein in facts ‘counsels’ him as a psychiatrist would, when probing him about his treatment of women, Hitch declaring that he has been having “impulses…strong ones”. If only ‘Tippi’ Hedren could have been a fly on the wall.
Thankfully, the comedy is allowed to come to rescue such dark moments thanks to the arch, naughty performances. Hopkins underwent the make-up department’s full prosthetic demands and certainly looks the part, allowing his physical tics and playfully mordant performance to light up the screen (at the end, he ‘conducts’ his premiere audiences’ screams in time with Bernard Hermann’s screeching violins score). Unaccountably though he misses a cockney trick with the vocal interpretation, sounding far too much like the clipped, Welsh intonation that is Sir Anthony. But this is still a fun role and the pathologically funny lines are brought to the fore by him. Compare this performance with Toby Jones in another recent Hitch bio, The Girl, in which his accent was spookily recognisable as The Master.
Mirren scores strongly as his forthright and talented wife Alma, although even the most ardent of Reville’s admirers (she is credited as being the galvanising force and sculptress of his career) would be pushed to agree she was ever this buxom and flirtatious.
One would never have believed Janet Leigh was quite the professional actress Johansson portrays her as, but this is a timely reminder of how very good an actress she was in Psycho. Biel has a knowing glint in her eye in a small but telling role as a strong-willed and sarcastic Vera Miles, the Psycho co-star and former Hitch favourite whom he very nearly made into a world-wide star but whose resistance to his over-bearing and controlling style of direction almost ruined her career.
British actor D’Arcy clearly wasn’t in need of anything even approaching a latex make-over as Anthony Perkins sharing, as he does, an uncanny likeness to the American star and also nails the twitchy, nervous, lost boy demeanour that secured Perkins the part that launched him.
A lot of the detail in the film will be fascinating to the uninformed, but a lot about the behind the scenes making of Psycho will already be known to movie buffs, as Stephen Rebello’s book on which the screenplay is based was originally published in 1990. Just to show how much of a movie geek I am, the necessity of Vera Miles’ immobile, concrete wig is explained away here as covering up her brunette hair (in defiance of Hitch, she changed her hair colour). The real reason is because Miles had shaved her head for her most recent role in Five Branded Women. Perhaps Miss Biel, who gave an interview about how terrifying it was to portray a real-life movie star, was too spooked herself at this suggestion?
Film review by Jason Day of The Queen, the drama chronicling Queen Elizabeth II’s (Helen Mirren) days immediately following the death of Princess Diana and the fallout for the British Royal Family.
Director: John Madden.
Producer: Eitan Evan, Eduardo Rossof, Krys Thykier, Matthew Vaughan. Writers: Matthew Vaughan, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan. Camera: Ben Davis. Music: Thomas Newman. Sets Jim Clay.
Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Ciaran Hinds, Jesper Christensen, Romi Aboulafia.
A ménage a trois develops between Mossad agents Chastain, Worthington and Csokas when they are charged with capturing a notorious Nazi war criminal and bringing him to trial in Israel. Years later, as Chastain’s daughter Aboulafia launches a book about their heroic act, a dark secret between this now mature group (Mirren, Wilkinson and Hinds) surfaces that threatens to wrench them apart.
Goldman and Vaughan, if nothing else, have a wide range of interests when it comes to making movies. From the tongue-in-cheek fantasy of Stardust, the blockbuster comic books Kick-Ass! and X-Men: First Class to this, a remake of an obscure 2007 Israeli drama that is about as serious as you can get, they certainly get around the block in terms of genre. Here, they persuasively explore the rocky foundations on which hero worship can be built.
The Debt is a little like a revisionist Marathon Man, but although it lacks that film’s scenes of extended dental torture, it more than makes up for it as the vile and unrepentant Nazi Christensen (clearly based on Josef Mengele) is force-fed gruel for what seems like the entire of the middle part of the movie. It’s during these sequences that the script comes to life as Christensen uses psychology to divide the group and conquer and utters distasteful anti-semitism.
Christensen adds further grit to an already superlative raft of performances from a cannily cast group of actors. Mirren and hot young thing of the moment Chastain (The Tree of Life, The Help) were clearly chosen not just for their acting but also their close physical resemblance, though it is more of a stretch making us believe that the relatively diminutive Worthington would grow up to be the strapping Hinds. The characters’ nationality also gives the cast a chance to flex their chameleon vocal talents.
Madden, a director who has achieved some success with thoughtful drama (Mrs Brown, Shakespeare in Love, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) was a sure hand for a difficult subject matter, but still manages to inject some startlingly gruesome moments (we open with a man being run over in bone-crunching detail) and stomach-knotting tension (catching the Nazi doctor; and the surprise climax will have you on the edge of your seat).