Sunday, January 01, 2012

January at the Movies

War Horse
  • This article was first published on 01/01/12 in VIDA magazine.
  • Release dates are subject to change. All films released locally by KRS Film Distributors Ltd.

film of the month:
War Horse
Steven Spielberg made a much-welcomed return to the director’s chair last month, with a first for him - an animated film - but his usual style of adventure and awe. Now he’s back again, and this time with another two of his areas of expertise - war, and heart-wrenching emotion. War Horse is a beautiful tale of a boy who grows to love the horse he cares for, only to see him whisked off to serve in World War I. Although too young to enlist as a soldier himself, the boy eventually sets off on an impossible mission to find his horse and bring him safely home.
The original children’s book was brought to life in spectacular fashion as a piece of stunning theatre (if you’re in London, I strongly recommend it), which uses uncannily realistic puppetry to bring the equine stars to life. Now it’s getting the big screen treatment, and you can bet that Spielberg’s version will be just as moving. Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Emily Watson (Punch-Drunk Love), Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and David Thewlis (Harry Potter) star, although they will probably be outdone by the stars on four legs and the British countryside.
Richard Curtis, who does comedy and romance so well (Four Weddings, Love Actually, Blackadder) has adapted the screenplay, and Spielberg-regular John Williams will be providing the score. Not that the story needs much more emotion, but Williams usually manages to add a layer, or five. Whether you like Spielberg’s adult fare or his childlike awe, this should do the trick.

also released this month:
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
I was recently in a London hospital waiting room, hoping that a tutorial hadn’t been cancelled, when my ears pricked up and I eavesdropped slightly. Two very prim and proper British ladies next to me were having a matter-of-fact debate about whether Daniel Craig would make a good Mikael Blomkvist in the new adaptation of the book. They proceeded to analyse most of the main characters, and an uninformed listener might have thought they were discussing a 70s soap opera on the BBC, not a twisted and often shocking crime thriller from Sweden. But such is the reach of the late Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, that mums everywhere can hold very strong opinions about the infamous Lisbeth Salander and her tortured past. The Swedes rightly got to the books first, and made three very good films out of them. Now it’s the Americans’ turn. I groaned at first, but with David Fincher at the helm, and what is so far unanimous acclaim for Rooney Mara’s performance as the petite but ruthless heroine, this is looking better by the minute. Rounding off the cast is Christopher Plummer as Henrik Vanger, Stellan Skarsgård as Martin Vanger and Robin Wright as Erika Berger. David Fincher does dark and twisted wonderfully (Se7en, Zodiac) and he even managed to make the birth of facebook a riveting thriller. This should be brilliant.

If you’ve ever seen a film or music video by Tarsem Singh, you probably remember it. His visual style is quite unique, and he is more than willing to sacrifice story and flow just to make every shot worthy of a fancy frame. The Cell looked so great that J.Lo wasn’t the best-looking prop in it, and The Fall started off with a masterpiece prologue before diving into colour and looking gorgeous throughout. So he seems like a good fit for more tales of Greek gods and muscly heroes, since 300 was similarly spectacular and artsy. This film looks like an obvious offshoot of that Spartan tale, and we can expect a lot more shiny abdominals and slow-motion spear-throwing. Let’s hope there a plot in there somewhere.

My Week With Marilyn
Like many stars who died young, Marilyn Monroe has been immortalised at her peak, which is why decades later she casts a spell over people who were born decades after her demise. But, unlike many of the pin-up blondes of today, she was famous for more than just her looks (and her line of perfume, etc.) - she was an acclaimed actress who starred with the best. This nostalgia trip looks back at her encounter with the acting institution that is Sir Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh), whilst filming in the UK. A young assistant gets to show Marilyn around the British isles, and quickly discovers the extent of her allure. Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) is receiving heaps of praise for her portrayal of the blonde bombshell, and the film looks to be the best one about her yet.

The Iron Lady
If you’re not convinced by Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe, you can pop into the adjacent screen and watch the master at work. Soon after disappearing inside the character of Julia Child, Meryl Streep has now transformed herself once again and is Margaret Thatcher. Her acting, her voice and the hair and makeup make it quite uncanny to even see the film posters, and that’s usually enough of a guarantee that you will immerse into the film plot and forget you’re watching a performance. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) the film focuses on the run-up to the Falklands war in the early 80s, and is the first big-screen portrayal of the larger-than-life prime minister who still polarizes the public today.

J. Edgar
And rounding off this month’s trio of impersonations, Leonardo DiCaprio takes on a less well-known figure, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover set up and built the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) across the Atlantic, and is the man credited with making it the crime-fighting powerhouse that it is today. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film also starts Armie Hammer (The Social Network), Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind), Judi Dench (Iris) and Naomi Watts (King Kong). The script is by Dustin Lance Black, who shot to fame after penning the Oscar-winning Milk a couple of years ago.

The Darkest Hour
Timur Bekmambetov may not ring as many bells as, say, Steven Spielberg, but he’s only just making the transition from Russia to Hollywood, and the syllable count isn’t in his favour. After a couple of acclaimed films in his homeland, he brought his stylish action to the film Wanted, which had numerous sequences that you couldn’t dream up if you were the least sober person at Woodstock. He now turns his mix of action and spectacle to the subject of hostile aliens, and this film centres around five young heroes tries to survive an invasion of Moscow. To make things interesting, you can’t see the aliens.

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