Take your pick from nuns, pirates and cowpokes
Peter Bradshaw and Steve Rose look at some
of the new movies to look forward to this year
Watch from between your fingers or hide under the seat—James Franco plays a mountain climber with an awful decision to make when his arm gets trapped under an enormous boulder. This true story, directed by Danny Boyle, has had cinema audiences wincing, yelping, moaning and rocking back and forth in distress.
Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star in what audiences have found to be a challenging, left-field drama about a couple whose young son is killed in a car accident. Kidman plays Becca, a stay-at-home mum, Eckhart is her husband Howie. They react to the tragedy in radically different ways.
The King’s Speech
Awards bait it may be, but this movie is carried off with terrific panache. Colin Firth plays the unhappy George VI in 1930s Britain, crucified with shame about his stammer; Geoffrey Rush is Leonard Logue, the outspoken Australian speech therapist who is the only man who can help. Helena Bonham Carter is Queen Elizabeth (to be known, decades later, as the Queen Mother).
There’s over the top, really over the top—and then there’s this. Darren Aronofsky’s delirious movie melodrama stars Natalie Portman, giving the performance of her career as Nina, the young ballerina given a crack at the lead role in Swan Lake and suffering a breakdown in the process. Aronofsky’s movie has a queasy, Polanskian shiver, with shades of Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby.
The Portuguese Nun
A demanding, slow-moving arthouse film. Eugene Green’s stylised work features a French actress, in Lisbon to shoot a movie, who becomes intrigued by a kneeling nun. Like José Luis Guerín’s In the City of Sylvia or Miguel Gomes’s Our Beloved Month of August, The Portuguese Nun avoids the traditional filmic tempo in favour of something static and contemplative.
It takes nerve to remake Henry Hathaway’s legendary 1969 western, starring John ‘The Duke” Wayne—but Joel and Ethan Coen have made a characteristically insouciant attempt. This time it’s Jeff Bridges wearing the iconic eyepatch—really, no other casting was possible. The Coens have become known for interspersing their more serious work with lighter fare, and this could be one such—but anything by the Coens is a must-see.
Countdown to Zero
This could be the horror film of the year or perhaps the decade. Lucy Walker’s documentary reopens a taboo subject that many (wrongly) think is now a non-issue—the threat of nuclear explosion from terrorists or from a ‘Strangelove” accident. Walker has nailed down some A-list talking-head interviews, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Tony Blair—who, remarkably, appears to rediscover his youthful radicalism and calls for a zero-nuke world.
Le Quatre Volte
Since being unveiled last year at Cannes, this delightful film has won hearts and minds everywhere it has been shown. Composed of long, wordless shots, it’s set in Calabria, where an old shepherd lives. Michelangelo Frammartino’s camera follows the area’s inhabitants, who are mainly animals, which give some lively performances.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Tomas Alfredson, the director of the modern vampire classic Let the Right One In, is an interesting choice to direct this dark tale. John Le Carré‘s spy drama—turned into a 1970s TV classic by the BBC, starring Alec Guinness—is now revived with Gary Oldman in the role of George Smiley, the enigmatic intelligence chief brought out of retirement to root out a Soviet mole and reopen some emotional wounds.
Pirates of the Caribbean—On Stranger Tides
It might have walked the plank last time round but in a year that looks set to be dominated by yet more mega-budget franchise blockbusters, Pirates is one of the few we might actually be happy to see again. Johnny Depp certainly is—he is collecting the highest fee in movie history for it ($50-million plus). That should keep him in private archipelagos for a year or two. What’s in it for us? Expect mermaids, zombies, carriage chases through London; Richard ‘Uncle Monty” Griffiths as George II; the return of Keith Richards and Geoffrey Rush; the absence of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley; a bit of galleon action with Ian McShane’s Blackbeard; and a bit of bedchamber action with Penélope Cruz (doing her best to disguise her real-life pregnancy)—all rounded off with a jungle quest for the fountain of youth. Shouldn’t they be looking for the Fabled Hoard of Depp?
The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick is often regarded more as a spiritual master than a filmmaker and acolytes will rejoice at tidings of his latest—a mix of free-form introspection and mystical musings, with added Brad Pitt. From what we know so far, it involves the struggle of a lost soul (Sean Penn as an adult) to resolve the conflicting codes of his parents, though the semi-abstract cosmic vistas in the trailer hint at grander Malickean ambitions.
Marvel’s super-superhero movie masterplan, The Avengers, sounds a little sinister, but this could be a surprise package, with its incongruous Norse mythology and Shakespearean luvvieness. Odin knows how Kenneth Branagh came to be directing it, but the cast is intriguing: Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Chris ‘never heard of him” Hemsworth as the fallen thunder god.
From Barking to Brontë for Andrea ‘Fish Tank” Arnold, though she’s likely to shake the dust off the oft-told classic—with Skins siren Kaya Scodelario as Cathy and newcomer James Howson as Heathcliff, but sadly no Kate Bush cameo. They’ll have Vic-lit competition, though, from Mia Wasikowska’s Jane Eyre.
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
Will Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s risky motion-capture experiment make it out of the uncanny valley? Spielberg has already been speaking of it in terms of film noir and Brechtian theatre (as opposed to Belgian boy reporters with a suspicious lack of female friends, say), so it ought to be more than the bloody adventure the casting suggests (Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost). If it fails, Spielberg’s adaptation of British stage hit War Horse, set during World War I, is also out later this year—with real horses rather than giant puppets.—