Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Great Cinewise Autumn and Winter Preview

This was supposed to be a full-on preview of 65 films to open in the UK from the end of Summer (i.e. the last bank holiday) until around Valentine's Day 2013. But the god of procastrination is cruel, unforgiving. The more I laboured on the details, the obvious it became that it was a thankless task for me to finish it in a reasonable time. Also, some of the films that I was previewing were already making their way to screens around the country, which would have made this a futile endeavour.

The format, if you're the least bit interested, was to divide the said 65 films into 5 categories:
  • Films that will serve as my waterboarding
  • Films I will watch in my lifetime, but probably because of peer pressure
  • Films I hope will prove me wrong and send me towards a vortex of shame, tears and, guilt
  • Films I am likely to see in the cinema, but may pre-order the BluRay instead for a great night in
  • Films I am spending sleepless nights over
It was going to be epic. Alas, it wasn't meant to be.


So, here is a whittled down preview that only covers the films in the final two categories. For the purposes of practicality (and laziness), I will lump them into one category. Honestly, there wasn't much separating the two - I was just being cute with the categories at this point. It is fair to say that there some films that I'm really losing sleep over, but all in all it is apparent to me that a very good Autumn / Winter films season is upon us.

Before delving into the details, let's set the ground rules (as always):
  1. The following films will be released in the UK from the publication of this post until about mid February, which means some of these may already have been released where you are or won't see the legal light of a projector until post-Valentine's 2013.
  2. These cover cinema-releases, regardless of the 'width' or the 'limitation' of the release. Straight to home viewing releases (correct in time of press) are excluded.
  3. The films are listed alphabetically. So no preferential or chronological hierarchy. Some may have opened last Friday, some won't have until January.
  4. And finally, this is by no means an exhaustive list as it was aimed to be in the beginning. These are the films that I will see, or you can say these are the films that make the heart of Cinewise flutter with excitement.
Without further ado, here is the Fashionably Late and Not-So-Great Cinewise Preview of Autumn / Winter 2012/13 (click titles for trailers, where available):

Argo

If it weren't for the fact that I'm simply in awe of Ben Affleck the director, I would completely veer away from this. Why? The two films that it is trying to portray are very interesting in their own rights:
  1. The political thriller, in which the staff of the American Embassy in Tehran are on the run from the bloodthirsty mob after the Iranian Revolution (how apt a topic today)
  2. The satire, in which a fake movie producer will con everyone into believing that he will shoot a grand film (think The Last Shot as it should have been).
Mixing the two together? Not sure it will work out. But Affleck has proven twice already that he is very adept at telling a good story and with a cast to die for, this could end up being a dark horse come the awards season.
Out: 9th November



Barbara

Touted as the new The Lives of Other, if for no other reason that it is a German film about East Germany, Barbara feels like it will be a winner on all fronts. Early word is that it's a bit slow, but the subject matter (a doctor in a rural hospital battling a repressive regime) deserves to take its time to tell its story. This will likely be a very limited release (there isn't a poster yet!), but it looks like it will be worth seeing.
Out: 28th September



Beasts of the Southern Wild

Darling of Sundance 2012, Beasts of the Southern Wild looks like a love-it, hate-it film where you either buy into its breezy, wistful weirdness or it alienates you from the first frame. Early word is that it is a little too hyped and cute, but I have a very good feeling about it. It has been too long since its premiere in the festival in Utah, so some of the critical acclaim may have worn off, which explains the current naysayers. But if the trailer is anything to go by, this will be very special indeed.
Out: 19th October



The Campaign

The Frat Pack has fizzled out like all of the other Packs. One main reason why the current (or dying) Pack's lack of durability is the inconsistency of the output. There's no denying the talent at hand, but they often seem to be on cruise control. For every Anchorman, there is a Blades of Glory. But in Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell has a comedy sidekick that is as zany and madcap as himself. But the main thing is, Galifianakis's comedy is not your typical PG-13 Frat Pack hilarity - he is darker, more subtle than his contemporaries.
Out: 28th September



Django Unchained

You've seen the trailer, you've read the script. Now it's time to see the real thing. 'Tarantino's latest' is becoming an event - and rightly so. Personally I think his only misstep was the Kill Bill films, which were exercises in form and nothing more. They were pretty look at, but were wafer thin even by his standards. I thought the Grindhouse exercise was worth it (I know I'm in the minority on that one) and Inglourious Basterds gets even better with each viewing. I don't think we will ever be treated to a dull film by him and Django Unchained has everything going for it to even challenge some of his best.
Out: 18th January



Elena

Not sure everyone's ever in the mood for an existential Russian film (or existential any film), but the return of the director of The Return should raise some interest. Andrey Zvyagintsev has been the poster boy for the struggling Russian cinema of the last two decades. His last film, Banishment, did not get a general release in the rest of Europe - it doesn't matter if your previous film is an art-house hit, you're not guaranteed love from the distributors if they don't feel like it - so only a few got to see whether he was the real deal. I don't know what to expect, other than a beautifully shot, heartwarming, and heartbreaking film of familial love and loyalty in the direst of circumstances.
Out: 26th October



Gambit

The Coens are lending their words to somebody else and I'm feeling a little bit weird about it. Is it still a Coens film? If not, why not? Didn't they write the story (albeit, it's a remake)? What does it matter if they're not there to tell people where to put the camera or how to interpret their dialogue? It doesn't, actually. But I'm still finding it hard to fathom this as a Coens film. Just like I could never embrace Intolerable Cruelty as a Coens film (among other reasons). Having said that, it is sure to have a killer script.
Out: 21st November



Gangster Squad

There's something about 1930s gangsters shooting tommy guns wearing fedora hats and trenchcoats. Is it the Freudian undercurrent of that imagery or the romanticisation of a time that none of us experienced, a time so removed yet so oddly familiar to our own? Either way, Gangster Squad is aimed to do only one thing and it looks like it will do it just fine.
Out: 11th January



The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey

Don't mention the fps ... don't mention the trilogy ... I've got nothing else to day other than that I will see this just like I will buy the next Megadeth album.
Out: 14th December



Holy Motors

Now we're talking. Leos Carax hasn't made a feature film in such a long time that Lovers on a Bridge feels like it belongs to a whole new era. Well, it does. The word on the Croisette this year was that Holy Motors was the most exciting, original, perplexing, and (for some) frustrating film of the Cannes line-up. The premise sounds bonkers (a man journeys through the night, jumping from one life to the next) and the trailer looks incredible. It won't be a hit in any sense of the word, but it could be this year's Enter the Void and a long overdue return of a director once considered to be the next big thing of European cinema.
Out: 28th September



The Hunt

The other wunderkid of Dogme95, Thomas Vinterberg , hasn't seen his stock rise nearly as much as Lars Von Trier. You can argue that Von Trier's ever-incresing list of controversies may have contributed to this (somewhat, yes, but Von Trier remains a peerless genius), but it's more due to the fact that Vinterberg's Dogme95 feature, Festen, was head and shoulders above anything that came around that time. It was an incredible piece of filmmaking. So, the expectations were rightfully high. Vinterberg never really lived up to that, but this might turn things around. Why? Because Mads Mikkelsen, the most underrated actor around, is on board in a film that will make the Daily Mail-readers piss their pants in fear.
Out: 30th November



Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik returns and what a glorious return it will be. Say what you will, but The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was simply magnificent. In Casey Affleck it had one of the best performances of the last decade. It was also one of Brad Pitt's best performances. This feels more like a return to Dominik's Chopper phase, but either way it's set to be a tough-as-nails crime drama, oozing with cool. Drive of this year, maybe?
Out: 21st September



Liberal Arts

It is nigh-on impossible not to draw parallels between this and Garden State - the star of a popular sitcom is directing and starring in a quirky indie dramedy about coming to terms with the quarter-life crisis. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The parallels between the two films is a compliment, not a negative citicism. Josh Radnor has written and directed 2010's Happythankyoumoreplease, so this is not meant to be a vanity project, but a new film by an up-and-coming director. The trailer looks great, Radnor seems perfect for the role. This will be a sleeper hit, methinks.
Out: 5th October



Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis's tour of great directors continue (Mann, Scorsese, Anderson, among others). Despite my general anipathy towards biopics, the collaboration between unarguably the greatest mainstream film director of all time (when I say mainstream, I don't mean it in the derogatory way) and one of the most outstanding and dedicated actors of all time, about a personality so ingrained in our psyche regardless of nationality, will be a remarkable film by all counts. Sure to be an Oscar favourite, this is an event movie that I can get behind and be excited about.
Out: 25th January



Looper

The 'intelligent' sci-fi moniker has been used for many a sci-fi over the years, yet the true definition was never clear: is it intelligent because of the amount of brainpower it requires to understand and, subsequently, enjoy it (see Primer), or is it intelligent because its story is so well constructed that the setting is merely a ruse (Blade Runner)? Either way, there are plenty of them. And Looper looks destined to be another one. Time travel and all its paradoxes are privy to make an exciting and riveting sci-fi actioner and this looks to be the real deal.
Out: 28th September



Love

Perhaps the most consistent European filmmaker of the last decade, Michael Haneke is out to prove that he doesn't make weak films ... unless he tries to remake his best film in English (let's collectively forget the Funny Games remake). Critics were unanimously in love with Love at this year's Cannes Film Festival and, not surprisingly, it won Palme d'Or. This looks incredibly moving and knowing his calculated, serene style, it will no doubt leave the viewers speechless and tearless by the end of it.
Out: 16th November



The Master

So much has been said (is being said) States-side for this, the film about Scientology, which is not really 'about' Scientology at all. It's not surprising that Hollywood has shied away from the subject for so long - Scientology is widespread in Hollywood (we all know the stars), but there's no doubt about its infiltration in the upper echelons as well. So it has been pretty tough to get this done. When the trailer was released last month, it became a sensation - and rightly so. Because not only is this a serious, no-holds-barred attempt at a portrayal of a powerful cult, but it is the new film by the man who gave us There Will Be Blood - the mythical, bizarre, unsettling, and incredibly violent modern day classic. There is no indication whatsoever that this will not repeat that feat.
Out: 9th November



Premium Rush

David Koepp is probably best known as a tried-and-tested screenwriter of blockbusters and a more-than-able director of mid-size mainstream cinema (Stir of Echoes and Secret Window are overlooked and passable films). A film about bicycle couriers (the most-hated members of urban traffic ... and I'm a cyclist myself!) doesn't really bode well. But when you add in an insane amount of action, which word has it that this possesses in abundance, then you may have a leftfield minor blockbuster.
Out: Now



Ruby Sparks

One hopes that this is less like Stranger Than Fiction and more like Youth in Revolt. Paul Dano has been absolutely fantastic as a supporting actor and this will hopefully prove that he can play the lead with confidence. Films about writers are as cliched as novels about writers (funny enough, films about films tend to be pretty crap). So there is every chance that this could be a complete miss, but I have a feeling that its surreality will make it a rather enjoyable weekend film.
Out: 12th October



Rust and Bone

Jacques Audiard's rise to the top of the European cinema was cemented with 2009's brilliant A Prophet - a prison drama, likened at the time to the likes of The Godfather (what isn't?). With Rust and Bones, Audiard continues the proto-surreal elements to tell a powerful drama. Here the story centres around a man looking to belong somewhere and a woman whose life turns upside down in a freak incident. Word in Cannes was that this was a powerful drama with a great performance from Marion Cotillard.
Out: 2nd November



Savages

Not to be confused with 2007's brilliant The Savages, this Oliver Stone-directed multi-narrative will hopefully return to Stone's searing mid-90s best. Blessed with a wonderful cast and a supposedly deeply researched story, Stone is the best man for this job with his penchant for weaving together many narratives that seem to go nowhere. Then again, this is the man who made Alexander.
Out: 21st September



Sightseers

If you haven't yet seen Ben Wheatley's previous film Kill List, then immediately stop reading this and get your hands on a copy, close the curtains, turn off your stupid phone and immerse yourself in the most hypnotic horror film of the last decade. While Kill List had dark, humourous elements, it was a straight-in-yer-face horror at heart. With his new film, Wheatley appears to have turned the funny side on a little more. British film has a new star director.
Out: 30th November



Silver Linings Playbook

On paper (or on IMDB), this reads like another by-the-book coming-of-age story of a man nearing his 40s after meeting a young and beautiful woman. But call it a sixth sense or a wild guess, I think this will be much better than on first impression. Funny, moving, and very affecting (call it the David O. Russell effect). Then again, I could be very wrong.
Out: 21st November



Skyfall

Maybe it's the post-Olympics blues, but UK needs more pick-me-ups. And there's nothing better than 007 kicking some foreigner's arse that makes everyone in this country swoon with excitement. The patriotic fervour is so high about Bond films is that no one fails to see that they're utter crap (except for Goldfinger and From Russiw with Love). Daniel Craig may have re-invented Bond as Jason Bourne, which helps. So why am I excited about this? I just want to hear the boos in the cinema when Bond orders Heineken instead of a martini, only to be replaced by cheers when he shakes the bottle and opens it pointing at the baddie, whose eye then just comes out of its socket. Britannia! Fuck yeah!
Out: 26th October



This Is 40

Quite why Pete and Debbie from Knocked up deserved a spin-off shall remain a mystery to me. Don't get me wrong - they were the best thing in Knocked up, but in a supporting role. The trailer doesn't promise anything new, what you've seen before is now stretched to 90 minutes. Having said that, Judd Apatow somewhow always manages to come up with the goods against all odds. It will be painfully formulaic, but if you want to check your brains in for a night and just laugh at white upper-middle-class people having a better life than you, then you could do a lot worse than This Is 40.
Out: 14th February



To Rome with Love

Written and directed by Woody Allen. Do you need another reason? Then you're reading the wrong blog.
Out: Now



Zero Dark Thirty

It was about time this was turned into a film and who better to take it on than Kathryn Bigelow. True to her style, instead of looking at the larger picture here, she concentrates on the small players - the part of the story that really matters, that really relates to the rest of us. Bound to be tense, visually stunning, and technically brilliant, Zero Dark Thirty could easily be another masterpiece from one of the world's best action directors.
Out: 25th January



Bonus preview:

Grabbers

It's very difficult for me to be objective about this, because I personally know the screenwriter, Kevin Lehane. I know that he is an outstanding guy and an outstanding writer. Trying to put that aside, I'm certain this will be heaps and heaps of fun. What I've read so far is that it is a fantastic creature feature, full of laughs and genuine scares. Well done, Kevin. Proud of you and I can't wait to see it.
Out: December(?)


There it is. There is all of it. Lots to look forward to, wouldn't you agree?

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