Take your ass back to the trailer park – part 2

blue is the warmest colorWith Oscar season almost upon us, there’s a lot of films out now or soon that should have you racing to the cinema. From drama, action and horror to comedies and a compelling biopic, here’s my pick of marvellous movies you need on your radar.

The Monuments Men (Feb, 2014)
Based on a book of the same name, this film has caper written all over it. Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with Ocean’s Eleven, as Clooney and Damon again take centre stage. This, however, is based on a true story. Essentially it’s ‘art curators assemble!’, as an unlikely band of misfits team up to recover works of art stolen by the Nazis during the war.

Kill Your Darlings
(Dec, 2013)
Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan play Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr respectively; with the film focusing on the birth of the beat generation’s most well known writers: Ginsberg, Karouac and Burroughs. Despite putting in a respectable turn in The Woman in Black, Radcliffe is still – for some out there – trying to establish himself post Potter. From the looks of it he’s gone some way to achieve that. DeHaan, too, continues to establish himself as a growing talent.

(Nov, 2013)
Rival to Wes Anderson’s quirky crown comes in the form of Alexander Payne; the man behind Sideways and The Descendants and a director on the rise. Here he tells the tale – filmed in black and white – of Bruce Dern’s Woody Grant; a man who think he’s won a million dollars and sets off on a road trip to claim his prize. It’s already won a stack of awards and received lavish praise from critics. If you like quirky, human films it’s a must-see.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
(Dec, 2013)
Actor, producer, singer, rapper… Luther! Stringer Bell! Stacker Pentecost! Is there anything Idris Elba can’t do? Apparently not as he’s now playing Nelson Mandela in this epic portrayal of the great man’s life. The film’s red carpet release coincided, tragically, with his death. In terms of the film, it looks to be a stirring affair but has received mixed reviews.

(Nov, 2013)
Big cajones… that’s what you need if you’re going to remake a Brian De Palma classic. The 1976 original blew people away being universally praised and rightly so. So big cajones, in this case, comes in the form of Chloë Grace Moretz (fast developing as one of Hollywood’s best young female talents), Julianne Moore and director Kimberly Peirce – best known for her award winning debut Boys Don’t Cry (1999). As far as remakes go, it has promise but received mixed reviews. If you’re a fan of the original and/or Moretz, it’s worth checking out.

Her (Jan, 2014)
Here’s a brave move: take one of the most attractive women in Hollywood – one, Scarlett Johansson – and have her play a role where we only get to hear her voice. Brave or genius? Either way, it’s the sort of thing you expect from enigmatic director Spike Jonze. This film sees Joaquin Phoenix’s lonely writer develop a relationship with an operating system voiced by Scarlett. An intriguing idea – although puts me in mind Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, an episode called ‘Be Right Back‘ starring Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson.

The Raid 2: Berandal
(Mar, 2014)
Welsh director Gareth Evans and breakout star Iko Uwais are back with their sequel… Oh yes! The original film had a simple premise (bunch of cops get trapped in a drug lord’s tower block and have to fight their way out) and the sequel immediately picks up events from the first; with Uwais’s Rama going undercover with gangs to bust corrupt cops. Same old, same old you may say – just watch the trailer.

300: Rise of an Empire
(Mar, 2014)
THIS IS A SEQUEL! Sorry, couldn’t resist. Actually it’s a sequel, prequel and a sort of during-quel in some ways. Covering events before, during and after the 2007 original. Obviously we’ve got no Gerard Butler this time round. Filling the gap looks to be a heroine in the shape of the delicious and delectable Eva Green. What with this and Sin City 2, Eva’s star looks to be on the rise next year. A pleasing thing as she’s a mesmerising screen presence.

Blue Is The Warmest Color
(Nov, 2013)
This French romantic drama is the first film to win a Palme d’Or for both the director and lead actresses. Also the first film adapted from a graphic novel to win the award. Essentially it tells the tale of two female students who fall in and out of love. Critics have heaped praise on it with award winning director Pedro Almodovar naming it in his 12 best films of the year.

Chronicle – the ‘found footage’ superhero film

Andrew Chronicle film

chronicle film posterI recently saw a film that had been on my watch list for a while, Chronicle. A new twist on the increasingly crowded superhero genre.

When writer Max Landis (son of the legendary Director John Landis) and first-time Director Josh Trank pitched this to the studio, they described it as ‘Blair Witch meets Carrie’, which isn’t too far off the mark. It’s as much about the dynamic between three lads as it is about superpowers.

The setup
The story follows three students: unpopular Andrew, his cousin Matt, and popular Steve, the latter running for high school president. To boost his popularity, Matt suggests Andrew comes to a rave one night. He gets kicked out for trying to film a guy’s girlfriend and, sitting outside the rave, Steve approaches him saying he’s found something in the woods with Matt. They find a hole in the ground and head into it to investigate. Something happens in the hole and all three gain powers of telekenesis. Initially they use their powers for mischief and, later on, to boost Andrew’s popularity. Eventually things begin to spiral out of control as Andrew starts to use his for darker purposes.

I’ve probably provided more detail than is necessary. I was less aware of the story myself. All I knew was that it was about a group of lads that gain powers and use them to mess around and things go awry. Beyond that it was a discovery. Sometimes it’s great to approach a film like that. Sometimes it pays to know a little more about the story.

Andrew Chronicle filmIn this case, for those of you that haven’t seen or heard of the film, a bit of detail might help set the scene and encourage you to go out and get it on DVD. And you should, for it’s well worth it. Particularly Andrew’s character arc, described in an article as ‘chanelling Dicaprio’s character in “The Basketball Diaries“‘. He’s initially timid and shy, yet the most naturally gifted when using his new found powers with finesse.

If this was Star Wars he’d be Anakin. Essentially good, yet suppressing a dark nature. He begins to embrace the dark side, naming himself an ‘apex predator’, with his friends relatively powerless to stop him. The films builds to an epic climax that, in the ‘found footage’ style, is completely gripping and exhilarating. Check out the trailer…

Likely, credible sequel?
This film performed exceptionally well on a small budget, so naturally there’ll be a sequel. Which form it takes is another question. Josh Trank has other films in the pipeline, and it’s not confirmed the three leads will return.

There’s a few ways the story could go, whichever way it does, it will be face a tough test in terms of originality and overcoming expectation. The dreaded ‘second album’ that musicians face is the same problem the writers will have to overcome. Let’s hope they do, because Chronicle was a bit of a revelation.