It’s not too surprising that in recession-era Hollywood, where only the surefire box-office earners are getting made, a rom-com with the name Meryl Streep in the top billing was one of January’s big releases. When you add director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give) to the mix, it was virtually a written guarantee to fans of the genre that you’re in for an enjoyable 90 minutes. And with Meyers’ generally sharp and incisive writing, it might even be a cut above your average brainless rom-com. It’s Complicated certainly delivers on the first count, but whether it does on the second is debatable.
Whatever happened to Matt Dillon? He was going great guns in the ’90s with Wild Things and There’s Something About Mary, then dropped off the scene with the sort of speed usually reserved for people who, well, died. Turns out he’s now starring in this armoured-car heist thriller from competent (if b-grade) action maestro Nimrod Antal. Maybe he shouldn’t have bothered coming out of premature career retirement though – Armored is predictable, missable and forgettable, floundering in the wake of the action genre’s more intelligent January offerings.
A bumbling slacker runs over the Easter Bunny and must nurse him to health and save Easter. No, we’re not kidding, it’s the plot of I Hop, a new zany family comedy that starts shooting this autumn. The only possible saving grace? The Easter Bunny is voiced by Russell Brand.
Turns out the hope we held out for Brothers wasn’t unwarranted. This tragic portrait of the effects of war on young lives brims with real emotion and powerhouse performances from its lead actors, particularly Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman. For the most part, despite the potential for cheese in its subject matter (man goes off to war, brother steps in to fill his shoes on the home front, man turns out not to be dead and returns to awkward situation in family), the narrative avoids cliche and leaves you with a real, confronting sense of heartbreak. It’s a harrowing film experience that hits you right in the guts, and it could well be the resurrection of Maguire’s post-Peter Parker career.
The Boys are Back doesn’t work as well as it thinks it does. By all accounts, it should be a stand-out for the drama genre this year – a teary but heart-warming memoir of an absentee dad thrust into single parenthood, brought to the screen by the king of the subtle dramatic performance, Clive Owen. Add in some lovely scenic shots of the South Australian coast and acclaimed Shine director Scott Hicks at the helm, and you should be onto a winner. While it’s an interesting look at what loss can do to a family, it’s not exactly a warm-and-fuzzy tale for the ages.
Catholic schools. Priests. Sexual abuse allegations. Does this equal a film we’d want to see? Probably not. At best, it would be dull, at worst quite disturbing. Nevertheless, given the Oscar hype surrounding this adaptation of John Patrick Shanley’s play last year, we decided it couldn’t be that bad. In fact, this 1960’s-set drama centring around a nun’s mission to prove a progressive priest guilty of sexual abuse of a student turned out to be quite a unique and thought-provoking film experience.
Gran Torino is vintage Clint Eastwood at his best. From Dirty Harry to Million Dollar Baby, he’s made his signature character into an art form, a hypnotising, hardened beast of a human that you can’t take your eyes off, and yet one that’s never without redeeming qualities either. In this self-directed tale of a bigoted retiree coming to terms with his Asian neighbours in middle America, Eastwood gives us enough bad-ass attitude, along with poignant drama to stand Gran Torino alongside his earlier Oscar-winning efforts.
Paramount have announced their reboot of Footloose is no more. Seems they’re finally listening to the public’s cries of “Dear God, no more remakes!” Either that or both their star director and lead actor have dropped out.
Imagine if Steven Spielberg directed Twilight or James Cameron the first Harry Potter. That’s the level of hype we’re talking here, when one of this generation’s best-selling books joins forces with one of the biggest directors of our time in this month’s The Lovely Bones.