Films to see in April 2011
All things considered, our predictions for March were pretty much bang on the money – we were perhaps too optimistic about The Tempest and The Adjustment Bureau, and A Turtle’s Tale definitely had us fooled, but we didn’t do too bad a job. Therefore, you should definitely continue to tentatively put your faith in us and see approximately 75% of the films we approve in this blog. Cool? Cool.
April gets off to a fine start with a weekend of releases including harrowing drama Oranges and Sunshine. Based on the true story of the social worker who discovered that hundreds of thousands of British children had been uprooted from ‘unfit’ families and fostered abroad, it boasts not only a stellar cast (Emily Watson, Hugo Weaving) and Ken Loach’s son Jim in the director’s chair; it’s also packing a coveted 5* rating from BFF. We’re not messing around, this is one to watch even if you have to, for example, kill Bono to do it.
Seamlessly leading in from that totally uncontrived last sentence, Killing Bono looks like great fun. Based on the memoir of Neil McCormick, the Daily Telegraph’s chief rock critic, it tells the story of two Dublin brothers (Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan) who try in vain to make it as rock stars whilst their high school classmate Bono forms what will become the biggest band in the world. Sheehan (Misfits, Season of the Witch), Barnes (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) are both very reliable actors, and it’ll be nice to see what they can do with more grounded material.
We always knew Source Code was going to be brilliant, and we were bloody right; it seems Duncan ‘don’t call me Zowie’ Jones can do no wrong, producing another tense and brilliant sci-fi opus hot on the heels of 2009’s Moon. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as an Army officer who is forced to repeatedly relive the last eight minutes of a dead man’s life in the hope of finding out who set off the bomb that killed him, with solid supporting performances from Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan accentuating a complex, intelligent plot redolent of Philip K Dick at his most feverish.
Hop, however, is clearly going to be repellent filth. Russell Brand’s inexplicably appearances in everything from Get Him To The Greek to Despicable Me have become depressingly routine, but Hugh Laurie? What are you doing there, Hugh? Get out, get out right away and go back to being transcontinentally charming like you’re supposed to!
WILD CARD: Given the critical mauling to which Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch has been subjected across the Atlantic, we’re clearly in dereliction of our duty recommending it here. But we can’t help it; even though it’s clearly getting the reception that Avatar deserved for its high-spec graphics and low-rent plot, there are some things we can never reject and a giant robot samurai is one of them. Please be good, Sucker Punch! Please!
Full disclosure: this isn’t going to be a particularly cheery week for films. Our top pick is Armadillo, a Restrepo-esque Danish documentary which follows a group of soldiers in Helmand province during their first deployment in Afghanistan. Artfully complex post-production techniques blur the lines between fact and fiction, so you may not realise until it’s too late that the dead body onscreen isn’t a prop; this has been a controversial release, but its haul of prizes from Cannes and other festivals testifies to its vast importance.
Based on a true story but with the action transposed from dog- to fish-breeders, Cold Fish is a Japanese film which tells the story of a man who becomes estranged from his wife and daughter as he is drawn into the shadowy and blood-spattered world of underground tropical fish mafiosi. We have been waiting ALL OUR LIVES to write ‘underground tropical fish mafiosi’, and Cold Fish gets the thumbs up pretty much for giving us the chance (as well as its hugely positive reception at last year’s London Film Festival).
It’s a shame nobody’s made a film about the shadowy and blood-spattered world of everyone who was involved in mindless big-budget tripe Rio and Mars Needs Moms having their genitals cut off, but there you go. Two sprawling 3D monsters which sound like they’ll trade all too much on elaborate vistas/futuristic spacescapes, these are no better than that turtle rubbish from last month. Avoid.
WILD CARD: Based on a wildly successful series of YA books, Tomorrow, When The War Began follows a group of Antipodean teenagers who form a guerrilla resistance force after Australia is subjugated by a brutal invasion force. It might be shit, but at least Alex Pettyfer isn’t in it.
Your Highness is popping up on a Wednesday, probably because it’s all quirky and stoned and that. We really can’t decide how we feel; Natalie Portman could, it is true, save a comedy about the Holocaust, but everything we’ve seen so far looks shit. Probably worth the risk, but barely.
We may have pooh-poohed the other three major kids’ films to come out this month, but there’s one basically-going-to-be-perfect offering waiting to take up the slack. Shot in 2D using traditional animation techniques and drawing upon previously unadapted A.A. Milne stories, Winnie The Pooh is going to be absolutely wonderful. It just is, alright? Technically a reboot rather than a sequel (oh yes, the reboot nonsense gets everywhere), this is nevertheless the first non-shit contribution to the Hundred Acre Wood canon since The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was released way back in 1977. We can’t wait. Oh, and did we mention that John Cleese is narrating? John Cleese is narrating. Squee!
It took three years for Johnnie To to shoot Sparrows, working exclusively in the gaps which turned up between his cast’s various other projects. It’s taken a long while for the caper film (apparently that’s a legitimate subgenre) about Hong Kong pickpockets to make it over here, but should be worth the wait – To is a hugely prolific film-maker who’s never really received the attention he deserves in the West, although industry luminaries like Quentin Tarantino sing his praises. Promises to be intelligent, witty and fast-paced.
Practically guaranteed not to be fast-paced, Little White Lies stars François Cluzet and Marion Cotillard (Inception) as a successful couple whose annual beach house gathering is marred by a serious accident which befalls one of the guests. In the aftermath of the disaster, long-maintained subterfuges begin to unravel and the group of holidaymakers find themselves exposing that which was perhaps better kept secret. César Award-winning director Guillaume Canet, who is married to Cotillard, was universally acclaimed for his adaptation of Harlan Coben’s Tell No One; hopefully this film will continue his rise to superstardom.
Crazy Gary Oldman should know better than to stain his reputation through association with Amanda ‘which are bigger, my eyes or my tits?’ Seyfried, but even Empire Icons are allowed an occasional slip up. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t endorse his mistake by seeing Red Riding Hood, which is almost certain to be dreadful.
WILD CARD: Not that wild, this one, since we’ve seen it and know precisely what happens (very little). Still, if the idea of an anti-Western ticks your boxes then you could do worse than try Meek’s Cutoff, a bit of a slog but a very aesthetically pleasing one.
If Russell Brand is very, very good in Arthur, we’re prepared to forget all about Hop; if he isn’t, however, we’ll just spread our legs slightly and writhe in the sensual thespian glow which emanates from Helen Mirren at all times. It’s going to be very silly, but the trailers are so damn charming! One of the less flashy remakes to be doing the rounds this year, the original Dudley Moore/Liza Minnelli vehicle won two of its four Oscar categories back in 1981; that may be a little too much to hope for this time round, but you never know…
One thing that we do know is that Island is bloody superb. A “fairytale thriller” which blends compelling performances with the uncompromising background of rural Scotland, it follows a disturbed foster child as she journeys to a remote island in order to find – and kill – her birth mother. Expect to see much more from first-time directors Brek Taylor and Elizabeth Mitchell.
Taxi Zum Klo, perhaps the best semi-autobiographical gay German film of 1982, is being re-released to satisfy what we can only presume is a horny and unfazeable public desperate to see more ultra-realistic (yet grainy) shots of bearded men screwing in public toilets. Ho hum. Lent a desperately sad innocence by its pre-AIDS dismissal of the health risks of going at it with whoever turned up, this has aged unusually but very well. Worth a watch if it happens to be on in your area.
Alex Pettyfer has officially run out of credit at the Bank of Not Being Spat At In The Street, as far as we’re concerned. I Am Number Four was bad enough (who are we kidding? It was the worst thing ever), and the former Tom Brown/Alex Rider is now playing the eponymous monster in a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. An adaptation set in New York, which co-stars Vanessa Hudgens and an Olsen twin. A MAGICAL OLSEN TWIN. Fuck all this.
WILD CARD: We don’t know a whole lot about How I Ended This Summer, but it boasts Silver Bears, Golden Eagles and Golden Hugos (whatever they are) so it can’t be all bad. A Russian drama about two men working at an isolated Arctic meteorological outpost, it looks to be a focused and deeply unsettling psychological type thing or summat. Could be worthwhile.
THOR! Thor is clearly going to be amazing, this crappy clip notwithstanding; the build-up to The Avengers should continue apace with Chris Hemsworth muscling it up as the superhuman handyman and Natalie Portman saving the day again as a pretty scientist of some description. Anthony Hopkins has a GOLDEN EYEPATCH! We’ll be there.
Farewell, which stars Willem Dafoe and, oddly enough, Guillaume Canet’s old squeeze Dianne Kruger, is another based-on-a-true-story effort – this one set during the Cold War. Christian Carion’s drama sounds like it’ll be channelling The Lives of Others to no small degree, but it sounds as if this will be one of the better spy films you see this year.
You know Jango Fett? Well, it turns out he’s actually a reputable actor. Temuera Morrison joins Ray Winstone for Tracker, a cat-and-mouse film set in 1903 New Zealand where a Boer War veteran and master woodsman (Winstone) must track down a Māori (Morrison) accused of killing a British serviceman. As the Māori repeatedly escapes and is recaptured, the two men build a bond of respect which, if we’re any judge, will probably lead to Ray letting him go at the end. Standard.
WILD CARD: Cedar Rapids has got John C Reilly in, and we like him. What do you want, an essay?
See you in May!