by Preeti Virdee
NORMA and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple in the 1970s with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don't know.
With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.
The film has caused controversy as it’s been terribly received in the USA – they’ve voted it the worst thriller ever, but it’s not so hated on this side of the pond.
The idea is intriguing, and with the extreme consequences of pushing that button, one is just hooked. Diaz, Marsden and Langella portray the characters with confidence and sincerity; the story does not live up to it's potential. You are forced to hang on for the explanation, and so are caught up in the apparent drama of whys and hows, but ultimately I felt it was a let down.
The Box is written and directed by Richard Kelly of Donnie Darko infamy. My verdict - if you liked Donnie Darko, then you'll probably like this; personally I didn't see the point in the first movie, and I feel exactly the same way about this.
CAST: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella, James Rebhorn, Holmes Osborne
DIRECTOR: Richard Kelly
RUNTIME: 115 min
RELEASE DATE: 4 December 2009
AURO is an intelligent, witty 13 year old boy with an extremely rare genetic defect called progeria that causes accelerated ageing. Mentally he is 13, very normal, but physically he looks 5 times older.
In spite of his condition, Auro is a very happy boy. He lives with his mother, Vidya, a gynaecologist and his grandmother.
Amol Arte is a young, progressive politician full of ideals. A man with a mission - he is out to prove to the world that politics is not a bad word.
Paa is a rare and touching story about the father-son relationship, with the added twist that Auro is played by 68 year old Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan, and Amol by his 33 year old son, Abhishek Bachchan.
It's not all the time that I have good things to say about Bollywood, but this time - what an excellent film! Not too long, not over-loaded with songs, just a beautiful heart-warming family story played out by some of the most talented actors in Bombay; and the shining star amongst them all is Abhishek Bachchan. His father has been in the game for over 40 years now, so one expects him to do well, but junior AB is simply marvelous.
This one's well worth a trip to the movies.
CAST: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Paresh Rawal
DIRECTOR: R Balki
RUNTIME: 133 min
LANGUAGE: Hindi [with subtitles globally]
RELEASE DATE: 4 December 2009
THE film tells the story of Max, a rambunctious and sensitive boy who feels misunderstood at home and escapes to where the Wild Things are. Max lands on an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions.
The Wild Things desperately long for a leader to guide them, just as Max longs for a kingdom to rule. When Max is crowned king, he promises to create a place where everyone will be happy. Max soon finds, though, that ruling his kingdom is not so easy and his relationships there prove to be more complicated than he originally thought.
Only just released in the UK, those who have seen it are singing it’s praises. From the director of Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, this movie about children is by no means a children’s movie.
The premise of the movie is clever, quirky, entertaining and eye-opening. I didn't know what to expect, and it was a pleasant surprise. The innocence of children and the idea that the grass is always greener [or not] are beautifully portrayed. One of the most endearing traits is that the Wild Things aren't given silly voices to pander to a children's audience - it's the actors being actors - and one can relate so much better to the characters. James Gandolfini is particularly excellent.
Kids and adults will enjoy it in equal measure, so plan this one in during the Christmas holidays for a serene afternoon of entertainment.
CAST: Catherine Keener, Benicio Del Toro, Forest Whitaker, Lauren Ambrose, Catherine O'Hara, Tom Noonan, Michael Berry, James Gandolfini
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
RUNTIME: 101 min
RELEASE DATE: 11 December 2009
AVATAR takes us to a spectacular world beyond imagination where a reluctant hero embarks on an epic adventure, ultimately fighting to save the alien world he has learned to call home. James Cameron, the Oscar-winning director of ‘Titanic’, first conceived the film 15 years ago, when the means to realise his vision did not yet exist.
We enter the alien world through the eyes of Jake Sully, a former Marine confined to a wheelchair. But despite his broken body, Jake is still a warrior at heart. He is recruited to travel light years to the human outpost on Pandora, where corporations are mining rare mineral that is key to solving Earth’s energy crisis. Because the atmosphere of Pandora is so toxic, they have created the Avatar Programme, in which human ‘drivers’ have their consciousness linked to an avatar, a remotely-controlled biologically body that can survive in the lethal air. These avatars are genetically engineered hybrids of human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives of Pandora…the Na’vi.
Reborn in his avatar form, Jake can walk again. He is given a mission to infiltrate the Na’vi, who have become a major obstacle to mining the precious ore. But a beautiful Na’vi female, Neytiri, saves Jake’s life, and this changes everything. Jake is taken in by her clan, and learns to become one of them. As Jake’s relationship with his reluctant teacher Neytiri deepens, he learns to respect the Na’vi way and finally takes his place among them. Soon he will face the ultimate test as he leads them into an epic battle that will decide nothing less the fate of the entire world.
And breathe…that’s one hell of a rundown, but it’s what the film makers say, and there's not really that much to give away of this epic movie. The music’s by James Horner, also of Titanic fame and it is as enthralling and mesmerising as his Oscar-winning previous works - thankfully minus Celine Dion!
Well - it does live up to the hype sort of - if Star Wars had the same impact on you as it did me when I was 8 years old. It's as exciting and mesmerising for a simple love story and the triumph of good over evil. It's the age old story of an allegedly superior race wanting their own way over the indigenous population...well we all know how that ends.
It isn't the story that will impress you though - if this movie hadn't won at least some special effects gong in the months of awards mania, there would have been something very wrong. The movie has a breathtaking magical quality - the characters are ethereal, the CGI effects that create the world of Pandora including the dinosauresque creatures are indescribable - the biggest problem is that you have to see it to believe it - there aren't the words to capture the magnificence of this epic masterpiece.
CAST: Michelle Rodriguez, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana
DIRECTOR: James Cameron
RUNTIME: 150 min
RELEASE DATE: 17 December 2009
Best Motion Picture - Drama
Best Director - Motion Picture: James Cameron
Won Best Production Design: Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair
Won Best Special Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones
Won Best Motion Picture Drama
THE St Trinian’s schoolgirls start a new term amidst the usual chaos and excitement. Rupert Everett returns as unconventional headmistress Camilla Fritton and Colin Firth as her old flame Geoffrey Thwaites. A rollercoaster-style treasure hunt for the legendary Fritton’s Gold ensues as they face their most fearsome establishment rivals yet, but the feisty and ever-resourceful girls of St Trinian’s are undeterred in their mission to outwit the villainous Pomfrey played by Dr Who himself, David Tennant and his sidekicks from the women-hating secret society known as AD1.
CAST: David Tennant, Sarah Harding, Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Gemma Arterton, Talulah Riley, Jodie Whittaker, Juno Temple, Tamsin Egerton, Celia Imrie
DIRECTOR: Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson
RELEASE DATE: 18 December 2009
NINE is a vibrant and provocative musical that follows the life of world famous film director, Guido Contini [Daniel Day-Lewis] as he reaches a personal and creative crisis of epic proportion, while balancing the numerous women in his life including his wife [Marion Cotillard], his mistress [Penélope Cruz], his film star muse [Nicole Kidman], his confidant and costume designer [Judi Dench], an American fashion journalist [Kate Hudson], the whore from his youth [Stacy Ferguson] and his mother [Sophia Loren].
The film is directed by the award-winning Rob Marshall of Chicago fame. The original 1982 Broadway production of Nine won five Tony Awards including Best Musical. Along with Michael Tolkin, the screenplay for this adaptation was done by the late, great Anthony Minghella.
With such a spectacular cast, rousing score, beautiful scenery and fantastic camera work, the film is simply a future classic and a masterpiece. The movie captures completely the essence of Italy and the 60s. It is made so perfectly and with such attention to detail that it gives me the excuse to use all those wonderful descriptives that one can rarely apply to one production...it is opulent, extravagant, decadent, luscious and ostentatious!
This is yet another must see movie on the big screen.
CAST: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, Marion Cotillard, Fergie
DIRECTOR: Rob Marshall
RUNTIME: 118 mins
RELEASE DATE: 18 December 2009
In the “Squeakquel,” pop sensations Alvin, Simon and Theodore end up in the care of Dave Seville’s twenty-something nephew Toby. The boys must put aside music superstardom to return to school, and are tasked with saving the school’s music program by winning the $25,000 prize in a battle of the bands. But the Chipmunks unexpectedly meet their match in three singing chipmunks known as “The Chipettes” – Brittany, Eleanor and Jeanette. Romantic and musical sparks are ignited when the Chipmunks and Chipettes square off.
If you can cope with the chipmunk squeak, the soundtrack is pretty fab; the first I heard was the Chipettes squeakelling Beyoncé’s Single Lady…hysterical and yet brilliant. All round family fun just in time for Christmas! But if you can't stand hi-pitched squealing for more than five minutes - send the kids with the babysitter and enjoy a small libation or two while they're out - else you'll need a bottle to recover.
CAST: Zach Levi, David Cross, and Jason Lee, and Justin Long. Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate
DIRECTOR: Betty Thomas
RUNTIME: 88 min
RELEASE DATE: 21 December 2009
A lonely teenager, curious and sharp, growing up in the shattered city of Liverpool. Two incredible women clash for his love. Mimi, the formidable aunt who raised him and Julia, the spirited mother who gave him up. Yearning for a normal family, John escapes into music. His fledgling genius finds a kindred spirit in the young Paul McCartney. But just as John's new life begins the truth about his past leads to a tragedy he would never escape. Poignant and powerful, Nowhere Boy is the untold story of the boy who created The Beatles.
An accomplished directorial debut for Sam Taylor-Wood, and overall a well-respected, authentic and enjoyed movie which premiered at the London Film Festival in 2009.
CAST: Aaron Johnson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey, Thomas Sangster, Sam Bell
DIRECTOR: Sam Taylor Wood
RUNTIME: 97 min
RELEASE DATE: 26 December 2009
IN a dynamic new portrayal of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes sends Holmes [Robert Downey Jr.] and his stalwart partner Watson [Jude Law] on their latest challenge. Revealing fighting skills as lethal as his legendary intellect, Holmes will battle as never before to bring down a new nemesis and unravel a deadly plot that could destroy the country.
The action-adventure mystery Sherlock Holmes is helmed by acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie. Robert Downey Jr. brings the legendary detective to life, and Jude Law stars as Holmes’ trusted colleague, Watson, a doctor and war veteran who is a formidable ally for Sherlock Holmes. Rachel McAdams stars as Irene Adler, the only woman ever to have bested Holmes and who has maintained a tempestuous relationship with the detective. Mark Strong stars as their mysterious new adversary, Blackwood. Kelly Reilly plays Watson’s love interest, Mary.
If the trailer is anything to go by, the film should have been a cinematic pleasure; the banter between Downey Jr. and Law is perfectly timed and as witty as you can get…Guy Ritchie could have found his niche for the first time since Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels with this highly entertaining caper.
Potentially a perfect end to an interesting year at the movies…but dear oh dear we were not terribly impressed. Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic as Holmes, and Jude Law was charming as Watson, but it failed miserably at the script level. It begins well, draws you in, creates the intrigue...and then collapses in a dishevelled heap in the middle, all very confused...thankfully it comes together wonderfully at the end in true Holmes style.
In fact, all the actors were commendable, the vistas were stunning, the effects used to create late 19th century London resulting in a breath-taking film, and for that reason it really should be seen on the big screen.
CAST: Robert Downey Jr., Rachel McAdams, Jude Law, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Fox, Geraldine James
DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie
RUNTIME: 128 min
RELEASE DATE: 26 December 2009
Won Best Actor: Robert Downey Jr.
TWO friends embark on a quest to track down a long-lost friend from their college days. Along the way they encounter a forgotten bet, crash a wedding, attend a funeral that is quite bizarre, all in the hope they can find Rancho – a classmate who inadvertently touched the lives of everyone who encountered him...but where is he now?...and actually, who is he?... Many a question needs answering along the way in a story that includes romance, friendship, antagonism, madness, and with a moral message that is fast becoming the trademark of director Rajkumar Hirani following his Munnabhai escapades.
3 Idiots is cute, amusing, fluffy in parts, but very very long and could have been a far slicker fait accompli had at least half an hour of sentimentalism been loped off and left on the cutting room floor from the middle. But give it a go – it has that inimitable feel good factor that will have you grinning as you leave the multiplex.
CAST: Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani
DIRECTOR: Rajkumar Hirani
RUNTIME: 171 min
LANGUAGE: Hindi with subtitles worldwide
RELEASE DATE: 26 December 2009
THIS 2009 Disney adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a spectacular animated version. At the helm is Robert Zemeckis, who with a track record that reads like the family movie section of your DVD collection including the Back To The Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, The Polar Express, is duty-bound to make a triumph from this festive tale of miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge getting his comeuppance from three ghosts from Christmases past, present and future who show him the error of his ways; between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, all is righted in the world…
CAST: Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth, Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Daryl Sabara, Molly C. Quinn
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
RUNTIME: 96 min
RELEASE DATE: 4 November 2009
A modest law-abiding citizen, Harry Brown is a retired marine and a widower who lives alone on a depressed housing estate. His only company is his best friend, Leonard. When Leonard is murdered by a gang of thugs, Harry feels compelled to act and is forced to dispense his own brand of justice. As he bids to clean up the rundown estate where he lives, his actions bring him into conflict with the police, led by investigating officer DCI Frampton and DS Hicock.
The movie has a very raw quality, and begins in almost a documentary style. Award-winning director Daniel Barber captures the feelings of hopelessness and the essence of a sink-estate to perfection. I was surprised to find this was his first feature film. There is no rash over-statement or exaggeration throughout, just a quite frustration that builds to a fierce crescendo...and then it's done.
This is an old-fashioned British gangster-style flick. Caine is moving as ever - he always appears to do his best when he plays the quiet man. Emily Mortimer is exceptional.
Possibly not the best movie to see if you're in a festive spirit, but definitely worth going to the movies for.
CAST: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles, Ben Drew, Liam Cunningham, Iain Glen, David Bradley, Raza Jaffrey
DIRECTOR: Daniel Barber
RUNTIME: 103 min
RELEASE DATE: 11 November 2009
NEVER before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, religions, scientists and governments. 2012 is an epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.
From director, Roland Emmerich, who has a history of ‘disaster’ movies behind him including The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla and Independence Day, and a stellar cast including John Cusack, Chweitel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson, another ‘end-of-the-world’ movie is foisted upon us in all its unbelievable though spectacular glory.
Mr Emmerich may have begun with entertaining blockbusters like ID4, but this movie definitely follows his pattern...the more recent, the more diabolical. Personally, I can be quite amused by disaster films - but this one - a terrible waste of almost 3 hours. I'm sure there are far more interesting things you can be doing with your life.
If you’re a sucker for big action movies and Americans saving the world, then do see 2012 on the big screen…but with 42” widescreens with surround sound becoming the norm in many a household these days, the DVD won’t be THAT far behind. However, they'll probably have to give it away with the Sunday papers.
CAST: John Cusack, Chweitel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich
RUNTIME: 158 min
RELEASE DATE: 13 November 2009
IN the second instalment of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenally successful "Twilight" series, the romance between mortal and vampire soars to a new level as Bella Swan delves deeper into the mysteries of the supernatural world she yearns to become part of—only to find herself in greater peril than ever before.
Following Bella’s ill-fated 18th birthday party, Edward Cullen and his family abandon their town in an effort to protect her from the dangers inherent in their world. As the heartbroken Bella sleepwalks through her senior year of high school, she discovers Edward’s image comes to her whenever she puts herself in jeopardy.
With the help of her childhood friend Jacob Black, who has a supernatural secret of his own and is a member of the mysterious Quileute tribe, Bella’s frozen heart is gradually thawed.
When a chance encounter brings Bella face to face with a former nemesis, the encounter makes it frighteningly clear that Bella is still in grave danger. In a race against the clock, Bella learns the secret of the Quileutes and Edward’s true motivation for leaving her.
I have to be honest - I really did try to watch this, but falling asleep from boredom in the first 15 minutes is not a good sign. No doubt all red blooded teenagers the planet over who have a penchant for Gossip Girl and The OC-esque dramas have already seen the film. However, if you need some space and are dreading the holidays with houses full of stroppy teenagers, then get them the DVD of the original movie, Twilight, then pack them all off to the cinema – that should give you a few hours peace!
CAST: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Dakota Fanning
DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz
RUNTIME: 130 min
RELEASE DATE: 20 November 2009
AFTER a young, middle class couple moves into what seems like a typical suburban “starter” tract house, they become increasingly disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic but is certainly most active in the middle of the night.
Especially when they sleep. Or try to.
Don’t be lulled into any false sense of security here – this may be a low-budget horror flick about yet another haunted house filled with a very small cast of newcomers – but no one has anything bad to say about it - and neither do I. The director has been clever and just made a simple premise flow so easily that you will be pleasantly entertained…the suspense is breathtaking and the acting absolutely convincing...definitely worth a look.
CAST: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Mark Fredrichs, Amber Armstrong
DIRECTOR: Oren Peli
RUNTIME: 86 min
RELEASE DATE: 25 November 2009
NATIVITY! is a heart-warming Christmas tale that sees the English city of Coventry turned into Tinseltown when locals believe that Hollywood producers are coming to judge the best nativity play from rival schools.
Unmotivated primary school teacher, Paul Maddens, gets assigned the task of putting on St Bernadette’s nativity play. With the help of his over-enthusiastic classroom assistant, Mr Poppy, they set out to put on a Christmas cracker.
Equipped with a death slide, auditions to make Simon Cowell blush, five virgin Marys, three camels and a kick-ass break-dancing angel Gabriel, this musical extravaganza is enough to make every parent proud – but will it win the attention of Hollywood and the coveted 5 star review?
Littered with British comic stars, and some amusing musical numbers, unfortunately the School Of Rock this isn’t - and the blame lies entirely on the script; the actors did what they could, and you will be mildly entertained, and the little ones will love it….but don’t rush out too quickly; it is almost Christmas after all and that means plenty of excellent kids films on the horizon.
CAST: Martin Freeman, Marc Wootton, Jason Watkins, Ashley Jensen, Pam Ferris, Alan Carr
DIRECTOR: Debbie Isitt
RUNTIME: 105 min
RELEASE DATE: 27 November 2009
10 years later, the killer is murdered and Clyde coolly admits guilt whilst warning Nick that he and the system will pay the price for letting him down.
Nick now finds himself in a desperate race against time to outwit a brilliant enemy who’s hell-bent on destruction and is always one step ahead.
Oh it had so much potential! This 'explosive action-packed thriller' brought to us by the director of the remake of The Italian Job is a somewhat over-violent blood fest and a little pointless. It starts off well...the first half hour is actually quite intriguing and clever. But then it moves from the sublime to the ridiculous. The premise of the intellectual dilemma becomes so far fetched that one could not possible suspend one's disbelief for even a nanosecond; the plotline is entirely laughable. I do wonder sometimes if the actors actually read the scripts before they sign up for them.
I wouldn't be rushing out to catch it at the movies...just wait till it's on TV...and even then, there's probably something far more interesting on the other channel. Such a shame as it just could have been so much better.
CAST: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Viola Davis, Bruce McGill
DIRECTOR: F Gary Gray
RUNTIME: 109 min
RELEASE DATE: 27 November 2009