UK Cinema ReleasesBy now I imagine we are all a little bored of hearing how brilliantly Skyfall is doing at the box office, so I’ll keep it brief this week and simply say, still making big bucks, 5th highest gross of all time so far, Avatar in its sights. I think that just about covers it.

Last week’s two big releases were Ben Affleck’s Argo and the Kevin James vehicle Here Comes the Boom. Despite a strong showing in the US and hugely positive reviews over this side of the pond too, the studio may be a little disappointed with Argo’s opening week takings of just £1.2million which wasn’t enough to see it unseat Madagascar 3 which retains its second spot. That being said, with Skyfall still reigning supreme and the subject matter perhaps not being that enticing to UK audiences, it’s still a strong opening for the political thriller.

I went to see Argo for myself this week and absolutely loved it. I heartily recommend it to one and all. The director delivers a slick and clever thriller which skillfully balances moments of levity with sheer unadulterated tension. Afflleck proves yet again that he is an exciting and promising director and I’m looking forward to seeing what he tries next. Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston are all on fine form too as part of a magnificent ensemble cast.Perhaps the highest praise I can give Argo is that, even though I knew how it ended, I was still literally on the edge of my seat and now have practically no nails left to bite.

Here Comes The Boom had a decent opening weekend too which saw it enter the chart at fourth spot, yet the gulf between its weekly takings of just over £400,000 and Skyfall’s £10million is telling. The Bond juggernaut is undoubtedly still stealing away some undecided swing-viewers (if such a thing exists) as your casual cinema goer is still being lured in by 007 at the expense of the other mainstream releases.

The Sapphires had a modest opening weekend, taking in just over £330,000 and while this may not quite be as high as the studio would have liked, it’s a darn sight better than Brit comedy-horror Love Bite which despite opening on a fairly large number of screens, only manged to take in around £70,000.

This week’s two release of note are Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winning drama Amour. One is a sullen love story tinged with melancholy as the spectre of death looms large over its central couple, the other is…..well, you can see where I’m going with that gag. Haneke’s Amour went down a storm at Cannes and while it will only have a limited appeal, it should prove a big arthouse hit and prove a modest entry in the charts next week.

Twihards will be giddy at the prospect of the final film in the Twilight saga hitting screens and one would imagine it will take some pretty serious cashola at the multiplex over the weekend. It doesn’t perhaps have the broad appeal of your Potter or even your Bond, but the Twilight films have a sizeable fanbase and while I can’t see it overtaking Skyfall at the top of the pile, it should easily enter into second spot.

Also out this week are Australian comedy Mental, and two music documentaries in the shape of Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet and Hit So Hard.

If you want to check to see if any of these films are playing near you, you can visit Find Any Film and they’ll be able to help.

 

 

Twilight Saga : Breaking Dawn Pt 2

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Truth be told, I’ve never seen a Twilight movie and so cannot really pass judgement on their assorted quality. My basic understanding would seem to suggest that while it is not for everybody, the films are fairly faithful to the books and entertaining should you like that sort of thing. With that fantastic piece of fence-sitting out of the way, let us continue.

The fifth and final part of the fantasy romance series will be met with screams of joy from its legion of fans and will be largely ignored by the rest of us. The plot therefore is almost definitely already known to those who are at all interested, but just in case anybody was wondering, here’s my incredibly detailed and thoroughly researched summary. K-Stew (I know the lingo) is now a vampire, has had a half-human (I think)  kid, which has ticked off a powerful vampire coven called the Volturi and so now the Cullens need to recruit some buddies to stand against them in a big battle. I also assume that at some stage, some very handsome boys will take off their shirts too.

Critics have been fairly collective in their agreement that it’s not by any means a great movie, but it is a fitting ending to the series and a strong Twilight outing.  The epic battle is suitably epic and the climax is neatly done with a noticeable deviation from the source material.  It’s not for every one (have I made this point enough times yet?) but the fans are going to lap it up.

You can read Dave Stzypuljak’s review here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 56%

 

Amour

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Michael Haneke is not known for making comfortable and easy to watch cinema. Films such as Funny Games, Hidden and The White Ribbon are powerful and emotional  pieces of cinema that can often be difficult to watch. By all accounts, his latest offering, the winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is very much in this mould. A gut-wrenching and incredibly poignant look at love and ageing which perhaps shows the more sensitive side of a director known for traditionally very cold and difficult movies.

Amour focuses on an elderly couple, Anne and Georges, now in their 80s living out their twilight years in Paris. However when Anne experiences a massive stroke and becomes paralysed down her left hand side, Georges is forced to undertake the difficult job of looking after her as she becomes increasingly unwell and shows growing sings of dementia.  The bonds of love however are strong and after a lifetime of happiness he is not about to shirk his duties now no matter how hard it may get.

It’s a film unflinching in tis portrayal of how difficult caring for somebody severely disabled can be,  and one which posses a real emotional heft. The two central performances from Jean-Louis Trinitigant and Emmanuelle Riva have been universally singled out for praise by the critics. Described in several quarters as ‘the feel-bad movie of the year’, it is an uncomprimising look at the true meaning of love.

You can read Craig Skinner’s review here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

Mental

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The statement, ‘an off-beat Aussie comedy from the people who brought you Muriel’s Wedding’ should tell you plenty about the type of film you’re in for here. Expect plenty of  dark humour in this story of a surly hitchhiker who is hired to look after a politician’s five daughters, all of whom are convinced they suffer from a mental health illness, after their mother is herself taken off to a mental institution.

I get the impression from the reviews of Mental so far that it’s very much a Marmite kind of movie. The riotous and eccentric humour often boarders on the grotesque and it may be a bit too much for some.  Some have described it as a hugely entertaining comedy packed with memorable performances, others have said its cringe-inducingly tasteless.  Could be a quirky piece of fun, if you like that sort of thing.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 54%

 

Jason Becker : Not Dead Yet

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An interesting documentary looking at the extraordinary life of Jason Becker, a guitar playing musical prodigy who toured with his own band before going on to record an album with Dave Lee Roth. However, for 22 years, Jason has battled with the debilitating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease and  at one stage he was given only three to five years to live by his doctors. Despite exceeding all of their expectations, the disease has left Becker with horrifying locked-in syndrome which has rendered him unable to move or talk. However, through using a system created by his father, Becker can still communicate using his eyes and astonishingly continues to compose music.

Unanimously praised by the critics, by all accounts it’s an inspiring and uplifting documentary with an interesting array of talking heads involved. It’s a moving piece of work and a fitting tribute to a young man who refused to be beaten and instead showed incredible endurance to keep on doing the thing he loved.

You can read Emily Breen’s review here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 89%

 

Hit So Hard

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The second music documentary out this week looks at the troubled life of Patty Schemel, the former drummer of Courtney Love’s band Hole during their rapid ascent in Grunge’s early nineties heyday. Schemel and many of the Seattle-based artists who were at the centre of the grunge craze, never expected fame and not all of them dealt with the trappings of it so easily. Patty soon got into drugs and spiraled out of control, very nearly losing her life in the process.

Combining archive footage with modern-day interviews, Patty’s story is an intriguing one but the general consensus seems to that it’s not the greatest of documentaries, often lacking focus and offering few insights. It is nonetheless at times a touching insight into one woman’s escape from the brink and Hole and grunge aficionados will find much to enjoy.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating ; 64%

The Pool

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It’s only now getting a very limited release but back in 2007, Chris Smith’s Indian-set drama came away with the Special Dramatic Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Fans of world cinema would do well to try and seek it out if they can.

According to the official blurb:

The Pool is the story of Venkatesh, a “room boy” working at a hotel in Panjim, Goa, who sees from his perch in a mango tree a luxuriant garden and shimmering pool hidden behind a wall. In making whatever efforts he can to better himself, Venkatesh offers his services to the wealthy owner of the home. Not content to simply dream about a different life, Venkatesh is inquisitive about the home’s inhabitants-indeed about the world around him-and his curiosity changes the shape of his future.

 

You can read Dave Roper’s review here.

Happy Happy:

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A comedy drama courtesy of Anne Sewitsky which proved incredibly popular in its native Norway.  It’s been receiving some pretty positive reviews over here in Blighty now as well with many critics praising its mix of eccentric humour and moments of touching melodrama. According to the official blurb:

Family is the most important thing in the world to Kaja. She is an eternal optimist in spite of living with a man who would rather go hunting with the boys, and who refuses to have sex with her because she isn’t particularly attractive anymore. Whatever. That’s life. But when the perfect couple moves in next door, Kaja struggles to keep her emotions in check. Not only do these successful, beautiful, exciting people sing in a choir; they have also adopted a child – from Ethiopia. These new neighbors open a new world to Kaja, with consequences for everyone involved. And when Christmas comes around, it becomes evident that nothing will ever be like before – even if Kaja tries her very best.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating ; 84%