Action, suspense and 3D glasses seem to have figured heavily in our choice of films during March and April.
3rd March: Broken City. A fairly run of the mill thriller set in NYC and featuring Mark Wahlberg as a disgraced cop turned private eye and Russell Crowe as the double-crossing mayor of Gotham. Memorable only for Russell’s bizarre barnet.
5th March: Argo. Ben Affleck looked genuinely gobsmacked when those nice people at BAFTA handed over the gongs for Argo. This film tells the unbelievable (yet true) tale of a joint CIA/Hollywood/Canadian operation to rescue a group of Americans marooned in Tehran after Iranian revolutionaries capture the US embassy. The daring extrication plan involves a bogus sci-fi movie and a trip to Iran to scout for locations. Not knowing the fate of the “film crew” was a real bonus, making the final 30 minutes or so truly nail-biting. Originally released in 2012, Argo made a return visit to multiplexes riding the coat tails of awards season success. I absolutely loved this film and feel slightly ashamed that I missed it at the first time of calling.
10th March: Side Effects. A young woman experiences worrying adverse effects when prescribed a new drug for depression that culminate in the accidental stabbing of her husband. But all it not as it seems… Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Side Effects is a slick thriller that takes on big pharma and stars Rooney Mara as Emily and Jude Law as her psychiatrist. Catherine Zeta-Jones also plays a pivotal part. A great film chock full of moral ambiguity and deception that had me constantly changing my mind about who was really the guilty party.
24th March: Oz the Great and Powerful (3D). L. Frank Baum’s land of yellow brick road and Emerald City has provided rich pickings over the years. This latest trip to Oz tells the back story of the Wizard (James Franco) and the three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams). In this respect, Oz the Great and Powerful ploughs a similar furrow to musical juggernaut Wicked. Plot-wise, the film seemed rather slim but time spent in the trippy land of Oz more than justified the added cost of seeing the 3D version. I particularly liked the way the action starts small in black and white and then pops large with colour as Franco’s hot-air balloon crash-lands in the merry old land of Oz.
31st March: Trance. A pacey, character-based thriller from Danny Boyle that showcases the darker side of London life. Art auctioneer Simon (James McAvoy) is the inside man on a robbery that goes wrong when he double crosses his partner (Vincent Cassell) and is left with amnesia. In order to remember where he stashed the stolen painting, Simon is forced to undergo sessions with a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson). Events soon spiral out of control and we’re taken on a surreal ride through the inner workings of Simon’s mind. On the surface Trance may seem like a regular heist film but it’ll have your head spinning in no time flat. Genius.
7th April: GI Joe: Retaliation (3D). Toy soldiers kick butt in a super-sized bucket of popcorn action film. Just about saved by an epic ninja fight scene and the presence of guilty pleasure Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson.
14th April: Oblivion. I can pretty much take Tom Cruise or leave him and I don’t especially care for sci-fi but Oblivion turned out to be a real corker. Like Trance, this film deals with the veracity of memory. Earth has been decimated by war and the surviving humans relocated to another planet, leaving alien scavengers to run amok among the detritus. Jack (Tom Cruise) is tasked with maintaining the giant reactors used to extract the blue planet’s remaining resources. But a series of flashbacks and the discovery of a crashed spaceship lead him to question everything he once believed to be true. Visually stunning in its depiction of a post-apocalyptic world – with amazing cinematography, soundtrack and set design – this film nevertheless has a very human heart. Cruise may be the headline star but an ethereal Andrea Riseborough steals Tom’s thunder with her effortless portrayal of Jack’s beautiful yet conflicted partner, Victoria.
25th April: The Place Beyond the Pines. Motorcycle stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling) is persuaded to enter the risky business of robbing banks in order to provide financial support for his young son, thereby putting himself directly in the firing line of rookie cop Avery (Bradley Cooper), a man desperate to scramble up the career ladder of law enforcement. The Place Beyond the Pines is a gritty drama in three acts re-examining the biblical saying that the sins of the father are visited upon the son. I must admit that I left the cinema feeling a tad ambiguous as to whether I had actually enjoyed it or not. On the plus side, Gosling is excellent, making a sympathetic character out of the supposed bad guy; the scenes involving Avery and his corrupt cop buddies are compelling; the score is incredibly evocative; and I loved the camera work during the motorcycle rides. On the other hand, the story starts to run out of steam in the third act and the whole film is just far too long. My advice? Go see it and make up your own mind.
28th April: Olympus Has Fallen. A gung-ho film that follows the exploits of a disgraced former Presidential guard (Gerard Butler) who uses his insider knowledge to save the day after a terrorist attack on the White House compromises the safety of the President and his staff. Fast-paced and full of action, this is a perfect Sunday afternoon film. The North Korean angle to the plot is uncannily topical…