A new year and a new batch of films hit the multiplex.
1st January: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Will Ferrell, Steve Carell and Paul Rudd all rank extremely highly in the comedy acting stakes. But this film lacks laughs and is a misjudged follow-up to the far superior original.
8th January: American Hustle. Con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) has the world’s most elaborate comb-over and an eye for a fast buck. But when a job goes wrong, Irving and his partner in crime (Amy Adams) find themselves caught in an unwelcome new business arrangement – working for FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), a man with delusions of grandeur and a drastic bubble perm. Throw Irving’s neurotic ex-wife, a New Jersey politician with links to the mob and a fake Arab Sheikh into the mix and you just know things won’t be plain sailing for the con-tastic duo. This excellent film ticked all the boxes for me: great characters, great plot, great 1970s styling (Studio 54! DvF wrap dresses!) and great music.
12th January: The Railway Man. Based on the true story of a prisoner of war. Forced by his captors to work on the infamous Thai-Burma Railway, Eric Lomax’s wartime experiences leave him traumatised and socially dysfunctional. When he discovers that the man responsible for his ill treatment in the Japanese labour camp is still alive, Lomax sets out to confront him yet somehow ends up forgiving him. A very moving film, with standout performances from Colin Firth as Lomax and Nicole Kidman as his wife Patricia.
26th January: The Wolf of Wall Street. Another true story, this time charting the rise and fall of Wall Street maverick Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). A celebration of 1980s excess that seems to have split opinion – I wanted to enjoy this film so much more than I actually did.
16th February: Cuban Fury. Like Anchorman 2, the trailer for Cuban Fury promises a lot but the film itself delivers very little. The fabulously talented Olivia Colman is sadly underused in this lacklustre comedy about salsa dancing, while Nick Frost seems lost without Simon Pegg.
23rd February: The Monuments Men. Imagine that Dad’s Army (but generally better looking) is tasked with going behind enemy lines in order to save priceless art treasures looted at Mr Hitler’s behest. That, in a nutshell, is the mission of the combat-unready platoon known as the Monuments Men. George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban make a fantastic band of brothers in this easy-going tale of art experts and museum curators taking time out from academia for an unexpected field trip.
2nd March: Dallas Buyers Club. Matthew McConaughey turns in a career-defining performance in this compelling true-life drama of a man diagnosed with HIV and his subsequent battle with the US healthcare system to get the treatment that he and his fellow AIDS patients desperately need. Dallas Buyers Club got the lion’s share of the awards season buzz and rightly so. McConaughey and co-star Jared Leto are mesmerising.
9th March: Non-Stop. Trouble brews during a transatlantic flight when the air marshal (Liam Neeson) starts to receive threatening text messages from an unknown caller who is apparently holding the airline to ransom. The perpetrator must be on board but who the heck is it? An action-thriller with plenty of twists and turns, Non-Stop isn’t exactly groundbreaking but it does offer the required amount of entertainment for a Sunday afternoon.
11th March: The Book Thief. A screen adaptation of Markus Zusak’s bestseller about a girl called Liesel who steals books with as a way of coping with the realities of life in Nazi Germany. Touching, inventive, humourous and magical, The Book Thief is easily one of my favourite films of the year so far.
30th March: The Grand Budapest Hotel. Writer and director Wes Anderson is cinematic marmite: either you love his films or you loathe them. Stylistically, Anderson’s latest offering is typical of his oeuvre and really rather amusing. It’s particularly enjoyable to see the usually dark and brooding Ralph Fiennes having tremendous fun as Gustave H, the concierge of the eponymous hotel. Look out for the usual suspects in a series of supporting and cameo roles.