Up (Disney): The 10th film from Pixar is the tale of an old man named Carl (Ed Asner) who decides to go off on an adventure by using balloons to fly his house down to the South American jungle. Along the way he discovers a young stowaway Wilderness Explorer (Jordan Nagai), a collection of talking dogs and a mysterious explorer (Christopher Plummer) living in the jungle.
As you might expect from Pixar, the animation and storytelling are first rate, although the first half of the film is a touch more satisfying than the second, due in part to a dazzling sequence early on which is amongst the best they have ever done. Director Pete Docter deserves a lot of praise for cleverly mixing deep emotions with breezy action and it bears some similarities in tone to his previous feature-length film, Monsters, Inc.
This is the first all new Pixar film to have the 3D treatment (seemingly standard for major studio animation these days) and on the big screen I saw it on it looked crisp and clean, making clever use of the spaces in certain scenes. One of the more pleasing aspects of the film is the attention paid to character, especially Carl, which has long been a hallmark of Pixar’s best work but for some reason resonates very strongly with this film.
Disney will be expecting a half-term box office bonanza from family audiences along the lines of £20 million but I can’t help feeling they missed out on a higher potential gross by not releasing it in the summer given the lack of a major football tournament and a general dearth of decent films, let alone family themed ones. Never the less, the number 1 slot is assured. [Cert U / Nationwide]
Zombieland: (Sony Pictures): Think Adventureland meets Shaun of the Dead and you’ll get some idea of this fast-paced and highly enjoyable zombie comedy. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as survivors of a zombie apocalypse who have to team up in order to survive.
Directed by first timer Ruben Fleischer from a script by Paul Wernick and
Rhett Reese it manages to reference the zombie genre and satirise it at the same time. Part of the key here is the tone, which is wise but never too serious and the pacing which is admirably brisk. Another key plus point are the performances which are excellent with Eisenberg doing a sterling job in the lead, a character who is something of a nerdy, likeable everyman.
The irony about this film is that it comes after a wave of Shaun of the Dead rip-offs which have flooded the market over the last couple of years (memo to young British directors: stop trying to be Edgar Wright), but it does actually feel fresh and funny. This is more because of the execution rather than the ideas, but never the less it works.
Word of mouth and critical buzz from the US is very good and Sony will be hoping for a solid showing amongst the 16-34 year old demographic, with this being perfect fodder for couples on a Saturday night. Up is going to pull in the big numbers this weekend but Zombieland could do very good business given that everyone is probably still bummed out how average The Invention of Lying was. [Cert 15 / Nationwide]
Love Happens (E1 Entertainment): A romantic drama about a widower (Aaron Eckhart) and author of a best selling book on loss selling guru, who falls for a woman (Jennifer Aniston) who attends one of his seminars.
The bad reviews and poor buzz are likely to put off female audiences, but that still doesn’t explain why the poster is almost identical to the one for Revolutionary Road. [Cert 12A / Nationwide]
Halloween II (Entertainment): The Rob Zombie directed sequel to his own naff 2007 remake bombed in the US (where some were repulsed by the hacky directing and sadism) and is likely to do the same here.
Profits on DVD is probably where this one is going to make its real money.
IN LIMITED RELEASE
Goodbye Solo (Axiom Films): An indie drama written and directed by Ramin Bahrani about a Senegalese taxi driver (Souléymane Sy Savané) who forms an unlikely connection with an older passenger (Red West).
Critical acclaim after a successfull festival circuit run could translate into decent art house business.
Katalin Varga (Artficial Eye): The feature film debut of British director Peter Strickland filmed and set entirely in the rural wilds of Romania about the journey taken by the title character and her son, Orban, after Katalin’s husband banishes them from their home following a scandalous discovery.
Will need significant critical support to make waves on the arthouse circuit but well be a slow burner on DVD, especially if Strickland’s career progresses.
Vanishing of the Bees (Dogwoof): A documentary about the disturbing decline in the UK honeybee population last winter, which is potentially serious given they pollinate a third of our food.
Shot in only five days on a micro-budget of £48,000, it will have a brief run in certain cinemas followed by a quickie DVD release.
Died Young Stayed Pretty (ICA Films): A documentary that examines the underground poster culture in North America directed by Eileen Yaghoobian. [ICA Cinema]
> UK cinema releases for October 2009
> DVD & Blu-ray picks for this week including Katyn, Beaufort and Time Bandits (W/C Monday 5th Ocotber 2009)