Of Gods and Men (Artificial Eye): A drama about Trappist monks in the monastery of Tibhirine in Algeria who live in harmony with the local population until events spiral out of control. Directed by Xavier Beauvois, it is based on real events in 1996 and stars Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale. The slow burning pace, attention to detail and fine performances give the film a rare power and it won the Grans Prix Prize at the Cannes film festival last year. [Buy it on Blu-ray / DVD]
Monsters (Momentum Pictures): The alien invasion genre gets a mumblecore twist with this British sci-fi film about a photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) who has to guide his employer’s daughter (Whitney Able) out of a Mexico which is infested with alien creatures. A considerable production achievement from first-time director Gareth Edwards (who provided the SFX himself), it lacks basic thrills but makes up that with its thoughtful approach and features a wonderful ambient score from Jon Hopkins. [Buy it on Blu-ray / DVD]
Two in the Wave (New Wave Films): A French documentary directed by Emmanuel Laurent which examines the relationship between directors François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, the two key figures of the French New Wave in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Although the formal, conservative style is perhaps at odds with what its subjects stood for, there is a lot of great archive news and interview footage of the young directors who revolutionised cinema in the early 1960s. [Buy it on DVD]
2012: Doomsday (Lighthouse DVD Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal] About a Boy (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] Babe (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] Babe: Pig in the City (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] Coraline (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition with 2D Edition / Normal] Deep Ocean Experience (FilmicArt) [Blu-ray / with 3D Version] Harry Potter 1-7A (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Box Set] Legend of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal / Triple Play] Peter Pan (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] Rory Gallagher: Irish Tour 1974 (Eagle Rock Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal] Rubber (Optimum Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal] The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Momentum Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Megamind (Paramount): The latest animated film from the DreamWorks stable is a riff on the superhero genre from the perspective of a super villain. When the evil Megamind (Will Ferrell) somehow manages to kill his nemesis Metro Man (Brad Pitt), he faces the challenge of having no-one left to fight, so he creates a new foe, Titan (Jonah Hill) in order to impress a female reporter (Tina Fey).
Directed by Tom McGrath, it bears many similarities to The Incredibles (2004) but is witty, well paced and makes imaginative use of 3D. Family audiences made this a big hit in the US and it should easily claim the top spot in the UK this week. [Paramount Vue West End & Nationwide / PG]
Secretariat (Walt Disney): Drama based on the life story of Penny Chenery, owner of legendary US racehorse Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973. Chenery (Diane Lane) is a housewife takes over her ailing father’s Virginia stables, and despite her lack of experience, with the help of a veteran trainer (John Malkovich) she manages to navigate the world of horse racing.
Mixed to good reviews in the US didn’t help it at the box office where it was a relative disappointment. Audiences in the UK may less familiar with the story, so Disney faces a challenge selling this potential cinemagoers. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / U]
Monsters (Vertigo Films): Set a few years after mysterious alien creatures have landed in Mexico, a photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) is ordered to escort his publisher’s daughter (Whitney Able) to the safety of the US. However, due to various circumstances it becomes a difficult task as they venture through the ‘infected zone’, which contains various giant monsters which can harm humans and property.
A curious hybrid of mumblecore and monster movie, this marks an impressive debu effort from director Gareth Edwards, who also shot the film and did the impressive visual effects.
Although internet buzz has been loud on this film, multiplex audiences may be disappointed to learn that it is a talky road movie in which monsters appear intermittently. So whilst this auspicious debut it will get good reviews, the box office may not be as impressive as some expect. [Curzon Soho, Screen On The Green, Vues Islington, West End & Nationwide / 12A]
Of Gods And Men (Artificial Eye): French drama from director Xavier Beauvois based on the kidnapping and murder of Cistercian monks in Algeria by fundamentalists in 1996.
Starring Etienne Comar, Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale, it was one of the favourites for this year’s Palme D’Or at Cannes, before losing out to Uncle Boonmee. Hardcore cinephiles may make this do respectable arthouse business. [Curzons Mayfair, Renoir, Richmond, HMV Curzon Wimbledon & N’wide / 15]
Miral (Warner/Pathe): Based on the novel by Rula Jebreal, this drama is about an orphaned Palestinian girl (Frieda Pinto) growing up during the Arab-Israeli war, who finds herself gradually drawn into the conflict.
Normally a film from director Julian Schnabel would be a significant release but poor reviews on the festival circuit effectively killed the buzz and any awards prospects it may have harboured. Mixed reviews in the UK, along with a tricky subject matter, will present significant challenges for this to do decent limited release box office. [Key Cities / 12A]
Bathory (Metrodome Distribution): Historical drama tracing the life of Slovakia’s infamous mass murderer, starring Anna Friel and directed by Juraj Jakubisko. [Prince Charles Cinema / 15]
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Icon): A strange Christmas film from Finnish director Jalmari Helander, about an evil Santa Claus rising from the grave. [Odeon Covent Garden & Nationwide / 15]
The Be All & End All (Verve Pictures): UK drama about two teenagers from Liverpool (Josh Bolt and Eugene Byrne) on a mission after one of them gets sick. [Empires Basildon, Leicester Square, Vue Shepherds Bush & Key Cities / 15]
Easier With Practice (Axiom Films): A low budget US indie film about a lonely author (Brian Geraghty) on a campus book-tour who engages in an unusual relationship on the phone. [Key Cities]
Freakonomics (Optimum Releasing): A documentary based on the 2005 bestselling book with several contributions from filmmakers including Alex Gibney and Eugene Jarecki.[Selected Key Cities / 12A]
Love Life (Yellow Knife Releasing): A romantic drama starring Carice Van Outen and Barry Atsma, which was a big hit at the Dutch box office. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus & Key Cities]
The Warrior’s Way (Entertainment): A drama about warrior-assassin () who hides in a small American town after turning down a job. It stars Danny Huston, Dong-gun Jang, Geoffrey Rush, Jang Dong-Gun, Kate Bosworth and Tony Cox. [Nationwide / 15]
Road To Las Vegas (ICA Cinema): Documentary from director Jason Massot about a homeless American family and their struggle to survive in Las Vegas. [ICA Cinema]
A low budget monster movie fused with a mumblecore romance is a refreshing change for the genre even if excitement is lost at the expense of mood.
Set a few years after mysterious alien creatures have landed in Mexico, a photojournalist (Scoot McNairy) is ordered to escort his publisher’s daughter (Whitney Able) to the safety of the US.
However, due to various circumstances it becomes a difficult task as they venture through the ‘infected zone’, which contains various giant monsters which can harm humans and property.
Although it begins with a dramatic opening sequence, director Gareth Edwards has opted to invert the traditional monster action movie with a greater focus on personal relationships, as creatures for part of the background atmosphere.
Shot on a low budget and relying heavily on improvisation, the film paints a convincing picture of life during a social crisis, as the characters are forced to improvise and travel with a constant threat lurking in the background.
Technically the film duplicates the look of much bigger budget rivals with clever use of digital cameras and also uses the landscapes of Guatemala, Mexico and Texas to full effect.
A special effects professional, Edwards utilises his skills to augment the natural landscapes with digitally created objects including helicopters, enormous barriers and various fantastical creatures.
For the most part this creates a highly believable setting, further heightened by the naturalistic performances from his two leads and the non-actors who populate the supporting cast.
McNairy and Able have a chemistry and a believable awkwardness which provides a solid foundation for what is essentially a road movie as they journey with bodyguards and mercenaries to the US border.
Shot guerrilla-style, the film has an impressively convincing feel which stands out because it eschews many of the conventions of the monster movie, even though the setup has many similarities to Cloverfield (2008) and District 9 (2009).
It could be argued that it is too successful in sacrificing adrenaline for realism. Apart from a couple of sequences, especially the climax, audiences might be surprised at the lack of excitement on screen.
More of a relationship movie than one might, for a film called Monsters there isn’t actually a lot of monster action in it.
This paradox means it lacks the traditional excitement of the genre, but it still has a unique flavour as a kind of mumblecore sci-fi drama and a clever, narrative twist should provide audiences with a talking point as they leave the cinema.
Technically it punches well above its weight, with Edwards combining several roles with impressive aplomb: in addition to directing he also served as D.O.P and visual effects artist.
But this is an accomplished film across the board: the effective use of sound, Colin Goudie’s editing and an ambient electronic score by Jon Hopkins are also crucial in giving the film a convincing feel and atmosphere.
Monsters is a striking debut and, although probably costlier more than some reports have suggested, bodes well for Edwards’ future efforts as a director.