The Hunger Games (Lionsgate): Adapted from the series of bestselling books where a young girl (Jennifer Lawrence) joins a survival contest in order to save her community in a dystopian future. Directed by Gary Ross, it co-stars Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson. Set to be the first blockbuster of 2012, the built-in fanbase and brilliant marketing campaign could see it net a $125m opening weekend. [Nationwide / 12A]
Act of Valor (Momentum): A Navy Seal squad goes on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent, and in the process, takes down a complex web of terrorist cells determined to strike America at all costs. Directed by Josh Trank, and Alexander Asefa, the main selling point here is that it features real Navy Seals: Roselyn Sanchez, Mike McCoy, Charles Chiyangwa and Megan Hilty. [Nationwide / 15]
Wild Bill (The Works): Set in East London, the story revolves around Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles), a prisoner of eight years out on parole. Returning home, he finds his 15 and 11 year old sons, Dean (Will Poulter) and Jimmy (Sammy Williams) abandoned by their mother and living alone. Directed by Dexter Fletcher. [Nationwide / 15]
The Kid With A Bike (Artificial Eye): The latest film from the Dardennes Brothers is the story of a young boy abandoned by his father and left in a state-run youth institution. In a random act of kindness, the town hairdresser agrees to foster him on weekends. Stars Thomas Doret and Cécile De France. [Selected cinemas / 12A]
Limitless (Paramount/Momentum): A struggling writer (Bradley Cooper) discovers a top-secret drug which bestows him with super human abilities. As his usage begins to change his life, he begins to discover the drug’s shadowy origins. Directed by Neil Burger and co-starring Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro, this has a promising first third but soon dissolves into a formulaic thriller. [Nationwide / 15] [Reviews] [Trailer]
The Eagle (Universal): In Roman-ruled Britain, a young Roman soldier endeavors to honor his father’s memory by finding his lost legion’s golden emblem. Directed by Kevin MacDonald and starring Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum. [Nationwide / 12A] [Reviews] [Trailer]
Country Strong (Sony Pictures): A fallen country star (Gwyneth Paltrow) strives to revive her career with some help from her husband (Tim McGraw), a young songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) and an emerging country artist (Leighton Meester). Directed by Shana Feste. [Nationwide / 12A] [Reviews] [Trailer]
Faster (Sony Pictures): An ex-convict (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) seeks revenge for his brother’s death in this revenge thriller, co-starring Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and directed by George Tillman Jr. [Nationwide / 15] [Reviews] [Trailer]
A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures (Optimum Releasing): A sea turtle who was hatched in 1959 spends the next 50 years traveling the world while it is being changed by global warming. Directed by Ben Stassen, it stars Melanie Griffith and Isabelle Fuhrman. [Nationwide / U] [Reviews] [Trailer]
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Picturehouse): Werner Herzog’s latest documentary sees the German director gain access to film inside the Chauvet caves France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting. [Selected cinemas / U] [Read our full review here] [Reviews] [Trailer]
Wake Wood (Vertigo Films): Irish horror film about the parents of a girl killed by a savage dog who are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter. [Selected cinemas / 18] [Reviews] [Trailer]
Toast (Momentum Pictures): Drama based on the memoirs of food writer Nigel Slater, which first premièred on BBC1 around Christmas. [Selected cinemas / PG] [Trailer]
The Green Hornet (Sony Pictures): This story featuring the masked vigilante, who previously appeared in radio serials, comic books and a TV series, updates the action to modern day Los Angeles. When Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), inherits his father’s media empire, he decides to turn his life around and become a crime fighter with the help of a mysterious employee named Kato (Jay Chou).
After recruiting a new secretary (Cameron Diaz), Britt (aka The Green Hornet) takes on a Russian crime boss (Christoph Waltz) who is controlling the city’s underworld operations.
Unlike more recent superhero adaptations, the tone here is closer to an irreverent 1980s action-comedy, with the script by Rogen and Evan Goldberg showing glimpses of their work on Superbad (2007) and Pineapple Express (2008). There are some amusing moments, mainly between Rogen and Chou as they get to know each other, but mostly this is formulaic stuff.
One dimensional characters, explosions, Matrix-style fight sequences and a general feel of creative auto-pilot make you wonder if Michel Gondry actually directed this.
This is getting a major release, so it will be very interesting to see how it fares against The King’s Speech and 127 Hours as they enter their second weeks. Bad word of mouth could be a problem for a comedy like this but the action could be a pull for undemanding audiences. [Read the full review here] [Nationwide / 12A]
Conviction (20th Century Fox): A legal drama based on the real life case of Betty Anne Waters (HIlary Swank), an unemployed single mother who exonerated her wrongfully convicted brother (Sam Rockwell) of murder over the course of two decades.
Directed by Tony Goldwyn, the case makes for a potentially gripping film which is never quite realised. Although the performances are solid (especially Swank and Rockwell), it is hampered by too many cliches and the pedestrian direction which gives it a TV-movie vibe. [Nationwide / 15]
Henry’s Crime (Entertainment Film Distributors): This offbeat romantic comedy is an unambitious man named Henry (Keanu Reeves), who has his dull routine change when he stumbles across an armed robbery crime scene and is mistaken by police for one of the robbers and thrown into jail.
There he shares a cell with career criminal Max (James Caan), who becomes a mentor of sorts and on his release, Henry joins forces with Max to commit the crime for which he figures he has already done the time, and becomes romantically entangled with local TV presenter (Vera Farmiga), who literally runs into him at the crime scene. [Nationwide / 15]
Blue Valentine (Optimum Releasing): The changes in a long-term relationship are examined with rare intimacy in this second feature from writer-director Derek Cianfrance. Over the course of several years we see how a young couple, Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), fall in and out of love over a number of years.
Juxtaposing their initial, youthful courtship (shot on super 16mm) with their marital struggles (filmed on the Red One digital camera), it employs clever framing along side the contrasting visual palettes to convey how their lives have changed.
The narrative and visual design is impressive, conveying the passage of time and providing a highly effective counterpoint for the two stages of their relationship.
Already acclaimed after a buzz-fuelled run on the festival circuit, it looks likely to snag Oscar nominations for Gosling and Williams. Although a tough watch in places, it feels like a breath of fresh air in the current climate for movies. Highly recommended. [Selected cinemas nationwide / 15]
Brotherhood (Kaleidoscope): Directed by Will Canon, this US thriller uses college initiation ceremonies as the backdrop to explore who a group of students spiral out of control. [/ 15]
Travellers (High Fliers): A Deliverance-style British thriller about a group of guys from the city who venture into the countryside only to be terrorised by Irish travellers. Directed by Kris McManus. [Selected cinemas / 18]
Yamla Pagla Deewana (Eros International): Bollywood comedy-drama film directed by Samir Karnik, starring Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, and Bobby Deol in the lead roles. [Acton Vue, Feltham Cineworld, Harrow Vue, Trocadero & Key Cities]
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part I (Warner Bros.): The penultimate film in the Harry Potter series arrives in cinemas on the usual tidal wave of hype. Given the length of the final book, Warner Bros made the necessary (and profitable) decision to split them into two films.
In this film, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) leave Hogwarts and – following clues left by the late Dumbledore – go in search of artifacts known as Horcruxes which will help them kill Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), whilst avoiding the clutches of his followers.
Darker in tone than the previous films, the standout sequences involve some old fashioned trickery: a Mission Impossible-style break-in to the Ministry of Magic provides laughs and tension through clever use of actors and sound, whilst old-school animation powers a striking episode explaining the Deathly Hallows of the title.
The huge fanbase and family audiences around the world are going to lap this up and there is no doubt that another Potter-fuelled box office bonanza of around £60m is on the cards, even though the climactic Part 2 next summer will probably be the bigger hit. [Empire Leicester Square, Vue West End & Nationwide / 12A]
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (New Wave Films): The winner of this year’s Palme D’Or at Cannes is the story of the last days in the life of its title character. He then experiences his past lives along with the ghost of his dead wife and his lost son who has returned in a non-human form. Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, it was loved by some – but not all – critics at Cannes. [Key Cities / 12A]
Broken Sun (Metrodome Distribution): A drama about a World War One veteran who encounters an escaped Japanese POW on his farm in rural Australia in 1944. Directed by Brad Haynes, it stars Rudi Baker, Galvin Scott Davis and Kuni Hashimoto. [Selected Key Cities / 15]
Chico And Rita (CinemaNX): A British/Spanish animated feature from directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, which is the story of love and heartbreak, set against backdrops of Havana, New York, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Paris in the late 1940s and early ’50s. [Picturehouse Clapham, Gate, Greenwich, Ritzy & Key Cities / 15]
Dream Home (Network Releasing): A Hong Kong horror film about a desperate telesales agent who goes to extreme lengths to get a flashy apartment. Directed by Ho-Cheung Pang and Pang Ho-Cheung, it stars Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Eason Chan, Josie Ho and Michelle Ye. [Cineworld Shaftesbury Ave., Showcase Newham, Vue Shepherds Bush & Key Cities / 18]
Fathers Of Girls (Soda Pictures): A British drama starring Ray Winstone as a provincial solicitor who struggles to cope after his wife dies and his daughter leaves home for college. Co-written and co-directed by Ethem Cetintas and Karl Howman. [Empire Leicester Square, Genesis Mile End & Key Cities / 15]
Peeping Tom: 50th Anniversary (Optimum Releasing): Michael Powell’s classic 1960 film about a creepy photographer has been digitally restored for a 50th anniversary release at UK cinemas and on Blu-ray. [Curzon Mayfair & Key Cities / 15]
Robinson In Ruins (bfi Distribution): Narrated by Vanessa Redgrave, this documentary by Patrick Keiller is a sequel to Keiller’s previous films, London (1994) and Robinson in Space (1997). It explores the journey of the fictional titular character around the south of England. [BFI Southbank & Key Cities / U]
Due Date (Warner Bros.): The latest comedy from director Todd Phillips is about an odd couple travelling across the US: a highly strung expectant father to be (Robert Downey Jnr) and an aspiring actor (Zach Galifianakis) find themselves on a cross country road trip so the former can see his child’s birth.
It bears more than a few similarities to Philips last film (The Hangover) although after a week in the US doesn’t seem like it will be as successful. Reviews have been mixed-to-good so far in the US after one week, although the wide release over here will make it an attractive alternative for male and females not keen on the gross-out humour of Jackass. [Nationwide / 15]
Jackass 3D (Paramount): The latest instalment of the Jackass franchise has been resurrected with Jonny Knoxville and his cohorts performing all manner of pranks for 3D cameras.
As with the first two films, it is a hit and miss affair depending on the particular stunt. Some are funny (especially the ones that make use of the 3D perspective) whilst others are deliberately grotesque.
Like Knoxville, it has noticeably aged and the sound of the Jackass gang laughing at their own stunts grates with repetition. But it has some funny moments and arrives after a stunning opening weekend in the US two weeks ago, earning over $50 million.
Although the closing credits have an elegiac feel, Paramount will probably be keen to milk this insanely profitable franchise further. It opens on a competitive weekend here in the UK but I suspect this will be the film of choice for males aged 16-34. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 18]
Let Me In (Paramount/Icon): The US remake of the 2008 Swedish vampire film is not only surprisingly good, it is actually on par with the original and in some ways improves on it.
Relocated to New Mexico in the early 1980s, it is the story of a lonely young boy (Kodi-Smit McPhee) and his relationship with a mysterious girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who has moved in next door with an older guardian (Richard Jenkins).
Director Matt Reeves (who made Cloverfield) has wisely stayed faithful to the source material, which includes the 2008 film and the original novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
From the opening sequence, a convincing sense of time and place is established and Michael Giacchino’s wonderfully creepy score sustains an ominous mood throughout.
Shooting mostly on location, Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser have crafted their own visual style which keeps things atmospheric and murky, whilst the performances all around are excellent.
Despite the quality on display, this has bombed at the US box office (perhaps a victim of distribution and marketing support) but should find a much more appreciative audience over time. [Odeon West End & Nationwide / 12A]
Another Year (Momentum Pictures): The latest film from Mike Leigh is one of his very best, a pitch-perfect ensemble piece revolving around the friends and family of an ageing married couple.
Nearing retirement age, Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) live in North London and seem genuinely happy as they work, tend to their allotment and play host to an array of characters who come in and out of their lives.
These include: their son Joe (Oliver Maltman), who is still close to them; Mary (Lesley Manville), a needy divorcee with relationship problems; Ken (Peter Wight), an old friend with a taste for food and alcohol; and Katie (Karina Fernandez), a therapist who forms a relationship with Joe.
Each section of the film is titled with a season and as they change, so do the characters to varying degrees as they deal with the stuff of life: love, death, humour, despair, loneliness and friendship.
It follows the familiar Leigh formula of finding drama in lives of distinctive characters in a particular setting and relies heavily on the actors to make it work.
The good news is that nearly all the cast bring something distinctive to their roles, creating a rich tapestry of emotions and memorable situations, with Manville especially outstanding.
Buoyed by great buzz on the festival circuit and glowing reviews, this will dominate the art house box office this week and may do decent multiplex business amongst more discerning audiences. [Cineworld Haymarket, Curzon Soho, Everyman, Screen On Baker St. & Nationwide / 12A]
Mammoth (Soda Pictures): Swedish director Lucas Moodysson returns with a drama about a successful New York couple (Gael García Bernal and Michelle Williams) struggling to maintain a long distance relationship. Tepid reactions from the festival circuit mean this will probably come and go, despite the notable lead actors and director. [Odeon Panton Street & Key Cities / 15]
Fit (Peccadillo Pictures): A drama about ‘gay and straight millennials’ directed by Rikki Beadle Blair. [Shortwave, Tricycle & Key Cities]
Golmaal 3 (Eros): A Hindi comedy directed by Rohit Shetty, which is the sequel to Golmaal Returns. [C’Worlds Feltham, Ilford, Wood Green, Vue Acton & Key Cities / 12A]
Red & White (Kaleidoscope Entertainment): A war film about Indonesia’s history and the country’s struggle for independence, directed by Yadi Sugandi and starring Doni Alamsyah, Joe Sims and Lukman Sardi. [Key Cities / 15]