Winter’s Bone (Artificial Eye): An acclaimed US indie drama set in the Ozarks (the rural area covering Arkansas and Missouri) about a young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) determined to find out what happened to her missing father whilst struggling to support her family.
Co-written and directed by Debra Granik, it was one of the genuine indie breakout hits of the past year and manages to skilfully combine the tropes of a serious drama within the framework of a thriller.
The Town (Warner Home Video): Crime drama set in Boston about a bank robber (Ben Affleck) who falls in love with a woman (Rebecca Hall) his gang have kidnapped. Affleck also directs and the film features Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm in supporting roles.
Ben Affleck’s second film as director is a satisfyingly lean crime drama, with solid performances across the board and excellent contributions from cinematographer Robert Elswit and editor Dylan Tichenor.
22 Bullets (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / Normal] 31/01/2011 Amer (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / Normal] Going the Distance (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal] Legend of the Fist – The Return of Chen Zhen (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal] Mr Nice (Entertainment One) [Blu-ray / Normal] Nuclear Blast Clips: Volume 1 (Nuclear Blast) [Blu-ray / Normal] The Color Purple (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal] Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray with Digital Copy]
One of the genuine indie breakout hits of the past year, Debra Granik’s compelling drama provided a star-making role for Jennifer Lawrence and was a reminder that darker, intelligent films outside of the studio system can make an impact.
Faced with losing her home, Ree challenges the local community for answers and gradually uncovers a web of deceit in an area blighted by crime, drugs and poverty.
Shot with a keen eye for detail, writer-director Granik managed to skilfully combine the tropes of a serious drama within the framework of a thriller, as the central character gradually uncovers the mystery surrounding her missing father.
Along the way we see all manner of shifty characters, ranging from relatives (John Hawkes), friends (Sheryl Lee) and witch-like locals (Dale Dickey) who might hold the key to finding Ree’s father.
In addition it is also a powerful study in courage, as the female protagonist not only has to provide for her family but also venture into the a darker world run of local crime, which largely revolves around the buying and selling of crystal meth.
In a remarkably mature performance, Jennifer Lawrence conveys just the right amounts of determination, anger and intelligence, without ever resorting to cliché.
It has been accurately described as a star making turn, but the fact that there are precious few roles like this for any actresses, even in more high-profile films, is still a depressing sign of the times.
However, the supporting cast is also excellent with John Hawkes especially good as the ambiguous uncle who may or may not be an ally, and the blend of non-actors with the main cast is faultless, but never showy.
Granik immersed herself in the area and shot much of the film in the houses of local residents, many of whom appear in the film, and there is a harsh authenticity to the film which is startling, even for an independent film like this.
The wintry landscape of the Ozarks is superbly evoked and the rich atmosphere is enhanced by the use of local songs and music, some of which are performed on camera by locals.
It deservedly reaped a lot of acclaim at Sundance 2010, where it won the Grand Jury Prize as well as the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for Granik and her co-writer Anne Rosellini.
Despite the grim rural setting and the unflinching depiction of the crystal meth problem in the rural South, distributor Roadside Attractions helped it become one of the major indie success stories of the year, as it grossed over $7m worldwide and landed 4 Oscar nominations.
All the success must have been gratifying for Granik after her previous film, the addiction drama Down to the Bone (2004), struggled to get distributed due to its downbeat subject matter.
The DVD & Blu-ray release comes of the back of last week’s Oscar nominations, which should provide a good word-of-mouth boost and the chance for discerning audiences to catch the film.
Shot digitally on the Red One camera, the film looks especially good on Blu-ray with its cold and semi-monochromatic look.
The UK disc unfortunately omits the director’s commentary, but features the following extras:
The Making of ‘Winter’s Bone’ (46:38): A slow but fascinating assembly of behind the scenes footage, featuring sequences being set up and some revealing B-roll footage.
Four Deleted Scenes (10:07): The deleted scenes are shown alongside Granik giving notes and preparing her actors.
Hardscrabble Elegy (2:59): This musical segment is taken from Dickon Hinchliffe’s distinctive score and set to wintry locations featured in the film.
Winter’s Bone is out on Monday 31st January from Artificial Eye
The Other Guys (Sony Pictures): An action-comedy directed by Adam McKay, which stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as two average detectives who get the chance to prove they can do more than push pencils.
Co-starring Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson and Steve Coogan, it is the latest team up of McKay and Ferrell after Anchorman (2004), Talladega Nights (2006) and Step Brothers (2008). Like those films it did good business and scored warm reviews, although UK critics are likely to be less enthusiastic than their US counterparts. Despite that, this looks to be the favourite for the top spot this weekend. [Nationwide / 12A]
Devil (Universal): The latest film from ‘the mind of M. Night Shyamalan’ (which means he wrote the story) is a supernatural thriller about five strangers trapped in an elevator, who realize the Devil is amongst them.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle, it features a cast of relative unknowns and was shot on a low budget (reportedly $10 million). Given the critical disasters Shyamalan has been involved over the last few years this one has been kept under wraps, but should ultimately prove profitable even if the critics get their knives out. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 15]
I’m Still Here (Optimum Releasing): A spoof documentary about the supposed career meltdown of Joaquin Phoenix, which goes ‘behind the scenes’ of the actor’s life as he tries to forge a career in hip-hop.
Directed by Casey Affleck, it is an extended hoax which cleverly blends real life with all kinds of pranks, which may or may not be staged. We see Phoenix attempt to hook up with Sean ‘Diddy’ Combes, berate Ben Stiller about the script of Greenberg, get life advice from Edward James Olmos, rap at a hotel in Miami, take copious amounts of drugs, abuse his assistants and generally act like a delusional celebrity ogre.
It is frequently hilarious and fiendishly clever, although a bit too similar in places to the work of Sacha Baron Cohen. Many in the media appear to have missed the joke and taken it all a bit too seriously. Despite all the press coverage it is likely to remain a cult comedy with a more appreciative audience beyond its run at cinemas. [Curzon Soho & Key Cities / 15]
Just Wright (20th Century Fox): A romantic comedy starring and Queen Latifah a physical therapist (Common) who falls in love with a pro basketball player (Common). Directed by Sanaa Hamri, it received fairly dire reviews on its US release and meagre box office. [Nationwide / PG]
Winter’s Bone (Artificial Eye): One of the genuine breakout performances of the year from Jennifer Lawrence is the highlight of this gritty drama about a teenage girl trying to track down her father in the Ozarks.
Directed by Debra Granik, this is a whodunit wrapped up inside a realist drama, with strong supporting performances from John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Garret Dillahunt and Dale Dickey. A hit at Sundance back in January, where it won the Grand Jury Prize, it is also likely to get Oscar recognition for Lawrence who is terrific in the lead role. The bleak setting and scenes of rural poverty might be a turn off for some, but given positive reviews and Oscar buzz, it might do decent arthouse business. [Curzon Soho, Curzon Renoir, Curzon Richmond & Nationwide / 15]
Grease Sing-A-Long (Paramount): A karaoke re-release for the 1978 musical which is having an exclusively run at Vue Cinemas. [Vue West End / PG]
The Kid (Revolver Entertainment): A British biopic based on the the life of Kevin Lewis, who grew up in a violent, abusive family on a council estate in the 1980s. Directed by Nick Moran, it stars Rupert Friend, Natascha McElhone, Ioan Gruffudd and David O’Hara. [Natiowide / 15]
Night Of The Demons (Kaleidoscope Entertainment): A remake of the 1988 cult horror, directed by Adam Gierasch and starring Shannon Elizabeth, Edward Furlong and Diora Baird. [Selected Key Cities / 18]
The Horde (Momentum Pictures): A French horror film about a group of policemen who storm a housing complex in Paris, only to discover something sinister inside. Directed by Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher, it stars Jean-Pierre Martins, Eriq Ebouaney and Doudou Masta. [Empire Leicester Square & Key Cities / 18]
F (Optimum Releasing): A British film about a group of teachers who have to defend themselves from a gang of murderous kids when their school comes under siege. Directed by Johannes Roberts. [Curzon Soho & Key Cities / 18]
Release (Parasol Pictures): A prison drama directed by Darren Flaxstone and Christian Martin about a priest convicted for a serious crime.
Ik Kudi Panjab Di (Kornerstone Films Ltd): A Punjabi film directed by Manmohan Singh about a girl challenging her male-dominated society. [Nationwide]