Cinema Picks for Friday 19th January

A really busy week at UK cinemas sees the release of no less than four major films. So if you can brave the extreme weather conditions you may find something worthwhile, especially if you are a fan of multi-layered dramas, boxing underdogs, Truman Capote or plucky Dutch girls in World War 2.

Babel is a thoughtful multi-layered drama from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Innarritu. It bears many similarities to his previous two films (Amores Perros and 21 Grams) with its use of intertwining narratives but is more ambitious in scope and theme. A US couple in holiday in Morroco (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett), a Mexican nanny and two children under her care and a Japanese teenager in Tokyo who are all connected by a single gunshot. The acting is first rate (watch out for a startling turn from Japanese newcomer Rinko Kikuchi) and the cinematography and editing is superb. A moving and intelligent film whose themes of miscommunication and clashing cultures are sadly all too relevant in today’s world.

Incredibly Rocky is back for his sixth film in Rocky Balboa and Sylvester Stallone returns as both star and director. Here Rocky is persuaded to come out of retirement when ESPN stage a simulated fight on computer between Rocky and current World champ Mason “The Line” Dixon. His promoters think an exhibition match could be a money spinner so they persuade the aging Italian Stallion to fight in Vegas. Although the Rocky series should really have ended years ago Stallone wisely infuses this with the understatement and low key charm that made the first one such a hit.

Infamous is the ‘other’ film about Truman Capote writing In Cold Blood was unfortunate to go in to production around the same time as Bennett Miller’s Capote that came out last year. That film was widely acclaimed and Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for his brilliant central performance. This film is not as good, but there is still much to admire, especially the acting which is uniformly excellent. Toby Jones stands out with a performance that certainly merits comparison to Hoffman’s portrayal and Daniel Craig gives killer Perry Smith a brooding intensity that wasn’t in the other version. Its not as technically accomplished as Capote but still worth a look.

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven returned to his native country to direct Black Book, a World War 2 drama about a Jewish woman who joins the Resistance in Holland as it endures Nazi occupation. When her family are killed she goes undercover but has to deal with double crosses and intrigue from both sides. Carice van Houten in the lead role gives an impressive performance and the film is well paced. However, beneath all the well staged action the film doesn’t really grapple with any deep issues. It is more interesting than Verhoeven’s recent Hollywood films but could have been something really special.


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