UK Cinema Releases: Friday 6th March 2009

Watchmen and The Young Victoria


Watchmen (Paramount): The long awaited adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons finally reaches cinema screens after 20 years of development hell and legal wranglings.

If you are unfamiliar with the story it explores what happens to a group of superheroes in an alternative 1985 – a place where Richard Nixon is a 5-term president and the world stands on the brink of nuclear Armageddon.

The plot begins with the vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) investigating the murder of a former hero called the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and he uncovers a wider conspiracy involving his now retired colleagues. 

The good news is that director Zack Snyder has been given unprecedented freedom with the notoriously unfilmable book after the success of 300. 

Visually it is a real treat with some stunning production design and SFX along with some fine performances by Jackie Earle Haley and Billy Crudup.

Warner Bros are releasing it in the US, with Paramount distributing it here in the UK. Both studios can expect a huge opening weekend, but the big question is how it will do after then.

My gut feeling is that fans of the original comic and young males are going to eat this up but it may struggle with female audiences.

It runs to 2 hours and 40 minutes, has a sombre tone, keeps much of the heavy flashback material and – even for an 18/R-rated film – contains quite brutal scenes of violence, rape and even full frontal nudity.

This may limit its word of mouth appeal but with 300 and The Dark Knight doing so well in recent times maybe the current climate is ripe for the dystopian fantasies of Watchmen. [Nationwide / Cert 18]


The Young Victoria (Momentum): In what is probably the clearest example of counter-programming since Notting Hill took on The Phantom Menace ten years ago, this period piece about the early years of Queen Victoria should appeal to audiences not up for comic book material.

Although on the surface it might seem like just another costume drama about rich people in large houses, it benefits enormously from having some real energy and talent involved.  

In the lead role of Victoria Emily Blunt brings a real sense of passion and feistiness to a character many still think of as a dour widow, whilst as Rupert Friend does an equally impressive job as Prince Albert.

There are also fine supporting performances from Paul Bettany (as Prime Minister Lord Melbourne) and Miranda Richardson as Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent.

Perhaps the key to why the film works is the combination of Graham KingMartin Scorsese and Sarah, Duchess of York as producers (an unlikely trio, to say the least) allied with screenwriter Julian Fellowes (a shrewd observer of England’s social layers) and director Jean-Marc Vallée.

All of them have combined to make a much more substantial film than may have been expected which explores part of Victoria’s reign not really seen on screen before, namely the problems of her accession to the throne and her early relationship with Albert.

Momentum can expect solid box office from those audiences who don’t fancy watching Watchmen. [Nationwide / Cert PG]

* Listen to our interview with Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend here *



American Teen (Optimum Releasing): A documentary directed by Nanette Burstein set in Warsaw, Indiana that focuses on five graduating high school seniors as they struggle through school and life.

The five students prominently featured in the film fit typical high school archetypes, such as a popular student, a nerd, a jock, and a loner (like The Breakfast Club, which inspired the poster).

It competed in the Documentary Competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the Directing Award for Documentary.  [Cineworld Wandsworth, Vue Shepherd’s Bush & Key Cities/ Cert 15]

Flame And Citron (Metrodome): A World War Two film based on the true story of two of the most active resistance fighters in the Holger Danske resistance group during World War IIBent Faurschou-Hviid (known as Flame) and Jørgen Haagen Schmith (known as Citron).

The two resistance fighters are portrayed by Thure Lindhardt and Mads Mikkelsen, and it was directed by Ole Christian Madsen.[Barbican, Cineworld Haymarket, Renoir & Key Cities / Cert 15]

Reverb (Guerilla Films): A horror written and directed by Eitan Arrusiset in a recording studio where a musician discovers a voice hidden in an old record – one that sets into motion a series of horrific events. It stars Leo Gregory and Eva Birthistle. [London & Key Cities / Cert 15]

Surveillance (Odeon Sky Filmworks): An independent thriller set in the Santa Fe desert, directed by Jennifer Lynch and starring Julia OrmondBill PullmanMichael Ironside, and French Stewart. [London & Nationwide / Cert 15]

Wendy & Lucy (Soda Pictures): A drama directed by Kelly Reichardt and adapted from Jonathan Raymond‘s short story Train Choir. It stars Michelle Williams as an alienated woman who sets her sights on moving to Alaska in hopes of a new life with her dog, Lucy. [London & Key Cities / Cert 15]

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