Animal Kingdom (Optimum Home Entertainment): A brilliantly crafted Australian crime drama about a teenager (James Frecheville) who is caught between a Melbourne crime family headed by his grandmother (Jacki Weaver) and a local cop (Guy Pearce) who wants to bring them down. A stunning debut for director David Michôd, it deservedly garnered plaudits and an Oscar nomination for Weaver. [Read our longer review] [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon UK]
Obsession (Arrow Video): Brian De Palma’s 1976 thriller is the story of a New Orleans property developer (Cliff Robertson) who becomes obsessed with a woman (Geneviève Bujold) who looks just like his deceased wife. Modelled on Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), the screenplay by Paul Schrader and score by Bernard Herrmann almost make it a reworking of the previous film although it has its own hypnotic power. [Buy it on Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon UK]
Battle: Los Angeles (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Black Sheep (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / Normal] Conan the Barbarian (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal] Doctor Who – The New Series: 6 – Part 1 (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / Normal] Essential Killing (Artificial Eye) [Blu-ray / Normal] Fair Game (Entertainment One) [Blu-ray / Normal] Ironclad (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal] Patagonia (Verve Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] That’s What I Am (Clear Vision) [Blu-ray / Normal] The Task (G2 Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] The Twilight Saga: The Story So Far… (Entertainment One) [Blu-ray / Normal]
I Am Number Four (Walt Disney): A sci-fi drama aimed at the Twilight demographic about nine alien teens who come to Earth after their planet is destroyed by an enemy species.
Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye) it stars Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron and Timothy Olyphant. Negative reviews in the US suggest this is a film for undiscerning teenagers. [Apollo West End, Cineworld Shaftsbury Avenue, BFI Imax Waterloo & Nationwide / 12A]
Drive Angry (Lionsgate UK): The latest action film starring Nicolas Cage sees the actor in full-on pay cheque mode (see The Wicker Man remake and Next) as he plays a character who breaks out of Hell (!) so he can stop a cult from sacrificing his infant granddaughter.
Directed by Patrick Lussier and co-starring William Fichnter and Amber Heard, this promises to shamelessly exploit every 3D trick in the book and, if successful, allow Cage buy a few more castles. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 18]
No Strings Attached (Paramount): Romantic comedy starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher as two friends who have sex one morning and make a pact to casual sex with “no strings attached”.
Directed by Ivan Reitman, this seems like more Judd Apatow influenced ‘raunchy’ comedy that only succeeds in embarrassing all concerned. Ironically, it opens in the UK on the weekend when Portamn may win an Oscar for her work in Black Swan. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 15]
The Rite (Warner Bros.): Horror film about a young priest (Colin O’Donoghue) who travels to Rome where goes to study exorcism under the guidance of an elderly Father (Anthony Hopkins).
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom and co-starring Ciaran Hinds and Alice Braga, this has got negative reviews in the US and would appear to be early year nonsense designed for the easily pleased horror fan. [Nationwide / 15]
Animal Kingdom (Optimum Releasing): Outstanding Australian crime drama about a young man who joins a Melbourne crime family headed by a sinister matriarch (Jackie Weaver) and the cop (Guy Pearce) who tries to tempt him away.
An astonishing debut feature for David Michôd, it is filled with excellent performances, especially Ben Mendelsohn as a creepily psychotic villain, and the writing, music and visuals are all first class. Optimum will be hoping the strong reviews and festival buzz over the past year will translate into respectable art-house business. [Curzon Soho & Nationwide / 15] [Read our full review here]
Waste Land (Entertainment One): Oscar-nominated documentary that follows Brazilian artist Vik Muniz as he goes back to Rio and recruits garbage pickers from a landfill site to create art out of rubbish.
Directed by Lucy Walker, it is an accessible and inspiring look at an unlikely and fascinating subject. Critical buzz and Oscar recognition could provide a boost to its art-house prospects. [Apollo West End & Key Cities / PG]
Howl (Soda Pictures): The life of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg (played by James Franco) is recounted through his Six Gallery debut and the 1957 obscenity trial related to his poem Howl.
Written and directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, it co-stars Jon Hamm and David Strathairn. After opening at Sundance in 2010 it has got middling reviews and may struggle to break out of its arthouse niche. [Soho, Wimbledon Curzon, Notting Hill Gate, Ritzy Brixton & Key Cities / 15]
West Is West (Icon): The long-delayed sequel to East is East (1999), is set four years after that film in 1975 as Father George Khan takes his youngest son, Sajid (now 15) to Pakistan.
Directed by Andy DeEmmony, it stars Aqib Khan, Om Puri, Linda Bassett, Ila Arun and Jimi Mistry. Lack of critical buzz and a general sense of ‘why are they making this now?’ could hamper its commercial prospects. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / 15]
A superbly crafted Australian crime drama filled with excellent performances marks a stunning debut feature for director David Michôd.
Set in Melbourne, and loosely based on real events, it tells the story of Joshua Cody (James Frecheville), a teenager who joins a crime family headed by his grandmother, Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Jacki Weaver).
We gradually realise that his new suburban home is a snake pit of illegality featuring a sinister eldest son Pope (Ben Mendelsohn), his business partner Baz (Joel Edgerton), the livewire drug dealer Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) and the quiet Darren (Luke Ford).
When a local police officer (Guy Pearce) engaged in a lengthy battle with the family tries to tempt Joshua to help him bring down the Cody family, things start to escalate.
Skilfully avoiding crime movie clichés, Animal Kingdom has a distinctive, brooding menace that you rarely see in modern cinema, let alone the crime genre.
This is a claustrophobic and unpredictable world in which hardly anyone can be trusted and where slow burning tensions instantly explode.
Interestingly, the focus is kept mostly on the Cody clan and the police form a shadowy background presence, popping up like eagles snatching eggs from the family nest.
It works more as a riveting character study than a conventional crime film and features some brilliant ensemble acting: Frecheville is quietly brilliant as the protagonist; Weaver is wonderfully charismatic as the Lady Macbeth matriarch and Mendelsohn is hypnotic as one of the creepiest villains in recent film history.
Michôd must be given huge credit for the fact that this is a crime movie with no obvious influences. At times it appears to be channelling Michael Mann and Michael Haneke, but it has its own unique flavour.
Part of what makes the film so effective is that terror can lurk in the most everyday places, so the audience – like the protagonist – is always kept on edge and doesn’t quite know who to trust.
One scene in which a car reverses out of a suburban garage is masterfully wrought with dread and tension.
The confident, widescreen visuals by DP Adam Arkapaw are highly effective, contrasting the shadowy, interior worlds of bungalows and offices with the harsh exterior light of Southern Australia.
A distinctive score by Antony Partos adds to the atmosphere of dread and overall Michôd has crafted one of the most accomplished films to come out of Australia in recent years.