UK Cinema Releases: Friday 20th November 2009

New Moon / A Serious Man / The Informant!



The Twilight Saga: New Moon (E1 Entertainment): The second instalment of the Twilight saga based on the mega selling books by Stephenie Meyer sees vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) leave for Italy in order to protect Bella (Kristen Stewart) who is consoled by her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) who turns out to have secrets of his own.

If you have no idea what any of this means then you probably aren’t a teenage girl. But female fans (of whom there are many) are going to make this one of the biggest films of the year and swell the coffers of UK distributor E1 Entertainment. (Read my full thoughts on the film here). [Vue West End & Nationwide / 12A]

A Serious Man (Universal): The Coen Brothers explore the late 60s Minnesota of their childhood with this tale of a Jewish maths professor named Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). It explores his struggles with a hectoring wife (Sari Lennick), her annoying widower lover (Fred Melamed); a leeching brother (Richard Kind); a pothead son (Aaron Wolff ); dithering academic colleagues and a succession of perpetually useless rabbis.

After the Oscar success of No Country For Old Men, they have made one of their most personal films, a rich and superbly crafted tale with stunning technical contributions across the board. Easily one of the best films to come out this year it also ranks alongside Fargo and No Country as one of the Coens’ very best. How it does at the box office is another matter but it fully deserves Oscar and BAFTA recognition. (Read my full thoughts on the film here.) [C’World Haymarket, Curzon Soho, Odeon Covent Gdn. & Nationwide / 15]

The Informant! (Warner Bros.): Based on the so-bizarre-it-has-to-be-true story of Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon), a corporate whistle blower in the 1990s who helped expose a price fixing scam despite being a compulsive liar.

Stylishly directed by Steven Soderbergh, it is smart, funny and evocative of the 1990s. Matt Damon is superb in the lead role and look out for some fine supporting performances from the likes of Melanie Lynskey and Scott Bakula. [Nationwide / 15]



Glorious 39 (Momentum Pictures): A mysterious tale set around a traditional British family on the eve of World War Two, starring Romola Garia, Bill Nighy, Julie Christie and directed by Steven Poliakoff.  [Odeon West End & Key Cities from November 27th / 12A)

The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life (Metrodome): A sprawling French drama centered around five keys days in a family’s life directed by Rémi Bezançon. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Genesis Mile End & Key Cities / 15]

Machan (Yume Pictures): Hindi film about a love story with a terrorist angle starring Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Vivek Oberoi. [Empire Leicester Square / 15]

The Sea Wall (Axiom): A drama about a teenage girl who has an affair with a worldly older man in 1920s French Indo-China based on a Marguerite Duras novel. Isabelle Huppert stars. [Apollo Picc Circus, Cine Lumiere, Curzon Renoir & Key Cities]

Southern Softies (Northern Pics/Chick Ken): A travelogue by John Shuttleworth, in which he visits the Channel Islands. [Gate Notting Hill, Greenwich Picturehouse, Ritzy & Key Cities]

Examined Life (ICA Films): A documentary examining life with the help of modern thinkers. [ICA Cinema & selected Key Cities]

Ulysses (Contemporary Films): A re-issue for director Joseph Strick’s bold attempt to film James Joyce’s famously ‘unfilmable’ novel. [Barbican / 15]

> UK cinema releases for November 2009
> Get local showtimes via Google Movies UK
> UK DVD & Blu-ray picks for this week including Fanny and Alexander, Star Trek, Moon, For All Mankind and North By Northwest (W/C Monday 16th November 2009)

Cinema Thoughts

New Moon

New Moon tickets

For Twilight fans New Moon will be their equivalent of The Empire Strikes Back although for everyone else it’s going to be another teen vampire movie.

For the uninitiated the Twilight films are based on the mega-selling novels by Stephenie Meyer which have been translated into over 20 languages worldwide.

There are currently four books: Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008) and they have a combined sale of over 25 million copies.

New Moon posterWhen someone at MTV films made the (now catastrophic) decision to pass on making the film adaptations, newcomer Summit Entertainment stepped up and a lucrative film franchise was born.

The first film Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, came out last year and starred Kristen Stewart as Bella, a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire, played by Robert Pattinson.

It grossed over $383 million worldwide, making instant stars of Pattinson and Stewart and also causing wild scenes of fandom at various premieres around the world.

I interviewed Pattinson last year and the resulting podcast was one of the most popular things on this site as Twilight fans downloaded it in droves.

At the premiere later that evening, the massed ranks of teenage girls screaming at him and the cast was something like The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965.

The new film is expected to do even better: a ‘fan event’ attended by the stars last week in Battersea (complete with red carpet interviews) was so big some radio stations even mistook it for a premiere.

I got a sneak peak of New Moon yesterday at a press screening in London and the audience mostly consisted of media folk (like me), teenage girls and their parents.

The story involves Edward having to go away, Bella discovering new things about her friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and a mysterious vampire from the past named Aro (Michael Sheen).

Bearing in mind that I am way out of the target demographic for this material, here are my main thoughts:

  • It is slightly more expansive in terms of the locations (the action even shifts to Italy at one point)
  • Technically, it is an improvement on the original as the supernatural action is more convincingly done.
  • The narrative drags here and there but mostly moves along in a brisk and accessible fashion.
  • Fans of Edward may be a little disappointed that he isn’t in the story for long stretches.
  • Anna Kendrick is funny – she should be given a larger role next time.
  • For people unfamiliar with the books, brush up on Wikipedia or some things are going to leave you a little confused.
  • As a middle story (like The Empire Strikes Back) it leaves a few threads to be tantalisingly picked up on in the next film.
  • The last line of the film is clever as it pushes all the buttons of the audience …all at once.

My basic take is that this is essentially another reasonably well made fantasy film – a franchise like Star Wars or Harry Potter but moulded especially for teenage girls.

But despite the lack of genuine magic, there is no doubt that it will dominate the box office this month and make those publishers and executives who originally turned it down continue to tear their hair out.

Amusing Trailers

Trailer: New Moon

This is the trailer for the new Twilight film New Moon.

By the way, it is worth noting that Summit and MTV have been smart in allowing the above trailer to have an embed code.

This means it can be posted to any blog or website, which is a change from the ‘exclusive’ trailers that only show on Yahoo.

In those cases they may get some money to be exclusively shown on one site (even though they usually end up bootlegged on YouTube anyway) but surely the idea is to get as many views as possible all over the web.

In essence, it is better to have the viral nature of the Internet (and legions of Twilight fans) working for and not against you.

New Moon is out at cinemas on November 20th and has already inspired some fans to go a bit crazy.

> More on New Moon at Wikipedia
> Listen to my interview with Robert Pattinson about Twilight