UK Cinema Releases: Friday 17th June 2011


Green Lantern (Warner Bros): Big-budget superhero movie about man (Ryan Reynolds) who gets special powers after an alien gives him a mystical green ring which sees him join an intergalactic peace keeping force. Directed by Martin Campbell, it co-stars Blake Lively, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard. [Nationwide / 12A]

Bad Teacher (Sony Pictures): Comedy about a lazy, foul-mouthed school teacher (Cameron Diaz) who, after being dumped, tries to woo a colleague (Justin Timberlake) who is also being pursued by a well-loved teacher (Lucy Punch). Directed by Jake Kasdan, it also stars Jason Segal. [Nationwide / 15]

The Beaver (Icon): Drama about a depressed businessman (Mel Gibson) who seemingly turns his life around by talking to his wife (Jodie Foster) and work colleagues through a beaver hand puppet. Directed by Jodie Foster, it also stars Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence. [Nationwide / 12A] [Read our longer review]


Potiche (Optimum Releasing): French comedy set during 1977 about a housewife (Catherine Deneuve) who takes over her husband’s umbrella business after he falls illness. Directed by Francois Ozon, it co-stars Gerard Depardieu. [Key Cities / 15]

The Messenger (The Works): 2009 drama (yes, a film that’s two years old is finally getting a UK release) about two officers (Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson) who who’s job it is to notify the families of fallen soldiers. Directed by Oren Moverman, itco-stars Samantha Morton. [Selected cinemas / 15]

Born To Be Wild (bfi IMAX): IMAX documentary about orphaned orangutans, elephants and the people who rescue and raise them. Directed by David Lickley and narrated by Morgan Freeman. [Key Cities]

Life In A Day (Scott Free): A crowd-sourced documentary made up of 80,000 YouTube clips shot around the world on July 24th 2010. Directed by Kevin McDonald, it will be screened across Vue cinemas on June 17th. [UK wide / 12A]

The Round Up (Revolver): French film about the true story of a young boy during the mass arrest of Jews by Paris police who were Nazi accomplices in July 1942. Directed by Roselyne Bosch, it stars Mélanie Laurent, Jean Reno, Sylvie Testud and Gad Elmaleh. [Selected cinemas]

Stake Land (Metrodome): Dystopian horror set in an America under attack from undead creatures. Directed by Jim Mickle, it stars Connor Paolo, Nick Damici and Kelly McGillis. [Key Cities / 15]

Swinging With The Finkels (UNO Films): British comedy about a pair of London millionaires who discover problems in the bedroom of their Covent Garden loft apartment. Directed by Jonathan Newman and co-starring Angus Deayton and Melissa George.

> Get local cinema showtimes at Google Movies or FindAnyFilm
UK DVD & Blu-ray releases for Monday 13th June 2011, including Apocalypse Now, Witchfinder General and Inside Job

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

The Beaver

Jodie Foster’s first film as a director in 16 years is a curious drama laced with surreal comedy.

Opening with the depressed head of a toy company (Mel Gibson) being kicked out of the family home by his wife (Foster, who also stars) and explores how he seemingly turns his life around by talking to people through a beaver hand puppet.

Loved ones and co-workers are bemused but initially welcome him back, with the exception of his angry teenage son (Anton Yelchin), who strikes up a relationship with a classmate (Jennifer Lawrence) who also has issues of her own.

Kyle Killen’s script was hot property back in 2008 and part of the appeal might have been the way it mixes a striking concept within a conventional setting, whilst providing a showy lead role for the central character (Steve Carrell was attached early on).

The resulting production had a rocky joureny to cinemas, as a much publicised voicemail scandal involving its star (on the back of other well-documented problems) led to its release being delayed by several months.

With this all in mind there is poignancy to the finished film, as the parallels between Gibson and his character are painfully apparent.

But if you put all that pre-release baggage to one side, how does the finished film stand up?

It turns out that the film isn’t bad at all and has surprising levels of emotion if one treats it as a drama, which happens to be sprinkled with humour.

Gibson gives a surprisingly nuanced performance in the lead role, which is no mean feat given that for most of the film he’s talking like Ray Winstone through a hand puppet (for some reason, the beaver has a British accent).

This leads to some bizarre scenes that strain credibility, but given his position of power at work and the relief of his loved ones to have him back home, it just about works.

The scenes where Gibson’s character talks through his puppet actually work pretty well, given that they could have been utterly ridiculous.

In the supporting roles, Foster convinces as an exhausted but loving wife, whilst Yelchin and Lawrence do their best with teenage roles that feel a little underwritten.

Although she hasn’t directed in a long time (her last film was 1995’s Home for the Holidays), Foster has mixes the contrasting tones in a way that you don’t often see with Hollywood productions.

The tasteful widescreen lensing by DP Hagen Bogdanski (who also shot The Lives of Others) gives it a nice visual polish and the slick editing by Lynzee Klingman keeps things moving well, whilst skilfully intercutting the main plot of the father with the parallel subplot of the son.

On film, the mentally ill are often depicted as either psychotic killers (e.g. Psycho) or underdog geniuses (e.g. Rain Man) but to her credit Foster avoids these cliches, focusing with a good deal of empathy on how regular families grapple with the pain and uncertainty of having a loved one suffering from a psychological ailment.

Furthermore, it floats the idea that traditionally accepted treatments might not work for everyone, which contrasts with films which routinely dish out the subtext that everything will be OK in the end.

Not everything works here. Two significant strikes against the film are Marcelo Zavros’ jaunty score, which belongs in another film entirely, and a key plot development late on which feels too melodramatic.

As I write this, The Beaver has died a death at the US box office, which suggests Gibson and Foster are no longer the box office stars they were and that audiences were baffled by the story and tone.

Parts of the preview audience I saw it with seemed to be laughing at certain scenes in a derisory way (never a good sign), but to sneer at this film (as some may do), is to ignore its empathetic heart, even if in places it doesn’t fully work.

Some of the influences here appear to be Magic (1978), the drama starring Anthony Hopkins as a ventriloquist and American Beauty (1999), with its dissection of suburban angst.

One recent film it closely resembles is Lars and the Real Girl (2007), which also featured a troubled, yet sympathetic, lead character with a bizarre fixation.

Like that film it may struggle to find a wide audience, but if you are prepared to go with it, The Beaver is a film with unusual depths that lie beneath its goofy premise.

> Official site
> IMDb entry
> Reviews for The Beaver at Metacritic


Trailer: The Beaver

The first trailer for The Beaver has arrived with a weird voiceover and an unexpected feel-good vibe.

A dark comedy about the depressed head of a toy company (Mel Gibson) who uses a beaver handpuppet to communicate with his wife (Jodie Foster) and family, it has an interesting back story.

Directed by Foster, the script by Kyle Killen attracted a lot of buzz by topping the 2008 Blacklist, an unofficial industry poll of the best unproduced screenplays.

However, Gibson’s recent phone-related meltdowns posed a dilemma for distributor Summit Entertainment and the release was put on hold whilst they decided to let things cool down.

The UK release date has already been set for February 11th and a Spring release in the US now looks likely.

Some things to note about the trailer: if you look carefully you’ll notice Jennifer Lawrence (a likely Oscar nominee for Winter’s Bone); Gibson’s beaver voice sounds like Ray Winstone; and Foster’s line near the end (“I’ll fight for you…”) feels autobiographical given her support for Gibson during his recent woes.

> The Beaver at the IMDb
> /Film with more details on The Beaver