Cinemas thrive in hard times, or so it was during our last recession. As an uncertain 2009 dawns, we can at least look to the silver screen as a sacred place, somewhere to engage in exactly what the joy of celluloid was invented for – pure and unadulterated escape. The lineup of eagerly expected blockbusters in the first half of the year has some top notch talent in films both fantastical and reality-based. Regardless of what floats your cinematic boat, there’s surely something to waft you away from the grim reality of life. Sit back, get comfortable, and enjoy. Happy New Year.
Angels And Demons
The team behind The Da Vinci Code return for another instalment of religious chicanery in this story based on the bestselling novel by Dan Brown. Tom Hanks reprises his role as Harvard University religious expert Robert Langdon, who once again finds that forces with ancient roots are willing to stop at nothing to advance their goals through an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati. Once again, the plot is paced to a ticking clock as Langdon races through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth. And this time, he‘s on the side of the Catholic Church.
Directed by Edward Zwick, of Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai fame, the film is an adaptation of Nechama Tec’s Defiance: The Bielski Partisans based on the true story of the Bielski rebels who took on the might of the Nazi war machine. In the book, Jews from all corners of the conquered Eastern territories, especially Poland, band together to form a fighting force deep in the forests against Hitler’s extermination policy. It stars Bond man Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, Live Schreiber and George McKay as four Polish brothers who lead a guerilla campaign against overwhelming odds.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep co-star in the controversial drama set during 1964 at St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the schools’ strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the community, and indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her guilt-inducing suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. Two of cinema’s best talents lock horns in a story that should have more than a little appeal for Irish audiences.
For three years after being forced from office following the Watergate revelations, ex US President Richard Nixon remained silent. Then, in summer 1977, the disgraced former commander-in-chief agreed to sit for one all-inclusive interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. Nixon surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the breezy British showman and secure a place in the hearts and minds of Americans. As cameras rolled, however, a charged battle of wits resulted where each man would reveal his own insecurities and ego in a debate that held the world transfixed. Frank Langella plays Nixon and Michael Sheen is Frost.
Back in the late ‘80s, Randy “The Ram” Robinson, played by Mickey Rourke, was a winning wrestler. Like many who stay on too long, he imploded in a sport that consumes the weak. Now, twenty years later, he ekes out a living performing for handfuls of diehard wrestling fans in high school gyms and community centres around New Jersey. Trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Evan Rachel Wood, and romance his exotic dancer partner, Marisa Tomei, Randy takes one last shot at the big time – a do-or-die effort to find that old magic one last time. Rourke has been tipped for an Oscar for the role.
The Curious Case of Banjamin Button
Hands up who wants to see Brad Pitt grow younger in front of our eyes? Thought so, ladies. “I was born under unusual circumstances.” So begins the plot adapted from the 1920s story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man who is born in his eighties and ages backwards: a man, like any of us, who is unable to stop time. Beginning in New Orleans at the end of World War I in 1918 right up to the 21st century, we track Brad as he loses the wrinkles and regains his hair in a Dorian Gray transformation that’ll surely win a best make-up award. The film is directed by David Fincher and co-stars Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemyng, Elias Koteas and Julia Ormond.
Based on the Bernhard Schlink novel of the same name, this one stars Kate Winslet and David Kross as a classic story of an older woman tutoring a young boy in the joys of love. An added attraction in the affair is the fact she likes being read to – everything from The Odyssey to Huckleberry Finn. One day she disappears. Eight years later, the boy once again sees his former lover – as a defendant in a Nazi war trial. As Hanna’s past is revealed, Michael uncovers a deep secret that will impact both of their lives. The Reader is a story about truth and reconciliation, about how one generation comes to terms with the crimes of another.
Based on the true story of how a small music recording studio, Chess Records, on the south side of Chicago, began recording blues music with Muddy Waters and Little Walter in 1947, and eventually gave birth to rock and roll in 1955 with Chuck Berry. Adrien Brody plays producer, Leonard Chess – a man with a finely tuned ear and a nose for talent which quickly includes Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, and Etta James played by Beyonce. Chess is more than a mere mentor of musical careers, however, he also becomes the father confessor and drugs councillor to his mismatched band of singers who will shortly change the world.
Other new releases
Other notable releases coming up during the year include: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen; X-Men Origins: Wolverine; The Lovely Bones; Terminator Salvation; Public Enemies; and G.I. Joe.