The films of the summer

by Listener Archive / 25 December, 2010
Helene Wong's and David Larsen's guide to the season's cinematic offerings.

Opened December 16

TRON: LEGACY. When you think "films of 1982", do you think ET, Tootsie, Gandhi, Blade Runner ... or do you think Tron? Combining some of the first real CGI with what must have struck its makers as a brilliantly apropos "trapped inside the mind of a computer" story­line, it fell pretty flat in its day. So, 28 years on, why a sequel? Because CGI has got cooler, and so has Jeff Bridges. In, of course, 3D.

LOVE CRIME. A lumbering French suspense drama that abandons a promising initial set-up - Kristin Scott Thomas is the manipulative boss, Ludivine Sagnier is the over-awed protégé who slowly figures out she's being used - in favour of a tediously mechanical crime puzzle.

Opening December 22

MEET THE PARENTS: LITTLE ­FOCKERS. The first and second entries in the Focker family saga made enough money that Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro

were always going to return for a third round of American suburban in-law comedy. This offering features Godfather in-jokes and humorous projectile vomit.

Opening Boxing Day

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS. Jack Black stars as a slobbish modern Gulliver, whose discovery of the five-inch-high people of Lilliput starts him on the road to an unlikely heroic destiny. Black could do this in his sleep, although Rob Letterman's directorial track record (Monsters vs Aliens, Shark Tale) does not entirely reassure.

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS' NEST. The final volume in Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy gets a tautly efficient but reasonably faithful Swedish-language screen version. If you've seen the first two, you know what to expect; and if you haven't, don't start here. David Fincher's English-language version of the first novel will be along next Christmas.

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. A comedy-drama in which a middle-aged lesbian couple (Julianne Moore, Annette Benning, both in fine form) demonstrate that marital ennui and passive-aggressive parenting are not heterosexual prerogatives. Far less liberal-minded than it pretends, but highly watchable.

THE TOURIST. Is there any way a comedy-thriller built around Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp can fall flat? Perhaps if an ultra-serious German drama director is allowed to take the helm ... someone like Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others). File under "could go either way".

YOGI BEAR. The least-anticipated TV remake since Coneheads. Live action with CGI animals. Dan Aykroyd voices Yogi. Justin Timberlake brings his brief moment of post-Social Network ­credibility to a decisive close by voicing Boo Boo.

Opening New Year's Day

LOVE AND OTHER DRUGS. This starts as a giddy rom-com of the "love 'em and leave 'em male meets his match" variety, then morphs inexorably into a downbeat drama. It lacks the substance to compensate for the fun it sacrifices, but Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway have dynamite chemistry, and it stays likeable throughout.

Opening January 6

MORNING GLORY. Roger Michell (Notting Hill) directs a tonally uncertain but moderately entertaining behind-the-scenes-at-a-struggling-news-show comedy. Rachel McAdams is over-caffeinated but charming as the peppy young producer; Harrison Ford is under-caffeinated and charmless as the ageing anchor.

TANGLED. Solid second-tier Disney animation, based on the Rapunzel story. Alan Menkel's songs are instantly forgettable, but it's pretty to look at, and the mix of Aladdin-style adventure and princess appeal works nicely.

Opening January 13

INSIDE JOB. The 2008 financial meltdown analysed, explained and - astonishing, this - made gripping. Charles Ferguson, director of the best documentary about the Iraq war (No End in Sight), has now made an even better documentary about who broke the financial system, and whose interests were looked to when it was "fixed". Hint: not ours.

BURLESQUE. Christina Aguilera is the small-town girl looking to hit the big time. Cher is the nightclub owner who makes her a star. Lots of singing, some of which, according to overseas reviews, almost makes up for the acting and the script.

THE DILEMMA. How do you tell your best friend his wife's cheating on him? Vince Vaughn struggles to avoid spilling the beans while gathering evidence, and finds a few nasties under the rocks he turns over. Welcome back to comedy, Ron Howard, after a decade of dramas.

DESERT FLOWER. Somalian supermodel Waris Dirie's true and eventful journey from desert to catwalk should be no fluff piece. At the height of her career, she revealed publicly she had been circumcised at the age of five, sparking international action against the practice. A German production with a strong English cast, including Sally Hawkins and Timothy Spall.

GREASE SINGALONG. What it says on the tin. I got chills, they're multiplying ...

Opening January 20

THE KING'S SPEECH. What Helen Mirren did for Elizabeth II, Colin Firth does for her father, George VI - namely, lays bare his vulnerability. A stammerer's reluctant path to the throne is traced with compassion, poignancy and humour, courtesy of Geoffrey Rush and a best of British cast led by an unquestionably fantastic Firth.

THE FIGHTER. Boxing still rules in sports movies. Mark Wahlberg is Boston scrapper "Irish" Micky Ward, Christian Bale the brother who trains him. David O Russell (Three Kings) directs, so expect more than your standard Rocky treatment. Sibling stoushes at the very least.

THE GREEN HORNET. Who isn't curious about what Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep) will do to the superhero genre? Seth Rogen and Taiwan actor, singer and martial artist Jay Chou don the masks to do the crime fightin', and Cameron Diaz is the girl who kicks the Hornet's nest.

Opening January 27

BLACK SWAN. We know ambition and rivalry go with the tights and the tulle, but move over, Royal New Zealand Ballet. In Darren Aronofsky's psychological, allegorical thriller, Natalie Portman plays a would-be prima ballerina who, when her career's under threat, discovers her inner Black Swan.

SECRETARIAT. Housewife and horseflesh: Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) and Secretariat, the stallion she turns into a racing champion. John Malkovich is the trainer - hmm, now there's an outside pick. Odds are, though, we're talking uplifting and inspirational.

THE HOPES AND DREAMS OF GAZZA SNELL. In deepest Howick, cleaning contractor and infuriatingly laissez-faire dad Gazza (Sea Change's William McInnes) juggles work, marriage, cultural challenges and political and kart-racing ambitions into a cascading crisis from which you hope he emerges, finally, a grown-up.

Opening February 3

HEREAFTER. Clint Eastwood's "intersecting lives" film: an American (Matt Damon), a Frenchwoman (Cécile de France) and a British schoolboy (Frankie/George McLaren) each search for answers after encounters with death. The story is written by Peter Morgan (The Queen), so is bound to be accessible and thoughtful.

TRUE GRIT. The Coen brothers revisit the 1969 Western, with Jeff Bridges in the John Wayne role of an alcoholically challenged US marshal, hired by a young girl to track her father's killer. Only she plans to come along, too. Matt Damon turns up in this one as well, as a Texas Ranger.

HOW DO YOU KNOW. A James L Brooks romantic comedy - yay! - with regular buddy Jack Nicholson playing the father of the corporate guy (Paul Rudd) in Reese Witherspoon's love triangle. The other guy is a baseball player - and that's (who else?) Owen Wilson.

WILD TARGET. A 1993 French film remade into a blackly funny Ealing-type crime caper. You know the drill: bored hitman hired to kill beautiful thief; decides to save her; cue all hell. And with Bill Nighy as the hitman, wild horses couldn't keep us away.

CERTIFIED COPY. Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami shifts his camera to the Tuscan countryside and onto a romantic encounter between a British writer and a French journalist (Juliette Binoche). Or is it? More an elusive rumination on art, love, life, etc that's lovely to look at and gently mind-bending.


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