Dang that went quick didn’t it? All that 2014 just whooshed by like it was nobody’s business, leaving us here staring into the spooky future of 2015. If we don’t have flying plutonium-powered cars, self-drying clothes, hover boards and the style of wearing two ties at once by November then Robert Zemeckis and his Back To The Future Part 2 crew are going to look pretty silly. But in the meantime that month that usually comes first is January, so we might as well go get ourselves pleasantly excited as to what cinematic hodge and truffles are trundling ever closer to our doors in this shiny new year.
January 1st – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
If somehow you’ve ducked and dodged your way around your television this festive season then congratulations you are one of 4 people who haven’t at least heard of or seen about Birdman. Released last year in the States, Birdman has been hungrily chomping down accolades for its depiction of an actor famed for his portrayal of a superhero (the magnificently cast Michael Keaton, who was Batman once, don’t cha know) trying to regain what shred of artistic integrity he may have once had in a Broadway play despite innumerable preposterous issues. I can’t honestly see 2015 starting any better than with this darkly comic deconstruction of our modern-day obsession with superheroes.
January 1st – The Theory of Everything
If critiques of modern-day genre films aren’t your thing for your First Movie Of The Year 2015, then there’s also this guy. The Theory of Everything is quite simply the biopic of the one and only Professor Stephen Hawking with regards to his first wife, Jane Hawking. Then again, it’s never -just- as simple as that; it’s not hard to visualise the world’s most famous man with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (even more so than Lou Gehrig), and for anybody to tackle how a slow-developing version of such a condition affects a relationship is no mean feat. I’ve heard that lead actors Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones have been getting some powerful buzz from their depictions of the central two characters of Stephen and Jane. If you want a tale of relationships, debilitating conditions and astrophysics, then you can’t ask for more.
January 8th – Taken 3
I believe this final instalment of the suddenly-a-franchise Taken series should bear the full hypothetical title “Taken 3: Murdered”. Why? Do I believe this franchise should be painfully executed at this point in a manner not too dissimilar to a ritual killing? Do I believe that despite all the success the series has had that Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills has created such a dependable formula for the ‘Dad-on-a-rampage’ genre that it has effectively killed a brand of cinema? Do I reckon that those who propagate such a culling of cinema should themselves be also culled? WELL?! Erm, no, I just meant that in this last movie Bryan Mills’ wife gets murdered, himself framed for it and he has to solve the case with his particular set of skills. That’s all. Go team Bryan.
January 9th – Foxcatcher
Here’s another late American import from last year that had critics doing a strange little dance that may or may not have been an attempt at an emotion other than discontent or avarice. If you can deal with the overlarge amount of prosthetics on our main trio of characters, Foxcatcher is all about the attempts by multimillionaire John E. du Pont to build the greatest American wrestling team in the world and have them compete in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. This would be a fine little sports flick if it wasn’t for the fact that there is something very obviously wrong with du Pont (played here by Steve Carrell in one of those “why don’t you do these roles more often” roles) and his fixation on the likeable fraternal pairing of Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as the Schultz brothers.
January 16th – Whiplash
Late American import #3. Absolutely everybody within certain film blog circles have been gushing about this film about a lad who wants to be a great drummer and must endure the tutelage of his R.-Lee-Ermy-in-Full-Metal-Jacket-style instructor. I have also been reliably informed that on paper this movie does not really sell and that you have to go see it with your own sensory organs to really get why people think it’s so truly amazeballs. I think that should be enough to pique the interest of some, but hopefully even more when they realise the Oscar buzz that’s around J. K. Simmons as the firebrand music instructor.
January 23rd – The Gambler
Mark Wahlberg. Marky Mark. That guy who was a lead in the two most-recently-directed Michael Bay movies. You can deride him any way you want, but the thing is that occasionally the man can actually act. You remember Boogie Nights, right? Three Kings? The Departed? I Heart Huckabees? Okay, maybe not I Heart Huckabees, but you get what I’m saying though. The Gambler sees Wahlberg as a wiry and skinny English Lit professor with a serious gambling problem that only seems to get worse. Multiply that by the fact it comes from Rupert Wyatt, he of the slow-burn-into-monkey-chaos that was Rise of the Planet of the Apes and yes you should be interested! Yes!
January 23rd – A Most Violent Year
Man, these late arrivals from America sure are coming thick and fast, aren’t they? This one is the result of putting J. C. Chandor (of 2013’s Robert-Redford-versus-the-sea flick All is Lost) in touch with the hippest pairing of Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac and letting them loose on the crime-filled streets of New York circa 1981, the most violent year in the city’s history apparently. I say ‘let loose’, their characters are more sort of trapped protecting their own livelihood against the background of violence that washes over the city like a tide of hate. It’s that kind of film.
January 23rd – Ex Machina
Not content for one film to be released on the 23rd, Oscar Isaac appears again in the directorial debut of Alex Garland (writer of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go and Dredd). Instead of trying to ambitiously survive a crime wave, this time Oscar Isaac has contacted a young programmer that resembles Domhnall Gleeson to help him evaluate the nature of his most startling development in artificial intelligence to date. It only makes matters more freaky when said A.I is housed in an overly-human female chassis and goes by the name Ava. Overtones to Metropolis’ Maria are unavoidable, but expect this one to have a lot more ethical and psychological questions than Fritz Lang’s masterpiece.
January 29th – Kingsman: The Secret Service
Who does Matthew Vaughn cater to? Does he even care? The man’s married to Claudia Schiffer for crying out loud, he doesn’t have time to give a shit about marketable audiences. That’s probably why Stardust, Layer Cake, Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class’ were so much fun: that sense of ‘who cares’ permeates Vaughn’s films and with Kingsman: The Secret Service it’s no different. Based on a comic penned by Vaughn and (urg) Mark Millar, Kingsman has secret agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) take on the delinquent son of his late acquaintance to turn him into a member of the Kingsman just in time to stop Samuel L Jackson from destroying the earth, or at least the people on it.
January 30th – Inherent Vice
I like Paul Thomas Anderson (never to be confused with Paul W. S. Anderson), but feel that his movies have become more severe and critical. Don’t get me wrong, The Master and There Will Be Blood were brilliant but they weren’t half savage at times. Colour me a gaudy shade of surprise when I see that his latest, Inherent Vice is a ridiculous 1970s romp through the eyes of Los Angeles P.I Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, already sporting the best sideburns of the year) as he tries to figure out what’s going on with his ex, a plot to commit a billionaire to a loony bin and the 1970s in general.
January 30th – Big Hero 6
Kids movie time! Based on the very-little-known Marvel series, Big Hero 6 sees a group of teens and young adults form a super-hero team to stop some nefarious villain goings-on. So far so yawn, BUT if I mentioned that it takes place in the fantastically-named San Fransokyo (half ‘Frisco, half Tokyo), deals with familial loss through well-written character interaction AND has a robot-balloon as a principal character you can’t say that doesn’t at least intrigue. Right? Seriously go check out Baymax the inflatable robot right now and tell me you and/or your kids want to go see that film. Olaf who?