It’s February. That means cold, freezing weather. It is also the culmination of the awards season. Yes, it’s nearly time for the biggest, glitziest celebrity ceremony of the year – the Oscars! Chilly, horrible weather, and awards season? I think I better start with…
Ridley’s Scott’s latest space offering is set on the red planet, where things get pretty cold for NASA botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) after he’s abandoned ET-style by his team.
Based on the 2011 Andy Weir novel, the scenes on Earth are as dry as Martian soil, but Mars looks like a fab destination. The astronauts even have cool space suits in a kind of burnt amber that match the scenery. It’s not as good or moving as Gravity, but it’s a fantastic ode to human endeavour and ingenuity, and the will to survive.
In the brutal war on drugs, idealistic young FBI agent Kate (Emily Blunt) makes a gruesome discovery in Arizona. She gets hauled into a narcotics task force led by the morally ambivalent Matt (Josh Brolin), and his even shadier partner Alejandro (Benicio del Toro). In Sicario, the good guys fight dirty.
Blunt is wide-eyed and vulnerable – enough to be affecting, but not so much to be miscast as a door-kicker rolling with Delta Force. She the audience’s proxy, not driving the story forward so much as along for the ride.
Del Toro is so enigmatic he makes waking up from a nap compelling. Kate appears drawn to him, even if he scares her. He wants to protect her, even as he threatens to kill her. Intense stuff.
THE DANISH GIRL
Save all your tears for The Danish Girl, a lavish costume drama based on 1920s transgender pioneer Lili Elbe.
We begin the film with Lili-as-Einar, who’s married to fellow painter/illustrator Gerda (Alicia Vikander). They are devoted to one another, with a circle of friends (including an earsplitting Amber Heard) who all love to hear about their blissful wedded life.
Lili tries on a dress, then has this thunderclap realization that she’s a woman. Mistreated until she meets a humane physician, she becomes one of the first to undergo gender reassignment surgery, before antibiotics or immunosuppressive drugs.
“I am… entirely… myself,” beams an unconvincing Redmayne.
Although it starts as a two-hander, The Danish Girl is more of a blank canvas for Alicia Vikander. Luckily its got its timing right, so is bound to find an audience willing to treat it with reverence.
Little Jack and his Ma (Brie Larson) are locked in a soundproofed shed they call “Room”.
Their captor, Old Nick, snatched a teenage Joy Newsome. It shouldn’t need to be spelled out, but yes Jack is the result of Old Nick’s nighttime assaults on Joy.
Mother and son eventually pull off a rather implausible escape, and wake up in hospital with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a vast cityscape, which seemed like a rapid adjustment for two people used to a cramped room with only a skylight.
The book was told through Jack’s eyes, but in the movie, this doesn’t work. The final act is a letdown as we wince through screechy little Jack effortlessly getting used to his freedom, instead of concentrating on Joy’s much-harder rehabilitation.
Trapped behind a toy counter in a Manhattan department store for the holidays, Therese (looking like a festive fawn in a Santa hat) is dreaming of a creative life as a photographer. Across a blur of Christmas shoppers she locks eyes with statuesque beauty Cate Blanchett’s titular blue-blooded 1950s socialite.
Blanchett plays her as a free spirit, with hint of something predatory, or maybe just reckless, as their acquaintance becomes a love affair – dangerous for the times, especially if Carol’s husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) has anything to do with it.
Every frame is beautiful, but the striking lack of right-on wrath may make it too removed for some.
Set in the early 20th Century, aspiring writer Edith (Mia Wasikowska) falls for British aristocrat Tom Hiddleston, who is trying to convince her Pa to invest in his mining inventions.
Although Pa dislikes him and his Bronte mean girl sister Jessica Chastain, Edith marries Hiddles and returns to England to live at his crumbling estate, where gross red clay oozes through the walls and floorboards. Oh, and there’s a ghost, too, in this decomposing goo-mansion.
Crimson Peak doesn’t deliver scares like The Woman in Black, and likely isn’t intended as a horror. A gothic costume drama and a brooding Victorian romance – I’m not sure anyone in charge of the marketing knew what to do with it.