It’s February. That means cold, freezing weather. It’s also the culmination of the awards season, which means it’s nearly time for the biggest, glitziest celebrity ceremony of the year – the Oscars!
Cold weather, plus awards season? I think I better start with…
Ridley Scott’s latest space offering is set on the red planet, where things get pretty chilly for NASA botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who gets abandoned ET-style by his team.
Based on the 2011 Andy Weir novel, the scenes on Earth are as dry as Martian soil. Mars looks like a fab destination, though – the astronauts even have cool space suits in a kind of burnt amber that match the scenery.
It’s a fun ride about human 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 – but still tough enough to play a door-kicker rolling with Delta Force. She’s 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 first meet Lili-as-Einar (Eddie Redmayne), happily 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 love hearing about their blissful wedded life.
But the second Einar holds a dress for Gerda, he realizes that the doctor who assigned him the sex of ‘male’ was mistaken. Eventually Einar- now Lili – meets a humane physician, and becomes one of the first to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
“I am… entirely… myself,” flutters a deeply unconvincing Redmayne from his death bed. (There were no antibiotics or anti-rejection drugs.)
A blank canvas for the talents of the fiery Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl feels like it should have been made 20 years ago. It’s still 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 Ma – real name Joy Newsome – years prior. (It shouldn’t need spelling out, but Jack is the result of Old Nick’s nighttime assaults on Joy.)
Mother and son pull off a rather implausible escape, waking up in a 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.
Room is a fab showcase for Larson (nobody is taking her Oscar away). Like the novel by Emma Donoghue that it is based on, all the film’s action – violence, suicide attempts – are seen through the innocent eyes of little Jack. At least on the page the kid wasn’t so screechy. ❄❄
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 a statuesque beauty – Cate Blanchett’s titular blue-blooded 1950s socialite.
Blanchett plays her as a free spirit, with hint of something predatory. Their acquaintance becomes a love affair – dangerous for the times, especially if Carol’s wonderfully-named husband Harge (Kyle Chandler) has anything to do with it.
Every frame is beautiful, but the lack of right-on wrath may make it too removed for some.
Despite having been marketed as horror – and there is a ghost or two – don’t expect Crimson Peak to deliver scares like The Woman in Black.
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 both Hiddles and his Brontë mean girl sister Jessica Chastain, Edith marries Hiddles and returns to England to live at his decomposing goo-mansion, where gross red clay oozes through the walls and floorboards.
Great costumes. ❄❄❄