Thursday, 27 January 2011

FILM REVIEW: Morning Glory

Right. This is not Broadcast News. This is not Network. The only thing you need to know about this film is that it's directed by the guy who did Notting Hill and it's written by the woman behind 27 Dresses and The Devil Wears Prada. In fact: Morning Glory IS pretty much The Devil Wears Prada, but this time set in the TV industry and Meryl Streep has metamorphosed into a Jeff Goldblum-Harrison Ford fiendish monster (with two heads of course).

Bouncy, bouncy Becky (Rachel McAdams, who couldn't be more bouncy) has dreamt all her life to produce TV news programmes, namely CBS' The Today Show. But fired from her lowly job at Good Morning New Jersey, she finds herself unemployed and slightly desperate. Her enthusiasm lands her a job with Jeff Goldblum at made-up network IBS as new executive producer of Daybreak (snigger) the channel's breakfast news magazine show. Which is horrendously bad, and aptly trailing in the ratings. Becky's first port of call to transform the show is to fire the current male anchor and persuade fading household name and king of serious news Mike Pomeroy (Ford) to front the show with co-host and long standing Daybreak survivor Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton). Of course he refuses, but when contractual small print means he has to take on the job he does so - with all the warmth and light of a gnarly plank of wood. Frustrated and given an ultimatum by Goldblum, Becky starts throwing all of her energy into crazy car crash television stunts to increase the ratings to try to save the show from being cancelled (and when she has a spare moment schmoozing with Patrick Wilson). But all that goes into crisis mode until guess who saves the day - Mike Pomeroy, who likes her after all. Then hates her again, and when The Today Show offers her a job she goes off to interview. Believing he may be about to lose the one person who's ever had faith in him - Pomeroy saves the day again. With eggs. And she realises that she will give up her big dream to be happy rather than alone and miserable.[/nutshell]

This stuff writes itself really. You can't get a more predictably wouldn't-happen-in-real-life film than Morning Glory. The schmaltz is packed to the rafters. Of course she will get the job. Of course the first man she meets will be the man of her dreams. Of course she will save the show. Of course Mike Pomeroy will secretly like her behind his uncooperative grumpiness. Of course there will be a melodramatic swing of feeling that will make everyone cry just as she's about to accept a job at The Today Programme (what I loved about that scene was how, even though she is being interviewed at CBS, the TV screens in her interview are playing Daybreak. HA!) Of course her choice will be the right one in the end, etc, etc, etc. Still, sometimes it's nice to go and enjoy a film for enjoyment's sake and shut the old noggin off.

And what makes this film enjoyable? Definitely more enjoyable than the aforementioned three romcoms in my opening, is the presence of Rachel McAdams. I was intrigued going into this film as she has been getting so much praise (more so than Ford and Keaton) and I was slightly bemused by it. Yes, she's a good actress, but is she really amazing? It's only when you try and fit a Cameron Diaz or a Katherine Heigl into her role as scatty but adorable Becky that you realise everyone is right: Rachel McAdams makes this film watchable, and very funny.

Because the person who glues the film together is so likable, it makes you gloss over some of the parts I would normally gripe about, even though I did feel her romance with Patrick Wilson did get very comfy very quickly - there was no getting to know each other part: suddenly they are practically living together. And I did HATE when Mike Pomeroy sneakily lets Colleen Peck into his dressing room at the end (why can't people just continue to dislike each other? Is that so against the rules of romcom?!). But I found myself willing for the clich├ęs to happen and for Mike Pomeroy to show his soft side and affection for Becky. And yes, I cried a lot when he looks up from making his frittata and sees her standing there watching him at the side of the set. But 50 Cent - WHY?

The film itself doesn't really show much of the TV news industry - and that's why I mention its no Broadcast News or Network, because you're not going to get much insight and cutthroat politics here - all of the characters are incredibly heightened and false, and that's why it makes it so entertaining. Just don't expect too much focus on what Becky actually does in her job, other than be absorbed by it and elevated by all of her surprisingly winning ideas.

If I sound cynical I'm trying not to be. Morning Glory is a lot of fun, and probably would have felt a lot funnier if I hadn't been in a cinema screen with five other people. It's one of the better romcoms, and has the most amazing diss of Angela Lansbury I've ever heard in my life! The Natasha Bedingfield song at the end is also infuriatingly catchy.

And how can I not like a film that contains the line, "have you ever tried a real egg?"

Sunday, 23 January 2011


***spoilers ahead***

I'll tell you what's harder than having to wait months and months for the film I've been desperate to see: writing the review for it. Or, coming up with any critical or reflective thoughts on it at all without first waiting for it to sink in. Something as big as Black Swan I think needs a second and perhaps a third watch to really give an honest and true opinion - and I'm planning to do just that. But, at the end of the day it's just a film - same as all the rest - and I have to follow 'normal procedures' and give a culturemouse review. So this is what I think now - though Black Swan is far from an ordinary film.

A quick recap: as a new ballet season approaches, sheltered and neurotic ballerina Nina (Natalie) wants to shine - not just for herself, but for the company and for her mother (Barbara Hershey), whose own dancing career was cut short when she became pregnant. Given the chance to audition for the prime role of Swan Queen in a new production of Swan Lake, her naivety and repression stalls her from committing to the dance of the black swan, and she is devastated. She seeks another chance from teacher Thomas (Vincent Cassel) who sees a dark potential her fragility and gives her top billing. As she strives to perfect the dual personality of the Swan Queen she becomes increasingly paranoid that retiring star Beth (Winona Ryder) and new belle Lily (Mila Kunis) are out to sabotage her. She is also haunted and struck by terrible images and hallucinations, and strange and frightening scratches and bleeding appearing all over her body. As the inaugural show beckons, Nina's heightened state of hysteria reaches fever pitch and then the curtains are down, and the audience is waiting for her: can she prove to herself and everyone watching that she can dance, and become, the black swan?

(there was a loud crash of the gate outside after I wrote that - oo-er!)

Black Swan is an experience. I saw it two days ago and it's still with me now - it has enormous power, and while I immediately knew as the credits rolled that I wanted to see it again, it wasn't as soon as I want to now. It's not just Natalie's performance and certain scenes that stick in your mind, it's all the detail that goes with it: the angles, the facial expressions, the music - particularly the music and the way it powers up and down the volume scale depending on what's happening on screen. Tchaikovsky is actually a brilliant scorer for a horror movie soundtrack: the quiet and tingly softness for the calmer moments of the film, and then the louder, angrier clashing of sounds for operatic and frenzied passion and violence. I don't think Aronofsky could have picked a better set-up than Swan Lake to do a story about ballet, and also a portrait of a messed up young woman: what better slate than a tale of multiple personality, of bipolar acting, of life and death, of black and white? All the answers to the film's duplicity and hallucinogenic visions are within the story of Swan Lake. But very, very cleverly this obvious sledgehammer is forgotten about - not once did I see the similarity to guess the blatant ending, and thank God for that otherwise it would have been a completely different experience.

It's also relentless - a lot more than I was anticipating. I was expecting a slow burn, with a prolonged sense of dread emanating in a spectacular last third where everything goes batshit crazy (from the trailer and from other people's stunned reviews coming out of Venice). But almost straight away there is an instability about Nina and a madness which is opened to the viewer: more than once she thinks she sees another version of herself, a doppelganger, echoing her footsteps, and then her mirror image taking on a life of its own inside the glass. We also get more corporeal traits: such as her never alluded to bulimia (we never see her eat, only her nervousness when her mother presents her with a cake and she reluctantly eats some frosting - it's not shown but it's fairly clear she would throw this up later) and the red raw scratches on her back which seem to spring up from nowhere, but what her mother is adamant is a form of self-harm she has battled with for years. Broken nails and bleeding skin also add to the general sense of pain being carried out on the body - and not just the necessary pain a ballerina goes through to create elegance and strength as she dances, but something further and more dangerous.

Then there are the people in Nina's life who are impacting upon her too: the relationship with her mother is claustrophobic, burgeoning on abuse. She has lived her failed life through Nina: desperate for her to be a star, to deliver her potential, but not allowing her to grow as a person outside of the ballet world: her room is girlishly pink filled with fluffy toys, and a musical jewellery box acts as a lullaby to get to sleep, while the mother on occasion sleeps beside her in the same room all night. It's very, very freaky and Barbara Hershey is awe-inspiring and terrifying at the same time - when she discovers the scratches on Nina's back and pulls her forcefully into the bathroom to snip at her nails with a pair of scissors, it felt very much like a scene from Carrie, the same horror from a mother whose obsession to keep her daughter pure and innocent is unpredictable and possessed.

Thomas, the sleazy ballet teacher, who tells Nina to "touch herself" for homework is destructive but in not such a telling way: he doesn't realise the damage he is doing to Nina, the pressure he is putting her under and how she is not responding in a normal, healthy way. It was the absurdity of his role which lent the film to its more ridiculous moments: I couldn't decide if he was affecting the villain or if he was a terrible actor. I'm not familiar with Vincent Cassel so I don't know. Either way he is incredibly unlikeable, and not someone who warms the screen.

In direct comparison to Lily and Mila Kunis, who though it was hard for Meg from Family Guy not to peep through on occasion, her energy, charisma and electricity made her immensely watchable, a little minx to compare with timid Nina - the black swan and the white swan arm in arm (or, er, tongue in tongue?). Her presence was the most interesting as she has the most profound effect upon the main star: Nina recognises that she has to become more like Lily to fully immerse herself as the black swan, yet she is simultaneously terrified that Lily is trying to become her, and take over her life and take over the role as Swan Queen. There's a lot of trickery going on here: faces and bodies interchanging, false events occurring - when is Nina Nina, and when is Nina Lily? Does Lily even exist? (this is where people start getting out their magnifying glasses and repeat watching the film, re-watching scenes again once they know the truth) I don't think it's as complex as people want to make out, though I'm sure Aronofsky is keeping tight lipped (with a wry smile) to let the interpreters sprout their theories. Once you know the ending I think the scenes between Lily and Nina are all the more powerful and shocking, and they add greater depth and unease to what you have just been watching.

Winona Ryder is also worth a mention - she's been garnering the most mixed reactions for her casting as an embittered and tragic ballerina on the cusp of anonymity - but she actually brings the biggest jumps in the film, and I think she's brilliantly unhinged.

Which brings me to Miss Natalie (soon to be Mrs Millepied - her beau was actually in this a lot more than I thought). This is by far the most she has ever given as an actress, the most transformed I have ever seen her. What impressed me the most was that she is in literally every scene of the film, and she never once falters. My favourite moments were when she steals herself after breaking down - when she has killed Lily, and the call comes for her to go on stage, watching her pull her frantic trembling features together to the dogged poise of a performer was genius. She also really committed to the genre of the film, the crazy over-the-top melodrama of it: perfectly formed O's as she clamps her hands to her face and runs screaming to tear down the posters that are tormenting her, and the childlike bewitching of her face as she waits for death to take her at the end in her moment of 'perfection'. She is stunningly brilliant, and deserves all the praise she is getting - now I've finally seen the film I can watch the award ceremonies with a lot more emotion, and a lot more sweat!

Black Swan has been compared to many things since it came out: The Red Shoes, All About Eve, Brian de Palma, Pi, Requiem For A Dream, The Wrestler, David Lynch, Showgirls, Fight Club, David Cronenberg, Rosemary's Baby... ironically I found it closest in tone to Suspiria, the film everyone thought Natalie was re-making anyway when she was spotted taking ballet lessons and having meetings with David Gordon Green (they were discussing Your Highness, of course). It's far from perfect, with it being too outrageously ludicrous at times - I nearly had a mini crisis when she thought she had killed Lily, but the way they brought it back was amazing. (Incidentally, I know a lot of people are incredulous as to how she could have danced two acts with a stab wound, but I dismiss this: dancers fight through pain all the time, and Nina was transfixed, in another body, and she did not even feel the wound. It's a little silly at the end when she has blood all over her stomach before they realise something's wrong, but hey, this film is a little silly!) There have been many complaints about the script, but there were only a few occasions when I found it horribly gauche - it was these moments when the audience I was in, for right or for wrong, giggled a lot. Black Swan is going to seem incredibly hokey to many people, I know that, and again as many people have said, to fully enjoy it you have to buy into it and strap yourself on for the ride. But what works in the film and Aronofsky's favour is that the film knows exactly what it wants to be, and where it wants to go: the cast are on board, and it's a full-on night at the travelling freakshow. It doesn't feel fake, or misguided - it's beautifully, utterly bonkers.

You HAVE to go and see it. It's not just coming from me as a Natalie fan (I still think Garden State is her podium) but as a lover of cinema, and just to be naturally curious, you have to sit through the spectacle that is Black Swan. Because it's exciting, it's something to define your day with, and whatever you think of it when you stumble out of the cinema, it's truly unforgettable.


*initially I was going to give this four-four and a half cheeses but I changed my mind - because of how it's stayed with me over the last couple of days, I think it earns its five cheeses. I need to go and see it again on my own to really work out how I feel about it. But I think I'm only going to love it more than to change my mind the other way.


Thursday, 20 January 2011

Sundance 2011 Picks M-Z

And now M-Z:

Martha Marcy May Marlene
The first of two films in this section about cults: this one follows a young girl escaping from the community that brainwashed her, and trying to reintegrate herself back into normal life, and to cope with what has happened to her. Things don't run so smoothly, and soon her obsessive paranoia is putting her own family at risk. Really looking forward to seeing the direction this one will go.

Meek's Cutoff 
I love a good historical epic journey set against a sprawling landmass where the earth itself is as much a character as the people travelling on it (The Way Back, Australia, even Gone With The Wind). This time out it's 1845 and three families (including amongst Michelle Williams and Paul Dano) enlist the help of a scout to guide them across the Oregon Trail. There's wagons! A very murky clip shows a preview of the film below.

The Nine Muses
The only documentary on my list (and a rarity for this culturemouse) I love the vision behind this film: using the Odyssey of Homer to tell nine migration stories about postwar Britain, and exploring a range of emotions and ideas with beautiful landscapes and the words of some of the greatest lyricists. The Sundance site explains it a lot more eloquently than I have, but I'm intrigued by the sheer beauty of the images, and of course, I'm a complete sucker for anything that has a minute relation to Greek literature and mythos.

On The Ice
ICE! Yes, I'm totally addicted to ice. And it's my favourite icy setting as well: Alaska. A small community is shattered when a young boy dies in a tragic accident - except there's more to his death than mere fate, as best friends Qalli and Aivaaq now harbour a terrible, guilty secret. On first read it reminded me a little of a brilliant book I read a few years ago called The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, which also centres around a murder mystery in the remote frozen wilderness but also has tones of Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park. Watch a tiny clip:

Sound Of My Voice 
My second cult film sees two people follow a bizarre set of instructions to infiltrate an underground organisation led by the mysterious Maggie (played by Brit Marling, who also co-wrote and produced the film just as she has with Another Earth which I previewed in my A-L section! This girl is sure going to have a busy Sundance). The reason the couple have joined the cult is not clear: are they secretly scouring for information or are they longing for a family? This would make a great double header with Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene.

Take Shelter
I've been a fan of Michael Shannon ever since his brilliant nuanced performance in Revolutionary Road, and here he's playing a very interesting character indeed: a man who could be a prophet, but could also be crazy and dangerous to his family. Night terrors have predicted a catastrophic storm coming to his town, and he sets about building a shelter to save his family. But who will lose out in the end?

I have a horrible feeling this film will upset greatly, perhaps to the tune of Muriel's Wedding (I hide from it). A boy who is orphaned, bullied, undermined, feels alone and insecure... oh no, no, it's not going to do my mascara any good at all. John C Reilly plays the scary Vice Principal who takes alienated school boy Terri under his wing, and gives him the hope and confidence he needs to take charge of his own life. Less schmaltz more balling your fists into your mouth so you don't make animal noises while you cry.

AND HERE IT IS. The film that always turns up at Sundance that I've never heard of before, and suddenly it's my new obsession. I want to know everything I can about it, I want to know what everyone else thinks about it, and I want to know when in God's name I'm gonna be able to watch it. You may remember similar squeeing noises I made last year about The Romantics (which still has no official release date, God damn it). This year it's to.get.her which has already captured my imagination (and compulsive grabby hands) with its clever play-on-words title, and the story has enticed me even further. A group of teenage girls (yup, I'm already a fan) escape the pressures of school, boyfriends and social standings for some fun at the beach. But games turn nasty, and then someone dies. It's like my dream combo of Pretty Little Liars and Picnic at Hanging Rock! I can't waaaaaait for this to come out, and I'm hoping for a good reception at Sundance more than anything to help its distribution and publicity. Whilst there's no clips of the film yet (do you think I'd be talking to you now if there were?! Well, probably) - director Erica Dunton has spoken about her film's inclusion within the NEXT category at the festival:

Readers, you'll be the first to know when the trailer comes out for to.get.her.

The Troll Hunter
Finally, I'll end on a bit of a silly one: this mockumentary style film from Norway (the Norwegian sense of humour is fabulous, I'll tell you now) tells the story of a group of teenagers who start putting a film together when a number of dead bears are found slain in nearby woods. At first they think it's creepy old resident Hans and start to follow him, but this soon takes them on a wild adventure where the childhood stories they thought were folklore are anything but... I think the trailer speaks for itself here:


Others to keep your eyes and ears on hold for are: fine French Canadian cinema in The Salesman; an unbelievable premature remake for The Silent House; forgetting Richard Ayoade is in The IT Crowd with his debut film Submarine; a tale of teenage runaways in depression hit Cuba awaits in A Ticket To Paradise; and Paddy Considine's first time out as a director is Tyrannosaur starring Peter Mullan and Olivia Coleman and shot in my very own Leeds!

The Sundance Festival 2011 kicks off TONIGHT. Keep checking back to culturemouse for the films that are causing the most headlines, and for freshly uploaded reviews of the films I'm most looking forward to.

Sundance 2011 Picks A-L

It's my favourite time of year again :-) This is one of my favourite things to research for culturemouse - one day I'll be physically circling these films in the official programme and then going to see them at venues in Park City. One day.

Last year one of my picks, Winter's Bone, won the Grand Jury Prize. Here's hoping amongst the selection I highlight this year there'll be another champion!

You know the drill by now, so off we go...A-L.

Another Earth
Yes, that is Ethan from Lost in the promo still! I had to double check as well! This sounds absolutely fascinating: would you leave a dying world to start again on a duplicate one, even if it meant losing the person you loved? That's essentially the premise of the story from debutante Mike Cahill, who also wrote the script with the film's female lead Brit Marling. I'm hoping for lots of extensional angst and well written words to make me question, shout and cry.

Another Happy Day
This falls into one of those 'emotionally unstable families explode at wedding' categories (Margot At The Wedding, Rachel Getting Married, etc) which I'm all for as I love them - I love the intimacy of the drama and how it's all the more extenuated because it's over one day. This has a very starry cast including Kate Bosworth, Demi Moore, Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Barkin (pictured), as the troubled, alienated mother at the centre of it all.

This one attracted me because it's from Greece, and it has that weird, off-kilter, slightly perverse feel about it ala Dogtooth which is one of my favourite foreign films. So I'm hoping this offering from Athina Rachel Tsangari (who helped to produce Dogtooth) is going to be just as excellent. It's similar in tone: a sheltered young woman is forced to learn about sex and death by unconventional means (including an obsession with David Attenborough wildlife documentaries - yes it's going to be that kind of experience).Get a taster from the international trailer below:

Higher Ground
The reason I picked this one is because some parts of the synopsis sound very similar to a book I've just finished reading - American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. Obviously not in terms of actual plot, but more the themes: growing up in 1960s America, a time of change where after school you're not really sure what you should do. It also examines the dissatisfaction you can feel from life if you look for more, and also what happens when you realise you're losing the faith you grew up with. It's also Vera Farmiga's directorial debut, so I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of voice and tone she brings from behind the camera, as well as in front of it.

Blimey, look how much Freddie Highmore has grown! Are you sure he was the little kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Now he's breaking out into the indies! A quirky high school/coming of age drama where a loner (Highmore) and a popular girl (Emma Roberts, who's looking very Addams Family in the picture left) strike up a friendship with one another after realising they share a common take on the world. Hopefully it will work against the conventions of the normal high school dramedy, and be more grimy chic.

I'm not going to be the first one who asks: why's he wearing such a massive coat?

The Ledge
It's A Long Way Down if it was a film! But thank God it's not that film, because the Nick Hornby book is not a topic you want to get me started on (suppressed grrrs). This however looks like it will take the best bits from the suicidal-people-meeting-on-top-of-a-building premise, and properly explore their lives and the decisions they have made in greater detail than having them run about as a support group. And of course it will draw the audiences for the one question: will they or will they not jump?

Like Crazy
This looks like an adolescent take on Going The Distance, but with extra hormones. Two teenagers meet and start up a passionate relationship, but the girl is forced to move back to her home country of England when her visa runs out. So the long-distance trial has to come into play, and it's going to be far from easy for these lusty, fickle ones. I really like Anton Yelchin (ahem) - I think he'll be tough and broody - and it'll be nice to see Felicity Jones play a more emotional role than the one she's about to portray in Chalet Girl.

Little Birds
It seems like Juno Temple is in everything these days - good for her as she's obviously getting the work, but I'd like to see her play something apart from the bad gal for once. Little Birds is about two young teenagers growing up in a dead-end town, where one of them is content with the life she will inherit and the other is desperate to leave (Temple, of course). An encounter with a group of boys leads them to Los Angeles, and there they discover that while the grass is often greener on the other side, it's not always as well kept. Expect teenage rebellion, cat fights and irrevocable mistakes.

Also look out for The Future, which has the word 'playful' in the synopsis; crazy adulterous Norwegians in Happy, Happy; Susanne Bier premieres her new film In A Better World at the festival; Canadian Oscar hope Incendies; I Saw The Devil is the shocking new film from director Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters); festival globe trotter and all round wackjob Kaboom; an unlikely romance develops in Letters From The Big Man, and no, it's not really a man; and The Lie spins out of control courtesy of Joshua Leonard (yes, Joshua from The Blair Witch Project. He makes films now!)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

FILM REVIEW: The King's Speech

I'm feeling slightly gutted now I didn't get to watch The King's Speech at the LIFF last year, because it's meant I've had to wait an extra three months to see this brilliant film. And brilliant it is - how could they make a whole film out of a man overcoming his stammer? How could they make it interesting? I was engrossed the whole way through: don't be put off by the unadventurous sounding plot, come and be surprised and be incredibly moved.

Having struggled with his speech all his life, Prince Albert (or Bertie, as we fondly get to know him) has tried a range of therapists to try and conquer his impediment so he can make public announcements and addresses with ease. None of them work. So his wife finds someone different, someone a little unorthodox to help - a man called Lionel Logue, and when his father King George V dies and his brother messily abdicates, Bertie suddenly finds himself in the most pivotal position of all: to speak to the nation as ruling monarch, and not only that, but to allay their fears about the oncoming war.

Of course there's more to it than that: it's about the relationships the characters have, not just with one another, but with their pasts, with their emotions, with their voices. It's paced beautifully, with there being more from Michael Gambon (George V) and Guy Pearce (Edward VII) than I had realised, and this is very much needed as their ignorant and harmful treating of Bertie to try and 'force' the stammer out of him has only worsened the problem, and sapped his self-confidence.

Colin Firth is just astonishing - all the way through I was thinking what a master he is, what a genius of his field: not only does he have to play a real-life historical figure - a King no less (I often wondered during the film what the Queen would make watching this, her feet up on the sofa at Buckingham Palace watching a recreation of her childhood events) but to affect a stammer so painstakingly authentic is just bloody good. The desperation, clutching for words - the tongue clacking and the throat reflexing - it's perfection, and it doesn't even cross your mind that this is acting. He's lovable (telling his daughters a bedtime story), cantankerous (when he spars with Lionel), heartbreaking (the row with his brother, when he cries overwhelmed at being King), amusing ("fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck balls!") and brave (his war time speech on the wireless). He's absolutely the most wonderful character, and Firth plays him with such warmth, pathos and stoic vulnerability that it's impossible not to ride this journey with him on the tails of his jacket - every emotion is filtered through the viewer.

But as Firth is unquestionably good, I must say Geoffrey Rush is if not as good, better. His no nonsense, no fawning attitude towards treating the future King of England is refreshingly entertaining, and its his relationship with Bertie that is at the film's core. Their banter provides some of the funniest moments of the film, and this is often proceeded by a moment of true, genuine friendship between the two - as Lionel learns more about Bertie, so he has a better chance of 'curing' him of his stammer. His gentle but firm manner fuels the King's galling temper and just like proper, ordinary old men they niggle and fight with one another, and it's the wives who have to tell them to get off their high horses and go and apologise to one another. This has to be one the greatest friendships between characters I have ever seen on a cinema screen, and the last few moments where King George VI is delivering his speech and Lionel watches on - part friend, part mentor, part family - it's like a balloon expanding inside your chest. I cried a LOT during this film, I just adored the connection between these two, and the inspiration and the poignancy that pours out.

It's a very elegant film to watch as well, perhaps influenced by its subject matter. I loved the sweeping, soupy mists of London, the long shots of Buckingham Palace, the focus on art and the tunes of Beethoven in the background. It felt very British, and gave me a strange sense of pride watching it. It may get a little overshadowed at the Oscars, but it's going to do extraordinarily well at the BAFTAS next month. And I don't know how good Christian Bale is in The Fighter but it will be a travesty if Geoffrey Rush is not recognised for his acting credentials here, simply superb.

I have to push with this film because people are going to think it stiff and dull: The King's Speech is the absolute opposite of all of that assumption. It's touching, heartfelt, captivating and very, very funny and the characters will stay with you a long time (and bring sudden smiles to your face). I cannot recommend this film enough - with 127 Hours it's made the start of 2011 - and January in general - much cheerier.

Monday, 17 January 2011

FILM REVIEW: Blue Valentine

You know when you're really hungry, and desperate for food, but there's just none available so you have to cope without? And then when food finally comes your way, you realise you've passed the point of hunger and you're not bothered anymore? That's a little bit like Blue Valentine. I've been waiting to see this film forever, and now that it's finally out on general release in the UK, I've lost all momentum for it. So that's probably why upon leaving the cinema, my mind quickly wandered elsewhere.

Set over a weekend, married couple Cindy and Dean are lost, stuck and deeply unhappy. They have a daughter (who it transpires is of a different father) and a dog, in a basic home living an average life somewhere in America. But things are about to hit breaking point: a tragedy forces them to spend some time alone together, and through flashbacks of their happy loved-up first days, the relationship unravels until every thread is left loose and hanging.

I couldn't relate to it. No matter how I tried, I couldn't muster up any empathy or feeling for them whatsoever. They both have their demons (Dean's drinking habits, Cindy's deep set depression), and their vulnerability runs so close to the surface in this film that outpourings of frustration and sadness are abundant - yet they are wholly unlikeable characters. Dean adores Cindy but he is needy to the point of addictive, and she despises his complacency and mediocrity. She in turn is in tolerable of him, believing he twists everything she says, and is trapped inside her own negative thinking, possibly still reeling from her difficult childhood, unplanned pregnancy and almost abortion (the abortion scene is extremely uncomfortable to watch) which cut short her dreams of being a doctor. Each one is suffering, each one is bringing the other down, it's a miracle they have such a chirpy and bright five year old daughter who your heart responds to the most watching this film. 

Not to take anything away from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams who do a fantastic job and I loved reading about how passionate they were about making this movie, and the amount of energy and levels of themselves they put into each scene. It's beautifully shot too, with clever camera angles playing with reflection and light, and a style which captures their bare intimacy as a family unit. But it's all dirt, dirt, dirt and despair and instead of breaking my heart I wished they would just break apart. There was no real connection when they came together, and so for me, there was nothing worth fighting for. The most upsetting thing about the whole film was seeing the dead dog lying on the side of the road (what is it with Michelle Williams and tragic dogs?).

I'm trying to think of a couple of beautiful moments in the film that stood out for me but I can only think of cuts to camera, and joins in the creative narrative which I enjoyed. I thought it was put together seamlessly, although they could have held the ending longer as the credits came in too early. You want a catch in your throat as you realise it's the end, not elicit a "oh, is that it?" reaction.

I don't want to put off anyone wanting to see it - I know a few people who have seen it and liked it (I don't think you can 'love' this movie - it's too punishing) and it's generally praised by the critics and audience members elsewhere. I think to identify with their relationship is key to immersing yourself in the film and understanding the grinding resentments, the charms growing cold, the longing for something more. If, like me, you want to look away from them, Blue Valentine is nothing more than a well-made indie that fails to resonate.

Ryan Gosling singing goofily "you always hurt the ones you love..." will stay in your head for days, though.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Trailer fest!

 A nice splurge of trailers to get excited about :-)

I think this might be about to become my new favourite film! I spat my drink out during the T-shirt scene

Uber sex

I know this has got Hayden Christensen in it, but the premise is so clever!

The naughty version

Gregg Araki INSANE

New Werner Herzog happy times

Through The Grater 11.1

I can give up on "Through The Grater This Week" happening every 7 days because we all know it won't. So, a brand new year, "Through The Grater" is now going to take the form of editions - decimal points and everything. So, it's 2011 and edition 1, welcome to Through The Grater 11.1. Let's see what's caught my eye in the first 15 days of the year.

Well, without doubt the biggest news - and something which should probably have merited its own posting - is that Natalie has announced she is both engaged and pregnant! The lucky man is Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer on Black Swan and a professional dancer himself. Yes, there's already been lots of baby with 1000 legs jokes, ta very much. I'm thoroughly pleased for her (I always think of her as so young, yet she's at mum age!) but this new 'project' means she'll probably be disappearing from film for a while. She has denied Superman and Batman rumours (boo on the latter) and will most likely concentrate on producing for the next year. But, seeing as we have such a wave of Natalie films hitting us in 2011, I shouldn't complain.

Things are moving quickly now that The Hobbit has been confirmed: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, Christopher Lee and Cate Blanchett are all to reprise their roles from the LOTR films along with the new band of hobbits led by Martin Freeman. Frodo of course isn't in the book of The Hobbit which adds weight to the suggestion that Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro (though having quit as director still penned the script) are going to develop the footnotes from Tolkein's books to help spread the film out over 2 parts, and this is certain to include flashbacks and flashforwards in the film. Orlando Bloom is almost definite to reappear as well, and there's also whispering tongues about David Tennant, and Saoirse Ronan and Brian Blessed on IMDB. Brian Blessed would be amazing!

Sam Raimi's new film (well, he's producing) Dibbuk Box sounds interesting, but this write up from Empire gave me the giggles. The chances of that are nil but oh, don't I dare wish!

BAFTA has announced its 2011 Orange Rising Star Award shortlist. Vying for the public's vote this time are:

Gemma Arterton (bleurgh)
Andrew Garfield (yay)
Tom Hardy (outsider)
Aaron Johnson (dark horse)
Emma Stone (brilliant)

Kristen Stewart won last year (and looked miserable for it). My money's on Gemma Arterton, but dear God I hope it goes to Andrew Garfield or Emma Stone. Arterton and Garfield are obvious choices as they've done the bigger movies, and in some ways they don't need to win this as their careers are catapulting already. It would much better suited to one of the other 3, although no-one's going to know who Tom Hardy is, despite the mega success of Inception and his upcoming role in The Dark Knight Rises. Similarly with Emma Stone, if you haven't seen Easy A or Zombieland you're not gonna have a clue. But she has some huge roles coming up, one being The Help where the word Oscar has already been bandied about. Aaron Johnson, in terms of career, could do with a boost the most.

Onto TV where there's lots to talk about: Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Supernatural, The Walking Dead and a couple of new programmes to look forward to.

But first, Damages, which should be back on our screens in July by reports. I'm not instantly grabbed by this season's legal case, but I'm more hopeful over the casting of John Goodman, the newest starry cameo to join the show. If there's to be any more we'll find out about it in the next couple of weeks. No word yet on whether Ted Danson will be joining the rest of the cast for Season 4 - there was a loud cheer in my house when he showed up in S3, so here's hoping there's more to come from Arthur Frobisher.

Also back in July, and earlier than expected, is The Walking Dead (thanks to a tip off from Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston). Expect new characters and a longer run this time - around 13 episodes. At least it's closer than October!

As if we hadn't guessed already, the producer of Gossip Girl has hinted that 'Dair' may happen in future episodes of Season 4. Not sure what I make of this one - I mean as long as Chuck and Blair eventually end up together in the end (no compromises on that) then the show still has room to meander through various storylines and relationship arcs. I've always had a soft spot for Dan, and Blair is the best thing about GG, but what I love is their squabbling and clashing - I think a romance could spoil a great dynamic on the show. Here's hoping it's a fumble and nothing more.

My current favourite show is embarrassing GG in the ratings at the moment, and now Pretty Little Liars has been renewed for Season 2. Huzzah! It's no great surprise as there's still so much material to be used up. The first couple of episodes of Season 1 part two have been intriguing as they're veering off slightly from the books (where Hannah has amnesia after the accident and Noel Kahn doesn't get half as much attention). The casting of new character 'Logan' is also a complete departure, and I can only assume he'll play a new love interest ala the made-up Alex. (nb: I was about to do a little piece on the finale of Season 1, which I'm assuming will follow the end of Book 4, where A is revealed in a very cinematic way on a dark and stormy night, but I ended up instead spoilering myself on the end of book 8 which I haven't read yet. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH, LIFE!)

On the horizon of TV: Charlie Brooker's new series begins this Thursday on Channel 4 (wait WHAT, I'm talking about UK TV for a change? Snigger) - it's called 10 O'Clock Live and will also feature Jimmy Carr, Lauren Laverne and David Mitchell (two outta four ain't bad). There's no denying Brooker has sold himself to the mainstream lately, but I warmed greatly to You Have Been Watching (especially with Mr Fuggles) and to be honest as long as he's doing something on the telly I'm happy. He still has me in tears of laughter.
And ABC are developing a mini series of Wicked, the book by Gregory Maguire (but more famous for its Broadway and West End success) chronicling the life of the Wicked Witch of the West. There have been plenty of rumours about it being turned into a film (which it still might) but ABC have had the TV rights since 2009 and they have ordered a script to be written. I've longed to get into the world of Wicked, having picked the book up several times to buy, and it being one of the musicals I would actually want to see. A TV mini series might be my way in.

I'm going to end on some shocking news - the news that Supernatural may be picked up for a seventh season! There's reference here, and here, and with Season 6 set to resume within a few weeks an announcement on the future of the show (and all CW shows for that matter) should be due very soon. For a show I dearly love it has become such a headache to watch lately, and the thought of it continuing on for another year diminishes it further in my eyes: every bad season seems to cancel out every good season, and soon it will be remembered in a more mixed tone than in high praise. SOMEBODY STOP THE TRAIN NOW!

Plus: I never knew Jared Padalecki was married to the shit Ruby. Gah!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

FILM REVIEW: 127 Hours

Sometimes a film comes along that gnaws at you. It gnaws at you because even though the premise sounds unappealing - man gets stuck by a rock for five days and has to cut his arm off to get free - it's laden with bait to tempt you - not just narratively, but filmically. How does he get trapped? Why can't he just move the rock? What does he do for 5 days? How are they going to keep the audience interested for '5 days'? What leads to him having to cut his own arm off? How does he cut his own arm off? Will it make me faint? How does he escape and get help? What happens next? Do I even like James Franco? - questions like this can drive you to the brink, and then after being critically applauded pretty much everywhere, it's the thing to be seen. Hence a very early 2011 trip to see the animal in question: 127 Hours.

Immediately it's a Danny Boyle film - trendy, modern, slick, perfectly chosen energetic soundtrack (I still have "Never Hear Surf Music Again" in my head a week after). I disliked Slumdog Millionaire to the point where it was putting me off Danny Boyle as well - but I must remember his earlier works, and what a genius he is. I loved the beginning, how very little needed to be said to capture the life and personality of Aron Ralston: restless, impulsive, distracted to the point of blindness by his own activities, irresponsible, carefree... he chooses to spend a Friday night alone, driving out to the desert with just his music and his video camera. And he is happy. Obviously you can't have him stuck down a hole for the entirety of the film, so there's an interesting detour with two female hikers and the three of them plunging into a rock pool for several hours (this leads to the funniest bit in the film: James Franco removing his sunglasses, and then pointing at his face saying "I can't take this off.")

I was surprised at how tense I was feeling watching this first 20 minutes - this impending feeling of doom that keeps creeping closer and closer. Though you know it's coming, it's shot in such a casual way to draw attention to the fact that he doesn't know it's coming - he's navigating the rocks, and then suddenly he's falling, a boulder coming loose and trapping his arm in the tight crevice where he's landed. Even then it's more of an inconvenience - this might take rolling up the sleeves to shift this bloody thing - but his bravo and his optimism are soon snuffed out. The rock isn't moving, and he has nothing to help him.

This is where the genius of Danny Boyle comes into play: mixing up the style and tone of the film with effortless success. Aron opens his backpack and methodically takes every item out and then stares at them, urging himself to "think". He starts to reminisce about his childhood, expressed through flashbacks. He takes out his video camera and starts to document what's happening. He hallucinates a thunderstorm, and fantasises over sugary pop drinks. He has recurring thoughts about his ex-girlfriend whom he couldn't commit to because adventuring is more important. And my favourite moment - he holds a TV chat show on his video camera where he plays the host, and himself, being interviewed as he confronts death in the maze of the Blue Canyon - "this rock has been waiting for me my whole life."

It very quickly becomes very philosophical, but the variety, humour and brilliant acting of James Franco means it's not thrust upon you awkwardly: go on, start thinking about death and life and reasons to live. It's all very smoothly done, it's very believable - it's not as confining as a film like Buried or Open Water where the sense of dread pulsates throughout until you just want to get out, get out, get out. Perhaps it's because you know the ending, you know he's going to make it - so what makes it interesting is how he gets there, and that whatever it is works. The breakthrough moment appears to be when Aron has a premonition in his extreme dehydration of his son - a son that has not yet been born, but whom he can pass on all the things he has learned over the years and his desire to live life to the full.

The arm cutting scene is more grotesque for the sounds it makes than the actual blood, bones and tendons (although I have to admit I didn't open my eyes all the way through it - I can't even watch Casualty for God's sake). The 'popping' sound and the strain on his face as he breaks his arm - nnneurghhhh it made the whole audience gasp. And even after he pulls free, and then staggers backwards in disbelief that his arm is off and that he's free to move - he takes out his camera and takes a photo. He may be a changed man, but he's still essentially the same madman!

Then it's just like taking a drug, and the boost and uplift you feel at the end when he spots some walkers and calls out to them for help - I was crying happy tears because you're just so relieved. You've come to really like and admire this man, and you want him to get somewhere safe and get treatment. The shots of the real life Aron Ralston with his wife and son at the end just intensify the emotions.

If Slumdog Millionaire was supposed to be a 'feel good' film then 127 Hours is a catharsis, and a lot more good for you. It's an astonishingly brilliant film, and I'm currently in the process of urging everyone to go and see it, no matter the snapping and popping of human flesh and bone! It's a triumph in every sense: for the cinema, and for the real life man who overcame this.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Film Preview 2011 - Part Two

And continuing on with the films to see in 2011...

Sucker Punch (April)
This looks insane, and a tremendous amount of fun from Zack Synder. 300 meets Girl, Interrupted is probably the best way to describe it: Emily Browning is confined to a mental institution where she teams up with fellow inmates (super sexy, super cool, super ammo-ed girls) who decide to break free of the craziness by, er, defeating a glory of dragons, machines and Samurai warriors. And there's some burlesque in there, too. It's going to be ridiculously a-mazing.

How I Ended This Summer (April)
I was cheated out of watching this at the LIFF last year when the screening completely sold out and we weren't allowed to sit on the floor because of health and safety reasons (yet we did the following night for The Invisible Eye - pah. Although to be fair it was a truly horrible experience). Winner of Best Film at last year's London Film Festival, it's a slow burning thriller set against the icy wilderness on a remote Arctic island.

Scream 4 (April)
I'm not sure how much more you can 're-write the rules' in this genre, especially for the film franchise which pioneered the whole sassy slasher premise back in 1996. Surely all the copycats since have done all they can with the masked maniac stalking pretty teenagers set-up. Virgins can die now? Well, Cherry Falls has done that. The kills are more extreme? Try Saw, Hostel. The unexpected is the new cliche? Ughhhh. This isn't going to be a game-changer, but as long as it's better than the third in the series I ain't complaining. Scream 2 has got to be one of my favourite sequels ever. Plus I get to see Pretty Little Liars and 90210's annoying gruesome twosome Aria and Annie get their just desserts. Marvy!

The Roommate (April)
See, forget Scream 4, I'm much more excited for (by 'excited' I mean 'up for') this: Leighton Meester playing a deranged psychopathic sophomore in something that looks like an adaptation of a Point Horror book (Nightmare Hall anyone?). This is the kind of scary movie that you can go and see on your own, because more than chilling your innards it's going to be tremendously entertaining. It takes me back to Urban Legend, and you can't go wrong with that!

Thor (April)
It's the Natalie film I'm least looking forward to in 2011! The new trailer has done nothing to impress me following the shambolic five minutes of 'action' that was leaked after Comic Con last year. Whilst there has been some cooing over how beautiful Asgard looks in 3D (which I won't be appreciating anyway, as I don't do 3D - not even for Ms Portman) this has 2-3 Stars written all over it and will come and subsequently vanish. I just wish it was something special. It's probably the most culturemouse friendly out of all the Avenger characters/stories, and I was initially giddy at the prospect of Natalie doing a film like this. But it hasn't delivered. Gotta go see it anyway, of course...

Your Highness (May)
Really looking forward to the final film in the mega Natalie-run at the beginning of 2011. What I want is: to go with a group of friends, into a packed cinema screen on a weekend night, with lots of treats and just laugh myself silly. It's going to be hilarious, and not in a 'all the best bits are in the trailer' kind of way - a genuine lolathon and a spoof plot we haven't seen since the likes of Monty Python and The Princess Bride. Can't Wait - good Summer fun.

Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides (May)
Going to see this at the cinema will largely depend on the reviews it gets beforehand. Is this a return to form, a nod back to the gloriously camp and enjoyable Curse of The Black Pearl or more self indulgent, overly long nonsense that has proceeded ever since? I'm looking forward to Ian 'Deadwood' McShane as the new baddie, not so much the presence of Penelope Cruz. Of course it will be the Jack Sparrow show, but we all know he can prance about looking for his rum - let's have a decent story now, please.

Bridesmaids (June)
I know what you're thinking: Bride Wars. Followed by: why, culturemouse, why?! Well, I'll tell you why. It's not going to be anything like the aforementioned tripe. Firstly, it has the lovely Rose Byrne in it, and yes, she was in Get Him To The Greek but she generally doesn't make bad choices. And it's also written by (and stars) SNL alumni Kristen Wiig, and is directed by Paul Feig whose track record (Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, Bored to Death to name a few) is a pretty handsome sight. There's enough capable people here that know what they're doing than to go and screw it all up. Fingers crossed for goodness.

Monte Carlo (June)
I'm afraid this one is going to be harder for me to sell: three girls find themselves in Monte Carlo after one of them is mistaken for a British heiress... and girly giggles ensue. This sounds like the kind of misjudged error I'd make as a teenager, turning up at the cinema and wanting to see something amazing (Blue Crush, ahem). But a culturemouse always has her reasons: two of the girls are Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy. Perhaps if it was just one of them I would have swooshed this aside, but I can't ignore BOTH of them, can I? A true guilty pleasure awaits.

Melancholia (June)
Almost nothing is known about Lars Von Trier's new film, out in the Summer starring Kiefer Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg (left, the only vaguely related pic I could find - there are no stills). From fragments and pieces it's enough to ascertain it's a global apocalypse without a happy ending - but under the direction of the man who's brought us Dancer In The Dark and Antichrist this isn't going to be all gigantic tidal waves and cataclysmic fissures ripping through countries whilst a hardy group of survivors fight the elements. It'll be like if The Road had been even more depressing, and even more nuts.

We Need To Talk About Kevin (September)
One of the films I'm most looking forward to this year. I loved the book, and always thought it would make a powerful film - the ending alone is sure to create a lot of debate (I'm assuming they're going to keep to the storyline). I'm not a huge fan of Tilda Swinton, but I don't think you can glamorise this with a pretty A-List star: you need someone who is grittier, intense, believable and she will certainly deliver a performance to be talked about portraying a mother whose son commits a heinous crime at his high school.  Eagerly anticipating the trailer.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (October)
I'm an absolute novice when it comes to Tintin, but I know the potential of a Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson adventure collaboration when I see one. There are many romping films and franchises that I just haven't felt any desire for in the slightest, and I miss being part of the build-up to something spectacular. What this is going to be like remains to be seen, but there's something about its charming spirit and a good old fashioned treasure hunt that makes me want to escape with it.

The Woman In Black (October)
Ahhh, something different I'm hoping for Halloween this year. Not another lazy rollout of a distant scary classic (oh wait, Paranormal Activity 3 and remakes of Fright Night and Straw Dogs present!) but instead a filmic version of the one of the greatest horror fables of all time - Susan Hill's The Woman In Black. I'm a little surprised this is being made (after the TV version, the writer reputedly refused to let anyone ever adapt the story again) but I'm also very intrigued because it's something I have always wanted to see live on stage in the West End, and for that reason I am delightedly ignorant of the twists and turns that await. I'm also a fan of Daniel Radcliffe, who will be stepping out of the Harry Potter circus and into the shoes of Arthur Kipps, the protagonist at the centre of the ghost tale. Spooky shadowy stuff.

Get putting some reminders in your diary, and meanwhile the first film review of 2011 will appear...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Film Preview 2011 - Part One

Ahhh, how quickly another year comes around. Why last year I was getting all excited about Alice In Wonderland, The Lovely Bones, Clash of the Titans... ahem.

In 2011 - or at least the first half of it - it's all about Natalie, as she has FOUR films out in five months! (March is the barren one). I haven't seen this much Natalie action in forever. It also means I'm going to be mega fat, as a Natalie film = Ben and Jerry's sundae. Squee.

As ever the first few months are always the more exciting before the tepid Summer months begin, and release schedules for the end of the year are still in development. Here are the ones I'm most looking forward to - let's hope they live up to the hype (the first one already has...shhhhh!).

127 Hours (January)
Danny Boyle's latest film is garnering all kinds of attention due to the fact that to escape from his perilous entrapment, James Franco's character must cut his arm off with his pen knife. And it's been making people faint. The story is a real life one, and one that ends well (I don't think that's too much of a spoiler): adventuring in The Blue Canyon one weekend, Aron Ralston slips down a crevice, a boulder trapping his arm to the rock side. The next 127 hours are focused on him, just him, in this impossibility that just might be fate. It's been getting some great reviews, and whilst I'm a little squeamish, I can always hide when that bit comes on, right?

The King's Speech (January)
To be blunt, this film doesn't seem like very much at all: a man (albeit The King) overcoming his stammer so he can speak publicly (albeit to the nation). But it's the cast and the exuding elegance and quality of the film that makes it onto my list. It's been getting crazy good reviews - especially for a film of such slightness - and I have to admit I have become a bit of a stickler for Colin Firth as of late. He looks certain for a shoo-in as the awards season approaches, as well as fellow star Geoffrey Rush who plays his speech therapist with rather unconventional treatment techniques. It's going to be a blubfest!

Blue Valentine (January)
I feel like I've been talking about this film forever! Finally on the 15th of this month we'll finally get to see Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams fight with their emotions, and lay bare the tortures of love in this little indie gem that's been silently collecting nods from the peeps who have been lucky enough to see it. Williams in particular has been bringing in the nominations for her performance as the wife.

Black Swan (January)
OH MY GOD IS IT OUT YET? I'm probably boring all the people around me half to death with exaggerated waiting for Black Swan to come out. It feels like everybody and their swan has seen this already, and it's excruciating having to queue up for it. This needs no introduction as I've banging on about it for months, but it's the biggest film of Natalie's career so far playing a troubled and fragile ballerina whose thrust into the spotlight as the lead in Swan Lake leads her into insanity...or does it? Less than 2 weeks to go people!

Tangled (January)
This time last year it was The Princess and the Frog, which, throwaway as it was, was Disney's return to its classic roots and 2D drawings. Tangled is a compromise of new and old styles, being shot in 3D with a goofy plot to try and attract the younger boys it's actually a version of the Grimm's fairytale Rapunzel. I've already let it be known that I wish they had stuck to their guns and played it straighter (Disney is for girls, anyway!) but the trailer looks like a lot of fun, with some sharp comedy, so perhaps it won't be too much of an animated car wreck.

Rabbit Hole (February)
I'm sightly scared of this film, mostly because the traumatic nature of it is more than likely going to make me cry, and also dig into my soul which is never very pleasant and I'll emerge a bit of a pummelled mess by the end of it. I'm hopeful there's an uplifting message somewhere in the film to be had - but it's certainly not a sit back and relax with a tub of popcorn on a Friday night experience. I'm hoping for more powerful than upsetting.

True Grit (February)
The new one from the Coen brothers sees them back in Western territory with a remake of the John Wayne film and a more up-to-date adaptation of the novel written by Charles Portis. Guaranteed excellence (and it's just been given a 5 star review in Empire) and a stellar cast as well including Jeff Bridges back with the brothers once again. If it's anywhere near as impressive as No Country For Old Men then I'm certainly gonna enjoy this one.

No Strings Attached (February)
The second film up for Natalie is something completely different to Black Swan: it's her first proper romcom playing opposite Ashton Kutcher in a film originally titled Fuck Buddies (so you get the picture). Timely scheduled for Valentine's Day, I'm hoping Natalie's presence and sense will mean this is an above average outing in the genre and predictable as it will turn out actually be funny, entertaining and maybe a teeny bit original with its ideas? Either way we get to see Natalie shriek "BITCH!" and have a cat fight, so it's not going to be a total waste.

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark (March)
There's actually some horror films I'm really looking forward to seeing this year - a few of them will be guilty pleasures, but this one will be the one that scares the bejesus out of me. Similar to The Orphanage, this is a 'Guillermo Del Toro' presents feature helping to lift the debut film from a upcoming director (in this case Troy Nixey). It's also a remake of a 1970s TV film which has obtained a cult following for its general whimper-inducing creepiness. Katie Holmes and her family move into a new house, and of course, they are not alone...

Norwegian Wood (March)
Despite the widespread lukewarm reviews, I'm still really excited to see the big screen version of one of my favourite love stories out over here in March. It looks stunningly beautiful, but I fear the problem with it is going to be style over substance: how to capture protagonist Toru's internal angsty monologue into scenes and dialogue that pack the same amount of power. I'll reserve judgement until I've seen it, and I hope it'll encourage many more people to read the book, too.

Heartbeats (March)
This is the official release date, although I'm unsure if I'll actually get to see it as it doesn't have the back up of a well known and loved book behind it like Norwegian Wood does. It's an indie French film about three people believing they can successfully maintain a menage a trois, which of course will end up in disaster. I've had my eye on this one as it travelled through the festival circuit last year, so I really do hope my local arthouse picks it up and I'll get to see it.

Restless (March)
Nnneurgh... this film almost didn't get a mention at all because Mia Wasikowska is in it and as we've recently established I have no tolerance for her anymore. Buuuuut it has a quirky plot to it, and it's being directed by Gus Van Sant, one of my favourite directors (when he gets it right), so I've had to include it on my list as I'll more than likely end up going to see it. And who knows, maybe she'll actually show some range in this film and I'll take back my denouncement..?

Part Two arriving soon!