Sunday, 29 January 2012

Gossip Girl's 100th Episode

We're halfway through Season 5 and now Gossip Girl has hit the 100th episode mark. Not one to let this opportunity pass them by, the show's creators and producers have planned very carefully for the landmark episode to be the showcase for one of the biggest events yet: Blair's wedding to Louis. There's no denying Season 5 of Gossip Girl has been the best since Season 2, making it my most improved show of the year. Even Nate got interesting, jeeez. But the last couple of episodes have clearly suffered as being fodder for the main event which takes place tomorrow on the CW. If this is the bombshell/game changer episode that everyone and his mother has been hyping it up to, I'll gladly forget that we had a whole plot revolving around a pact with God. And a conniving priest.

A lot has been said about the 100th episode. Let's recap, shall we?

1. There's a 1950s extravaganza dream sequence
Gossip Girl has had some great fantasies throughout the years courtesy of the crazy thoughts going around in Blair Waldorf's head, but this one may take the biscuit in terms of pure spectacle - as everyone's involved! Serena in the guise of Marilyn Monroe takes spotlight singing Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend with backing vocals from Nate, Chuck, Dan and Louis, before Blair - donned as her favourite Audrey Hepburn - shows up and there appears to be, bizarrely, some tug-o-war over Dan. Could this be a Serena dream?

2. Blair's wedding dress was nicer when she was preggers
Vera Wang was chosen to be the chief designer for Blair's big day (she popped up a couple of episodes ago at Blair's final fitting). Blair already had a dress all made for her, but that was bearing in mind she would be four months pregnant, and after losing the baby in the crash (yawn) the dress in question becomes too "difficult" to wear, so she asks Vera to make her a new one. Which isn't as lush. Boo.

For Better
For Worse

A few things can be said about the bridesmaids dresses as well - also designed by Wang, and which you can buy as part of her 2012 collection, apparently.Serena, as Maid of Honour, gets her own special dress for the occasion.

3. Cyrus is amazing
Wallace Shawn plays one of my favourite characters on GG - he's just the cuddliest dad ever. But it's both of Blair's dads who walk her down the aisle, as she can't choose one over the other. But apparently Cyrus gets a great Princess Bride reference in this episode. Me hopes something goes terribly awry with the wedding (well, duh) leading him to cry "innnnnconceivable!"

4. The real Charlie Rhodes pops up
One of the best things about Season 5 has been the Charlie/Ivy storyline, and of course the real one was bound to turn up sooner or later (coincidentally living in NY all this time, snort). It's actually more interesting without having Ivy around too. Although don't expect a reveal for about, oh, probably another 100 episodes.

5. Georgina's back!
And in cahoots with Chuck it seems, to ruin Blair's wedding. And with Georgina, her plots for revenge and payback are never dull, or straightforward. Just why does she need to don the holy robes?

6. Those are not my vows
As revealed in the last episode, Blair gets all gooey over Louis' vows which she found hidden in one of her drawers (quite). She loves the fact he actually understands her, as well as loves her. But then it's revealed it's actually Dan who wrote the vows for Louis, as seen later when he sends him a thank you note and book ("The Outsider" - harsh) in the post. I'm sorry, but that is all kinds of wrong and another reason why Louis has absolutely no one rooting for him whatsoever. It's the awful accent and wooden acting mainly, but he's also a bit of a twat.

7. It's all about Serena... again
So the fake relationship between Dan and Serena continues into the wedding (even I'm confused as to why they're doing this again) and Dan is irked that everyone seems to think they are actually dating. Then Serena lets slip she may have done something a "bit bad"... can't she just have a quiet day for once whilst her best friend gets married? Ugh.

8. Will Chair happen?
Chuck is definitely going to the wedding, but he also visits Blair beforehand as well. As she so clearly walks up the aisle in the promo footage, his pre-wedding speech doesn't stop her. But perhaps a classic mid-ceremony "I don't believe these people should be joined in holy matrimony!" might do the trick? The producer has already told us: "Blair and Chuck are not over."

But perhaps the thing that is most watchable about this episode will be the big twist, the big reveal, the big game change, the moment that will make everyone gasp and change the lives of the characters forever (until they're changed again in Episode 17... cough). The last moments of the 100th episode are strictly under wraps - believe me, I'm so not bothered I've been trying to look for it all afternoon but can't find out what it is. Apparently it's not to do with the nuptials, so not anything as simple as Blair runs away from the altar and abandons the ceremony. And if it's to do with Blair's baby it will be especially lame. The producers have stated that the thing is something that "just had to happen" in the 100th episode. My guess of what would be utterly awesome? Gossip Girl herself turns up at the wedding. Helloooo Kristen Bell! But she's on House of Lies so that's never gonna happen.

Gossip Girl episode 100 "GG" airs tomorrow.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Sundance 2012 Picks: M-Z

Nobody Walks
US Dramatic Competition
This is one of the most talked about films at Sundance this year and has such a stellar cast that I’m excited about it. A well-off liberal family in LA takes in a young artist so she can help finish her film project. But the easy-going and comfortable family are shook up by her presence as she tests relationships and causes each member to slowly unravel into a mess of heated and sexual complications. And that young artist is played by the gorgeous Olivia Thirlby, who is one of my favourite actresses – can’t wait to see her in a role like this. Filling out the rest of the screen are Rosemarie DeWitt, Dylan McDermott, Jane Levy (Suburgatory) and John Krasinski. It’s also co-written by Lena Dunham, whose Tiny Furniture is out later this year.

The Pact
Another horror for you now – this time the full length feature film from a short film which debuted at the festival last year. The Pact assumes the form of the classic haunted house story, but with promise of shifting genres, unnerving tension and the telling title, this may end up being much more than that. Annie (Caity Lotz – Stephanie from Mad Men) returns home unwillingly for her mother’s funeral, but notices something decidedly different – and sinister – about her childhood home and she enlists the help of a policeman and clairvoyant in trying to pin down the evil presence. Nicholas McCarthy’s debut film is said to be heavily influenced by Psycho, Ringu and Suspiria but more than anything the director wanted to make a ghost story that keeps people guessing.

Red Lights
This film intrigues me more and more each time I read about it. A skeptic psychologist (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant (Cillian Murphy) investigate paranormal activity in the hope of denouncing all of the claims as false. But when they get involved in investigating Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a psychic who returns after being missing for 30 years, their faithlessness is put into real question until inexplicable events challenge them entirely. This is the new film from Rodrigo Cortes, the director who brought Buried to the festival a couple of years ago. I wasn’t a huge fan myself, but this film looks set to deliver some terrific performances and again, we’ll be waiting to the last frame to see which way things will turn. Also stars Elizabeth Olsen, Joely Richardson, Toby Jones and Craig Roberts.

Save The Date
US Dramatic Competition
The other wedding themed film I mentioned in my earlier A-L Picks post with Lizzy Caplan. She plays Sarah, the 'naughty sister' who's just got out of one relationship and already she's headlong into another, not really caring about doing the right thing. And then there's Beth (Alison Brie), the 'good sister' who's in the middle of planning her wedding to her fiance Andrew and not shy in spurting out advice to her carefree sibling. But as always, no relationship is straightforward, and as cracks appear, they both need each other's help. Surprisingly, this is written by three men (Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich, Michael Mohan - who also directs) so I'm intrigued to see what voice comes out. It has nice shades of Rachel Getting Married without the docu feel, and I'm looking forward to it. "It's about all these damaged people who mess each other up, 'cos that's what people do."

Simon Killer
US Dramatic Competition
From the director of Afterschool comes another dark thriller, this time set on the streets of Paris. Simon (Brady Corbett) has come to Europe from America after a difficult break up from his long term girlfriend. Lonely and drifting through the unknown foreign city, he falls in love with a prostitute (Mati Diop) whom he barely knows. But we, as the audience, are about to find out it's us who barely know Simon. Antonio Campos also worked on last year's success Martha Marcy May Marlene and here he has one of the most gripping films of the festival. The only thing not working for me is the title - what's he trying to say to us? Couldn't he think of a better one that that? Ahh, unreliable narrator gone crazy.

US Dramatic Competition
The one thing that struck me reading up about this film, about addiction, is that it "is interested in the unglamorous middle path - what stumbling through recovery looks like." We may start with the hedonistic and destructive world of addiction, but that's not what this film is about or where it's going. Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul) are a married couple who like to have a good time together, and that involves knocking back the alcohol - hard. After a particularly bad ride, Kate goes cold turkey and in the harsh light of sobriety must evaluate whether she actually has any real relationship with her husband at all. Guaranteed to be chock full of amazingly raw performances, I have a feeling this one will be talked about a lot.

Wish You Were Here
World Dramatic Competition
This is the film that I'm most excited about talking about this year! And with a premise like this, how could I not be? Four friends go on a dream holiday to South East Asia. Only three come back. As they try to get on with their lives at home, events keep leading back to that fateful night when one of the group went missing. I'm such a sucker for mystery stories like these, especially when there's more than a bit of sinister intrigue around the circumstances. Alice and Dave are the couple who go off to Cambodia with Alice's sister Steph and her new boyfriend Jeremy, who disappears one night. Back in Australia secrets unravel about what actually happened out there on holiday, and as one character begins to change irrevocably, the others get suspicious... Teresa Palmer, Antony Starr, Felicity Price and Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom) star in Kieran Darcy Smith's stylish debut from Australian cinema (one of my faves).

The Words
So, aspiring writers out there, if you were struggling to find the words to write your first novel, and then you uncovered a dead man's complete and brilliant manuscript just left untouched - would you pass it off as your own? That's the central dilemma (well, not dilemma, he goes and does it) facing the main character of Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (who bizarrely did the story for Tron Legacy)'s enticing new film. Respect and recognition may come with terrible consequences, and can you live with the guilt of what you've done and your own impersonation? Such a compelling script has attracted some big names: Bradley Cooper (the writer), Zoe Salanda, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, Dennis Quaid... This is one to keep an eye on post fest.

World Dramatic Competition
Perhaps I'm wrong in thinking things can't get any more batshit crazy than Quentin Dupieux's last film Rubber, but I'm probably wrong. HA HA HA HA wrong! I am so wrong. Anyway, Wrong is his new film premiering at Sundance and from what I can gather - which is never very much from his films - Dolph Springer (Jack Plotnick) has lost his beloved dog Paul and hires a detective to go find him. But that's as sane as things get as the trailer is utterly bonkers. We'll encounter an array of weird characters and ludicrous situations on the journey to find the dog and lose our minds. I'm still slightly scarred from Rubber but hell, I'll go with it.

Your Sister's Sister
Iris lets her friend Jack stay in her father's empty log cabin in a remote location so he can have some time to grieve following the death of his brother. But what she doesn't realise is her sister, Hannah, is also staying at the cabin after going through some personal difficulties of her own. Arriving at the lodge to check up on him, Iris finds two of her closest people bonding in a way that inflicts jealousy, a sibling rivalry but also offers up one or two surprises. Lynn Shelton's new film starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass premiered at Toronto last September to great reviews, and is now getting another prominent festival turnout at Sundance. Blunt and DeWitt are always worth watching, as is a good tussle amongst sisters over the same guy. 

Also worth looking out for...

Room 237 (New Frontier) - die hard The Shining fans believe they have cracked the film's secret hidden messages and codes in this intriguing documentary
West of Memphis (Doc Premieres) - last year three men were acquitted for the ritual murders of three boys in Arkansas. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh help to tell the story
Young and Wild (World Dramatic Competition) - the secret diary of a Chilean teenager: the daughter of a strict religious family rebels with her own sex blog

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sundance 2012 Picks: A-L

Mi God, is it that time of year again? I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record each time, but I seriously can't believe how quickly this festival comes around! It is the cheese to my mouse; the peanut butter to my trap (not that I set traps.. how deeply confusing would that be?) I LOVE Sundance and all the brilliant things it delivers year after year.

In 2011 we got Like Crazy (picking up Grand Jury and Best Actress prizes) which I loved like crazy; Another Earth (winner of the Special Jury prize) which stunned me to tears a few times; Take Shelter which was one of my favourite films of last year and shunted Michael Shannon up my most beloved actors list; Senna (winner of the World Cinema Audience Award for a Documentary) which made me struggle to breathe in the last 15 minutes; Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene (which secured the Best Director prize) gracing me with its presence next month, and the adventurous madcap mythbuster that was Trollhunter.

So what can we expect this year? Well apart from the eclectic quirky selection as always, there's an even bigger treat this year for us British peeps. Sundance is coming to London! Yes, it truly is! On April 27-29th, the O2 arena - something of a forum for film gatherings at the moment - becomes Park City and will be showing 14 of the biggest, brightest and most talked about films from this year's festival in America. Tickets are on sale now and you can read all about the event, which will also host panels and a Music Section (yawn), here. SO EXCITING. I better start rallying around to see who has a spare 70 quid and wants to come with...

Here are culturemouse's top picks from the 2012 line up.

28 Hotel Rooms
A mosaic film! I love films like this as they allow your imagination to run: about the characters lives and the other faces they put on for the world that you don't necessarily get to see in the small moments you are with them. 28 Hotel Rooms looks set to do just that, with a man (Chris Messina) and a woman (Marin Ireland) embarking upon an affair which will see them through 28 different hotel rooms. This will be the only times they see each other, as he is in a relationship and she is married, so we as the audience will get to see how they develop through little snapshots of their intimacy. Chris Messina's name jumped out at me immediately - he's been great in Damages, Six Feet Under, Julie & Julia, and of course, Like Crazy. A face you'll recognise when you see it (and it ain't bad to stare at, either). Marin Ireland has had turns in HBO'S Mildred Pierce and Rachel Getting Married. But probably the biggest surprise for me is the director - it's only crazy ghost Dr Charles Montgomery from American Horror Story! Bringing the romance this time, this is Matt Ross's debut film.

About The Pink Sky
World Dramatic Competition
A high school coming of age story... but no bawdy humour, no dance sequences, no Prom drama... in fact it's in black and white and Japanese! Keiichi Kobayashi's promising debut follows a girl, Izumi, who spends most of her life rating newspapers good or bad, depending on the ratio of positive and negative stories in them. When she finds a wallet containing 300 Yen, instead of handing it in she 'lends' a substantial amount of it to an old friend with money troubles. When the owner finds out - a fellow student - he asks Izumi to do something to repay him: to console an ill friend in the hospital with a newspaper made up entirely of good news stories. This is the first film for most of the young cast too, who have been blessed with a script that looks to be a thing of quiet beauty. I adore Japanese cinema, and the more it gets away from melodrama and hits a subtle poignancy the better.

Hot on the success of Bridesmaids (although they were probably well into production by the time that was released and surprisingly became the biggest comedy of 2011) this is the first of two wedding centric films at Sundance this year powered by a feisty female ensemble cast (and both featuring Lizzy Caplan, incidentally, who also popped up in New Girl this week). Bachelorette is on paper, very similar to Bridesmaids, with three single girls asked to don a dress and bouquet for one of their former classmates who's getting married… the only problem being they used to call her ‘pig face’ and bitch about her behind her back and now they’re mortified she’s getting hitched before they are. The acid tongue bachelorettes are led by Kirsten Dunst (who loves a good indie) with Isla Fisher, aforementioned Lizzy Caplan and bride-to-be Rebel Wilson. Leslye Headland’s debut film is based on her play of the same name which ran off Broadway last year. The New York Times called it “witheringly funny as it is bitterly sad."

Black Rock
Three friends, attempting to reconcile after some recent squabbles, take a short break on a remote island off the cost of Maine. And of course there’s something crazy after them… From The League duo of Kate Aselton (who also stars) and Mark Duplass (Baghead, Cyrus) this is my first horror pick of Sundance. As long as it’s done well, and the suspense plus revelation is brilliantly done, this should be an enjoyable – and hopefully scary – hunt/chase thriller, with the added spice that these girls aren’t exactly feeling amicable toward one another. The cast is solid (Aselton joined by Kate Bosworth and Lake Bell) and the setting perfect. Is it a who or a what after them? They're in for a Bad Day, whatever the score.

Celeste and Jesse Forever
Expect a lot of laughs by the calibre of this anti rom-com at Sundance, but also a lot of heartache, too. Celeste and Jesse are the perfect couple, childhood sweethearts, role models for the rest of their friends, and soul mates for one another. But after several years of marriage the two have decided they want to get a divorce. But should that really have to ruin everything? This is the first script from Will McCormack and Rashida Jones and it’s attracted a stellar cast: Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood, Eric Christian Olsen, Chris Messina (hello again) and Andy Samberg playing Jesse (and is probably best known for all his SNL antics, including Natalie’s infamous rap) and Rashida Jones herself playing Celeste. I foresee something that is going to make me cry.

Craig Zobel’s drama about a waitress in a fast food restaurant who is accused of stealing from a customer’s purse is set to test all your preconceptions and powers of judgement. Becky is the young girl who defiantly maintains her innocence, and Sandra is her manager, torn between her responsibilities in the line of work and her own personal feelings towards the girl, who isn’t exactly passionate about her job. Because the truth is unclear and characters motives unrevealed, this has all the makings of second guessing the viewer until you damn well respect it (or make a face). Dreama Walker (Becky) was one of Blair’s minions on Gossip Girl and you’ll soon know her very well as the roommate to The Bitch in Apartment 23. And Ann Dowd (Sandra) is a very familiar culturemouse face indeed – Natalie’s mother in Garden State! Clap clap.

The First Time
US Dramatic Competition
No not the ‘novel’ I wrote when I was 17 (HA HA HA HA HA [in joke] this looks like a tweeny romance, but it’s at Sundance so we’ve got to expect better, right? Well it’s the fledgling romance between him from Teen Wolf and her from The Secret Circle… ahem. Dylan O’Brien and Britt Robertson play Dave and Aubrey (wow, gotta love anything in it where the main girl is called Aubrey) who are both feeling a bit lonely and misunderstood when they meet at a mutual friend’s party and over the course of a weekend start to fall in love…well the love you have when you’re 16, anyway. Great to see Craig Roberts (Submarine) also in the cast, and why I have a little faith in this one? Its writer/director Jon Kasdan had a little stint on Freaks and Geeks. So yes, I think we can expect something better.

For a Good Time, Call
This is not the kind of film that should interest me at all, but yet I’m writing about it anyway. Two college frenemies find themselves living together in New York, and after one of them makes a startling discovery about the other in the bedroom, the two girls decide to go into business to boost their financial woes… by setting up a phone sex line. It’s no surprise the CV for the majority of cast and crew for this one is filled with juvenile comedy (even Seth Rogen’s in it) but this comes from first time writers Lauren Miller (who also stars) and Katie Ann Naylon, and director Jamie Travis, so I do hold out some promise (oh okay, and Justin Long’s in it). Plus one of the stars of the film, Katie, is played by Ari Graynor who was the delightfully funny Caroline in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But boy do I hate the title!

John Dies at the End
Argh dang, spoiler. Sorry folks, this ain’t your average horror movie. Have you seen who’s directing this? Don Coscarelli’s first film in ten years since Bubba Ho Tep. And any film with both Pale Face from Pans Labyrinth and Mr Krabbs from Spongebob deserves to be seen! Based on the novel which was based on the popular web serial – both created by’s David Wong, it sees humanity under threat from a drug referred to as ‘soy sauce’ where users travel through different times and dimensions and not all of them come back human. Trying to save the day are slouchers Dave (named after the author) and John (who dies at the end), but seriously, don’t hold out much hope for the survival of the universe. With bit characters called Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman, a demon called Shitload and a place called Shit Narnia this could be the biggest cult film everyone is dying to see coming out of Sundance. Did I mention Paul Giamatti is also in this?

Liberal Arts
One of the most recent Sundance offerings that I’ve been desperate to see was 2010’s happythankyoumoreplease which still, criminally, hasn’t been given a release date for the UK despite winning the Audience Award for best film and coming out in America last March. Director, Writer and star of that film Josh Radnor is now back at Sundance with another multi –tasked special with Liberal Arts. He plays a single man in his 30’s, uninspired by life but excited at the prospect of speaking at his former professor’s leaving do on his old campus. It’s here he meets Zibby (Sundance dahling Elizabeth Olsen) who awakens in him a new verve for life and the possibility of a real connection. Also starring Zac Efron and Allison Janney, this is my perfect blend of quirky indie angst. Hopefully they’ll even release it over here this time.

Also worth looking out for:

Beasts of the Southern Wild (US Dramatic Competition) -
surreal fantasy coming of age/saving the world cinema from a new talent
Corpo Celeste (Spotlight) - I previewed this last year for Directors Fortnight at Cannes - now the Italian Love Like Poison shows at Sundance
Excision (Midnight) -
a weird teenager, a lot of insanity and gore galore... and starring AnnaLynne McCord!
Kid-Thing (NEXT) -
a young mischievous girl finds a woman trapped in a well, but doesn't understand how to help
L (World Dramatic) -
a film about transporting yourself, in all kinds, with help from the writer of Dogtooth

Monday, 16 January 2012


What is it? Give me the set up. 50 years ago the prisoners of infamous and impregnable fortress Alcatraz, just off the coast of San Francisco, seemingly vanished. Nobody knows how or what happened to these dangerous men, thought to have been transferred to other institutions and now long dead. Now in the present day, a detective, expert researcher and government agent are teamed together to help try and solve the case and discover the truth - as the prisoners are suddenly turning up again, and they haven't aged a day.

Who's behind it? Done anything good? Only JJ Abrams, power man behind Lost, Alias, Fringe and the shit one about undercover superheroes. Actually that's a bit of a misconception, as whilst Abrams is executive producer on the project and has been doing a lot of promo for the show which starts this week, the actual format comes from Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt (who also write) who worked together on the tweenie ET drama Kyle XY. But it's encouraging to have the weight of Abrams behind the show. This is not a first try effort - Alcatraz has some big names involved which suits its big cast, big budget and big ideas. All are well versed in the tricksy sci-fi supernatural world, so have high expectations because they've earned them.

L-R: Jason Butler Harner (Deputy Warden E.B. Tiller), Jonny Coyne (Warden Edwin James), Jorge Garcia (Dr Diego Soto), Sarah Jones (Det. Rebecca Madsen), Sam Neill (Emerson Hauser), Santiago Cabrera (Jimmy Dickens), Parminder Nagra (Lucy Banerjee), Robert Forster (Ray Archer)

Who's in it? Should I care? There's lots of familiar faces you'll recognise! Jorge Garcia you'll of course know as "THE NUMBERS" Hurley from Lost, teaming up with a few producing alumni to a not so dissimilar show (must love his aching mysteries). Then there's Sam Neill, who needs no introduction - he's battled dinosaurs and the Bermuda Triangle so this should be a piece a' sponge cake. But the leading female of the show may be new to you - she's Sarah Jones: 'big break' might be a little unfair on her - she's had stints on Big Love and Sons of Anarchy but this is by far the most high profile gig she's taken on - and her first as a major character. You'll probably know Santiago Cabrera too - he's had a recent stint on Merlin but to me he'll always be the prophet painter from Heroes - and Robert Forster is also daddy Petrelli!

Pilot me. Detective Madsen (Jones) investigates a horrible murder in San Francisco and is alarmed to discover the offending fingerprints match up to one of the 'missing' prisoners from 1960s Alcatraz, Jack Sylvane. Curious - and she has also has a personal connection with the prison - she becomes more and more drawn into the case, especially when government agent Hauser (Neill) tries to ward her off, and she finds out that Sylvane - who if not dead should be an elderly man by now - looks exactly the same as he did half a century ago. It's as if time has thrown him back into the present day from barely a moment since he left the prison... and he's not the only one.

And is it any good? There's been  lot of positive reviews but, I suppose understandably being a pilot, a few moans and groans, too - the characters are a little bland/miscast (it's difficult not to look at Garcia and expect him to be Hurley) and the show opens up a prison load of questions almost immediately, with some characters not appearing to be who they seem, and more than a few with hidden agendas. But I like that - surely that's what every sci-fi show needs to entice, some big cryptic questions? If you're a fan of this type of thing you're going to love it. If you're into your quirky procedural dramas, you're going to love it. If you're so into this kind of thing that you're wanting to be impressed and surprised just that little bit extra - you may find your attention wavering and your critical typing fingers itching to come out. But give it time - each episode promises to focus on a different prisoner from Alcatraz, so if they can get the characters right then this could be worth a gander. Problem is it's on Fox, and it may not have the time it needs to grow (though they have been kind to Fringe of late).

Anything else to intrigue me? There's a deep mythology going on here, which may or may not spring up some historical (creative) fact. There's going to plenty of Lost-esque flashbacks from the prison in the 1960s, so as well as meeting the baddies in the present day running loose around San Fran, we'll also get to see how they ended up behind bars in the first place, and what they experienced when things went a bit loopy. And they're complex characters too, with more than a few shades of grey, which will mean finding a side to root for may not be so clear cut. But perhaps the most intriguing thing of all? No matter the comparisons with Lost, Alcatraz has another card up its sleeve: the supernatural. Things may get time-bendy at times, but this is going to be as spooky as it is confounding. And with a place like Alcatraz, what better haunted setting can you get?'s not Terra Nova is it? Dear God, I hope not. It better not be a Grimm either. Perhaps Alcatraz will finally be the one to bring it home.

OK you've sold me - when's this thing on then? Alcatraz starts tonight with a two hour premiere from 8pm on Fox in America, and well, everyone else knows the drill. Add it to the Monday schedule.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

TOP FILMS FOR 2012: 20-1

20. Dark Shadows (May)
Dir: Tim Burton
Stars: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Chloe Moretz, Michele Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley
Probably the closest we'll get to Tim Burton doing The Addams Family (yeah, I thought he had directed that too), Dark Shadows is the feature film adaptation of the cult 1960s US TV soap about a vampire Barnabas Collins (Depp) and his family, who are plagued by strange occurrences... and guests. Burton hasn't had the greatest run of late, but I think this is going to be his best in a while.

19. Rush (TBA)
Dir: Ron Howard
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhel, Russell Crowe, Olivia Wilde
Well if there's one thing Senna did for film last year, it's brought the exciting and intoxicating world of Formula One to Hollywood's attention. Of course people have tried to do it on the big screen previously, but it's always been original stories and they've done pretty horribly for themselves (including last one of note 2001's Driven with Sylvester Stallone set during the Indycar championship. With guest cameos from Jacques Villeneuve and Dario Franchitti! Ah, not all bad then). But this time Ron Howard has a real life story to source the material for his new film from: the F1 year of 1976 and the rivalry between Niki Lauda (Bruhel) and James Hunt (Hemsworth - excellent choice!) and the horror crash which nearly claimed Lauda's life. Oh you know I'll be there. Still filming/pp at the moment, but hopefully we should see it in 2012.

18. Damsels in Distress (TBA)
Dir: Whit Stillman
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Carrie MacLemore
Eeee! This could be a good 'un, folks! A group of beautiful girls plan to overhaul the lives of their fellow students at an American East Coast University by offering them comfort and guidance through the trials and tribulations of college. Led by ring leader Violet (Gerwig) the group are tested themselves through encounters with the male sex, including Charlie (Brody) who divides friendships... Arghh it's just my kind of thing! Deadpan and darkly funny as well, it gives me Pretty Persuasion vibes. And yes, that is Analeigh Tipton of America's Next Top Model Cycle 11 fame! She does movies now.

17. Mirror Mirror (March)
Dir: Tarsem Singh
Stars: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Sean Bean
There's lots of fairytale films out this year which I'm mega excited about (more to come in the Top 10..) and Mirror Mirror is the first of two Snow White tales. Tarsem Singh is at the helm, so expect lots of lavish colour and visuals, but surprisingly for Singh, he's chosen to camp up his adaptation somewhat with lots of silly humour and Julia Roberts more pompous than poisonous. Cheeky and light hearted, it's very different to its counterpart which I'll be talking about shortly. A little disappointing it must be said, but I've seen the trailer a couple of times now and it does annoy me less and less each time, which I suppose is something.

16. The Cabin In The Woods (April)
Dir: Drew Goddard
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Amy Acker
This is the long delayed Joss Whedon horror/sci-fi project that fell victim to the financial woes of MGM but is now finally getting a release. It promises to turn on its head the 'kids go to stay at a creepy cabin in the spooky woods' premise, but not in a Tucker and Dale vs. Evil kinda way - in a from the writer of Cloverfield and Lost kind of way. And judging by the trailer, things get horrible, but things also get really really weird as well. Oh, and that's that guy from Dollhouse before you start scratching at your head trying to remember who he is.

15. The Hunger Games (March)
Dir: Gary Ross
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson
I'm quietly optimistic for this having not read the books but liking the dystopia/sci-fi edge to it, of 24 youngsters being let loose into an 'arena' (a forest) and battling each other until one comes out alive. Has lots of shades of the Theseus myth, and even Chris Bachelder's Bear V Shark. And the books are huge, so if it goes well there's bound to be countless sequels. My only qualm is the cast - I've yet to be won over by Jennifer Lawrence (she's a bit sour) and Josh Hutcherson, yulch. At least we have Woody Harrelson there to save the day (not literally though).

14. Shame (January)
Dir: Steve McQueen
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie
I still can't believe this isn't out yet! I've seen it twice already, ha. It's a difficult one to put into my Top 40 as it definitely needs to be in there, but obviously I'm not as excited about it as I was a few months ago (actually in all honesty it surpassed all my emotions about it). I just urge every one of you who haven't caught it at a festival showing before now to go and see this when it comes out next week. It's one of the best films of the year, and I ain't even seen any others yet (apart from another one I'll talk about in a minute). It's powerful and mesmerising, and if you've never seen a Michael Fassbender film before it's essential. Hopefully my review will help decide matters, and the trailer:

13. Martha Marcy May Marlene (February)
Dir: Sean Durkin
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy
Again, I can't believe this isn't out yet, either! It's been nearly a year since this drama about a girl escaping a cult and moving in with her family premiered at Sundance 2010 and won for Best Director. And it's been that long since I've been waiting to see it as well! Elizabeth Olsen breaks the mould of her Olsen twin sisters with a standout performance in a film that blurs a paranoid reality with painful memories and bad dreams. Oh I do like a good blurring.

12. Movie 43 (TBA)
Dir: Various
Cast: (deep breath): Emma Stone, Chloe Moretz, Kate Winslet, Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman, Kristen Bell, Anna Farris, Sean William Scott, Josh Duhamel, Kate Bosworth, Naomi Watts, Justiin Long, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Liev Schreiber, Kieran Culkin, Christoper Mintz-Plasse, Stephen Merchant, etc etc
Remember that amazing cast I mentioned earlier when talking about Tar? Well this is it. You ain't gonna get bigger than this. And it's a similar set up, too: lots of mini segments by different directors (I haven't even got round to talking about the directors involved yet!). Yes, like Paris Je T'aime or New York I Love You, the only difference being... they're all comedy segments. Unsure if they'll all be loosely connected yet or even be set in the same city, but it's a different spin on the ensemble piece and I have confidence it will be worth watching.

11. Like Crazy (February)
Dir: Drake Doremus
Stars: Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennier Lawrence, Charlie Bewley
Yes, I'm still going on about it! This would be much, much higher up my list if I hadn't already seen it. Still, I'm uber excited about going to see it again next month even though I will be doubling my tears ratio. It's just an absolutely beautiful film, one everybody should go and see if they've been in a relationship. It's not a rom-com, there's no cookie cutter happy ending (or is there?), there's no simple answers and just when you think it's going in one direction, it takes another step entirely. I'm also going to go into my second screening with a new found appreciation of the dialogue, which amazing anyway, I later discovered was all improv. And need I remind you it's the current Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, and Felicity Jones won Best Actress there too? GO SEE IT!

10. Jack The Giant Killer (June)
Dir: Bryan Singer
Stars: Nichlas Hoult, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane
Another fairytale blockbluster now! (blockblusters are OK if they have magical source material). This is the first time Jack and The Beanstalk has been done on the big screen - in fact I mentioned it in my Top 10 Fairytales That Need The Disney Treatment last year. Whilst this isn't Disney, the fact it's live action/CGI means it will be visually arresting, and have huge scale too (this is the guy who directed X Men). Also loving the hints at a giant in the trailer but not actually getting to see it properly... here's hoping it will be Trollhunter worthy.

9. Brave (August)
Dir: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Stars: Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters
Pixar's next film is a very British affair indeed. Well, Scottish. Set in medieval times, a young princess goes against family laws (women can't fight, and all that) to defeat a deadly curse. It all looks stunning, and the cast are a homegrown lot as well. I still feel like there's something missing which I can't put my finger on from watching the trailer, but it's Pixar and we've got to be in safe hands. This is first time outing for the directors, so here's hoping they can rank up another success for the studio.

8. The Great Gatsby (December)
Dir: Baz Luhrmann
Stars: Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgarton, Isla Fisher
Now this may be a bit of an odd choice as I tried to read the novel last year and, yes even though it's only short, I got so bored with it I had to get the man to tell me what happened. But to many, this is the greatest book ever written and though it's had film adaptations in the past, this is the first one in 35 years and it's due a new polish. And that comes courtesy of brilliant (in all ways of the word) director Baz Luhrmann, who is sure to make the whole thing utterly dazzling to look at (in 3D, I believe). But the cast is excellent too. Even though I skipped out on the book, this will be a perfect post Christmas trip to the cinema.

7. Alps (TBA)
Dir: Giorgos Lanthimos
Stars: Aris Servetalis, Johnny Verkis, Ariane Labed, Aggeliki Papoulia
VERY excited about this one - it's the director's follow up to Dogtooth which remains one of my favourite films of all time (you must see it if you haven't already). This was on at the London Film Festival last year but just after the weekend I went down which was a real kicker. It stars the eldest daughter from Dogtooth and also the main girl from Attenberg and revolves around a group of unconnected people who call themselves 'Alps' whose job it is to stand in for the dead. Sounds bizarre, but going on Dogtooth this is going to be original, challenging and bleakly funny. Don't expect the trailer to make a tail load of sense either, but this is definitely worth checking out when it gets a release date.

6. Moonrise Kingdom (TBA)
Dir: Wes Anderson
Stars: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman
It's the new one from Wes Anderson! That's all I need to say really, and I could finish the blurb right there. This one is about a young couple who flee their town to be together causing the locale to put a search party together to help look for them. Cue whimsy madness! The usual crowd are back (Murray, Schwartzman) but with a few fresh faces this time. He's one of my favourite directors so I'm gonna love it - here's hoping it comes out this year, though! No real photos as of yet - this one here is a pic of the set.

5. Young Adult (February)
Dir: Jason Reitman
Stars: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Elizabeth Reaser
Speaking of favourite directors... Not only is this Jason Reitman's new film (LOVE) but it's also written by Diablo Cody, so the pair's first collaboration since the wonderful Juno. I have high expectations for this one, and Charlize Theron is supposed to deliver a fiendishly superb performance as the bitch prom queen from high school now returning twenty years later to reclaim her childhood sweetheart...who's married with a child. Delicious!

4. The Amazing Spider-Man (July)
Dir: Marc Webb (love it)
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen
A superhero film? So high up on my list? Why yes, you read correctly. And the main reason why I'm so excited about the reboot of Spiderman, apart from the fact I love Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (perfect match)? Because I've seen a lot of clips from Movie Con last year, and this looks SO good. It may, on paper, sound exactly the same as the Sam Raimi version a decade ago, but that's all it is - words. Forget about all the spidey action for a minute - this is going to properly tackle Peter Parker at high school, and Andrew Garfield is brilliant. It's from the director of 500 Days of Summer remember... Just trust me on this one - it's going to be immense.

3. Snow White and the Huntsman (June)
Dir: Rupert Sanders
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Bob Hoskins
It's the other Snow White movie! And far superior it looks, too. Far from the frivolity and rainbow colours of Mirror Mirror Rupert Sanders' take (and his debut film) is far grittier, with huge battle sequences, and an Evil Queen (Theron) who eats the hearts of women so she herself can remain the fairest of them all. The cast is ultimately better in this one as well - think what you want about Kristen Stewart, but the calibre of dwarves alone is pretty impressive (and all British!). Can't wait for this in June - proper epic.

2. The Woman in Black (February)
Dir: James Watkins
Stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Shaun Dooley, Janet McTeer
IS IT FEBRUARY YET?! I am so excited about The Woman in Black that I've already organised when I'm going to see it (excellent timing with my anniversary. And with Young Adult out the same day AND going to see Zach Braff's play in Manchester with Zach Braff IN IT it's going to be the most exciting weekend evah!...y'know, just sayin'). To be honest I've been looking forward to this since it was announced - I have a deep soft spot for Daniel Radcliffe (I just think he's so refreshing to listen to) and I love spooky horror stories - best sub of the genre. But after Movie Con, with footage and talks from the director James Watkins (who did the underrated Eden Lake) I've been on a serious buzz about this since last Summer. So, BRING IT ON! I can't wait to have sleepless nights about it.

Oh so close to being Number One! But not quite...

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December)
Dir: Peter Jackson
Stars: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage
But it's got to be this, hasn't it? It has only got to be this at Number One. I'm so excited for this one, that I'm going to dress up as an elf* and go to the midnight screening** when it comes out. That's how excited I am. I completely fell in love with the LOTR films - I think they changed the cinematic experience forever, and the fact that we're going back again for two whole new films.... giddy shivers. Then the trailer came out and that got me even more excited - it looks absolutely beautiful, and just gave me a warm, happy sense of familiarity. I don't know how I'm going to wait another 11 months! Better get on and read the book I suppose... plus constant repeat viewings of this:

*this probably isn't true

**though this probably is

So there's my Top 40 to watch out for in the coming year - I shall try and get round to watching and reviewing them all for culturemouse. I was pretty thorough, but do let me know if I've missed anything out...