The Madagascar gang return for another adventure! And as with the third Rush Hour film, our intrepid heroes are heading to Europe! Leaving Africa with the intention of returning to New York City, Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) land in Monte Carlo where they join a circus in an attempt to hitch a ride back to America. With this travelling roadshow of delights, they end up meeting a whole pack of continentally-accented animals voiced by illustrious European actors Martin Short, Bryan Cranston and Jessica Chastain. Listen out for a vocal cameo by Vinnie Jones, who probably plays an animal with a history of mauling Paul Gascoigne’s sprouts.
Perks of Being a WallflowerOne of last year’s unexpected critical hits, Three Musketeers star Logan Lerman plays Charlie, a lonely new boy at a new school who befriends an older girl (Harry Potter’s Emma Watson) and her strange step-brother Ezra Miller (last seen as a psycho teen in We Need to Talk About Kevin). It’s an unexpected sweet movie about the messy complications of teen love and it provides Watson with the perfect platform for showing off her post-Potter talents. The title makes it sound like unbearably hip indie flick but given a chance, its numerous charms will win you over.
SinisterWhen a true crime writer moves his family into a new house and neglects to inform them that it recently served as the scene of a brutal murder, things are only going to get bad for him. But when he discovers a box of film in the attic that document a series of killings, things start going way off the hook. This supernatural horror could easily have been lost in the vast milieu of horror films released every year were it not for its premium cast, led by Ethan Hawke. Critics have had no trouble lavishing Sinister with praise with E! naming it their “Best Horror Film” of 2012.
To Rome with LoveWoody Allen follows up his most acclaimed film in decades (Midnight in Paris) with another European jaunt. This time, he presents four interspersing romantic stories set in the Italian capital. Perhaps taking a page out of the New Year’s Eve/Love Actually playbook, he’s put together a strong (if not slightly left-field) ensemble cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Ellen Page, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz and the Woodmaster General himself. Expect gorgeous shots of Rome’s many landmarks to provide the backdrop for middle-class people to neurotically lament missed opportunites.
Beasts of the Southern WildPerhaps the biggest indie hit of 2012, there’s a good reason why Beasts of the Southern Wild has been celebrated with Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay and in her first acting role, Quvenzhané Wallis (who was only 6 at the time of shooting) is up for Best Actress. And really, this is her film: set in a post-Katrina Louisiana, Wallis plays a poor girl whose grim surroundings fail to suppress her fiercely vivid imagination and naive optimism. Director Benh Zeitlin has made an incredibly brave and moving film with a cast of non-professional actors who manage to infuse the story with tremendous power: while Wallis is deservedly getting the lion’s share of the kudos, credit should also go to Dwight Henry, a New Orleans baker who plays her volatile father.
AntiviralThe apple never falls far from the tree, especially not in the case of Brandon Cronenberg, son of horror maestro David. His debut film could easily have been inspired by the stories his father used to tell him as a child; stories about women’s bodies being torn apart and turned inside-out. Caleb Landry Jones plays an employee of a clinic that specialises in harvesting diseases from celebrities; diseases that adoring fans can also contract for a price. When Jones injects himself with a virus that ends up killing a big star, he has to find a way to save himself while fending off superfans desperate to get their hands on the sickness. Cronenberg has his father’s fascination with unravelling human bodies that he finds a way to combine with his own satire of modern celebrity culture. Die-hard horror fans have found their ‘must-see’ title of the week.
SparkleEssentially a lock-stock copy of Dreamgirls, Sparkle earns notoriety for containing the final film appearance of Whitney Houston, who died a few months after production. Like Dreamgirls, it’s set in Detroit in the late 60s and it also happens to tell the story directly inspired by Diana Ross and The Supremes, tracking the meteoric rise of a soul singer (played by American Idol winner Jordin Sparks). According to reviews, the music is actually pretty good and the soundtrack includes the very last song that Houston ever recorded. The Dreamgirls comparisons are perhaps a bit harsh but they certainly didn’t help Sparkle at the box-office last year where, like Whitney Houston, it died alone and unseen.
Ginger & RosaThe latest film from British director Sally Potter tells the story of two teenage girls in the sixties as they muddle their way through the spiky issues of nuclear politics, feminism and –gasp- boys! There’s quite an impressive star cast here, but it’s tough to fathom why Potter has cast so many American actors to play British parts: Christina Hendricks, Elle Fanning and Alessandro Nivola are good actors but were they better than every available performer from Blighty? We haven’t seen this film yet but the reviews have been divisive: the Telegraph and the Guardian seem to love it but the Daily Mail gave it only one star — which puts it on level pegging with Zero Dark Thirty (one star) and Lawless (one star) but makes it slightly better than Beasts of the Southern Wild (zero stars).
The RomanticsWow. For an independent romantic comedy, this film sure has a lot of big stars. Katie Holmes stars as a woman who reunites with her college pals when her ex-boyfriend (Josh Duhamel) invites them to his wedding – he’s marrying Anna Paquin, you see. Holmes’ pals are played by Adam Brody, Malin Akerman, Elijah Wood while her mother is played by Candice Bergen. With this glittering cast, one wonders why this film has been kept on the shelf since its Sundance Debut in 2010. Was it a Scientology conspiracy to punish Katie Holmes? Or could it be because it’s not very good? Only you can be the judge!
Room 237Stanley Kubrick’s film of The Shining has maintained its reputation over the last few decades as one of the greatest psychological horror films of all time. An adaptation of Stephen King’s best-selling novel, it sees Jack Nicholson going insane in an abandoned hotel. But what if the entire film was actually a coded message from Kubrick, both revealing his disgust with America’s imperial past and his complicity in faking the moon landings? A festival hit last year, this documentary sounds like the fever-dream of conspiracy nut, looking at the secrets and theories that surround Kubrick’s masterpiece. You’ll start watching it as a sceptic but by the end, you won’t know what to believe! Highly recommended!