Saving Mr Banks
There have been so many films made about the making of films that it’s practically a genre to itself. However, very few of them have portrayed an artist anywhere near as unyielding as P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins. As played by an excellent Emma Thompson, she’s a truly misanthropic creature.
In 1961, Travers finds herself in Hollywood at the invitation of Walt Disney, who’s looking to convince her to sign over the rights to her most beloved character. While Disney and his writers become frustrated by every one of her objections, we slowly discover the story of Mary Poppins is perhaps more fact than fiction.
With an incredible supporting cast that includes Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti and Jason Schwartzman, Saving Mr Banks is a charming film that was undeservedly snubbed at this year’s Oscars.
Carrie (New to Rent)
Brian DePalma’s 1976 film of Stephen King’s debut novel is somewhat of a classic. Carrie White is a high school student who finds herself mercilessly bullied by the other kids at school. Her home life is hardly much better, as her puritanical mother convinces her that menses are a really punishment from God.
But what the kids at school don’t know is that they really shouldn’t be messing with Carrie; not when she has the power to truly wreck stuff with her mind.
This new Carrie is a pretty close retread of the original, with the exception that new star Chloë Moretz doesn’t look like the dorky outcast in any school we’ve ever seen. Also, the climactic sequence in which Carrie exacts revenge on her town is a lot more gruesome and protracted, which is arguably an improvement.
Julianne Moore plays her mad mother in this new version and as always, she delivers on the goods.
Steve Coogan co-writes, produces and stars in this touching comedic drama based on a true story. He plays Martin Sixsmith, a journalist and disgraced former spin-doctor for the Labour Party. Having burnt most of his professional bridges, he accepts an assignment to follow an avuncular old Irish woman in search of the son who was stolen from her fifty years ago.
While the interaction between Dench and Coogan is enjoyably humorous, the story behind Philomena’s experience in the Magdalene asylums is deadly serious. The film manages to tread the fine line between being flippant and over-serious. The end result is an enjoyable and deeply moving film that deserves its Oscar nominations.
Don Jon (VOD)
Joseph Gordon Levitt makes his debut as a writer/director with this unusual romantic comedy. Playing the Italian-American Jon, he behaves like an outcast from the set of Jersey Shore. His interests are pretty much limited to working out, hitting on girls and navigating the darker corners of the internet. When he meets the impossibly-attractive Scarlett Johansson at a bar one night, he’s finally forced to re-assess his priorities.
Gordon-Levitt has assembled a great ensemble that includes Julianne Moore, Brie Larson and Who’s The Boss star Tony Danza (perfectly cast as his father). It’s an assured first film from a genuine talent: a funny and touching comedy that’s made with a grown-up audience in mind.
As is the norm these days, this biopic of the late Princess of Wales focuses on a small portion of her life. In particular, it covers the romance between the recently divorced Diana (Naomi Watts) and a Pakistani heart surgeon (Lost’s Naveen Andrews). While some critics did not react favourably to the film’s decision to focus on the fairy-tale romance aspect of this story, many have also praised Watts’ performance as the troubled princess.
German director Oliver Hirschbiegel is behind the camera for this film, which couldn’t be further away from his previous attempt at historical drama, the Hitler bunker drama Downfall.
Robert De Niro is known for two things: starring in crime films like Goodfellas and appearing in comedies as an old grouch. This new film from writer/director Luc Besson (Leon) combines those two things into one neat package! He plays a Mafia boss whose family has been relocated to rural France as a part of the FBI’s witness protection program. His supervising agent (Tommy Lee Jones) has instructed him to keep a low profile, but as the old man said: you can take the man out of the mob, but you can’t take the mob out of the man.
Playing De Niro’s family is Michelle Pfeiffer and Glee’s Diana Agron.
In this new animation from the director of Horton Hears a Who!, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson are a pair of turkeys (literally) who go back in time to prevent a centuries-long turkey genocide.
Well, okay, that’s one way to put it. They actually break into a time machine at The Pentagon and head back to the very first Thanksgiving, with the plan of stopping the pilgrims from starting the tradition of eating turkey every year.
It’s a funny film that’s helped along by the unusual presence of Harrelson as well as the super-talented Amy Poehler. It also doesn’t hurt that it features hoards of humorous yellow henchmen, à la Despicable Me.
It doesn’t matter that Thanksgiving means absolutely nothing to most people on this side of the Atlantic: this is still a funny family film that’s very much in the vein of Chicken Run.
Jeune et Jolie (Young and Beautiful)
Isabelle is a teenage girl who comes from a wealthy middle-class family. After an awakening experience during her summer holiday she begins to work as an escort, meeting older gentlemen over the internet and liaising with them in hotel rooms. She has a seemingly stable home-life with no need for the extra money, so what drives her to these extremes?
Playing Isabelle is the young newcomer Marine Vacht, whose waif-like figure and aloofness is reminiscent of a young Catherine Deneuve: she really is very good. Having recently made the excellent In the House, this latest film from director François Ozon is a clear-eyed and non-exploitative look at a very taboo subject.
The brand new independent comedy G.B.F. has already been touted as ‘Mean Girls for the post-Glee generation’.
Newcomer Michael J. Willett plays Tanner, a closeted gay high school student whose only desire is to fly under the radar until he graduates. But when he’s accidentally outed during school hours, he finds himself coveted by the three most popular girls in school. After all, nothing would improve their social standings better than the ‘must-have’ accessory of the season: a Gay Best Friend.
With a fantastic supporting cast that includes Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black) and Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), this is a comedy that will appeal to film fans of all stripes.
Looking Season 1
Patrick, Agustin and Dom are three 30-something friends living in San Francisco exploring the exciting, sometimes overwhelming, options available to a new generation of gay men.
If press reaction is to be believed, this new show from HBO is simply a gay carbon copy of Girls. Sure, they air on the same channel, are both set in a big city, and revolve around a group of friends trying to muddle their way through modern relationships. But in the 8 episodes of its first season, Looking has managed to assert its own voice and identity. It’s funny, touching and very often relatable.
If you like Girls and Sex and the City, you should definitely check it out. Just don’t expect a pale clone of those two shows: it’s so much better than that.
Mr Selfridge Series 2
Jeremy Piven returns to deliver another dose of brash American showmanship to the stuffy shoppers of Edwardian London! Set five years after the first series, it now seems that Selfridge’s department store in London is going to survive (as if that was ever in doubt). Since we last saw them, Harry and his wife have grown estranged while former accessories assistant Agnes has become a hot-shot window display artist.
It being 1914, everybody is distracted by the looming threat of The Great War, which will threaten not only the store but the very lives of the men who work in it!
(Spoiler Alert: The Shop doesn’t close down this series either)
Also new to blinkbox:
Foreign Films: Fill the Void and Floating Skyscrapers
Comedy: Powder Room (Early Digital Release)
Horror Flicks: The Kiss of a Killer, Dead of the Nite, Butcher Boys, Black Water Vampire and The Borderlands
Documentaries: Plot For Peace and The Missing Picture
Independent Dramas: Just Like a Woman, Besties and Generation Um
Action Drama: Violet And Daisy
Anime: Blood C: The Last Dark
Family Animation: Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery
For more of the latest titles, head to our Movies and TV sections