Box Office — Spring 07

September 1st, 2007 Box Magazine, Film, Film Reviews

Now the giant robots, pirates, ogres and yellow animated families are behind us, it’s time to get serious.

That’s what studios and directors from all walks of life have been thinking, because it’s time for serious, independent and ‘worthy’ films to start hitting screens. If the script as vehicle to transport you to the next CGI action sequence isn’t for you, this is the best time to be going to the movies.

Such films are hoping to get the notice of two kinds of people. One is the discerning viewer who likes his or her entertainment a little quieter, a little more thought provoking.

The other is members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who vote early next year on the 2008 Academy Awards. A dead cert for a gong in at least one category is Angelina Jolie vehicle A Mighty Heart. With themes of loss, heroism and terrorism and based on a true story, it’s one to watch.

That’s not to say movies out now are only for the fusty goatee-stroking set. If you came of age in the musically energised 70s and 80s you’ll remember Joy Division well, and Control charts the life and death of tragic front-man Ian Curtis.

In even better news for the theme-averse, it’s not all awards grabs, with everything from horror (1408) to whimsy (Penelope) to enthrall and chill you.

The Heartbreak Kid

The Farrelly brothers re-engineered the gross-out comedy for a new generation with Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin in the mid 90s, but they evolved a strange and unexpected side-effect; heart. One only has to look at Shallow Hal (2001) and Stuck on You (2003) to appreciate the undercurrent of tolerance the Farrellys have always called for.

Equal-opportunity offenders, they frequently call on, depict and even cast the disabled or different (whether it’s fat people or conjoined twins) where we can laugh with — rather than at — those different from us.

In this update of the 1972 film of the same name, single nerd Eddie (Ben Stiller) lands a girl way out of his league, quickly proposing to ensure he doesn’t lose her. The ensuing honeymoon not only reveals his dream girl to be a monster in beautiful clothes, it puts the girl he should have married in Eddie’s path.

1408

The Swedish director of 2005’s Derailed brings us what’s been described as the best Stephen King adaptation since The Shining.

John Cusack is Mike Enslin, a horror writer who travels the US proving supposed hauntings wrong, but meets his match in the famed room 1408 of New York’s Dolphin Hotel. Despite the warnings of manager Mr Olin (Jackson), Enslin determinedly checks in to the room where countless guests have met their untimely doom.

The professional paranormal-debunker is an oft-trod premise, but some unique chills and good performances promise a movie worth seeing. In this era where brains splattered across the floor of torture chambers and severed limbs comprise the usual extent of screen horror, Håfström ekes slow-burn fright out of objects as innocuous as a tape recorder, a room key and a phone.

Penelope

Penelope (Ricci) is a girl born to rich, wealthy socialite parents. She has everything a girl could ask for in life, and when she comes of age her parents set about bringing suitors into their home so Penelope can get married and take her place in society.

She’s been a virtual prisoner in her home all her life, not allowed into the outside world, and every potential husband her parents bring home runs in terror — sometimes throwing himself through the windows of their stately mansion.

But one, Max (McAvoy) connects with her, encouraging her, inspiring her to leave her front door and discover the city and world around her. She becomes a celebrity and inspires everyone with her courage despite her curse — being born with the nose of a pig. A comedy, romance and fantasy, Penelope is a silly premise but it could be the feel-good film of the year.

A Mighty Heart

Some of the most dramatic pictures to come from the war on terror were those of Wall Street Journal writer Danny Pearl, kidnapped in Karachi, bound and blindfolded with zealots pointing guns at him.

His widow Marianne’s memoir of Pearl’s life and untimely death at the hands of his kidnappers was a bestseller and it was only a matter of time before a star with some clout made it their own.

Sexiest woman alive Angelina Jolie continues to conquer every genre as Marianne Pearl during her husband’s capture, the media storm that ensued, her attempts to retrieve him from Pakistan and his killing. A slew of critical kudos and awards surely await, and in the hands of chameleon director Michael Winterbottom this will be an emotional tour de force.

Control

Most mainstream film lovers younger than 25 years old would have had no idea who Ian Curtis was before Michael Winterbottom’s love letter to 1970s Manchester 24 Hour Party People, which depicted the last moments of the musician’s death at his own hand as a footnote in history.

But he was the creative force behind Joy Division, the groundbreaking electro-rock act that shook up the musical establishment in an already-freewheeling era and which later became New Order.

Curtis was a tragic figure; torn between two women and suffering epilepsy and depression. Both conditions fuelled him as a poet for the media age and virtually destroyed his sanity before he committed suicide in 1980. Shot entirely in black and white, this film is by all accounts a moving and reverential portrait.


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