In the New Year, we have a deluge of new films, including some with Oscar aspirations, others with action and horror on the agenda, as well as a couple of homegrown efforts.
First, the early arrivals from the annual awards season, which culminates each year at the Academy Awards, to be held this year on February 27 with first-time co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway.
If you’re anticipating an office Oscar pool, you’ll do well to acquaint yourself with acclaimed films such as David O. Russell’s boxing film The Fighter, where Christian Bale is a hot contender.
Love and Other Drugs, with Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal, is another film with critical buzz, along with Burlesque, the musical comedy with Christina Aguilera and Cher. The political thriller Fair Game is also in the game, so to speak.
The most notable Chinese blockbuster in the early going is Benny Chan’s Shaolin, headlined by Jackie Chan and Andy Lau, while scary movies for horror buffs to savour include Saw 3D and Season of the Witch, starring Nicolas Cage as a medieval knight.
Week of 6 January
The Stars: Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Leo
The Story: Journeyman prize-fighter Micky Ward (Wahlberg) decides to retire after indifferent results in the ring. However, with the help of his troubled half-brother Dicky Eklund (Bale), himself a well-known fighter whose career has swan-dived, Ward makes a stirring comeback and gets a shot at redemption.
The Buzz: This biographical film sees the coming together of two volatile characters – off-screen that is. Director David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees), making a return to prominence after several years out of the spotlight, and actor Bale both have reputations of being notoriously intense on movie sets. Both have reportedly had major blow-ups on previous jobs, with Bale’s tirade on the set of Terminator Salvation famously recorded and circulated.
Still, their talent, along with that of co-stars Wahlberg, Adams and Leo, is not in question. Bale is the early frontrunner for the supporting actor Oscar, while veteran Leo has also earned praise.
inSing.com says: The popular sports magazine Sports Illustrated rated The Fighterthe ‘sports movie of the decade’. High praise from the purported sports experts. In my own humble opinion, this looks from the trailer to be a Rocky-like drama, but I expect so much more.
All Good Things, with Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling as a troubled couple; Saw 3D, part seven in the horror series; Love and Other Drugs, where Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway unwittingly fall for each other; Kinako: Police Dog Dream, a Japanese film with a cute canine; Centurion, a sword-and-sandals epic; and local omnibus horror film The Ghosts Must Be Crazy.
Week of 13 January
The Stars: Naomi Watts, Sean Penn
The Story: A covert CIA agent (Watts) has her cover blown by her own government in 2003 after her husband (Penn), a former ambassador, criticised the Bush administration for their rationale for the Iraq War. Her life is turned upside down and she eventually resigns from her position. She then fights to tell her story.
The Buzz: Based on the memoirs of Valerie Plame, published in 2007, this film features the powerhouse pairing of A-list actors Watts and Penn, under the astute direction of Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity). Little wonder, then, that the actors’ performances are the talk of this project.
Being a political thriller based on the truth as Plame, and the filmmakers, see it also means that this is a film that will polarise opinions. Some will say that this story distorts events as they really happened; others will point to artistic licence.
inSing.com says: Wherever the truth lies, one imagines that the film is first and foremost interested in the story of a woman who was allegedly betrayed by her own government, and how that affected her marriage and her life. Expect a thrilling ride.
Made in Dagenham, a British comedy about female auto workers on strike; Burlesque, where Christina Aguilera and Cher put on a cabaret show; Season of the Witch, with Nic Cage as a 14th century Crusader extraditing an accused witch; Lover’s Discourse, an ensemble Hong Kong film about relationships, starring Karena Lam and Eason Chan; and the French comedy Paris Express.
Week of 20 January
Movie details | Photo gallery
The Stars: Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cecile de France
The Story: Three parallel stories tell of three people around the world who have had brushes with death. One is an American factory worker who is a reluctant psychic (Damon), another is a French journalist (de France) who survives the Indian Ocean tsunami, while the last is an English boy whose twin was killed in a car accident.
The Buzz: Director Clint Eastwood teams up with Damon once again after 2009’s Invictus. So enamoured was Eastwood with Damon that he worked around the actor’s busy schedule, which originally prevented him from participating in this project.
Much has been made of the supernatural element of this film, the first of its kind by Eastwood. The script was written by Peter Morgan, who previously penned The Queen, Frost/Nixon and The Damned United for the big screen.
inSing.com says: In terms of structure and a sprawling storyline that dovetails at the end, Hereafter is reminiscent of 2006’s Babel. With Damon an always reliable actor, and Eastwood’s strength in telling the small stories, this should be an absorbing experience.
Monsters, an acclaimed independent British sci-fi drama from writer, director, cinematographer and visual effects artist Gareth Edwards; Shaolin, director Benny Chan’s star-studded kungfu action film with Jackie Chan, Andy Lau, Nic Tse, Fan Bingbing and Wu Jing; and the epic action flick Solomon Kane, with English actor James Purefoy as a vanquisher of evil in the title role.
Week of 27 January
The Stars: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz
The Story: An irresponsible playboy (Rogen), heir to a media empire, sobers up after his father’s death and decides to become a crime fighter. He is aided by a mysterious employee (Chou) who is much more than just a good driver. With Kato as his sidekick – emphasis on the ‘kick’ – the young media mogul moonlights as the masked crusader, The Green Hornet, and eventually has to face off with a formidable underworld figure (Waltz) who views him as a threat.
The Buzz: Apart from the significant toning up of Rogen’s erstwhile couch-potato physique, and the Hollywood debut of Asian superstar Jay Chou, the biggest buzz may surround actor Waltz, an Oscar winner last year for his unforgettable turn in Inglourious Basterds.
While Cameron Diaz remains a bankable star, the bigger name, one that may be surprising to some, is that of director Michel Gondry. Known for his mind-blowing off-beat and often dream-like films, Gondry now adds a ‘Hollywood action-comedy blockbuster’ to his CV.
inSing.com says: With the talent on hand, and a script by established comedy pros Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Pineapple Express), this could be one helluva entertaining joyride. One just hopes Chou’s diction doesn’t become an unwelcomed distraction.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, an acclaimed Thai film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, which won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival; MediaCorp’s It’s a Great, Great World, directed by Kelvin Tong and featuring a multitude of familiar faces, including Joanne Peh and Henry Thia; and the spoof comedy Stan Helsing.
Week of 6 January
The Stars: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Dalton
The Story: An unwitting American tourist (Depp) is enchanted by a beautiful woman (Jolie) while on vacation in Italy. Sparks fly, yet she is not who she seems, and the pair are thrust into situations of escalating danger, manipulated by sinister forces at large.
The Buzz: This is a remake of the 2005 French box-office flop – but critical success – Anthony Zimmer, which starred Sophie Marceau and Yvan Attal, by German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others).
With stars of this magnitude, it’s inevitable that the tabloid press would get excited. The gossip mill tells of Depp’s wife, Vanessa Paradis (Heartbreaker), reportedly jealous and suspicious of Jolie. Much has also been written of Depp and Jolie in handcuffs and in a shower together – in the film, mind you!
inSing.com says: Both stars are undoubtedly talented, but the question is if they would be able to generate any chemistry. Arguably the last time she really hit it off on screen with someone – a guy named Brad Pitt – she hooked up with him.
The Korean remake of John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow, which originally starred Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung and Leslie Cheung; Chow’s latest film, Jiang Wen’s action-comedy Let the Bullets Fly; the Dutch film The Last Days of Emma Blank, about a woman with outrageous demands; and a documentary based on the surprisingly best-selling book of the same name, Freakonomics.
Meanwhile, the independent theatre Sinema will be playing three documentaries from Taiwan and the United States during the first half of this month. For tickets and more information, visit Sinema’s ticketing portal.
Last, but not least, French film fans are in for a treat as the Alliance Francaise presents the latest film of famed director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) on 20 January.
Micmacs is about a bunch of social misfits, including one who still has a bullet stuck in his head from a drive-by shooting, who embark on a mission to take down a pair of arms manufacturers.
Tickets are available from Sistic.
(Note: All release dates are subject to change; all information correct as of press time.)