A lowdown of the films hitting UK cinemas this month…
Directed: Oliver Parker
Starring: Catherine Zeta Jones, Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Toby Jones, Tom Courtenay, Sarah Lanarcshire, Mark Gatiss
Will it be good?: Based on the beloved BBC sitcom of the same name, which ran from 1968 to 1977 and depicted the British Home Guard during WWII, the big-screen remake of Dad’s Army has a solid cast in its favour. UK acting veterans including Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon make up an ensemble cast which also features Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison. Director Oliver Parker and writer Hamish McColl have previously collaborated on 2011’s Johnny English Reborn, whilst the latter also penned Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007). With some proven talent both behind and in front of the camera, Dad’s Army looks set to be an enjoyable adaption for anyone fond of the original series, though the challenge comes in creating something that strikes the right balance between nostalgia and something new. The characters from the sitcom are also relatively iconic, leaving big shoes to fill for the actors who are taking on the roles – though their combined comedic talents suggest the new cast should be up to the challenge.
Directed: Rob Letterman
Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell
Will it be good?: Based on the famous children’s book series by R.L Stein, Goosebumps is the latest vehicle for Jack Black. Director Rob Letterman has worked on the likes of Monsters Vs Aliens (2009) and Shark Tale (2005), as well as the critically reviled Jack Black starring Gulliver’s Travels (2010), suggesting a mixed bag that makes it hard to tell if this Goosebumps adaption will be successful. Then of course there is the issue of Jack Black, who’s back catalogue is so inconsistent it is almost impossible to predict what direction his latest venture will go in. The Goosebumps series has a whole array of different stories which would look good on the big screen, and the US reviews (the film was released last October stateside, making most of the Halloween market) suggest that the director has made the most of the selection. Critical reception in the US has also been surprisingly positive, suggesting that both Letterman and Black may have somewhat redeemed themselves whilst doing the Goosebumps series proud.
Directed: Ericson Core
Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone
Will it be good?: Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 film Point Break starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves is looked back upon as a fun action classic – why Ericson Core has felt the need to remake it is something we will never know. The film has opened to negative reviews in the US, which comes as little surprise based on the trailers, which suggest that the film leans heavily on 3D to provide shallow thrills and, well, that;s about it. For anyone who wants gravity defying action with little substance, Point Break is the film for you. Critic reviews has summed the film up as a shallow and unnecessary remake of Bigelow’s much-loved original, and whilst Edgar Ramirez’s career is looking promising with his recent supporting role in Joy, it doesn’t look like he is enough to save this from becoming a forgettable bargain bin flick.
Directed: Jay Roach
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Louis C.K
Will it be good?: Since he broke bad and forever shook of the image of loveable buffoon Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, Bryan Cranston has been a sought after property in Hollywood, and he has earned himself a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his leading role in Trumbo. Based on the book Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook, the film tells the true story of the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter. It’s an immediately interesting premise – the paranoia of McCarthyism is an inherently interesting concept, as dark as it was – and Cranston is sure to be magnificent in the lead role. Pair that with a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Diane Lane, Helen Mirren and John Goodman and it is clear that this is a film with plenty of star power behind it. Jay Roach is best known for his work on comedies including the Austin Powers films and the first two installments in the Meet the Parents franchise. Much like the case with Adam McKay and The Big Short, Trumbo’s success will be largely based on Roach’s ability to balance comedic moments with the dramatic heft required to tell this story.
Directed: Tim Miller
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Moerna Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J Miller
Will it be good?: Everything appears to be in place and it looks like fans are finally getting the Deadpool film they have been seeking so desperately ever since the cult favourite character was butchered in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Test footage and trailers suggest that things are finally being done right – writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have a strong back catalogue that includes the critically adored Zombieland (2009). The film is the directorial debut of Tim Miller, who is best known for his work as the creative director on opening sequences of films such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013). This suggests Miller has a real creative flair – but can a first time director carry the weight of expectations from fans who have been disappointed before? Ryan Reynolds is back in the role, and it is clear that the charismatic leading man is determined to nail it second time around, so the chances of the film totally missing the mark are low.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Directed: Burr Steers
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcoate, Douglas Booth, Suki Waterhouse, Matt Smith, Lena Heady
Will it be good?: Probably one of the weirdest films to be coming out this month, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on the parody novel by Seth Grahame-Green, which is based on the famous Jane Austin novel. A comedy horror which envisions the Victorian era as one that is in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, the film won’t appeal to everyone. That said, it has a decent cast attached to it with the likes of former Doctor Who star Matt Smith and Game of Thrones alumni Lena Heady. It’s a fun twist on a classic novel and it will be fun to see the prim propriety of the era juxtaposed with gory zombie horror – think Sean of the Dead (2004) set a century earlier. Burr Steers is best known for his teen comedy 17 Again (2009), so it is hard to tell how he will handle the horror elements, but fans but fans of the book are likely to enjoy this thoroughly different release.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Directed: Walt Becker
Starring: Jason Lee, Tony Hale, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Justin Long, Jesse McCartney
Will it be good?: There’s a good chance that, like all previous Alvin and the Chipmunk movies, this is a film that most likely won’t appeal to anyone over the age of five. Why do they keep making these movies? The film opened in the US at the end of last year to resoundingly negative reviews (big surprise there) and it has also been nominated for a total of three Razzie awards, including nominations for the voice work of Jason Lee and Kaley Cuoco. Hopefully this will be enough to bring the sorry franchise to a halt – though the fact that it has managed to make it to a fourth film suggests that this might not be the end.
A Bigger Splash
Directed: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson
Will it be good?: The latest film from Italian director Luca Guadagnino – frequent collaborator with Tilda Swinton – looks set to be interesting. Mixing established talents such as Swinton and Ralph Fiennes with the rising talents of Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson, the film is loosely based on 1969 film La Piscine. The erotic thriller was released in Italy last November to generally positive reviews and the trailers suggest it will be an edgy affair. The trailers look like Fiennes in particular is having the time of his life and with such a heady mix of talent, A Bigger Splash is sure to be an intense affair.
Jem and the Holograms
Directed: Jon M Chu
Starring: Audrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoka, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis
Will it be good?: Based on the 1980’s animated TV series, Jem and the Holograms tells the story of a young singer who becomes an overnight Youtube sensation. Nashville actress Aubrey Peeples is in the lead role, and 1980’s sweetheart also shows up for a rare supporting gig. Jon M Chu’s previous work includes a couple of the Step Up sequels and Justin Beiber film Never Say Never (2011). It has taken the film months to make it to the UK after it opened in the US to negative reivews. The trailer doesn’t offer anything particularly promising and it appears that at best the film is a paint by numbers musical drama that is unlikely to appeal to anyone outside of its tween target audience.
Directed: Peter Landesman
Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Luke Wilson
Will it be good?: Concussion tells the real life story of Dr.Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who went up against the NFL after discovering a disorder known as ‘Game Brain’. It is Peter Landesman’s second film and has Will Smith in the lead role, with a strong supporting cast that includes Alec Baldwin. Reviews in the US have been positive, with Smith in particular being singled out for his strong central performance (there have been comments that he may have been snubbed by the Academy and is deserving of a Best Actor nomination). From my point of view, Smith hasn’t been at the top of his game for a long time and his performances as of late are increasingly reminiscent of clutching at straws, but it seems like Concussion is an interesting role for the actor and could be a return to Smith at his best. With the #OscarsSoWhite scandal continuing to rage on it will be interesting to see if his performance lives up to the hype.
Directed: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Benedict Cumberbatch
Will it be good?: Comedy sequels are notoriously hard to get right – most fall into the trap of becoming a blow by blow repeat of the original (The Hangover 2 being a prime example), whilst the other danger is being unable to live up to the often insane levels of hype (Dumb and Dumber To, coming in over a decade after the original, was blighted by this issue from the start). Zoolander 2 has arguably already succumbed to the latter issue, but who knows if it will be able to deliver. Ben Stiller is back in the directors chair and titular role, and just like the first installment he has an all-star cast behind him. Establishing a new story whilst remaining faithful to fans of the original will be the biggest challenge, but there is no doubt that people will turn out to see the long awaited sequel.
The Finest Hours
Directed: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana
Will it be good?: Telling the true story of the 1952 US coastguard rescue of the 55 Pendleton during a huge storm, The Finest Hours looks set to be a good old fashioned rescue story. Craig Gillespie is best known for much smaller scale films including Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and the 2011 Fright Night remake, so it will be interesting to see how he handles film-making on a larger scale. The film boasts an impressive cast including Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, but there is plenty of room to fall into done to death cliche with a story of this nature. The film has been produced by Disney and is set to be released in both 3D and IMAX formats, which suggest that it will be family friendly and attempting to cash in on the sea-faring visuals. It is likely that The Finest Hours will be as enjoyable as it is unoriginal.
How to be Single
Directed: Christian Ditter
Starring: Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann
Will it be good?: How to be Single is the latest Drew Barrymore produced romantic comedy from the writer behind numerous films including He’s Just Not That Into You (2009). The film is based on the book by Liz Tuccillo, who also wrote self-help book, you guessed it, He’s Just Not That Into You. The film’s cast includes rising star and 50 Shades of Grey (2015) actress Dakota Johnson, alongside Rebel Wilson of Pitch Perfect fame and Leslie Mann. It looks like a fairly straightforward film about a girl who is faced with a break-up and must be taught by her friends how to deal with the single life. The film looks set to be decidedly average, but will be sure to be a fun Friday night movie.
Directed: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Isla Fisher
Will it be good?: The latest comedy vehicle for Sacha Baron Cohen will see him play a typical Englishman from Grimsby, who finds his long-lost twin (Mark Strong), a special agent. Baron Cohen is a divisive comic – whilst some find his various characters, which include Borat (2006), Bruno (2009) and The Dictator (2012), hilarious, whilst others find him tedious and offensive. This latest film looks like more of the same and is therefore likely to appeal to the actors existing fans without attracting many new ones. Louise Leterrier is known for his work on the first two Transporter films (2002/05) and The Incredible Hulk (2008), so he is at least likely to produce well-handled action scenes, but don’t expect much in the way of laughs (if it’s not obvious, I’m not a huge Baron Cohen fan).
Directed: Jason Zada
Starring: Natalie Dormor, Taylor Kinney
Will it be good?: A supernatural horror starring Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormor, The Forest has received generally negative reviews since it was released in the US. It is Jason Zada’s directorial debut and horror is a hard genre to stand out in, though Dormor is somewhat of a rising star with her supporting role in the latter films of the Hunger Game franchise and her performance has received praise in spite of the lackluster reception to the rest of the film. The Forest will be a welcome outing to horror films, with January being a somewhat horror-free month for cinema released, but the chances of it being remembered as a genre classic is somewhat low.
Secret in Their Eyes
Directed: Billy Ray
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofer, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts
Will it be good?: A remake of the 2009 Argentine film of the same name, which is based on the 2005 novel, Secret in Their Eyes boasts an all star cast and boasts a director and co-writer who’s previous credits include penning The Hunger Games (2012) and Captain Philips (2013), the latter of which won him an Oscar. This all points towards a strong final product, but the film has so far been met with mixed reviews from critics. That said, it is hard not to take note of such a strong cast and it looks like Secret in Their Eyes could be a more than passable thriller.