Film – Pick Of The Flicks For January

By Andrew James Ball

2016 was a year brimming with decent films. Arrival, Nocturnal Animals, High Rise, I Daniel Blake and Hacksaw Ridge were all weighty, award-worthy fare.

Florence Foster Jenkins gave us another chance to witness the full Meryl experience and was a surprise hit full of laughs. The Nice Guys paired Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling to great effect as clumsy LA private detectives and Kate Beckinsale was hilarious in lesser-known Jane Austen material Love and Friendship.

Event movies, those so-called tent pole movies that shape the financial years of entire corporations, had a mixed year. DC’s underwhelming Batman vs Superman was ear-splitting loud and close to a turkey. Similarly, DC’s Suicide Squad was brash, colourful and swaggered onto our screens but ultimately fell short of its potential. Marvel’s retaliation was the fresher energy of Doctor Strange. Topping the year was Star Wars: Rogue One, easily the best blockbuster of 2016. Rogue One avoided the cookie cutter rehashing of The Force Awakens and provided Christmas popcorn cinema with a pulse.

2017 looks great too and the run of movies up for Oscar consideration continues. Scorsese’s Silence is in cinemas in Madrid from January 5th and the buzz is that he’s still on top form. Following up the capitalist, purgatorial reverie of The Wolf of Wall Street, the veteran director revisits religion, a subject close to him. Silence is about the introduction of Christianity to Japan and the fallout of an unsuccessful mission which prompts the biggest questions about identity and the soul. Newly minted Jedi Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield play the young Portuguese Jesuits tasked with retrieving their missing mentor played by Liam Neeson. In our time when fears of proselytising and religious identity are common, the film seems timely. Expect anguish, torture, solemnity and madness from Scorsese’s new epic.

Old fashioned Hollywood glitz is back with La La Land, (photo), opens in Madrid’s cinema on the 13th. The film is seen as an award-winner and is converting non musical fans into believers. Audiences and critics are falling for the romantic and melodic charms of the movie. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone lead a cast of young and beautiful people. Damien Chazelle who gave us the fantastic Whiplash two years ago is wearing the director’s baseball hat.

If fantasy and a centuries-old feud between werewolves and vampires is more your thing, bad-ass “death dealer” Kate Beckinsale reprises her role in Underworld: Blood Wars. Opening on the 13th, the sixth in the series offers epic battles and CGI soaked action.

M. Night Shyamalan – director of The Sixth Sense, brings another slice of weird with his new film Split. Split, (Title changed to Multiple in Spain) opening on the 20th, tells the story of a man with multiple personalities and the internal conflicts they bring and the actions they produce, including the kidnapping of women. James McAvoy plays the lead handling the two dozen personalities that his character struggles with. Expect thrills, strangeness and twists from the quirky Shyamalan.

Denzel Washington returns to the director’ chair for the third time with Fences. Fences stars Washington and the always fantastic Viola Davis as a couple who struggle with the racial tensions of 1950s’ America. If family strife and compelling performances are your thing Fences might be for you. In cinemas in Madrid from the 24th.

On the 27th Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk comes to Madrid’s screens. The film tells the story of a group of soldiers who prevail in a momentous firefight in Iraq and are given a heroes’ welcome on their return. Examining the psychological effects of the war and the American public’s support for the war, the film aims big questions at society and those that put soldiers in harm’s way. Ang Lee follows up the gorgeous Life of Pi with something visually and emotionally affecting.

Also released on the 27th is Ben Affleck’s new movie as director. Affleck returns to the novels of Denis Lehane for source material (Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island) and plays the lead in this prohibition era mob flick. Live by Night (Vivir de Noche in Spanish) looks great with attention to period detail and roaring twenties tommy gun action. It should be a blast.

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