New to cinemas this week are Selma, Citizen Four, The Interview, Fifty Shades of Grey and What We Did On Our Holiday.
Selma is the story of a movement. The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s Selma tells the real story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo, a mighty performance) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. This is a very significant film, immensely powerful and superbly written, directed and performed, that was shamefully overlooked at the Oscars this year. It is focused, and yet bigger than the great man at the heart of this period of history.
Citizen Four – In January 2013, Laura Poitras (recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellowship and co-recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service) was several years into making a film about surveillance in the post-9/11 era when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “Citizen Four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Citizen Four has won just about every major Documentary award, and is the firm favourite to win the Oscar. It has been called by one critic the ‘film of the 21st Century’. It will be essential viewing.
The Interview – In this action-comedy, Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen) run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show “Skylark Tonight.” When they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show, they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As Dave and Aaron prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them, perhaps the two least-qualified men imaginable, to assassinate Kim Jong-un. The laughs do dry up in this very silly (but not dumb) film for a while, but whenever the Franco/Rogen bromance is on show it is consistently hilarious. Not worthy of all of the fuss, which is the unfortunate baggage everyone has to take into it.
Fifty Shades of Grey – E.L. James’ kinky best-seller gets the big screen treatment with this Universal Pictures/Focus Features co-production. The steamy tale details a masochistic relationship between a college student and a businessman, whose desires for extreme intimacy pen from secrets in his past. All reports are that the source material is abysmal, which will very likely translate into a pretty terrible film, but this will attract a huge audience. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson.
What We Did On Our Holiday – Doug and Abi are taking their three children on a trip to Scotland for a big family gathering. They are in the midst of a difficult divorce, and have asked the kids to keep it a secret from their extended family. But as the inevitable feuds kick in, a completely unexpected turn of events involving the children causes further tensions to rise to the surface. And with the repercussions that ensue – hilarious and emotional in equal measure – the family are forced to put aside their differences and work together or else risk losing what they hold most dear. This has a top cast – Pike, Tennant and Connelly – and looks to be quite charming and pleasant. Probably a wait-for-DVD option, though.
Weekly Recommendation: A big, big week. Something for everyone. Fifty Shades of Grey will overwhelm everything else in BO takings, but it is Selma (and I suspect Citizen Four) that you MUST SEE. It will also be interesting to see how The Interview goes, given that half the country has probably already watched it by now. If you haven’t, it’s a good time.