Starring: Kate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin - Dir: Woody Allen
Woody Allen still turns out a film a year and most of them (the brief blip of the ‘London films' notwithstanding), are pretty good. Okay, so some people are perpetually irritated by his work, primarily for what they perceive as sloppiness and insularity, but watching a bunch of great actors perform what have become a series of entertaining miniatures is, for most, an annual treat.
This year's edition is centred round a barnstorming turn from Kate Blanchett, who's unsurprisingly up for every acting gong going. She plays the titular character, newly un-rich, having abandoned her crooked investment banking husband (Baldwin) and imposed her hurricane-like presence, selfishness, and self-centred anger upon her sister (Hawkins).
While trying to start again she meets the charming and eligible Peter Skaasgard. But is the past really so easy to leave behind? Like many of Allen's best, this is a closely-observed morality play. It's not really a comedy, though there is plenty of wit on display. Everyone is good – it's easy to lose sight of Hawkins' impressively understated work – and Blanchett just ploughs over them all (in the best way possible). It's exhilarating to watch, like seeing a runaway train slowly derailing.
Geoffrey Rush takes full advantage of another plum role in The Best Offer, an elegant outing from Guiseppi Tornatore (Cinema Paradiso), which examines art in its many facets. Rush is a reclusive antiques dealer, who is lured from seclusion by a similarly reclusive heiress. Through his obsession with her he finds his life transformed. It's really quite wonderful, a class act in every way, with great work from Jim Sturgess, the enchanting Sylvia Hoeks and (always a treat) Donald Sutherland. There's also a lovely score from Ennio Moriconne.
Unlike the Fast and Furious franchise, Riddick didn't need a dose of Dwayne Johnson to be revitalised. Just a trip back to where it all started with a small scale “trapped on a nasty planet” action thriller. While the sequel went all space opera on Riddick's ass, here he's back to a set-up simple and brutal enough to showcase what the character does best: kill deadly aliens and pesky mercenaries while grunting potential catch phrases. It would seem churlish to complain.
The East has Brit Marling playing an underground security agent, who infiltrates the titular eco-terrorist group. Acting-wise they're a classy outfit (Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Shiloh Fernandez, Toby Kebbell), and with her boss portrayed by an icy Patricia Clarkson it's not long before she starts getting a little over-sympathetic. It's a clever film with a fair amount of tension and good investment into its characters, even if the final whole never really exceeds the sum of the parts.
7 Boxes is, as far as I'm aware, the first film I've ever seen from Paraguay (subtitles in Spanish) and it's a bunch of fun which has won prizes at festivals worldwide. It's an easy set-up: 17-year-old Victor is scraping a living in the markets – rife with crims of every stripe – with his eye on a new cellphone. To raise money he takes an impromptu job, delivering the titular boxes, unaware that their contents are widely sought-after. Soon everyone is on his trail and a kinetic chase ensues. Skilfully choreographed.
Of all of last year's much-slated blockbusters, the absolutely worst-slated – worse even than The Lone Ranger – was RIPD . Which almost makes me concerned to say that I quite enjoyed it. It's not Shakespeare, but if you want a light silly romp that does a Ghostbusters take on Men In Black, then have at it. Jeff Bridges, pushing his True Grit sheriff to logical extremes, and Ryan Reynolds, are dead cops protecting the mean street from supernatural life. Not smart but so what?
Paranoia is a blatant Wall Street rip off that, derivative though it is, should still have been a lot better. Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman are rival tech billionaires, and Liam Hemsworth is the ambitious young pawn caught in their industrial spying games. The clichés mount relentlessly until an anti-climactic finale.