New Year, New Me is the classic January mantra that many people fail to accomplish. Most can never escape the lure of pizza. In the wake of the massive sexual harassment and assault allegations that rocked Hollywood at the end of 2017, let’s hope the film industry can fulfil their “New Me” promises.
One of the biggest advocates for change is Jessica Chastain who gives a phenomenal performance in 2018’s first film. Molly’s Game (out now) focuses on Molly Bloom, a twenty-something who ended up running high-stake poker games for Hollywood elite. It’s a head rush of a movie powered by Aaron Sorkin’s staccato dialogue — Chastain fires words as if they’re bullets from the machines guns owned by the mafia Molly gets embroiled with. Sorkin also makes his directorial debut, handling his infamously difficult word play for the first time. He struggles on a visual level, but still, you can always close your eyes and just listen to his sculpted barbs.
The first film released that has been directly changed because of the recent scandal is All The Money In The World (5th Jan). Ridley Scott famously fired Kevin Spacey and reshot his scenes with Christopher Plummer at the last minute. The result features one of Plummer’s best recent performances. As oil baron J. Paul Getty, Plummer is the ultimate grumpy granddad — the richest man in the world who wouldn’t pay the ransom for his grandson (played by Charlie Plummer, no relation). Mark Wahlberg plays former CIA-agent Fletcher Chase and Michelle Williams is the mother stuck between her ex-father-in-law and the hostage takers. Her role is in the typical Scott mould, and it seems that Sir Ridley is the only person who could make this film so quickly.
From one grumpy old man to another: Darkest Hour (12th Jan) is Joe Wright and Gary Oldman’s version of Winston Churchill during the evacuation of Dunkirk. Wright is looking to bounce back after the bonkers Pan, aka the one where the pirates sing Nirvana (yep, that happened). In Oldman, he has found an actor with a similar taste for the theatrical and it is a commanding performance that should see him receive his second Oscar nomination. Lily James, Kristen Scott Thomas and Ben Mendelsohn also star.
Opening on the same week is another Oscar player, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (12th Jan). The winner of the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival focuses on a small town and a mother (played by Frances McDormand) dealing with the aftermath of a brutal rape and murder. The police, embodied by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, haven’t found any leads and director-writer Martin McDonagh probes the consciousness of Americana. McDormand has never been stronger and Rockwell, who unbelievably has never been nominated for an Oscar, should see his luck change.
As the biggest director in the world, Steven Spielberg is no stranger to awards. Even if he has been under-awarded, The Post (19th Jan) has been in the conversation ever since it was announced at the beginning of 2017. Spielberg has quickly pumped out his story of Kay Graham’s (Meryl Streep) tough decision to publish the Pentagon Papers while Nixon was waging war on the media. The parallel to modern times and a President screaming FAKE NEWS without understanding its definition is clean cut — but the director has made sure to make a primarily entertaining picture and has unleashed peak performances from Streep and Hanks. Is there a better reason to see a movie?
With the barrage of awards hitters arriving this month, it shouldn’t be surprising that Pixar are debuting Coco (19th Jan). The film has found itself the frontrunner in the Best Animated Picture competition by default, and that isn’t meant as a slight on this visually vibrant, culturally sensitive and emotionally resonant hit. 2017 wasn’t a strong year for animation, but Coco should give 2018 a great start.
Quickly following up Pixar’s latest is another animation studio without a dud in their back catalog: Aardman. The Bristol-based plasticine-loving animators are sending us back in time with Early Man (26th Jan). The cast is stacked with British A-listers including Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Maisie Williams, as caveman Dug (Redmayne) challenges the bronze age Lord Nooth (Hiddleston) to a football match to save his tribe. It should be zany fun, and is hopefully Aardman at its best.