It looks like you’re in for a treat with another bumper week. Riding into cinemas we find a heating oil empire, art dealing, casinos and the future of humanity. Quite a combination. And there’s also a real gem on DVD as well.
After Margin Call in 2011 and All Is Lost in 2013, J.C. Chandor is on a good run. To compound this in A Most Violent Year, he’s teamed up with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, both riding high themselves at the moment. Set in 1981, one of the most violent years in recent New York history, Chandor’s film makes gripping drama out of the heating oil business. There’s been barely a mention in the awards melee, but make sure you find space in your schedule.
On the other side of the Atlantic, we’re left pondering what more a debonair Englishman could possibly need beyond a lavish lifestyle, neat moustache and trusty manservant played by Paul Bettany. In Mortdecai, Johnny Depp’s mostly blithering British buffoon ends up racing around the globe to find a stolen painting and lost riches. After a run of disappointing films, maybe this can be the one to return Depp to his best.
The amount of professions Mark Wahlberg characters have been involved in could fill a job centre. That is if a job centre advertised for hotshot inventors, hotshot soldiers and hotshot porn stars. In The Gambler, a remake of the 1974 Karel Reisz/James Toback film, he plays a literature professor with a somewhat troubling gambling problem. Mixing with shady gangsters and one of his own students, it looks like the road to ruin is fast coming to an end in Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt’s latest feature.
A novelist originally, Alex Garland has become one of the most entertaining big screen science fiction writers of the past decade. Having scripted the likes of 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go and Dredd, he steps behind the camera for the first time to take on artificial intelligence in Ex Machina. With Oscar Isaac (again), Domhnall Gleeson and the fast rising Alicia Vikander (remember her from Testament of Youth last week, and look out for her again next week in Son of a Gun), he weaves a sinister tale of manipulation and deceit, all set on a remote estate. Not quite as incisive as its hopes to be, Ex Machina is still a great ride.
We’ve had a year of painful reminders of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s now lost talent as his final work trickled out. Now on DVD this week comes the best of them in the shape of A Most Wanted Man. Adapted from John le Carré’s 2008 novel, it’s a slow burn Hamburg set thriller that rewards patient attention. Hoffman is brilliant of course – isn’t he always – but the film is worthy of his efforts.
There you are then, that’s another packed release schedule complete. See you next week for secret agents, inflatable heroes, Thomas Pynchon and a gold heist.