Hollywood really needs to stop making competing films about the same thing. J.R.R.Tolkien is the next in line for this dubious honour with two biopics on the way. No Tolkien this year but 2014 has gifted us two big screen Hercules smash-ups. The second one arrives this week alongside good Nicolas Cage and classic Orson Welles.
I’m sure Dwayne Johnson will be sending Renny Harlin a very generous Christmas present this year. After the impressively abysmal The Legend of Hercules a few months ago there is almost no way Brett Ratner’s version won’t be better. Already packing a better cast and better special effects, it can’t fail to improve on its rival. That’s not to say it will be any good, but expect rugged sword and sandals fun with plenty of acting through the eyebrows. And if it ever starts to drag, just think back to Harlin’s film and your mood will immediately turn positive again.
David Gordon Green was once the belle of the indie ball before shifting to mainstream comedy with mixed results (The Sitter anyone?). With Joe this week, it looks like the return to his roots that began with Prince Avalanche last year continues. Nicolas Cage plays the ex-con who becomes an unlikely role model for 15 year old Gary (Tye Sheridan of The Tree of Life and Mud fame). Make sure you take the chance to revel in a talented filmmaker loosening the shackles once again.
Remembered mostly for its iconic final showdown, The Lady from Shanghai has much more to offer. And luckily, it’s been remastered and rereleased. Orson Welles stars and directs (and puts on a ropey Irish accent) as the working stiff who gets mixed up in lurid crime noir after falling for Rita Hayworth. It’s atmospheric, intriguing and constantly stylish. Go rediscover it now!
By all rights this should have been a travesty. Yet somehow, a film about a bunch of miniature plastic bricks turned into a smart and funny delight. Now out on DVD, The Lego Movie follows Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), the alleged saviour of creativity and freedom after the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) tries to take over the entire world. Chock full of great sight gags, clever cultural references and a subversive story, it’s a corporate cash-in that miraculously feels like the opposite. Everything isn’t quite perfect but it’s not far off.
Next week sees Guardians of the Galaxy (yet another film with Chris Pratt) finally arrive. Find out then if Marvel’s gamble pays off.