Oh what a bumper weekend of releases. After the slow trickle of recent months, distributors have gone mad with no less than four primetime films for audiences to sink their teeth into. Throw in one of the year’s very best on DVD and there is little more a person could ask for.
This first one up is a real beauty. Adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel, an author whose work seems to translate to film with alarmingly successful results, Carol is different from the dark thrillers you might be used to from her pen (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley etc). It tells the story of a burgeoning romance in repressed 1950s America between a jaded society woman (Cate Blanchett) and a tentative young shop worker/photographer (Rooney Mara). Blanchett and Mara are simply brilliant, as is the assured direction from Todd Haynes who might just have produced his finest work to date. It’s a hard call, but it’s probably the best film I’ve seen this year.
Carol is so good it has bumped a new film from Steven Spielberg down to second this week. And Bridge of Spies is not without its share of critical acclaim. With Russia rattling sabres once again, it’s almost like the Cold War never ended. So here’s a stroll into that decades long conflict as Tom Hanks’ lawyer negotiates a prisoner swap between the USA and the USSR to try and get downed U-2 pilot Gary Powers back. If Spielberg and Hanks aren’t enough, there’s an original script from English playwright Matt Charman, later polished by the Coen Brothers. And still the real star might be Mark Rylance as the Soviet intelligence officer offered up in return for Powers.
Johnny Depp has not been on the greatest run in recent years. His work has ranged from mediocre to downright awful as he sleepwalks through roles, playing a parody version of himself. The good news is he’s back acting again in Black Mass, playing notorious Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger. Scott Cooper’s film is a decent crime drama, and while Depp’s character is a little one-note, he plays him with relish, his performance dripping in sinister charm. There’s also able support from a number of actors, most notably Joel Edgerton as the FBI agent practically in cahoots with Bulger. There’s far worse ways to spend a couple of hours.
The Good Dinosaur was always facing an uphill battle. Forced to follow Inside Out, Pixar’s best film for years, it was destined to fall short of the same heights. And yet even if early reaction has not been as strong, it seems they’ve delivered another winner with this tale of an alternate universe in which dinosaurs did not become extinct. Instead, they live alongside humans, and in the case of Arlo, a young Apatosaurus, even befriend these small, bipedal creatures. Amidst all the hard-hitting drama this week, here’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Speaking of Inside Out, you can now grab a copy yourself. Journeying into the mind of Riley, a hockey-loving 11-year-old, we find a host of emotions rattling around in her head as she struggles to come to terms with a move from her Midwestern home to San Francisco. Inside Out offers a fascinating look at what makes us who we are as a number of emotions led by Joy (Amy Poehler) try to work together to ease the transition. Of course, it all goes horribly wrong for a while, necessitating a desperate rescue mission and much soul searching. In Pixar’s proud tradition, it’s a complex film that raises laughter and tears in equal measure. It’s a brilliant way to end a brilliant week.
After all that, next week has a tough act to follow. We’ll see what Frankenstein and Terence Davies can manage.