Advent calendar doors are swinging open as the days remaining before Christmas tick by. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid festive hype up until now, you’ll find it impossible from here in. The cinema is usually no exception, but this week offers respite from forced celebrations, an offer I suggest you accept.
Posters have been splashed everywhere for St. Vincent. With comedy royals Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy on the cast list, appeal should be wide. Murray plays aging grouch Vincent who finds himself looking after McCarthy’s young son. Cue plenty of comic opportunities for Vincent to take his charge to inappropriate venues while dishing out questionable advice. And by the end, lessons will no doubt have been learnt by all. Just the remedy to escape from intimating Christmas lists.
Scottish director Kevin Macdonald doesn’t like to confine himself to the same locations. He’s climbed mountains, marched with the Romans, fraternised with dictators and schemed on Capitol Hill. Wherever his films take him, they are invariably tense affairs. Black Sea continues to run with this plunging Jude Law into the ocean to search for a submarine laden with treasure. Working for shadowy figures, it’s a fair bet not everything will go to plan. Perhaps not a relaxing antidote to holiday madness, but certainly an entertaining one.
A new Wong Kar-wai film is always worth a look, even if it’s taken The Grandmaster an age to get here. Playing as the Surprise Film at last year’s London Film Festival after opening Berlin in February 2013, it finally achieves a full release in the UK. Based on the life of acclaimed Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man, the film follows his journey to preeminent martial arts practitioner before the Sino-Japanese war broke out, the hardship suffered during the conflict, and his re-emergence in Hong Kong (where he was later to train Bruce Lee). The shortened cut playing in the UK harms the story but the action has Kar-wai at his best.
By far the better of the Greek demigod’s two big screen outings this year (the other the woefully shoddy The Legend of Hercules), Dwayne Johnson’s passion project Hercules pops up on DVD this week. It’s big, glossy, stupid and kind of fun. Based on a graphic novel, Hercules is a mercenary leader with a heart who gets sucked into the evil machinations of local kingpins. The end result: fighting and fireworks. And Ian McShane as a morbid seer.
Enjoy escaping from Christmas worries. Next week there’s only one show in town. See you in Middle Earth.