Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final performance, Seth Rogen and Zac Efron butting heads and Bond… James Bond
After he tragically passed away earlier this year, Philip Seymour Hoffman left behind a trio of final performances for us to savour. After the previously released God’s Pocket, Hoffman played the wonderfully named Plutarch Heavensbee in The Hunger Games‘ two-part finale Mockingjay, unfortunately incomplete (Hoffman died before the end of production). Then there is Hoffan’s final, finished role: Günther Bachmann, an agent for the German government in espionage thriller A Most Wanted Man, out this week in UK cinemas. When half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) arrives in Hamburg illegally, Bachmann leads a team to intercept Karpov to collect intel on the local Muslim community’s suspected dealings with Al Queda. Adapted from a novel by acclaimed spy writer John le Carré (the pen behind Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), the film also stars Rachel McAdams, Robin Wright and Willem Dafoe – but, undoubtedly, all eyes will be on Hoffman, and a collected lamentation for one of our generation’s greatest stars.
Stop-motion animation house Laika (Coraline, ParaNorman) return with another strangely sadistic fairytale, The Boxtrolls, all about an orphan boy raised by very Minion-ish monsters living underground. Brit film Pride details the true story of a group of LGBT activists who strived to raise money to help those affected by the 1980’s Miner’s Strike, despite the reluctance of the community. The film is packed to the rafters with British talent, including Bill Nighy, Dominic West, Paddy Considine and Imelda Staunton. And, if your nostalgic buds are tingling, you can recapture the Technicolor glory of 1939’s family classic The Wizard Of Oz, with Judy Garland’s Dorothy, her three wanting companions and her little dog, too, all skipping down the yellow brick road for the first time in IMAX 3D. It’s released for one week only, so don’t miss out on all that whimsy!
Who would have ever thought that the double-act of Frat Pack regular Seth Rogen and former Disney brat Zac Efron would have made for A-grade hi-jinks? Nicholas Stoller, that’s who! The Get Him To The Greek director takes his leading men and plops each one either side of a picket fence to inevitably lock horns in domestic warfare for Bad Neighbours (simply called Neighbors in the US, because, presumably, they’re all bad). When Efron and his college fraternity buddies (including Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse) move in next door, new parents Rogen and Rose Byrne launch a series of wacky schemes to rid their ‘hood of the boys’ raucous behaviour. Like the ‘best’ of American comedies, it’s raunchy stuff, but with an added whiff of generational anxiety and reminiscence on missed chances.
For those up for a more serious effort, A Thousand Times Good Night casts Juliette Binoche as a top-tier photojournalist, whose work out on the battlefield is causing concern for her troubled husband (Game Of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Blue Ruin is the feature debut from US writer/director Jeremy Saulnier, about an unassuming man (Macon Blair) whose quest for vengeance doesn’t quite go to plan. A slow-burn revenge thriller with a cruelly fun twist. Finally, the late Fast And Furious star Paul Walker takes the lead for Brick Mansions, a remake of French action flick District 13, as an undercover cop teaming up with an ex-con (the original’s David Belle) to take down a crime lord in control of Detroit. Expect parkour a-plenty.
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As a hardcore Bond abhorrer, I was very pleasantly surprised by 2012’s outing, Skyfall, which ended up becoming one of my favourite films of the year. Why is that, exactly? It could be the tight direction from Sam Mendes, whose experience in tragedy-hued dramas suited the series’ apparent ‘older and wiser’ maturity as James Bond (Daniel Craig) gets a taste of his own mortality. It could be the sterling performances from Craig, Judi Dench’s regal M and Javier Bardem’s smooth but sinister baddie Silva. It could even be the masterful job done by the Coens’ regular DoP Roger Deakins, who manages to make the sprawl of central London look slightly less dreary grey than usual. I know one thing: it certainly wasn’t those CGI komodos…
You can see more of the wonderful Judi Dench with her Oscar-nominated lead in Philomena, and Javier Bardem pops up, still with terrible hair, in Cormac McCarthy sleeze-fest The Counsellor, both showing on Sky’s NOW TV service. Over on Amazon Prime Instant, meanwhile, Vin Diesel’s muscles ripple and eyes glow for sci-fi sequel Riddick, and Matt Damon ponders the afterlife for Clint Eastwood melodrama Hereafter.