Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Big Issue: The Hot Seat

Summer and cinema go so wonderfully well together. They are sultry, sibilant tones. But let’s be honest: it’s really all about the air-conditioning. Who hasn’t made that sweaty dash to escape the summer sun for a couple of hours of popcorn crunching thrills and spills? Then there are school holidays to consider, when the kids have gone prune-like from the pool and start nipping at heels for alternative forms of entertainment. And come Christmas, the dire need to escape relative-infused revelry is just the thing to get bums on cinema seats. Or, in a more civilised fashion, there are the plethora of outdoor cinemas that pop up every summer, where you can revel in the long, warm nights, a glass of wine and some cinema under the stars.

So whether you’re escaping the heat, avoiding your relatives, entertaining the kids or kick starting your brain, here’s the lowdown on summer near the silver screen...

Boxing Day Bonanza
It’s well worth asking Santa for cinema vouchers this year, because Boxing Day is going to be a doozy. First up we have the staggering Steven Spielberg double bill: the deliriously anticipated The Adventures of TinTin and the slightly tougher sell, War Horse. With TinTin Spielberg letting his imagination run away with him in his dazzling use of performance-capture technology. Fans of Hergé's beloved series won’t be disappointed by this boisterous romp, a world away from the battlefields of World War 1 where War Horse is set. Still, this Lassie-esque story may well hoof at your heartstrings.

Other big names this Boxing Day include George Miller’s Happy Feet 2 3D, which will surely set toes a’ tapping. The Iron Lady will set tongues wagging about Meryl Streep’s Oscar chances, as the stellar actress coifs up to play former UK PM Margaret Thatcher. But Streep will have a bit of competition from Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs, which is an impeccably made but frustratingly slight tale of a fastidious woman passing as a male butler. It's beautifully acted, but ultimately lacks cinematic scope.

Matt Damon could use a butler or at the very least some serious help on the hom front as he stars with Scarlett Johansson in We Bought a Zoo. This is based on Benjamin Mee's bestselling 2008 memoir (he rally did buy a zoo!), the film adaptation has received heartwarming treatment by director Cameron Crowe (Jerry McGuire, Almost Famous).

Ben Stiller is the final big gun this Christmas, though mercifully this isn’t another of the Focker franchise. Instead he’s teamed up with Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick and Casey Affleck for this Bernie Madoff-inspired, Tower Heist. This film follows a group of hardworking guys taking revenge on a fraudster who fleeced them of their pensions. 

School holiday hits:
Kid-friendly films this summer include the dashing Puss in Boots (8 December). Though not as strong, this Shrek spin-off will probably clog up letters to Santa with pleas for kittens. Then there’s Dolphin Tale (15 December), which fits squarely in the Free Willy camp, although Morgan Freeman makes for an interesting draw card. Less appealing is Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (1 January): those squeaky voices can’t be good salve for sore heads come New Years Day. But on the other hand, The Muppets (15 January) are absolutely worth getting excited about. This frisky and uproariously fun reunion of our favourite puppets will leave you smiling like Fozzie Bear.

Escape the relatives:
Fleeing the nest means you’re in desperate need of popcorn and mindless distraction, so Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (15 December) has got to top your escape agenda. Tom Cruise always serves up a high-octane action jaunt, but for the forth M:I film, he’s doing so with animation auteur Brad Bird (The IncrediblesRatatouille) at the helm. Now this we have to see.  

Much less pressing, but suitably mindless is New Year’s Eve (8 December). It looks as thoroughly silly as its predecessor Valentine’s Day (2010), but there’s still something about Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman) and a great swathe of Hollywood stars (Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker and even Robert DeNiro), that might manage to sparkle.

Stop the sunstroke:
If you need to fight off the sun-soaked drowsiness and kick-start your brain, then look out for Martha Marcy May Marlene (19 January - nb. now 2 February). This festival darling might star an Olsen sister (Elizabeth), but it’s an utterly electric psychological thriller about a girl who escapes from a cult. More cerebral drama comes from Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier's latest film, Melancholia (15 December). Hauntingly beautiful visuals and a career best performance from Kirsten Dunst make this dark adventure a must see. As is Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy (19 January). The brilliant adaptation of John le Carré 1974 novel sports some of Britain’s best acting talent. Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy deliver nothing short of a cinema master class.

So there's your entertaining, escapist, extraordinary summer of cinema sorted. Let's hope the air-conditioning holds up. 

Published in The Big Issue #395

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