We've been on Oscar alert in this week's set of new films. One of the Best Picture nominees, The Descendants, is now playing at cinemas all over town, and other interesting releases include the cinematic adaptation of Stieg Larsson's best-selling novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; the Clint Eastwood-directed biopic, J. Edgar, and the much-praised drama, We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Know for his dark, acerbic comedies, like the acclaimed Sideways (2005) and the sadly underrated Election (1999), director Alexander Payne is back after a five-year hiatus with this Oscar-nominated film (five noms, including best film, director and actor, for George Clooney). Clooney stars as a Hawaiian man who tries to reconnect with his daughters after his wife goes into a coma as the result of a boat accident. The premise might sound a little bland, but expect to find Payne's incisive brand of humour.
Dir. Alexander Payne, USA, 2011 (R). George Clooney, Judy Greer, Shailene Woodley. 115 mins.
This fairly run-of-the-mill mystery involves the unsolved disappearance of a millionaire's granddaughter. However, a delightfully unexpected find arrives in the shape of one of the investigators, Lisbeth Salander, a disturbed, weird young woman and an intriguing and strong female character.
Played by Rooney Mara in an Oscar nominated performance, Lisbeth is the perfect mix of vulnerable and independent – weighed down by a tortuous past, she has to fight to regain control of her life and is not afraid to resort to any means necessary to do it. It's interesting to note that the book's original title, Men Who Hate Women, is restored in the Portuguese version of the film's name.
Dir. David Fincher, USA, 2011 (R). Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Stellan Skarsgård. 148 mins.
J. Edgar Hoover held the position of Director of FBI for 48 years (from 1935 to 1972), and for a long time he was the face of law enforcement in America. Hoover was a polarising figure, publicly admired, feared or reviled, depending on who you asked. This Clint Eastwood-directed biopic focuses not only on Hoover's public persona, but on the fragile balance between his career, his image and his tumultuous private life.
Dir. Clint Eastwood, USA, 2011 (R). Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts. 137 mins.
The plot of The Ledge is chock-full of melodramatic elements, beginning with Detective Hollis Lucetti getting a harsh reality check: he's sterile and has been his whole life. The scene is followed by an exchange between Lucetti and his wife, when he demands to know the identity of their son’s actual father. As if betrayal wasn't fertile enough grounds for suspense and tragedy, the film changes focus to another man, standing on a ledge and seemingly about to jump, when his story is connected to Lucetti's.
Dir. Matthew Chapman, USA, 2011 (R). Terrence Howard, Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson. 101 mins.
This critically acclaimed film uses a large-scale tragedy – a school shooting committed by a teenaged boy – and then follows the student’s grieving mother as she deals with her guilt, while exploring taboos that surround the relationship between a mother and her children. Through a series of flashbacks, the film dissects the strange association between Eva and her son Kevin; while the two appear disconnected on every level from early in the boy’s life, her struggles increase over the years as she attempts to deal with her son's erratic behaviour.
Dir. Lynne Ramsay, USA/UK, 2011 (R). Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller. 112 mins.