January and February don’t have much going for them – post-Christmas lull, lousy weather – but one thing they do have in their favour is the annual glut of movies aiming for the glittering BAFTA and Oscar prizes. And, looking at the release schedule for the start of the New Year, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to retreat from the cold and watch a good film. Here’s my pick of what seems a pretty good bunch:
January kicks off with Dustin Hoffman’s debut behind the camera, Quartet (1 January), which I reviewed a few months back during the London Film Festival (The Show Must Go On, 20 October). A surprisingly British affair, set in a home for retired musicians, its attempts to address some of the issues of old age are undermined by the luxurious setting. But seeing the likes of Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins together on the screen is no bad thing.
Released in the same week later in the month are two of the potential big-hitters at the Oscars. Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (25 January) is already gathering a head of steam with nominations a-plenty at the Golden Globes. Daniel Day Lewis in the title role is looking a likely front runner for Best Actor Oscar and Sally Field almost as big a favourite for Best Supporting Actress. The film itself is getting plenty of plaudits and, as long as Spielberg steers clear of his tendency to sentimentality, his portrait of the last months in the life of the 16th president of the United States should be an engrossing watch.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden thriller, Zero Dark Thirty, is released on the same day and could easily upset the odds on Oscar night. She’s got form for doing it, after all – remember The Hurt Locker? Based on the plan to track down and eliminate the most wanted man in the world, it stars Jessica Chastain, who is rapidly developing into one of the screen’s most watchable actresses: her small part in Lawless (Brothers, Bootlegging and Blood, 2 September) was easily the best piece of acting in the film.
But January has more to offer. An Alpha male cast of Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin lead Gangster Squad (10 January), although in the trailer Mr Penn’s prosthetics look decidedly dodgy. Tom Hooper ventures into musical territory in Les Miserables, which opens on the following day and then the 18th brings us The Sessions, the story of a man with polio finding out what it’s like to have a physical relationship. With Helen Hunt (a likely Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee), William H Macey and John Hawkes in the main roles, this low-budget film could easily win a wider audience.
February starts with Hyde Park On Hudson (1 February), starring Bill Murray in fine form as President Roosevelt. I reviewed this during the London Film Festival (A Special Relationship, 16 October) and it’s definitely worth a look, especially for Olivia Colman as a brilliantly brittle Queen Elizabeth and Sam West as an eminently likeable King George VI.
The following week sees the arrival of Anthony Hopkins in a fat suit as Hitchcock (8 February), although so far it’s Helen Mirren getting all the attention in the role of his wife, Alma Reville. Low-budget British offering, Song For Marion, is also out on the 8th. One of the flurry of films about older people – Quartet, Amour etc – this stars Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp in the story of a grumpy old man who joins a choir when his wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
In a similar vein is Robot and Frank (8 March), a quirky heist movie with the ever-excellent Frank Langella as a retired jewel thief who, struggling with dementia, is bought a robot-butler by his children – and finds he can resume his former profession.
Later in the year, Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby (17 May) finally sees the light of day. Nobody has tackled F Scott Fitzgerald’s classic for nearly forty years – the previous version starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow – and, from the trailer, it seems we’re in for a typically extravagant Luhrmann approach. More troubling is that, while originally scheduled for release this year, it was put back by a good six months. That’s never a good sign. Hopefully a cast that includes Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire will prove the omens wrong.
2013 also offers some notable sequels – Iron Man 3 (26 April) with Robert Downey Junior donning the suit yet again, as well as the second in J J Abrams’ Star Trek prequels, Star Trek Into Darkness (17 May). And how could I forget the return, after an absence of six years, of John McClane, aka Bruce Willis, in A Good Day To Die Hard (14 February, for all you romantics)? Rumour has it the iconic vest has either been hung up for good or is in the wash.
After his success with Coriolanus, Ralph Fiennes is back behind the camera again – as well as in front of it – in The Invisible Woman, the story of Charles Dickens’ secret relationship with actress Nelly Ternan. The release date looks to be some time in autumn and, with Fiennes playing Dickens, his performance alone will be worth the ticket price.
So, the next couple of months could be busy ones for film lovers. As the year goes on, some of the release dates could change, so I’ll let you know if they do. In the meantime, I wish you all a great New Year, even better movie going – and no problems with Orange Wednesdays!