Be honest: how many movies outside of Star Wars: The Last Jedi did you see in cinemas in December? I myself am sitting pretty on zero, some Film Editor I am, ey? But December wasn’t only Star Wars month, it marked the end of a fantastic calendar year of movies in the UK which saw critical hits of prestige pictures like La La Land and Manchester by the Sea, and blockbusters like War for the Planet of the Apes and Blade Runner 2049, as well as some lesser seen gems such as 20th Century Women and The Meyerowitz Stories. But with a new year comes a new January and, for us film fans in the UK, the first chance to see a number of films touted for awards glory. So lets find out what January 2018 has in store for us…
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, dir. by Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell.
Release date: January 12th.
Writer/Director Martin McDonagh has slowly been building up to a film like Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The Irishman has established himself a distinct tone in his dark, dry and nihilistic comedies, both In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are led by top notch performances and driven by McDonagh’s sharp and realistic dialogue, whilst there are moments of absurdity and zaniness, McDonagh’s comic side is grounded and simplistic. But by adding in some heavier content, a mother (McDormand) pursuing the local police department over the unsolved murder of her daughter, and loading up on the talent on in one film (Rockwell and Harrelson return to work with McDonagh after Seven Psychopaths, McDormand makes her McDonagh debut), the director brings us Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, one of the big players this awards season. McDormand is a tour de force actress, currently the favourite to take home her second Academy Award for Best Actress, whilst Harrelson and Rockwell are receiving high acclaim, the latter among the favourites to take home a Best Supporting Actor statue. All in all, Three Billboards… looks to be a barn burner. McDonagh’s best film thus far? Probably…
Darkest Hour, dir. by Joe Wright
Starring: Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James.
Release date: January 12th.
Gary Oldman has forever been one of cinema’s greatest chameleons. An actor who commits wholeheartedly into every role, despite how weird his director may push him to be, Oldman holds nothing back. And now his time has come, forever the utility player and never quite the recipient of the top accolades, Oldman will stroll into the Dolby Theatre on March 4th and will likely leave with an Oscar. Such is the acclaim that Oldman’s latest role is drawing that critics are falling at his feet with praise. Oldman takes on the role of one Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, a biopic of the famous Prime Minister in a vital stage of his office, as war begins to engulf the world and the pressure mounts on Britain’s leader. Obviously Oldman’s performance is the main selling point here, but the rest of the cast is strong and Wright’s direction has been touted as solid, even among Oldman’s screen dominance (and a good biopic is a good biopic, no way around it). But to sell it to you in short, this is the Gary Oldman show, end of.
Coco, dir. by Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor.
Release date: January 19th.
Inside Out feels like a long time ago now. Indeed, it’s almost been three years since the release of Pixar’s last runaway hit. Yes, Finding Dory was a good film and made a tonne of money, but the critical and audience reception was less impressive, whilst still solid. Cars 3 was a bit of a non-entity, so the Pixar pool has felt a little barren for some time now. But never count out that jumping lamp, Coco is Pixar’s next hit. Launching initially in Autumn 2017 on the other side of the pond, becoming the highest grossing film in Mexican history and shooting to number one at the US box office and in the hearts of audiences, Coco has been nothing short of a resounding success. This entry into the Pixar canon tells a more grounded story than the talking fish, cars and emotions of years past: a young boy and aspiring musician travels into the land of the dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary musician in his own right. Yes it dabbles in the fantastical and mystical, but this is a film that looks to be coursing with emotion and heart, combining the vibrant aesthetics of its Mexican setting with the heartwarming story of one boy’s exploration of his own heritage. This is much a celebration of a culture as it is a wonderful film, nobody does heart, humour and sheer emotion quite like Pixar.
The Post, dir. by Steven Spielberg
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk.
Release date: January 19th.
Streep, Hanks, Spielberg. That is how the poster for The Post, the biopic centred on the release of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, reads. Need it say anymore? One of the greatest actresses of all time, America’s most beloved leading man and the greatest director ever, was there ever any doubt that The Post would be great? If that holy trinity isn’t enough for you there’s also a Sarah Paulson and a Bob Odenkirk in the mix, plus 2017’s underrated MVP Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water) in the ensemble, there are a whole host of extremely talented supporting players at hand, to go into too much detail on all of them would make this an eight-part special. But the core theme and idea examined by The Post is the reason for its hype and attention; this is about the struggle of the journalist against the government. In this era of fake news, people are more weary of, yet also relying on the news and the work of the journalist. The Post is about a scandal coming to light, given everything currently going on in the White House with its main occupant, this could be a film that strikes a startling chord any day now.
EDITOR’S PICK: Brad’s Status, dir. by Mike White
Starring: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Jermaine Clement, Luke Wilson.
Release date: January 5th.
I could use This Month in Film to further promote an awards contender that most have heard of, or a Pixar film that has a multi-generational appeal, or a film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, but this month I’d rather highlight a little picture that is likely to go flying under your radar – Brad’s Status. Written and directed by Mike White (who also wrote 21st century comedy masterclass School of Rock) brings us the story of the titular Brad (Ben Stiller) who, whilst taking his son (Austin Abrams) to several colleges on the East Coast, meets up with an old friend who has him questioning his life choices. It’s the typical midlife crisis, adult coming of age tale, but one that is in more than capable hands. Over the last few years, Stiller has proven himself to be a strong comedic-dramatic talent who excels in these types of roles, Abrams (the true star of Paper Towns) has been begging for a bigger role like this to further prove his acting chops, and White has proven himself when it comes to producing a hilarious and touching film. And Brad’s Status looks to be a film that is all about its performances, characters and dialogue, a heartwarming indie flick that charms, entertains and provokes thought, all in one neat little package. So see the big awards hitters and the Pixar mega hit, but make time and spare some of your Christmas money for Brad’s Status, barely a week into 2018 and it already looks like it’s going to be the year’s quintessential charming little indie film.