Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Boredom & Irony

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait is one of the most vacuous, pointless and, yes, pretentious, films I think I've ever come across. I admit, I'm not really a football fan, but even those in the audience who obviously were had been reduced to glazed, slumping forms by the time this finally drew itself to a close. That was, of course, if they hadn't left the theatre already. Zidane says it's going to follow the footballer closely for an entire match, but it can't even stick to its own rules- why all the jumps between the live match and pixellations of it on a tv screen? Why the half-time deliberations over what was happening in the world that same day? Why the hollow, pompous subtitles ostensibly telling us Zidane's thoughts? Come to think of it, why did you even do this in the first place? Zidane tells us nothing other than footballers sweat and spit a lot, and I think pretty much anyone could have told you that. Grade: F

I love- LOVE- the fact that when I bought my ticket to Blood Diamond- which does, if nothing else, make its intentions to open people's eyes to the corruption in parts of the diamond trade- they handed me a leaflet (see left) with which I could win an £8000 diamond. I do wonder, sometimes, if the people who run these cinemas actually know anything about the films they show beyond their titles. There's a scene in a film where someone's- I forget who- voiceover talks of the corruption in the trade as the picture shows an atypical man slipping an enormous diamond ring onto his fiancee's finger. I'd say the message here is pretty clear- get off this jewellery obsession, or at least ask before you leap. Thankfully that diamond there is, well, too big to actually be one of the blood diamond's of the film, but still. Oh, and the film itself is a bit bombastic, which rather dilutes its message, but it's rather more exciting than I expected (it is from the director of The Last ZZZamurai, after all) and I was quite gripped by it until it decided to turn Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou into some strange African odd couple and have them trek across the jungle, and then descend into cliched histrionics. But worthy of those sound noms it got, at least. Grade: C+

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Jazz Singer and The French Connection

[The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927): Okay. Let's get one thing straight. I realize that this is, in the history of cinema, a very important film. People call it "the first sound film", or something along those lines, and, as a marker for the advent of the use of ears in the cinema, I suppose it has some lasting value. But... I'm sorry. It's just not good. At all. History has been extraordinarily kind to The Jazz Singer, and in more ways the one. The first thing you'll notice when you finally take it upon yourself to watch this 'landmark' is that, well, they barely talk at all. In fact, apart from one brief scene between Jack Robin (Al Jolson) and his mother (Eugenie Besserer), the only sound of display here is the scenes were Jolson (excruciatingly) sings. The rest of the movie relies of the silent cinema tradition of intertitles telling us shorthand what's being said. Is this really the first talkie if they barely talk? I'm not really qualified to make that judgment. However, I would say I'm qualified to say that, as a film, straight-up, The Jazz Singer is rather bad. Apart from the fact that Jolson- a very popular star in his day- is one of the most annoying people I've ever had to watch, The Jazz Singer repeatedly strikes some dull and often offensive notes. Yes, there's blackface going on here, for no apparent reason, as well as a horrific line in "He sounds like Jakie, but he looks like his shadow!"- which made my fellow classmates gasp. The maudlin story is very threadbare and uninvolving- an interior battle between career and faith- and ends very predictably and melodramatically. I suppose I have to give The Jazz Singer a reasonable grade just for what it signifies in the course of film history- but if I were you, I'd let it be. Grade: C]

[The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971): Before seeing William Friedkin's superb Bug (currently pending release in 2007) I'd never actually seen anything by the Oscar-winning director, not even his infamous The Exorcist, so I jumped at the chance to watch 1971's 'Best Picture' The French Connection, though, to be frank, I wasn't expecting much from it. On it's limited plot, though, The French Connection manages to hang a lot of stuff: the grittiness here was, perhaps, a first for a mainstream action film, as was the anti-hero in Gene Hackman's volatile 'Popeye' Doyle. Much of the central section of the film consists of Hackman and his fellow police officers tracking various suspects around New York- this is done silently, stealthily and with skill, making a potentially deadening sequence quietly thrilling. Perhaps the film goes a bit off-track with it's poorly orchestrated shootout sequence, as well as a confusing final shot (in both senses of the word), but The French Connection makes a strong case for the awards it recieved and holds up surprisingly well. Oh, and there's that car chase too, of course, which immediatly makes the case for the Best Scene Ever. But you know all about that. Grade: B+]

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Friends with Money (Holofcener, 2006)

Time for a review...

Friends with Money (Nicole Holofcener, 2006)

Nicole Holofcener obviously has some issues with depressed white rich American women- perhaps because she's one herself- because it seems to be all she can take it on herself to write about. I don't think it's possible to deny that Friends with Money is rather biased towards it's female characters- the men here are, in order of the negativity that the film gives them, angry, disgusting, effeminate and frivolous. I suppose it's redundant to say this, though, since, rather unusually for a Hollywood film, Friends with Money is both and directed by a woman, and the number of female auteurs in the world is distressingly little. But something about Friends with Money is a bit nasty, a bit self-centred- oh, please, moan yet again about your upper-crust depression! The main thing I find wrong with this film is that it seems to equate money to happiness- you could make a ranking scale of wealthiness of the four friends here, and then make a graph comparing it to happiness, and the results would be conclusive: dollars=contentment. Joan Cusack is the one with the big bucks here, and I suppose it says something about Holofcener's preoccupation with showing us these women's problems that she hardly has a storyline. Meanwhile, the film is virtually obsessed with Jennifer Aniston, who, surprise surprise, is the poor one of the group.

Friends with Money clearly thinks it's most valuable asset is Miss Aniston- from it's coy, built-up introduction of the actress amongst the standard introductory montage of all four lead characters (by contrast, the first thing we see of Cusack, Frances McDormand and Holofcener-stalwart Catherine Keener are their faces) to dressing her up in a French maid's outfit, Holofcener seems to want to flaunt it's most bankable star in every way it can, and it is perhaps a shame that Aniston never really repays the adoration poured upon her by her director. Barely a smile passes by Aniston's lips here, no chances to display the comic wit she has previously displayed, and she is even lacking the rather galling expression she introduced to good effect in 2002's The Good Girl.

If we were to go up the chain of wealthiness (and we shall), we would next find the worn display of Catherine Keener, who works as a screenwriter with her husband (Jason Isaacs) and is selfishly having a second story put on her spacious bungalow, not realising she is blocking the neighbour's view. Forgive me, Cathy, but when did a view become so important? Perhaps Holofcener's greatest crime here is giving Keener, who has starred in all of her films (she headlined the last one, the astute if uneven Lovely & Amazing), such a disparate part. In fact, Holofcener does this to pretty much every actor, unsurprising when you note that the film clocks in at a paltry 85 minutes, never fleshing out the various plots she introduces, and never giving much closure- so, is McDormand's husband (Simon McBurney) actually gay? Why is McDormand so angry? And what, exactly, was the purpose of Cusack and her husband (Greg Germann)?

I had much the same problem with Friends with Money that I did with Lovely & Amazing- each seemed to end permaturely, cutting everything off quite suddenly and leaving both characters and audience hanging in mid-air. However, while Lovely & Amazing, with it's more confined plot strands and fewer characters, made this sudden end quite effective- it was an effective snapshot of a family's unsatisfied lives- Friends with Money never even answers it's most basic questions, most notably this: how did Olivia (Aniston) ever become friends with these other women, all richer and older than she? Olivia seems so at odds with her friends, so different in status and goals, that it never really becomes apparent why they have her as a friend.

But thankfully, Friends with Money isn't completely worthless. There's some good stuff here, particularly in performance: from the understated performance of an underused Joan Cusack, some solid supporting work from Jason Isaacs and Simon McBurney, and, in particular, the sympathetic rage and tiredness of Frances McDormand. McDormand's character Jane is, for no apparent reason, a bitter and angry woman, yelling at people who park in 'her' space and who cut in front of her at an Old Navy counter. All this pointless behaviour could easily have made Jane highly dislikable, and indeed, there's little in the script to combat this- but McDormand's vulnerability and exasperation make Jane's angry comprehensible, even relatable. Oh, and I don't mean to be too critical of Holofcener- there are some good observations here, including Keener's shock at being shown what her extension is doing, and the awkward relationship between Olivia and the boorish Mike (Scott Caan), who 'helps' her with her cleaning jobs and then demands a cut of the pay, and avoids looking at her during sex.

But, ultimately, Friends with Money can't help seeming a tad redundant- we've seen most of this stuff before, even from Holofcener herself, and, despite the quality cast that's been gathered and the solid production work on display- costume is particularly adept, with the richest women dressing themselves down while dressing Aniston up- it all feels rather empty and light-headed. These friends may have money, and that might make them happier, but I doubt it'll have the same effect on their audience. Grade: C+

Friday, January 19, 2007

Oscar Predictions

*= actual nominees

Best Picture:

- * Babel
- * The Departed
- Dreamgirls
- * Little Miss Sunshine
- * The Queen

Alternate: * Letters from Iwo Jima

This seems to be the line-up that most people are predicting- perhaps Little Miss Sunshine and Babel weren't too secure before, but after their respective PGA and Globe wins, it'd be hard for anything else to wedge itself in. I'd say, actually, that if anything's going it'll be The Queen- doubtful, though. Too bad Children of Men never got any traction here. Not that anyone tried to help it.

Best Director:
- * Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
- * Stephen Frears, The Queen
- * Paul Greengrass, United 93
- * Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, Babel
- * Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Alternate: Alfonso Cuaron, Children of Men

Am I being too hasty dismissing Bill Condon (Dreamgirls)? Perhaps. But for some reason I don't think he'll get in- Dreamgirls isn't quite as popular as everyone expected (even with it's Globe win) and it's hardly the direction making everyone go ga-ga over it. Scorsese and Innaritu are the only locks, if you ask me- Frears is a strange sleeper who no one's raving over but appears without fail. Greengrass and Eastwood are the most obvious "auteurs" to slip in here- can both make it?

Best Actor:
- Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
- * Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
- * Peter O'Toole, Venus
- * Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
- * Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Alternate: Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat

Missed: * DiCaprio in Blood Diamond

O'Toole, Whitaker and Smith (why? I mean I haven't seen it but I just don't GET him) are locks, DiCaprio might get in for the wrong film (Blood Diamond) or (please god no) get shafted in a vote split. And Gosling... well, there isn't really anyone bar Cohen who could get in here, and that just seems off. And, shockingly, Gosling is actually deserving!

Best Actress:
- * Penelope Cruz, Volver
- * Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
- * Helen Mirren, The Queen
- * Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
- * Kate Winslet, Little Children

Alternate: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby

Yawn. This is like, the most obvious line-up ever. None of them are bad performances (though I've yet to see Dench)- in fact, they're all very good, especially Cruz, but please, I need variety! I feed on it!

Best Actor In A Supporting Role:
- * Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
- * Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
- * Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
- * Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
- Jack Nicholson, The Departed

Alternate: * Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

The most wide-open acting category- anyone could really get in here, although Murphy is pretty much locked up. Otherwise, there's major doubts. Is Nicholson really a sure bet (he sure doesn't deserve it)? Will they get over Haley's creepy character? Did Arkin have enough to do? Is Hounsou really going to get nominated again? Or will they go for Wahlberg (smart and memorable), or Affleck, or Pitt? Who knows. I do my best.

Best Actress In A Supporting Role:
- * Adriana Barraza, Babel
- * Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
- * Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
- * Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
- * Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Alternate: Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada

Hudson is definite. Blanchett is pretty much too. At least one of the Babel ladies will make it, though most likely both. Cutie Breslin is most vulnerable- can Blunt snatch it? I wouldn't mind either way.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
- * Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines and Dan Mazer, Borat
- * Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, Little Children
- * Patrick Marber, Notes on a Scandal
- Aline Brosh McKenna, The Devil Wears Prada
- * William Monahan, The Departed

Alternate: Jason Reitman, Thank You For Smoking

Missed: * Children of Men

God knows why Little Children is in here, but it is. The Devil Wears Prada strikes me as a bit unbalanced even with all it's sassiness, yet it seems a sure thing- as does The Departed. Borat barely seems to have a screenplay (surely it's improvised mostly?), but I'd be a fool to let my dislike of it guide me. As for Notes... well, it's more "of-the-moment" than Thank You For Smoking, which doesn't really seem to have that many fans. But who knows.

Best Original Screenplay:
- Pedro Almodovar, Volver
- * Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine
- * Guillermo Arriaga, Babel
- Paul Greengrass, United 93
- * Peter Morgan, The Queen

Alternate: Zach Helm, Stranger than Fiction

Missed: * Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth; and * Iris Yamashita, Letters From Iwo Jima

No one seems to love Stranger than Fiction as much the actors apparently did, but it's still a possibility. The Queen, Babel and especially Little Miss Sunshine are surely locks, and I'm hedging my bets on the harrowing United 93 and the warm if wobbly Volver.

Best Animated Film
- * Cars
- * Happy Feet
- * Monster House

Alternate: A Scanner Darkly

Cars' Globe win and it's Pixar tag pretty much lock it up for a nod, if not the win too. Happy Feet is a cutie-pie and pretty much locked too, and I'd surprised if the offbeat and un-child-suitable A Scanner Darkly can beat the buoyant Monster House. I've seen Flushed Away in places but hardly anyone seemed to notice it's existance (and rightfully so).

Best Documentary:
- * An Inconvenient Truth
- * Iraq in Fragments
- * Jesus Camp
- Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple
- The War Tapes

Alternate: * My Country, My Country

Missed: Deliver Us From Evil

An Inconvenient Truth is obvious; Iraq in Fragments and Jesus Camp are supposedly excellent and I've actually heard of them. The other two (including the apparently controversial Jonestown (see comments on this entry)) are complete guesses. As is my alternate. Hey, they never show anyone these things!

Best Foreign Language Film:
- Black Book (Netherlands)
- * The Lives of Others (Germany)
- * Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico)
- Volver (Spain)
- * Water (Canada)

Alternate: * Days of Glory (Algeria)

Missed: * After the Wedding (Denmark)

Volver and Pan's Labyrinth are this categories behemoths, while The Lives of Others has been slyly popping up next to them every time. As for the other two... well, Black Book is from a notorious director returning to home soil and Water seems quite popular. I'm not sure why the lavish Curse of the Golden Flower was knocked out at the previous stage but there you go.

Achievement in Cinematography:
- * Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men
- * Guillermo Navarro, Pan's Labyrinth
- Rodrigo Prieto, Babel
- Robert Richardson, The Good Shepherd
- * Vilmos Zsigmond, The Black Dahlia

Alternate: * Dick Pope, The Illusionist

Missed: Wally Pfister, The Prestige

Achievement in Art Direction:
- KK Barrett and Veronique Melery, Marie Antoinette
- * Eugenio Caballero, Pan's Labyrinth
- Jim Clay and Geoffrey Kirkland, Children of Men
- * John Myhre, Dreamgirls
- * Jeannine Opplewall, The Good Shepherd

Alternate: Henry Bumstead and Gary Fettis, Letters From Iwo Jima

Missed: * Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and * The Prestige

Achievement In Film Editing:
- * Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione, Babel
- * Claire Douglas, Richard Pearson and Christopher Rouse, United 93
- * Alex Roderiguez, Children of Men
- * Thelma Schoonmaker, The Departed
- Lucia Zucchetti, The Queen

Alternate: Virginia Katz, Dreamgirls

Missed: * Richard Chew, Steven Rosenblum: Blood Diamond

Achievement in Costume Design:
- * Milena Canonero, Marie Antoinette
- * Sharen Davis, Dreamgirls
- Ruth Myers, The Painted Veil
- Julie Weiss, Bobby
- * Chung Man Yee, Curse of the Golden Flower

Alternate: * Patricia Field, The Devil Wears Prada

Missed: Consolata Boyle, The Queen

Best Original Score:
- Alexandre Desplat, The Painted Veil
- Philip Glass, The Illusionist
- Clint Mansell, The Fountain
- * Thomas Newman, The Good German
- * Gustavo Santaolla, Babel

Alternate: James Horner, Apocalypto

Missed: * Philip Glass, Notes on a Scandal; * Alexandre Desplat, The Queen and * Javier Narrete, Pan's Labyrinth

Best Original Song:
- Bryan Adams, Eliot Kennedy, Andrea Remanda, "Never Gonna Break My Faith", Bobby (performed by Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige)
- * Henry Kreiger, "Listen", Dreamgirls (performed by Beyonce)
- * Henry Kreiger, "Patience", Dreamgirls (performed by Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose, and Keith Robinson)
- * Melissa Etheridge, "I Need to Wake Up", An Inconvenient Truth
- Prince, "Song of the Heart", Happy Feet

Alternate: Dave Stewart, Glen Ballard, "Ordinary Miracle", Charlotte's Web (performed by Sarah McLachlan)

Missed: * 'Love You I Do', Dreamgirls; * 'Our Town', Cars

Achievement In Visual Effects:
- * Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
- * Poseidon
- * Superman Returns

Alternate: X-Men: The Last Stand

Best Make-Up:
- * Apocalypto
- * Pan's Labyrinth
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Alternate: The Prestige

Missed: Click (????!!!)

Best Sound:
- * Blood Diamond
- Casino Royale
- * Dreamgirls
- * Flags of Our Fathers
- * Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Alternate: * Apocalypto

Best Sound Editing:
- Cars
- * Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
- Superman Returns

Alternate: *Flags of Our Fathers

Missed: * Apocalypto, * Blood Diamond, * Letters from Iwo Jima
(I only predicted three, for some reason.)

Overall: 71/99 (71%)
Big Eight: 34/40 (85%)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Looking Ahead: My Ten Most Anticipated of 2007

A new year, new promises. 2006 wasn't the greatest year ever for film, so here's hoping that 2007 proves there's life in it yet. Here are my picks for the most promising flicks of 2007. (Dang, that would've rhymed last year.)

Runner-ups: After the Wedding, Chapter 27, Cowboys for Christ, The Invasion, Jindabyne, Love in the Time of Cholera, The Other Boleyn Girl, Paris je t'aime, Reservation Road

10. The Real Life of Angel Deverell
dir. Francois Ozon, cast: Romola Garai, Lucy Russell, Charlotte Rampling, Sam Neill, Michael Fassbender
I admit, my experience with Ozon is highly limited (I've only seen 2006's Time to Leave), but the new presence of Romola Garai as his self-proclaimed 'muse' is very intriguing and exciting. A rather untapped talent, Garai strikes me as, and Ozon seems to be just the right kind of director to draw on it. Based on the novel 'Angel' by British writer Elizabeth Taylor, the film will tell the story of Angelica Deverell, who as a teenager who retreats into romantic fantasies and becomes a writer. I think Ozon is very capable of striking the precise balance between aesthetic pleasure and the underlying drama the story hints at.

9. Atonement
dir. Joe Wright, cast: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave
Alright, so I've never read any Ian McEwan, respected as he is, but this adaptation of his acclaimed novel is essentially appealing because of the cast, ranging from hot young things McAvoy, Knightley and Garai to respected thespians Redgrave and Blethyn. Young Briony (played, in ascending order, by Ronan, Garai and Redgrave) misconstrues the flirtation between her sister Knightley and McAvoy, leading to a terrible crime that haunts the characters through WWII. Exactly what McEwan's plot has in store for these characters I don't know, but quite frankly I don't want to: the surprise will be the nub, I think, and what a promising follow-up to Pride and Prejudice for both Wright and Knightley.

8. Evening
dir. Lajos Koltai, cast: Eileen Atkins, Glenn Close, Toni Collette, Hugh Dancy, Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Meryl Streep, Patrick Wilson
Adapted from her own novel by Susan Minot alongside Michael Cunningham (The Hours), Evening looks like an extremely juicy film for its actresses, who are, evidently, mutltitudinous. A dying mother (Redgrave) reflects on her youth (Danes) while her daughters (Richardson and Collette) comes to terms with the impending loss of their mother and their own problems. Former cinematographer (on films including Being Julia, Sunshine and Malena) Koltai is only on his second feature as director here, but he seems a promising talent and the quality involved in both writing and cast is dazzling.

7. Margot at the Wedding
dir. Noah Baumbach, cast: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Flora Cross, Jack Black, John Turturro, Ciaran Hinds
I hope the promise Baumbach displayed in his directorial debut The Squid and the Whale is followed up here. He certainly has the cast to work wonders with: Kidman continues to choose off-beat, quality projects, and I always love to see Jason Leigh on-screen. The weekend-set, familial storyline sounds ripe for Baumbach's unique brand of sardonic comedy, and, even if the title isn't exactly enticing, the rest of the movie certainly is.

6. Spider-Man 3
dir. Sam Raimi, cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Bryce Dallas Howard, Topher Grace, Theresa Russell
I fear this movie. Oh, no, I don't think it's going to be bad or anything, at least if the previous effort is anything to go by- an exciting, emotional blockbuster, bouncing with liveliness and ideas- but I fear what it will do to me. It looks like my beloved Mary-Jane Watson might be on her way out- if Bryce Dallas Howard as blonde vixen Gwen Stacy is anything to go by. And three villains- my, Mr. Raimi, if you think you can do it, go for it, but please, have some concern for my adrenaline. But perhaps what's most intruiging about this bookend of the trilogy- purportedly the last, at least with the main people on board- is the exceedingly dark dimensions to it: Spidey's struggle with his dark side, Harry's final step into evil, and a dissection of love. Should be thrilling.

5. My Blueberry Nights
dir. Wong Kar-Wai, cast: Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Tim Roth, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz
I've never really get on that well with Wong Kar-Wai's movies, but for some reason I always find myself looking forward to them. Maybe it's because they're always so ravishingly beautiful? Or because their casts are always so superb? Well, anyway, My Blueberry Nights, Kar-Wai's first American feature, is certainly set to be both of those: alright, so Norah Jones is an untried talent, but the various characters she meets on her "soul-searching journey" across the US are enough to make you dizzy. And, while Kar-Wai seems to have parted ways with photographic maverick Christopher Doyle, his dp this time is Darius Khondji, whose work includes such quality as Se7en and Delicatessan. Exactly what Kar-Wai has in store for us remains to be seen, but it sounds, well, yummy.

4. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
dir. Andrew Dominik, cast: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Mary-Louise Parker, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepherd
Finally! Dominik follows up his unbalanced but vibrant first feature Chopper with this gorgeously titled Western, hopefully combining a superb cast with his unique visceral style and a tantalising script. With cinematographer Roger Deakins (favourite of the Coens), a score by Nick Cave (whose imaginations ran the ghostly The Proposition), and, apparently, a length and style reminiscent of Sergio Leone, this sounds so promising I've been waiting over a year for it. And I shall continue to do so.

3. La vie en rose (La Môme)
dir. Olivier Dahan, cast: Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Clotilde Courau, Jean-Paul Rouve, Pascal Greggory
The life of Edith Piaf. Yes, another biopic- but, not only is this one actually French (shock!), it's about a person who had a notoriously eventful and difficult life, and so it should be a fascinating and transfixing watch. Especially if the raves that a short extract from it that appeared on French television are anything to go by. Will it encounter the usual stumbling blocks that biopics do? Let's hope not.

2. The Bourne Ultimatum
dir. Paul Greengrass, cast: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Paddy Considine, David Strathairn, Julia Stiles, Edgar Ramirez
Most of the Bourne team are back for the final entry in the trilogy, and things look promising that it'll be just as good- if not better- than the first two entries. Besting Bond at every corner, the Bourne series is a thrilling, riveting and dark spy series: never coming near to any ludicrous or camp impulses, the whole series has throbbing with a nervy, jumpy heart, and I see no reason why that would suddenly stop beating. And- thank god- Joan Allen returns, bringing her edginess and passion to Pamela Landy once again.

1. Sunshine
dir. Danny Boyle, cast: Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Cillian Murphy, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Benedict Wong, Michelle Yeoh
Okay. I can't say, unlike the rest of the world, that I've ever found Danny Boyle a particularly good director. In fact, I've never really liked any of his films except the charming Millions- Trainspotting was fine, 28 Days Later... was passable, but I downright despise A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach- and yet something immediatly draws me to Sunshine. Maybe it's that cast, which is one of the most outlandishly eclectic I think I've ever seen. (When did Rose Byrne suddenly become a star? That's one of the nicest surprises I've ever had.) Maybe it's the wacked out, pulse-heightening plot- a bunch of astronauts are sent to "revive" the dying sun and go mad as they get nearer. Maybe I just love Rose Byrne. Well, whichever, Sunshine has the possibility of being either laughably ludicrous, or wonderfully, frightening impactful- I sincerely hope it takes the latter route, and I don't have to wait long to find out.