Having given us movies such as Alien and Gladiator, there is a certain amount of excitement and expectation that typically surrounds a Ridley Scott production. With a recent output that consists of Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Counsellor, and Prometheus, those expectations have not been merited or met. Thankfully the director is back on form with The Martian, a fun and smart sci-fi which will have you laughing more than most comedies.
If there’s one thing which is clear about writer-director J. C. Chandor by now, it’s that he likes to switch it up. His debut feature Margin Call was a talky, deservedly Oscar-nominated financial drama with dialogue to spare. It was followed by the Robert Redford-starring All is Lost, a survivalist drama with hardly any speech at all. For his third feature Chandor has once again opted for something completely different, fashioning a sharp and sophisticated film about the heating oil industry that may be his most satisfying work to date.
Set in a wintery 1981 New York, A Most Violent Year follows Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), a Latin-American immigrant who, along with his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), has his sights set on closing a deal that will expand his heating oil company and give him the edge over his competitors. For that to happen, Abel will have to overcome some potentially crippling external obstacles; His drivers are getting assaulted by thugs who are then stealing fuel from his trucks, the local D.A. (David Oyelowo) is mounting a case against him, and a shadowy figure looms outside his new home. Even as the screws tighten though, Abel is determined to go about his business in the right way.
After being well-received in the US earlier this year, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) finally gets its UK release this week. Not for nothing has the animated franchise grossed over a billion dollars, and the latest energetic instalment deserves to be just as successful as its predecessors. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) and co are still itching to return to their home in NYC. Tracking their penguin pals to a casino in Monte Carlo, they soon find themselves on the run from the persistent French captain Chantel DuBois (fantastically voiced by Frances McDormand). Taking refuge in a travelling circus, the gang must impress an American talent scout if they ever hope to return to their beloved zoo.
Read the rest of this review at CineVue here.