With sex, sci-fi, rock stardom and the Glasgow Film Festival, there’s much to look forward to in cinema this year, says Alistair Harkness
Inside Llewyn Davis & Frank
Most films about musicians descend into cliché but the Coen brothers avoid that completely with Inside Llewyn Davis (released on 24 January). Their astonishing film about a fictional singer-songwriter (played by Oscar Isaac) stuck in a rut in the pre-Dylan folk scene of early 1960s New York has a pleasingly weird structure that cinema-goers will likely pore over for weeks after seeing it.
Likely to be even stranger is Frank (9 May), which casts Michael Fassbender as a troubled avant-garde rock star so agoraphobic that he wears a big fake head to enable him to get out the door. “The character is inspired by Frank Sidebottom,” confirms director Lenny Abrahamson, “but he’s also inspired by all these great outsider musicians, like Daniel Johnson and Captain Beefheart.”
The Raid 2: Berendal
Welsh director Gareth Evans’ scuzzy Indonesian fight flick The Raid emerged from nowhere in 2012 to become the year’s best kill-crazy action film. But long before it went into production, Evans had been trying to make a large-scale crime epic about an undercover cop who infiltrates the mob. Called Berendal, it proved too ambitious for the kind of budgets he had access to at the time, so he put it on the backburner and made The Raid instead, re-conceiving the earlier film as a sequel when the later one broke big. “The choreography on the two movies were similar in terms of the aggression level so they paired up well,” says Evans. Judging from the frankly insane trailer, take him at his word. (Release date: TBC)
Her & The Grand Budapest Hotel
Fifteen years on from respectively breaking through with Being John Malkovich and Rushmore, Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson remain America’s most idiosyncratic filmmakers and both have new movies out that should confirm their reputations as singular directors. Her (14 February) sees Jonze on plaintive form with a near-future love story between a professional letter writer (Joaquin Phoenix) and his computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). By contrast, Wes Anderson delves into the past with The Grand Budapest Hotel (7 March), a 1920s-set tale of European intrigue involving murder, fine art and a libidinous hotel concierge (Ralph Fiennes).
The Glasgow Film Festival
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Glasgow Film Festival (20 February until 2 March) has rapidly emerged as the most innovative and interesting film festival in the UK. It’s also the most fun. In addition to the usual line up of mini-festivals, this year’s event will feature a pop-up “street food” cinema, a focus on Chilean cinema, and a retrospective of films from what is considered the greatest year in the Golden Age of Hollywood: 1939. The full programme will be unveiled on 21 January and considering that last year artistic directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter enticed Joss Whedon to the GFT, expect them to pull something special out of the bag to mark the festival’s first decade.
Under the Skin & Nymphomaniac
Sex is very much on the agenda when it comes to spring’s most anticipated arthouse releases. In Jonathan Glazer’s magnificently strange Under the Skin (14 March), Scarlett Johansson plays an alien succubus who trawls the streets of Glasgow looking for single men to seduce and kill. In Nymphomaniac (7 March) Lars von Trier again sets out to provoke just about everyone with a four-hour, two-part tale of a sex addict (Charlotte Gainsbourg) recalling her hardcore adventures. Those who’ve seen the latter remain unsure if it’s a joke or a masterpiece.
“When I got the call for Godzilla I was like, ‘Why would I do that?’” remembers Aaron Taylor-Johnson. “And then they mentioned that Gareth Edwards was directing it.” The presence of Edwards, who made the micro-budget Monsters back in 2010, certainly makes Godzilla (16 May) one of the summer’s more intriguing blockbuster prospects. “He’s such a genius filmmaker,” continues Taylor-Johnson, who signed on to play the film’s hero after his 30-minute meeting with Edwards turned into a six-hour geek-out. “He just had this idea to film it in a way that was more artistically and emotionally driven.”
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Thanks to Avengers Assemble we’re used to the idea of superheroes cross-pollinating each other’s movies. But with X-Men: Days of Future Past (22 May), Bryan Singer is taking that idea to the next level with a time-travel plot device that allows him to combine the principal cast of his first two X-Men films with the younger cast that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender led in the 1960s-set prequel, X-Men: First Class.
“To be able to work as a director with the new cast and bring back old friends like Ian McKellen, Patrick [Stewart] and Hugh [Jackman] is a thrill,” says Singer of the film, which is based on one of the comics’ most popular storylines. As for all the time paradoxes, Singer reckons he has them covered: “I pitched it to James Cameron and he was like: ‘Yep, that makes sense.’”
Gillian Flynn’s entertaining thriller about a missing woman whose husband becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance became a publishing sensation in 2012. Its dark, brilliantly twisty dual narrative caught the attention of Hollywood and the film rights reportedly sold for seven figures. With Flynn handling the adaptation herself and David Fincher directing a cast that includes Ben Affleck and the delectable Rosamund Pike as the not-so-happy couple at the centre of the mystery, Gone Girl (3 October) is on course to be the talking point film of the autumn.
“We count these moments …as our proudest moments,” intones a melancholic Matthew McConaughey over archival shots of the sound barrier being broken, the Gemini 6 space mission being launched, and Neil Armstrong taking one giant leap for mankind. “But perhaps we’ve forgotten that our greatest moments don’t lie behind us…” Cut to two people holding hands in a cornfield watching a rocket ascend into space. Who knows what it all means, but armchair psychologists looking for insights into Christopher Nolan’s latest uber-secret project will doubtless argue that the trailer for Interstellar (7 November) is proof that the Inception director isn’t about to rest on his laurels just yet.