Director: Errol Morris
Cast: Joyce McKinney
"Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess…" Thus starts Tabloid, a tale of love, kidnapping, scheming newspapers, silly disguises, an evil cult and magic underwear. It’s also a documentary.
Joyce McKinney is a strange but bubbly sixty-something with an outrageous past. A former Wyoming beauty queen, she claims to have been a wholesome young lady. When she moved to Utah, she fell head-over-heels for Kirk, a feeling that (we are told by Joyce) was reciprocated. But there’s a catch: Kirk and his family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Mormons.
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard
“I’d love to live in a flat in Paris in the 1920s,” says Gill Pender (Wilson) wistfully. Gill is in thrall to the French capital, and dreams of escaping his unfinished book and unsympathetic fiancée, Inez (McAdams), to a time when the town was at its best. The cafés, the writers, the rain... “The only thing missing is the tuberculosis,” shoots back Inez’s friend Paul (Sheen). Midnight in Paris is a charming piece full of nostalgia, wit and – most importantly – laughs.
Director: Paddy Considine
Cast: Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan
You never know what to expect from an actor's directorial debut. It might be a quirky comedy, or a rushed romance. Or it might be a harrowing drama that tears you to pieces. Following in the steps of Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth, Tyrannosaur is the latter. And it's one of the best films of the year.
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman
Red State screams “Patriot Act, b*tches”. Not a line you’d expect to from a man-child better known for his slacker comedies, but Kevin Smith pitches religious fanaticism against gun-toting post-9/11 US feds in this cynical exploitation film. And it mostly works.
Three teenage boys are lured by promises of sex with older woman Sarah (Leo) to the compound of the ultra-conservative Five Points Church. A sect that neo-Nazis and the Westboro church have distanced themselves from, the Five Points have taken brutal measures in their crusade against homosexuals and fornicators.
Director: Amit Gupta
Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wlaschiha, Michael Sheen
It's been five years since the failed D-Day landings and the UK is gradually succumbing to the invading German forces. In this alternate version of 1944, all the men in the isolated Olchon valley have disappeared. At the same time, a handful of German soldiers forming an observation team have entered the black mountains of Wales. Finding only a handful of women in the bleak landscape, the encroaching Nazis find both the locals and the environment hostile.
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks, Christina Hendricks
"What do you do?" asks Carey Mulligan, sitting nervously in the kitchen. Ryan Gosling stands still. He says nothing. Then, after a few seconds, he smiles slowly. "I drive," he says. That's pretty much all there is to Drive: Nicolas Winding Refn's thriller is made up of 10% car chases, 20% Carey Mulligan, and 70% Ryan Gosling standing still, saying nothing, pausing for a few seconds, and then smiling slowly. Needless to say, it adds up to one big load of awesome.
Director: Thomas Lawes
Cast: John Brockington, Paul Curtin, Graham Lee, Phil Fawke, Les Castree
In 2004, Tom Lawes bought a derelict old cinema. In 2005, he re-opened it to the public, and there it remains, a stone’s throw from Birmingham New Street station: The Electric, Britain’s oldest working cinema. Lawes’ documentary focuses on The Electric, but paints a wider picture of the history of film projection. It's a fascinating watch.
Director: Paula van der Oest
Cast: Carice van Houten, Liam Cunningham, Rutger Hauer
"The child is not dead / The child lifts his fists against his mother / Who shouts Afrika! shouts the breath / Of freedom and the veld / In the locations of the cordoned heart."
These are the words of Afrikaans poet Ingrid Jonker, a passionate and political poet writing during apartheid-era South Africa. Black Butterflies is a German-Dutch-South African film based on her life.
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Cast: Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Toby Jones
"I'm retired." Those are the first words spoken by George Smiley (Oldman), and they don't occur until 15 minutes in. But even before then we've spent enough time with Tinker, Tailor's hero to know what he's about. We see him forced out of MI5 ("The Circus") alongside the paranoid chief, Control (Hurt), and follow him home during the muted opening credits. Throughout, Smiley says nothing.
It's a hugely effective sequence that sees allegiances change, powers shift, and paperwork go up and down in a lift. Welcome to Tomas Alfredson's take on John le Carré's world. It's a quiet, tense, and stylish place to be betrayed. How British.