A feast of new year releases for the big screen

A feast of new year releases for the big screen Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in a still from 'The Post'

There’s a mouth-watering pairing of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s The Post. The title refers to The Washington Post, the newspaper that brought down Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal. Set in 1971, this centres on a leaked government study of the Vietnam war which basically admitted it was unwinnable.

Streep plays the owner of the paper.  Hanks is its executive editor. He wants to publish the Pentagon Papers. She fears the exposé could create enemies in high places.

Comparisons to All the President’s Men will inevitably be made – Jason Robards played Hanks’ character in it  – with The Post probably being seen as second best in the comparison, but the prospect of two of Hollywood’s pre-eminent performers going head-to-head is too much of a temptation to resist.

Also tantalising is Darkest Hour. After the recent Jonathan Teplitzky film starring Brian Cox as Britain’s most famous PM you may feel Churchilled-out. The fact that Gary Oldman – one of that country’s most respected veterans – takes on the iconic role might change your tune.

It’s a measure of the magnitude of the man that most films about him seem to dwarf the seismic events over which he presided.  In  Churchill the war became almost like a subplot. Here again director Joe Wright seems more interested in the man than the historical backdrop.

Buzzword

Downsizing is the great buzzword of our times. Sooner or later they had to make it the title of a film. But who could have expected it to refer to people rather than things?

The plot concerns a scheme to reduce people to less than half a foot in size as a gambit to try and solve the world’s overpopulation problem.

Matt Damon and his wife (Kristin Wiig) volunteer to have themselves reduced by a Norwegian scientist even though they know they can never go back to their original height. It’s a fascinating premise that harks back to a film that thrilled me as a child – The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has Frances McDormand as a traumatised mother seeking justice for the murder of her raped daughter against a system that frustrates her efforts at every turn. She vents her wrath against good cop Woody Harrelson, who’s suffering from cancer, and bad cop Sam Rockwell, a racist. Writer/director Martin McDonagh injects black humour into her billboard protest.

Animated films about the afterlife are thin on the ground.  Coco, a Mexican musical from Pixar, is one such, featuring a young boy who becomes transported into the Land of the Dead after stealing a guitar from the tomb of a musical hero of his. Its upbeat mood makes even the skeletons look jaunty.

The Final Year looks at Barack Obama’s last year in office. His dignity, in contrast to the schoolyard rhetoric of his successor (“my nuclear button is bigger than yours, little Korean man!”) is staggering.

As Zsa Zsa Gabor used to say: “Macho doesn’t prove mucho.”

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