The Whistleblower, an accomplished feature debut by Larysa Kondracki, has polarized critics, though the divergent opinion is largely down to how much individual critics can tolerate the inevitable simplification and dramatization of complex political situations. For some, The Whistleblower is an unpardonable dumbing down of a truly appalling situation that implicated international organizations in the sex trade, while for others, the fact that the film brings this situation to public attention is sufficient to excuse the shrill editorializing and vagueness. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between, and even the fiercest critics acknowledge the strong presence of Rachael Weisz, who plays Kathryn Bolkovac, a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia, who brings to light the UN’s role in covering up sex scandals in the war-torn region.
The Ides of March
A political film from the hand of George Clooney, who has writer, director and actor credits. Despite its massively A-list cast, it is the ideas rather than the names that have grabbed the attention of the critics. It has been described as a darker, dirtier and more intense version of the TV series West Wing, and has cool man-of-the-moment Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers, a political consultant caught at the deep end of a life-or-death political struggle. Clooney is the presidential hopeful whose career will make or break the hopes and dreams not just of the American people, but the shadowy players in the corridors of power. The supporting cast includes the always unpredictable Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. The abundance of talent, and the mix of mature political ideas, plus the mechanics of a gripping thriller, make The Ides of March a film of broad appeal.
Arthur Christmas 3D
Festive animations have been responsible for a number of truly dire attempts to keep the tots amused — remember Hop, this year’s big Easter movie? While Arthur Christmas 3D is unashamedly a Yuletide offering, there is just enough British cheek to set it apart from the conventional Hollywood dross. A great voice cast that includes James McAvoy as the title character, Santa’s son Arthur, with Jim Broadbent as Santa, Bill Nighy as grandpa Santa, and Hugh Laurie as Steve, the brains behind the North Pole’s annual logistical exercise to get presents to all the children in the world in a single night, with “no child left behind.” While the youngest kids might get left behind by the quite complicated story, the humor works at enough levels to appeal to kids and parents alike.
Guilty of Romance
While there are plenty of Japanese movies that revel in portraying various forms of unconventional erotic fetishes for the titillation of audiences, director Sion Sono is one who plunges into the problem of how to unnerve his audience with sexual perversion in a society in which pretty much everything has become acceptable fodder for cinematic entertainment. Sono’s style and interests share similarities with Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, but his approach is more humorous and enigmatic, and though there are scenes of deplorable sexual violence, all masked by the niceties of social convention, Guilty of Romance has plenty to offer as a serious exploration of the more extreme ends of the spectrum of sexual desire.