This week’s movie releases
George Clooney goes to war for his art in The Monuments Men, while Spike Jonze returns with Her
George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett set out to save nothing less than 1,000 years of western culture in The Monuments Men, Clooney's fifth film as director. Co-written and produced with his regular collaborator Grant Heslov, it's based on Robert M. Edsel's book about the Allies' Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program, the team of art historians and museum staff tasked with safeguarding artworks from destruction by the Nazis. On paper the idea of a star-studded team of over-the-hill experts risking their lives to rescue cultural treasures from behind enemy lines sounds worth its weight in Picassos. But sadly reviews following its recent international debut at the Berlin Film Festival have placed it a long way from masterpiece status.
It's hard to believe that Her is only director Spike Jonze's fourth feature since his sublimely dotty 1999 debut Being John Malkovich, in which puppeteer John Cusack discovers a secret door into the mind of the famous actor. And at first sight its premise sounds every bit as out-there: in the near future a soon-to-be divorced man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with a bespoke artificially intelligent operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). But then, of course, it's not hard to conceive of a time when such an occurrence might be possible, with all the concomitant philosophical consequences it might have on our love lives - issues the film aims to investigate with heart and intelligence.
An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker is the latest from Bosnian director Danis Tanovic, whose No Man's Land won the 2001 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. A story about the discrimination faced by the country's Roma minority, it features real-life couple Senada Alimanovic and Nazif Mujic playing themselves as they recreate their ordeal to get medical treatment after she suffers a life-threatening miscarriage.
Into the forest
From Brazil, Xingu tells the story of the three Villas-Boas brothers' first expedition into the Amazon in the 1940s and their encounters with native tribes - a 10-year journey that culminated in the creation of the Xingu National Park to protect the region's environment and people.
Put together by David Gutiérrez Camps, the low-budget The Juan Bushwick Diaries follows a bored fictional New York filmmaker living in Barcelona who decides to start recording his life, hoping to learn something about himself.