Alan Dee’s film review: Wouldn’t it be nice if it was August? Not if you were a member of this family...

The cinema schedule is groaning under the strain as heavyweight efforts continue to hit the screen, all aiming to build up a head of steam as we enter peak awards time.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2014, 4:54 pm
August Osage County

A typical effort is August: Osage County, a 15-rated slab of pointedly grown-up cinema with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts leading a top-notch ensemble cast.

Matriarch Meryl, who is not long for this world, summons her fractured family after drunken hubby Sam Shepard disappears.

Daughter Julia Roberts is accompanied by other half Ewan MacGregor, while Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch lend support.

August Osage County

It’s produced by George Clooney, adapted by Tracy Letts from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and put together by director John ‘West Wing, ER’ Wells. It just about screams ‘nominate me’ but you have to admit it’s a classy piece of work.

Less mainstream is Inside Llewyn Davis, in which the enigmatic Coen brothers turn their gaze on a week in the life of a struggling, Dylan-esque 1960s folk musician.

Unknown Oscar Isaac is the tousled and troubled troubador, whose problems include getting foul-mouthed Carey Mulligan pregnant. She’s married to his best mate Justin Timerlake, to make things worse.

Already a winner at Cannes and boasting a pitch perfect soundtrack, fans will love it but the unconverted will be shuffling in their seats.

Even this week’s run of the mill releases have a touch of class. Espionage thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit goes back to the early days of Tom Clancy’s all action hero but it stars Chris Pine and Keira Knightley and Kenneth Branagh takes on directing duties, so it’s as slick as you would expect.

Grudge Match, though, is just silly – Sly Stallone and Robert De Niro square up as pensioner-age pugilists getting back into the ring to settle a feud that dates back to when both were in their prime. It would never have been made without the stars, who should both know better.