Also Out In Cinemas: December 2014

A TALE OF SAMURAI COOKING: A TRUE LOVE STORY

Not all samurai, it seems, were warriors. Some were chefs. But Yasunobu (Kengo Kra), son of an acclaimed samurai master-chef, isnt keen on his heritage; he longs to wield the sword. So his dad marries him to the lovely Haru (Aya Ueto), a servant girl with exceptional foodie skills. How Haru wins over her stubborn young husband, gaining his love and converting him to the delights of fine cuisine, is the subject of Yz Asaharas appealing period film. Some impenetrable clan conspiracies rather muddy the plot, but the charm of Ueto and veteran Toshiyuki Nishida as her father-in-law carry it through. Out 12 December Philip Kemp

WE STILL KILL THE OLD WAY

Theres contempt for all things young and urban in We Still Kill The Old Way, Sacha Bennetts story of four ageing gangsters who come out of retirement to avenge a murdered pal. In contrast to the classy Cockney old-school criminals (led by Ian Ogilivys Richie), the murderers are a stereotyped street gang, who end every sentence with ya get me? and exude all the nuance of a happy slapping video. The obvious inspiration here is 2009s Harry Brown, though this is a) not as well made as that film and b) plays its everything was much better in the old days fantasy more as a crass cartoon than as stark social realism. Out 12 December Stephen Kelly

GUYS AND DOLLS

Even with four-time Oscar-winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve, Cleopatra) directing, a two-and-a-half-hour musical (first released in 1955) starring Marlon Brando sounds like a dicey prospect. Brando is Sky Masterson, a New York gambler who takes on a $1,000 bet from Frank Sinatras Nathan Detroit: to win over Jean Simmons aloof Mission sister. Dubbed mumbles off-screen by a jealous Sinatra, Brando struggles with the Broadway showtunes and dances with elephant-like grace. But theres still magic to be had not least the irresistible spectacle of Ol Blue Eyes doing Luck Be A Lady. Out 19 December James Mottram

Kon-Tiki

Not all films about a bloke named Thor need to involve him swinging about a magic hammer to be enticing, it seems. Kon-Tiki is the true-life story of Thor Heyerdahl (Pl Sverre Hagen), a Norwegian adventurer who in 1947 sets out to prove that prehistoric Polynesia had been settled by people originating from South America. The only way to do this? Embarking on the same journey those early explorers made, lashed-together balsa raft and all. A more celebratory spin on All Is Lost, its terrific ocean lensing does make prehistoric travel look oddly alluring at least until all the shark harpooning starts. Out 19 December Andrew Lowry

ANNIE

It's bad news for a musical when the thing that undermines it most is the quality of its crooning. Alas, that's the case in this Jay Z-produced update of John Huston's 1982 hit. Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne and, yes, lead Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts Of The Southern Wild) lack the chops to get this plucky little orphan story hitting the high notes. Wallis compensates by bringing some real-world charm to a title role usually monopolised by stage-school moppets. Doesnt it say something, though, that the highpoint of Will Gluck's (Easy A) pic is the film-within-the-film (Twilight-spoofing Ashton Kutcher opus Moonquake Lake) watched by its heroine? Out 26 December Neil Smith