In what is hoped to be a seasonal tradition, there's a new film this week from David O. Russell to follow last year's Christmas release of Silver Linings Playbook. To date, every promotional still of American Hustle, every frame of every clip and every trailer has an anticipation-firing frisson you rarely get from movies aimed at adult audiences: spot-on '70s stylings; Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence on smoking form; Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper better just in this trailer than in all of their previous films; hair curlers on women and hair curlers on men; and Electric Light Orchestra on the soundtrack. You can only hope the MacGuffin, which has something to do with political corruption in New Jersey, doesn't get lost in the sheer gorgeous gangster glamour of it. It's as exciting as a Scorsese trailer back in the old days.
The universe has apparently declared a younger man must take on the mantle of Alan Rickman. And his name is Benedict Cumberbatch. Ten years ago, Cumberbatch was a promising young BBC player. Quite brilliant as a young Stephen Hawkings in a highly entertaining biopic that with hindsight and given the man's core fan base looks like retcon, he exploded onscreen in 2010 as Sherlock, supercharging the character in a manner unseen since Robert Stephens' performance in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Now he has made it for big-budget real and become an international treasure along the way. Having escaped unharmed from the critical detritus surrounding the recent J.J. Abrams Star Trek flick, he has given his voice to the dragon in the second chapter of Peter Jackson's fanboy expansion pack of Tolkien's The Hobbit. And if you want a dragon that sounds like Uncle Monty reflecting on mortality and umska, you are in luck. Get used to Cumberbatch. His replacement isn't due for 30 years.
Disney's portrait of Disney could only be embodied by one actor and that actor is Tom Hanks. And in a Disney movie, the lowest threshold of Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers's pulchritude would be that of an exceptionally well-preserved 50-something lady from England, hence Emma Thompson. Perhaps the most intriguing fact about Saving Mr. Banks is that the script was written by Kelly Marcel, who has just handed in her script of the movie version of 50 Shades of Grey. So. Subtexts.
Elsewhere this week, Tyler Perry wheels out Madea for some easy seasonal gags in Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, while the documentary of the week will be Last of the Unjust. Benjamin Murmelstein was one of three Jewish elders forced by the Nazis to supervise the so-called model concentration camp, Theresienstadt, just before the outbreak of World War II in 1938. Amazingly, Murmelstein survived and was the first interview Claude Lanzmann conducted for Shoah, his 10-and-a-half-hour 1985 documentary about the Holocaust. But the interview was never used. Some 40 years later Lanzmann returns to his film stock and on the basis of this small clip filmed in 1975 from Murmelstein's self-imposed exile in Rome, he meets the ultimate pragmatist, a man who compares himself among all literary figures, to Sancho Panza, the fellow who left it to the others to "tilt at windmills."