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For his feature debut as a director, Ewan McGregor could have (probably) chosen any project he wanted, but not one to shirk a challenge, the actor has decided to film Philip Roth’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (it’s been in development for over a decade, and Jennifer Connelly is the only person still on board from back then). So, no pressure there, then. But the trailer reveals, albeit in a disjointed fashion, that McGregor appears to have found a way of coherently presenting the various social and political upheavals of the period (the Sixties), and without sacrificing any of the personal or emotional effects these events have on the characters involved. With David Strathairn cast as Roth’s alter ego Nathan Zuckerman, and a supporting cast that also includes Molly Parker and Peter Riegert, McGregor has found himself in very good company indeed, and if his direction, allied with John Romano’s screenplay, is as good as it looks (and thanks to DoP Martin Ruhe it looks beautiful indeed), then this could be a strong Oscar contender come next February.

 

In The 9th Life of Louis Drax (it’s never Johnny Smith anymore, is it?), a young boy’s fall from a cliff and subsequent coma opens up a mystery that will involve his parents (Sarah Gadon, Aaron Paul) and his doctor (Jamie Dornan). Liz Jensen’s 2004 novel was due to be adapted by Anthony Minghella before his untimely death in 2008, but now it’s been adapted for the screen by his son Max, and with the formidable talent of Alexandre Aja in the director’s chair. The trailer is sufficiently twist-y enough for clues to Louis’s “condition” to be given in one second and then overturned in another, and the movie’s success is likely to depend on how well the mystery is maintained before answers have to be revealed. The cast also features the likes of Oliver Platt, the ubiquitous Molly Parker, and Barbara Hershey, and seems to have got a firm hold on the supernatural thriller aspects of the story, so this should be as satisfying – hopefully – as it looks.

 

Whatever you want to say or think about Keeping Up With the Joneses, there’s little doubt that this mix of action and comedy about a suburban couple (Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher) who discover that their new neighbours (Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot) are international spies, is exactly the kind of moderately high concept idea that the Hollywood studios love to put their money behind. The trailer offers perhaps too many laughs (and hopefully not all the best ones), while downplaying the inevitable action sequences, but whatever the finished product gives us, let’s hope that director Greg Mottola’s quirky sense of humour is front and centre, and the chemistry between each couple adds to the fun to be had. If not we’ll just have to chalk it up to a good idea gone bad, or to put it another way, a movie that you switch off from once it’s started.

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