In recent years Mel Gibson has not so much courted controversy as made a Tom Cruise-about-Katie-Holmes-on-Oprah-like declaration of love toward it. From racism to homophobia to misogyny to directing brutally violent films about the death of Jesus Christ he hasn’t left a stone unturned in his bid to offend pretty much every human being on the planet. You’d think then as his comeback film he’d select some kind of sure fire hit. Maybe a big money adaptation of a beloved property or the next instalment of a hit franchise? He was slated for a cameo in The Hangover 2 but certain comments (take your pick) caused the cast and crew to demand his sacking. Instead, he has opted for The Beaver.

You’d be forgiven for hearing the title and thinking Gibson has taken the Chicken Run route and gone for the safe option with a CGI Kids animation that hides his face from the general public he seems to despise so much. This is not the case. The Beaver is the story of a depressed CEO of a toy company who after finding a Beaver puppet begins to use it as his sole means of communicating with the outside world. This controversial therapy (reminiscent of the magnificent Lars & The Real Girl) allows Gibson’s character to stand outside his rapidly collapsing life thereby enabling him to finally open up to his wife and children and be more creative at work. The real challenge comes when he has to leave The Beaver and live his life for himself.

On every level this is a risky project. Whilst a hugely recognisable star and pretty much an American institution, Jodie Foster has hardly set the world alight in her two previous feature directorial efforts. Despite having topped the 2008 ‘black list’ of unmade screenplays with most potential this is still Kyle Killen’s first produced feature script. Only God knows (maybe Mel could ask him. They seem to have a good relationship) how the producers intend on marketing such a film to a public weaned on a diet of predictable 3D and remakes of things they’ve seen time and time again. Maybe the only area without risk is in the casting of Gibson. Could there be a better fit for the role of a man in search of redemption via the strangest of means?
I’m not preaching forgiveness or acceptance for some of the things Gibson has said and done over the last couple of years. I think in some cases though you have to forget about the persona and instead think of the performance. As his other cast members and Beaver puppet will attest this film should be far more than solely the Mel Gibson recovery project. I guess I just want to live in a world where a film about a man who deals with his problems through talking to a Beaver puppet can be a mainstream success. Take a pen, draw a smiley face on your hand and ask it – isn’t that the kind of world you want to live in too? 

 

With The Oscars coming up it’s a huge month for golden statue contenders. Picking a lead feature would have been a difficult task if it wasn’t for the editor’s dual obsession with Lethal Weapon 3 and semi aquatic rodents. Strangely this also seems to be the month for dropping absolute stinkers on the general public. I guess the movie studios don’t want to leave out those without taste.  

First in line for your attention are the Coen brothers with their remake of John Wayne classic True Grit. Jeff Bridges takes on Wayne’s iconic cowboy in a battle of The Dude vs The Duke. The brothers have stated that they’ll be taking their cue from Charles Portis’ novel rather than the 1969 film and returning the point of view to the character of 14 year old Mattie Ross. To be honest the original film shows its age (Glen Campbell?!) and was always ripe for a remake. Interestingly Bridges and Wayne could be the first two people to win the best actor Oscar for playing the same character.

Grit topped the US Box Office and quickly became the Coen brothers’ biggest grossing film of all time. Joining the brothers in their march into mainstream conscience and award contention is auteur Darren Aronofsky. His film Black Swan has possibly even more of an awards buzz surrounding it. Starring Natalie Portman, this psychological thriller is set in the ultra competitive world of ballet and follows Portman’s White Swan as she is forced to confront her dark side in the form of The Black Swan (Mila Kunis). The film looks to be a flight of dark fantasy featuring switched identities and mind bending visuals. Conversely it is also very much a companion to Aronofsky’s 2009 The Wrestler with both investigating the physical and mental toll of high pressure jobs.  

 

If you’re looking for something on the slightly lighter side than the latest from Pegg and Frost hits this month. They’ve done horror comedy, they’ve done action comedy, sci-fi comedy had to be next. Paul is the story of two sci-fi nerds who meet a real life alien (voiced by Seth Rogen) and end up going on a crazy road trip. Unlike Shaun and Fuzz, Edgar Wright won’t be behind the camera but there is little to worry about as Greg Motolla (Superbad, Adventureland) steps into the director’s chair. That’s not even mentioning the A-list supporting cast including Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader amongst others. The problem with most genre comedies is a lack of knowledge of what they are paying homage to. If you’ve ever seen Spaced then you’ll know for sure that won’t be a problem here.

From The Beaver to The Bieber. I think Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D is a far more distressing prospect than Mel Gibson talking to his hand. To be completely honest I don’t know a great deal about The Bieber. From the music video I saw I think he might have been adopted by Usher and mentored by him in a kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi – Luke Skywalker deal. He seems to have a weird obsession with babies too. Still, I’m more excited about catching the Bieber fever than Big Momma’s House: Like Father, Like Son. Surely this is the kind of film straight to DVD was invented for? Just don’t go and see either of these monstrosities. If nothing else I’ve mentioned excites you, then there’s boxing biopic The Fighter and James Cameron-produced Sanctum on offer too. They have to be better than Martin Lawrence vigorously flogging the fat suit dead horse.