Forget '70s remake Carrie, lurid '80s tribute act Escape Plan and the inevitable and inevitably disappointing The Fifth Estate. There is a lot more going on in your trailer mash this week than that. To begin with, 12 Years a Slave is artist-turned-arthouse director Steve McQueen's based-on-a-true-story take on American slavery in which the always brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor is given a range of Hollywood institutions to act against from Brad Pitt to Paul Giamatti. Then there is American Promise, which looks like a riveting documentary about the experiences of two African American kids educated in a predominantly white private school. How that plays out is told in footage recorded by the boys' parents over the last 12 years.
The other worthwhile doc of the week is Birth of the Living Dead, the story of how George A Romero's seminal black and white zombie movie Night of the Living Dead was so very much more than a thrillingly effective monster flick. Recall that the hero, played by Duane Jones, meets his end not in the jaws of a zombie but at the end of a policeman's rifle. In 1969.
Elsewhere the mercurially brilliant Bernard Rose has teamed up with the no less mercurially brilliant Danny Huston to tell yet another of Tolstoy's short stories in The Two Jacks. Fans will recognize the usual mix of seriously adult themes shot fast and tight on cheap cameras that could care less about grain in nighttime footage when the emotion they capture is so enriching. For non-fans, hail the union of Jacqueline Bisset and Sienna Miller as a double threat mother and daughter team. And in the super stupid corner Big Ass Spider (its title is its log line) gives Greg Grunberg another opportunity to demonstrate how poorly he has been used since being associated with the debacle that was the TV series Heroes after its first season.