That They Are
It is no secret that Al Pacino and Christopher Walken are getting up there in years, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still play memorable anti-heroes. In fact, their new film Stand Up Guys gives them each one of the best characters in their long and memorable careers. Add to that a great supporting part for Alan Arkin and you have a thoroughly enjoyable movie about a couple of life-long criminals given one last night for illegal hijinks.
No Surprises in this City
On paper, the new crime thriller Broken City has all the elements of a classic film noir: a hero with a past is brought by a powerful, corrupt figure into a conspiracy that involves a dangerous femme fatale. Unfortunately, to paraphrase a popular sports idiom: that’s why they make the movies. Okay, so it doesn’t directly translate to the world of cinema, but you get the point. The elements of a great story are there, but the execution is lacking.
The Untouchables of L.A.
If Brian DePalma’s operatic 1987 cop drama The Untouchables and Warren Beatty’s colorful, machine gun-happy Dick Tracy from 1990 were to get together and have a cinematic offspring, it would probably look something like director Ruben Fleischer’s new cop flick Gangster Squad. Like the former, it’s the story of a determined cop and his equally devoted team as they attempt to bring down a mobster that has control of their city. Like the latter, it’s got lots and lots of machine gun fire. It’s definitely got the style to rival its cinematic parents, but the plot is a little too familiar for it to stand out on its own.
They Like Each Other, They Like Each Other Not
This is 40 is being advertised as the “sort-of sequel to Knocked Up.” That Judd Apatow-directed movie told the story of an unexpected pair of parents-to-be as they faced the consequences of their one night stand. Pete and Debbie were two of the supporting characters in that movie and now Apatow has decided to give them their own movie that focuses on the relationship between these two people who both turn forty in the same week. If nothing else, This is 40 works as a solid showcase for the acting talents of Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann.
It’s Going to Be a Long One
It has been nine years since director Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy concluded, an accomplishment that stands as one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema. Given the trilogy’s success, it was only a matter of time before that trilogy’s literature prequel, the much beloved The Hobbit, arrived in theaters. Delayed by, among other things, legal trouble, the tale of Bilbo Baggins has finally arrived in theaters; at least, part of it has. In a curious decision, Jackson has decided to tell the three hundred page story in three parts, each part epic in its own right. The first film in the new trilogy has been titled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and it comes in at just under three hours.
There Will Be Hot Dogs
Following Lincoln, Hyde Park on Hudson is the second movie of the holiday season about a former president of the United States. Like the previous film, Hyde Park focuses only on a brief period of time in the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s, rather than trying to tell his entire biography. It’s an interesting story about an event that few modern Americans will know took place and although he may not disappear into his character as much as Daniel Day-Lewis, Bill Murray makes a good 32nd President of the United States.
Having already been seen by a number of people thanks to early festival screenings, Silver Linings Playbook’s early Oscar buzz can be seen as more than just hype. This movie is already earning a reputation on more than just pure expectations. The buzz is somewhat surprising, considering that the movie, at its core, follows the typical romantic comedy format. But it is because the writing is so sharp, the characters so deep, engaging, and well-played by talented, popular actors that this movie is running up to the podium draped in a garbage bag; you know, “for sweat.”
A Visual Delight
Life of Pi, Yann Martel’s popular novel about a young boy stranded on a lifeboat with a deadly Bengal tiger, once seemed unfilmable. Multiple high-profile directors have been attached to the project, but none could figure out how to pull it off. Oscar-winner Ang Lee once thought the same thing, until he had a revelation: shoot it in 3D! It’s an unexpected direction to take a drama that doesn’t feature any giant robots or laser beams, but it’s a technique that works to bring the audience right into the center of Pi’s story of survival.
A Stunning Portrait
Poll one hundred random Americans as to who the greatest president in our country’s history was and it’s a safe bet that Abraham Lincoln’s name would come up quite a bit. The Great Emancipator is held in great esteem by this country, and yet, just a few months ago, he was something of a joke in cinemas thanks to the awful Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Fortunately, director Steven Spielberg and star Daniel Day-Lewis are here to right the ship with Lincoln, their fascinating story about the 16th President’s battle to pass the 13th Amendment, banning slavery.
Can’t Quite Keep the Nose Up
It is hard to believe that it has been twelve years since Robert Zemeckis has directed a live-action movie. The director of such hits as Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump has been at the forefront of the motion capture animation movement over the past decade, but now returns to live-action with Flight, a drama that opens with a spectacular plane crash… a sequence worth the price of admission alone. Too bad that the rest of the movie couldn’t keep up the momentum.
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