The Wachowski siblings have had a very up-and-down directing career. After their modestly budged The Matrix became a popular hit in 1999, the directing pair was given carte blanche for its two sequels and the result was a couple of bloated and incoherent movies that were still financial hits. They were reined back in for the ambitious Cloud Atlas, which they co-directed with Tom Tykwer, and which turned out to be very good movie. The critical cred they earned with that movie, however, leads to their latest, Jupiter Ascending, an ambitious and lavish sci-fi spectacle, which unfortunately plays closer to the overblown Matrix sequels than the ground-breaking original.
First Person Shooter
American Sniper is a return to form of sorts for director Clint Eastwood, following a couple of underwhelming releases in J. Edgar and last year’s Jersey Boys. The new film is based on the 2012 book that came with the subtitle “The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.” The book and the movie tell the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a trained sniper who served four tours in Iraq. During those four tours, Kyle would be credited with 160 confirmed kills, making him, as the subtitle to the book suggests, the most deadly sniper in American history.
Lebowski-Esque Detective Work
Having directed films like There Will Be Blood and The Master, director Paul Thomas Anderson is not really known for comedy. Even the film he cast Adam Sandler in, Punch-Drunk Love, is generally remembered as a drama. Anderson’s latest film, Inherent Vice, in which Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry “Doc” Sportello, a drug-fueled private investigator in 1970 Los Angeles, just might be the closest the director ever gets even though the film is still far from being a straight-forward comedy.
The Story of Dr. King’s March
It is difficult to believe that there has never been a theatrically released movie about Martin Luther King, Jr. There have been a few versions on television, but none that have debuted on the big screen. That changes this year with the release of Selma, an affecting drama about Dr. King’s fight to secure equal voting rights in the south. Director Ava DuVernay focuses on the events leading up to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and she creates a powerful drama, somewhat amazingly, considering she did not even have the rights to use any of Dr. King’s famous speeches.
A Hero’s Story Told
The characters in the new movie The Imitation Game are constantly reminding us and each other that “sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” One such person is the movie’s true-life protagonist, Alan Turing, an English mathematician who broke the Nazi’s Enigma code during World War II while almost single-handedly inventing the computer. Despite this, Turing was chastised by the British government for being gay in a time when that was considered to be a crime. Because of this, the general population—especially that outside the United Kingdom—is not as familiar as they should be with Turing’s accomplishments. This movie, fortunately, is set to change all that.
An Incredible True Story
The new film Unbroken is based on one of those true stories that you cannot believe is actually true–not necessarily because you cannot believe that the events depicted in the movie actually happened, but because it is difficult to believe that someone could suffer through those events and come out in one piece on the other side. The movie is the story of Louis Zamperini, a man who went through hell during World War II and whose story, as tough as it may be to watch, is one that needs to be told.
From Stage to Screen
With lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, the musical Into the Woods first hit the Broadway stage in 1987. Since that time, various people have attempted to adapt the play for the cinema, but none of these projects ever got any further than the script-reading phase. That changes this year as director Rob Marshall finally brings the musical to the big screen with the help of stars like Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp.
The Final Chapter?
The final chapter of The Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies is billed as the final film in director Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth film series that included both this trilogy and the three original Lord of the Rings films. The shortest film in the series, The Battle of the Five Armies works both as a final chapter and as a prequel to the original trilogy. Although certainly a better effort than a prequel trilogy for another major film franchise that shall remain nameless, The Hobbit does not quite stand up to its predecessor. Still, there quite a lot of entertainment value in this final film that is essentially two hours and twenty-four minutes of non-stop battle sequences.
Fun with Robots
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is dominating the live-action box-office with some of the publisher’s more well-known characters, some of the lesser-known characters are finding a home in the animated world. Disney’s latest animated effort is based on a lesser-known Marvel property. They may have been lesser-known characters going in, but the heroes of Big Hero 6 likely won’t remain so obscure for long as this movie is primed to be a major hit.
Morals Need Not Apply
Jake Gyllenhaal is quickly becoming one of our better actors. After bursting onto the scene in 2001’s indie cult hit Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal earned his first and (so far) only Oscar nomination for his performance opposite the late Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Since then, the actor has delivered many more quality performances in movies like Jarhead, Zodiac, and End of Watch. Sure, he has also had a few duds (Prince of Persia, anyone?), but for the most part the actor has shined. Nightcrawler is just the latest in a long line of good work… and it just might be in best.
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