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New Releases and Upcoming Movies
New & Upcoming Movie Releases
Top Five Release: December 12th Rated: TBD Cast: Adam Sandler, Rosario Dawson, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart Genre: Comedy Synopsis: A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancé talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.
Mr. Turner Release: December 19th Rated: R Cast: Timothy Spall, Paul Jesson, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey Genre: Biography | Drama | History Synopsis: An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner's life.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb Release: December 19th Rated: PG Cast: Robin Williams, Ben Stiller, Dan Stevens, Owen Wilson Genre: Adventure | Comedy | Family | Fantasy Synopsis: Larry spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever.
Annie Release: December 19th Rated: PG Cast: Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale Genre: Comedy | Drama | Family | Musical Synopsis: Annie is a young, happy foster kid who's also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014. Originally left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they'd be back for her someday, it's been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan. But everything's about to change when the hard-nosed tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Release: December 19th Rated: TBD Cast: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett Genre: Adventure | Fantasy Synopsis: Bilbo and Company are forced to be embraced in a war against an armed flock of combatants and the terrifying Smaug from acquiring a kingdom of treasure and obliterating all of Middle-Earth.
Taken 3 Release: January 9th Rated: TBD Cast: Famke Janssen, Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Forest Whitaker Genre: Action | Crime | Thriller Synopsis: Bryan Mills, an Ex-government operative is accused of a ruthless murder he never committed or witnessed as he is tracked and pursued, Bryan Mills brings out his particular set of skills to find the true killer and clear his name.
The Polar Express Release: December 20th Rated: G Cast: Tom Hanks, Chris Coppola, Michael Zemeckis Genre: Animation | Adventure | Family Synopsis: On Christmas Eve, a doubting boy boards a magical train that's headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus' home.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Can you believe that it's been 13 years since the world was first dazzled by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings saga? So much has happened since then. My wife was in the very early stages of dating me when it came out and I took her to see the midnight screening of it with all my friends. I remember looking over at her during the amazingly action-packed finale and she was completely asleep. I remember thinking, "how could ANYONE fall asleep during a movie that was so well-crafted and spectacular" (completely ignoring the fact that she had traveled 8 hours that day and it was 90 degrees in the theater). It's still a point of contention in our relationship that she couldn't find Peter Jackson's world of hobbits, dwarves, orcs, elves and men to be riveting. After seeing the final film in the franchise I can finally understand how.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit in 1937 and is only 300 pages long. Tolkien was a literary genius but also had a bit of an ego and believed that one day his book would be turned into several films so he wrote 125 pages of extra backstory that he published later. Sure enough, he was right and it's a real shame because dividing this book up into three movies that total almost 8 hours of footage is unforgivable and it ruined the entire series for me...at least for a while. Five Armies is the shortest of The Hobbit films by about 20 minutes and it feels 20 minutes longer than the others.
It's impossible for me to blame Jackson or anyone in the cast who've dedicated three years to this and some of them, such as Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen, six years! This is entirely the fault of MGM Studios and New Line Cinema. These greedy bloodsuckers saw money raining from the sky and Oscars everywhere after the Lord of the Rings series ended and it still wasn't enough. They strong-armed Jackson into doing it again knowing that the returning cast wouldn't do it unless he did (look up the backstory) and forced him to do it by making him offers he couldn't refuse...so I guess there's a little greed there for him too. What we're left with is an unenjoyable mess.
I know that some of you defend it by saying that the Lord of the Rings series was long, tedious and exhausting. Yes, that's true but each film was based on a single book and had a beginning, middle and end. The Hobbit, despite the best efforts to move content around, turned into three films that did not. I know, I know....they're supposed to be enjoyed as a single story. Fine, but if that's the case we're left with an 8-hour-long film that is impossible to enjoy no matter who makes it.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is punishing. The entire thing feels like it's one long battle sequence that goes on and on and on and on and on. It's an absolute shame that one of the greatest film franchises in history has been reduced to this. It's a 2-and-a-half-hour-long death rattle of a director that is exhausted, out of ideas, coloring by numbers and going through the motions. The passion that existed in our first three journeys to Middle Earth has been sucked dry. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Peter Jackson couldn't even stomach Tolkien's books anymore after this. I haven't been a fan of any of The Hobbit films so when the movie began, I said to my friend Dave who went with me, "Well, we started this two years ago, let's just get this over with." The devastating fact is that this final installment feels like Peter Jackson said the same thing to us.
One of the hardest stories to write is one where your hero is a terrible person. I'm not talking about a film that follows the villain as the main character such as Hannibal or Psycho; those films still have good characters to cheer for. What I'm talking about is a true anti-hero, which is a character that lacks conventional heroic attributes. The main character of Nightcrawler not only lacks heroic attributes but is devoid of all morality, gives new meaning to the word creepy and yet is completely enjoyable to watch for two hours. It's an accomplishment that few movies attempt and even fewer have pulled off but Nightcrawler is now one of the finest examples of it.
Jake Gyllenhaal is one of those actors that doesn't get the credit he deserves, at least by me. Despite being absolutely incredible in films like Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain, Prisoners, and End of Watch I still foolishly put him in the column of guys that are too good looking to be good actors. He joins the likes of Ryan Gosling, Colin Farrell and Chris Pine. George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio all used to be in there and it took years for me to remove them. Nightcrawler was the last performance I needed to also remove Gyllenhaal because he is disgustingly slimy and yet so likable. His character of Louis Bloom is one that you hate yourself for liking as he does some truly awful things in the film yet always turns up with a smile that could kill.
The film follows a real profession called Nightcrawlers, who are free-lance people who spend the night listening to police scanners, rushing to horrific crime scenes, shooting bloody footage and selling it to local news organizations. The movie suggests that some of these guys rearrange murder scenes to be more dramatic. It's shocking but nothing new. One of the most famous photos from the Civil War is called The Sharpshooter's Nest and it was revealed that the photographer totally staged the entire thing. I spoke to some friends who work in local news and they're appalled by the film and say it's not accurate at all but regardless of the truth, the film is excellent.
This is writer/director Dan Gilroy's first film behind the camera and it's so good that I expect him to have a very long career. (You can hear my full interview with him below) His script is oringinal and provocative. His direction is haunting and thrilling. The movie paces extremely well for being two hours and never once judges you liking Bloom or influences your opinions of him. It's a small film that feels big and I hope it finds its audience because it's Gyllenhaal's finest performance and given the career he's given us so far, that's a bold statement.
Listen to Gavin's interview with the writer/director of Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy:
Horrible Bosses 2
Three years ago we all gathered in theaters to watch the antics of Nick, Kurt and Dale and laughed our asses off. It was a very cathartic and relatable story about three guys with horrible bosses (not just a clever title) who were so bad they tried to kill them. I loved it and so did a lot of other people. I think I speak for everyone when I say that not for a single second did I leave the theater thinking, "I wonder what happens next!" I'm not totally against the unnecesary sequel to a very successful film but it certainly does make it harder to justify its existence. Horrible Bosses 2 is that unnecessary sequel and although it's funny as hell at times, it's hard to justify its existence.
So what is it about this movie that makes it so lousy compared to the original? I crunched the numbers and I came down to two things. One is a concept for a sequel that as close to stupid as you can get without officially being so. The other is a change in director. See, you can have two different race car drivers drive the same car and one can lose and one can win. That's what happened here. Seth Gordon directed the first one and it was his first fictional film; his first was one of the greatest documentaries of all time called The King of Kong. He also directed several episodes of the funniest shows on TV in the last decade such as Modern Family, The Office, The Goldbergs and Parks and Recreation. Horrible Bosses 2 is directed by Sean Anders who's movies are terrible. They consist of Sex Drive and That's My Boy. If you ever seen either of those you'll understand why I don't need to elaborate.
Yes, it's true that the cast of Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis (SNL, Meet the Millers) and Charlie Day (Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Pacific Rim) are back. Yes, they're joined again by supporting characters played by Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey. Yes, the new cast members of Chris Pine (Star Trek, This Means War) and Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained) are both great. But despite noble efforts from all involved it's not enough to make this a really enjoyable film.
I think a bigger reason why this one doesn't work as well is because we were still kind of naive in 2011 with these guys. Sudeikis and Day were new to mainstream audiences and they overlooked the fact that they're basically playing the same character in the film making one of them completely pointless. Bateman hadn't annoyed us by that point but now his "Bateman" character he plays in every single film he does is just so predictable and unfunny. Anistan is as vulgar as she was in the first one but the shock of hearing Rachel say filthy things is so tired at this point that her scenes go over like lead balloons. The only shining performance that's fresh is Pine who swings for the fences and makes it work.
I understand that when Hollywood gets a taste of a good thing they want to suck from it until it's shriveled up and dead. They've done that with Horrible Bosses. It's a lousy story with witty dialogue only because the core cast is great at making stuff up. The comedic tone and timing is awful due to a director who takes his playbook pages from Adam Sandler. Massive jumps in logic are needed in order for all the returning cast members to be part of the story. The whole thing feels desparate and needy despite moments of humor; a far cry from the charming and hilarious comedy the original was.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
It's a rare thing when a film version of a book is better than the book it's based on. I can only think of it happening one or two times. I read the entire Hunger Games series and found that the last book, the one this film is based on, was the worst. Maybe it's not enjoying a book that made the film seem so much better. Maybe it's because they split the book in half and were able to include far more than they ever could had they not done that. Maybe it was a seasoned cast and crew that's been together long enough that they're building a healthy stride. I don't know what it is but I'm thrilled because Mockingjay Part 1 is the best in the Hunger Games series so far.
I was thrilled when director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Constantine) took over the series from the original director Gary Ross (Big, Seabiscuit). I think we all agree that the first Hunger Games film was a let down. The series by Suzanne Collins is so incredibly dark and he did a subpar job of making that feel dystopian. But with Catching Fire, Lawrence gave it the edge and action the series lacked so badly. It also didn't hurt that it was a much better book than the first one. In Mockingjay, Lawrence kicks everything up a notch and that's impressive considering how slow and boring the book was.
Since Jennifer Lawrence has taken the role of Katniss, she's been nominated for two Oscars. No doubt that she's kicked ass in other films but as far as The Hunger Games goes, she's been very unimpressive. It's almost like she was giving us a performance we expected to see in a film based on a Young Adult novel. In Mockingjay, however, she finally shows us why she's got a gold statue. Her performance in Mockingjay is the most heartbreak and emotion we've seen in the Katniss character in the entire series.
The rest of the cast helps that along as well since the caliber of actor is at a peak for Mockingjay. It's emotional watching the late Phillip Seymore Hoffman in one of his last roles because his performance is great! He's subtle but delivers some much-needed levity and power to a story that often lacks both. Julianne Moore (Children of Men, Boogie Nights) joins the cast as President Coin. She makes the character a lot warmer than it read in the book and that's good because it's one of the many things that makes this far better than the source material.
Critics, including myself, have often accused Hollywood of bleeding books dry of every last drop of box office profit when they split them into several movies. Sometimes it works as in the last Harry Potter book and other times it's a terrible and tragic failure like in The Hobbit. In the case of Mockingjay, it's wonderful! Letting this story play out like a chess game is exactly what it needed. They also take the liberty in showing us things that aren't in the book at all. I very suspenseful scene at the end is talked about in a few sentences in the book yet puts us on the edge of our seats in the film; and sequences of uprisings in other Districts are shown and are some of the highlights of the film.
I understand that some people may call this boring because there is downtime building up to a revolution. But as someone who's read the book, I can assure you that it's better this way. Francis Lawrence is making the absolute best film one can make from a book that let down most of the its readers. His cast is committed to his vision and are executing it with precision. Even as a fan, I didn't look forward to this and now that I've seen it, I can't wait to see what he does with Mockingjay Part 2.