December 2014 Preview

 

Well, folks, 2014 is winding down, and as perusual, we have a ton of major films coming out now to cap off the year nicely. Let’s take a look at them today, and remember, I have not seen these films and my predictions come solely from early reviews, trends, Oscar buzz, and my abilities as a film reviewer. I’m pretty good at predicting success or failure based on a lot of factors, and I merely want to provide you with a solid bit of info to make your holiday choices well.

 

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The Pyramid

We discussed The Pyramid before, and I have high hopes for it, but personally, I feel as though the studio decision to drop it at the beginning of December is not something I feel great about. While December is a great month for films, a horror film release during this time is almost as much a death notice as sending it out in January. I like the story about a group of archaologists studying pyramid ruins only to be hunted by something alive in there intrigues me, and I like the work of first time director Gregory Levasseur, who penned previous horror films like the remakes to The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors, so it may stand tall, but I’m pretty on the fence with this one. That being said, horror movies are a lot of fun in theaters, are they not?

 

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Wild

Jean-Marc Vallee is riding high off the success of last year’s Dallas Buyer’s Club, and it would seem to be continuing with the Oscar buzz connected to Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of the same name, chronicling her journey of over 1100 miles hiking to come to emotional terms with tragedy in her life. Reese Witherspoon won’t be taking the Oscar for her portrayal this year, but I’m hearing that she is on the short list of possible nominees. This seems like a definite win, from the adaptation by famed writer Nick Hornby to the many performances being universally loved.

 

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Exodus: Gods and Kings

Ridley Scott and I have a strained relationship. I love his skills as a director, but every director’s cut he has ever had has disappointed me beyond belief, so in that way, I like that he is a studio man, and doesn’t get final cut. His new film, based on the works of the Bible, features Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, looks epic to be sure, and the Oscar buzz for its technical achievements cannot be ignored. I think Ridley Scott has crafted a unique look at these events, and after a year of unique visions (Noah) and Christian pandering films (God’s Not Dead), Exodus will likely divide moviegoers. I’m all in, but not everyone will be.

 

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

I mean, C’MON! It’s the friggin’ Hobbit! I loved The Lord of the Rings! I love the previous Hobbit films. How can this not be an event film? I get the first feelings of huge critical acclaim for this finale to the Middle-Earth Saga. The previous Hobbit releases were less loved than their decade-old brethren, but I think director Peter Jackson is ready to cap off his saga the right way, delivering a truly epic experience.

 

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Annie

I’m just going to say this one.  NO! There. Annie getting a remake didn’t bother me much, until I saw the cringe-inducing trailer. This film likely had its heart in the right place, but it will be awful.

 

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The Gambler

Mark Wahlberg has had an interesting career. He does big Oscar films like Lone Survivor and The Fighter, and then he has Pain & Gain and Transformers: Age of Extinction. So what is The Gambler? A lit professor has an affair with a student and then gets involved with a loan shark in this film from director Rupert Wyatt and writer William Monahan. I think this film will be more towards The Fighter, which is good. I like Wyatt’s directing and I love Monahan’s writing, so I have some good vibes.

 

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Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Here we are, at the end of Robin William’s esteemed career. This is the last film of the famed performer and if we can look back at the previous two Night at the Museum films, we can say that we are looking at a lot of fun. Don’t expect a perfect night, and understand that it won’t be an original masterpiece (even the first sequel retreaded the same waters as its predecessor), but I’m not thinking bad.

 

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Big Eyes

So Tim Burton’s newest film doesn’t look like a Tim Burton film. The true story of Margaret Keane and her husband during her explosion as an artist seems like a good place to take filmgoers. There are nuances of Burton’s style here but this is wholly new territory and I can respect that, and with the great work previously seen from Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, I’m actually pretty excited for Big Eyes.

 

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The Interview

I guess no controversy is bad controversy, right? The Interview is literally a movie about an undercover assassination of Kim Jong-Un. And it is a comedy with James Franco and Seth Rogen. Yes, those two sentences are related. There was so much controversy surrounding this film when it had its first trailer release that I wasn’t sure the film would ever be released, but here it comes, just in time for Christmas. I’m sure it will have the right laughs and I feel like I need to see it just to understand what the hell this was all for, but tread carefully people. Sometimes studios push controversy to cover a disappointing finished product.

 

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Into the Woods

Disney’s star-studded adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical bringing together a cadre of fairy tale creatures in a dark and stunning atmospheric wood seems to be bringing the good buzz. There was definite controversy surrounding whether Disney’s version would contain some of the darker aspects of the original musical brought me out a bit, but I’m hoping that Rob Marshall’s directing and the incredible Meryl Streep can keep this film rollicking.

 

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Unbroken

The last major film on our list is Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, is a true story of Louis Zamperini who was a POW in World War II after being hailed for his skills as an Olympic runner previously. Zamperini’s intense story of survival is already garnering a ton of Oscar buzz so I have good feeling abound. See this one. I know I will be.

 

 

So there you go. And here you go:

 

Best Bets: Wild, Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Big Eyes, Unbroken

Likely Drops: Annie

On the Bubble: The Pyramid, The Gambler, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Interview, Into the Woods

 

Remember these are not set in stone, sometimes a film can surprise (in both directions) and you may seem something I did not. Enjoy yourself and Happy Holidays!

[Happy 10th Birthday!] Alexander (2004)

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Director: Oliver Stone

Cast: Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Oliver Stone, Christopher Kyle, Laeta Kalogridis

175 mins. Rated R for violence and some sexuality/nudity.

 

Ten years ago today, silver screens everywhere were graced with the presence of Oliver Stone’s newest film, a bold epic about Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell, Phone Booth, Winter’s Tale). Audiences and critics alike were in agreement. This was one of the worst films ever. I myself hadn’t seen Alexander until I heard that the 10th anniversary was coming, so I took it upon myself to see if the film has aged well or if perhaps the rest of the world was wrong.

As it turns out, they weren’t.

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This movie is dreck. The plot is unbearably convoluted to sift through, but essentially tells the entire life story of one of the greatest rulers in existence through the word of his general Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins, Hannibal, Noah). We get to see his uncomfortably sensual relationship with his mother (Angelina Jolie, Maleficent, Kung Fu Panda 2), his constant need to kill his father (Val Kilmer, Heat, Palo Alto), his undersensualized sexual relationship with friend Hephaistion (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club), and his animalistic relationship with first wife Roxane (Rosario Dawson, Sin City, Cesar Chavez). Seriously, I had no idea what was going on throughout this movie. It jumps around so damn much that I couldn’t quite remember where we were in time, which wasn’t helped with the horrible makeup that showed us that in ancient times, no one actually aged; apparently Angelina Jolie is hot no matter what age she is and Anthony Hopkins was actually born an aged bearded old man (that being said, at least a younger actor was cast to play Hopkins’ role in his flashbacks, that’s about it). I feel like this film should have been released with a light up timeline that people could check off events in the movie as they happen so we knew exactly what the hell was going on.

Colin Farrell kills it in this movie. Wait, I meant to say he killed this movie. If nothing else, I was so pissed to find that he absolutely tried his hardest not to act for the entirety of this three-hour tour. Oh, I didn’t know that Alexander was Irish. Hmmm, interesting.

I also didn’t know that somehow Alexander’s mother Olympias was Russian. It certainly seemed that way from the broken accent work given by Angelina Jolie.

Val Kilmer actually gives a nice enough performance were it not for the atrocious makeup work on his eye. You can literally see the prosthetic piece’s edge. Totally takes away what he could put down.

I actually like Jared Leto’s work as well as that of Rosario Dawson, but I felt like both roles were wasted by having nothing to do (again, I’m not complaining about Rosario’s nude scene, perhaps the only scene in the film worth keeping in the finished film).

And what was going on with Anthony Hopkins in this movie? Was his performance work based on a Roomba, because it seemed to me like he was walking all around his little balcony for 175 minutes bopping back and forth like a screensaver on a DVD player. I kept waiting to see if he would bump into a corner ‘cause I just wanted to see what would happen.

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Honestly, I have never seen a more wasted group of talent. This was one of those films that marked the end of Stone’s career; it really hasn’t moved much in a good direction since. From the opening overlong and boring prologue to the ending that seems to discredit any actual fact in the film, Alexander is a pointless film not worth the three different cuts the film had. Good movies are supposed to have multiple cuts, like Blade Runner, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Lord of the Rings films. It seemed like maybe if they kept recutting the picture, maybe they’d find a version that worked (ultimately, they did not). Avoid at all costs.

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Noah (2014)

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Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins

Screenplay: Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel

138 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggest content.

 

When I heard that Academy Award nominated director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) would be taking on the biblical tale of Noah, I knew two things. One: this film was going to divide audiences and potentially upset a lot of people. Two: I knew I had to see it. I knew the director, who also directed such genre-busting films as Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, was going to have a specific view of the source material and he was going to create a unique vision that we hadn’t seen before. He did.

The film is the story of Noah (Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, Gladiator) and his family, including wife Naameh (Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind), adoptive daughter Ila (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, This is the End), and son Ham (Logan Lerman, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters). Noah receives a message from The Creator and then further proof of his destined path from The Watchers, a group of rocklike creatures with unimaginable strength of body and mind. He begins work on an ark after receiving further guidance from his grandfather Methuselah (Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs). As the ark is constructed, it attracts some unwanted attention from Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone, The Departed, Snow White and the Huntsman) and his group, who want the ark for themselves.

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The special effects work from ILM is astounding here. They created slightly tweaked versions of animals along the evolutionary line. They also created The Watchers, a very interesting addition to this tale. They appear to be fallen Seraphim angels, who had six wings. That would explain why the creatures have six limbs.

I also happened to find the film’s ambiguous time period both confusing and interesting. It could be in the past, and it could be in the future. It turns the whole tale into a kind of cautionary tale about the direction mankind may be heading.

Russell Crowe gives one of the most powerful performances of his career as Noah, and he and Connelly’s chemistry is strong given this as the second film they have appeared in as romantically-linked characters.

I completely got why the film would be controversial. Any time you have an adaptation of a biblical tale, you have controversy. This film harkens back to the controversy behind Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, or even Ron Howard’s The DaVinci Code. So many parts of this film are so anti-biblical in their biblical portrayal. Crowe’s version of Noah as an angry, alcoholic, and unyielding servant to his creator is bound to spark arguments. Paramount Pictures had to actually create a disclaimer for the film stating that liberties were taken. Honestly, how could they not be? The entire story of Noah takes up all of two chapters of the bible. Not a lot of detail.

This is the point where I make a stand. People, it’s a movie. It isn’t some antichrist-made archaic devil-worshiping creation. It is a movie. So calm down. None of the stuff in this movie is all that far off. Yes, Aronofsky’s Noah suffers from survivor’s guilt. His Noah has evolution in it. His Noah had fallen angels and darkness and suffering. His Noah is some of the saddest and also inspiring work I’ve seen. It actually changed the way I see the story, and not in a bad way. It is an interpretation, and if you didn’t like it, I’m sorry, but Aronofsky wasn’t making a film to appease the masses. He was making a story the way he saw it. Everybody needs to take a chill pill.

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I’m a Christian and I liked Noah. That’s all I feel I need to say. I thought it was one of the best films I have ever seen. When I finished it the first, I felt like I needed to see it again immediately. The only flaw, if it is one, is that it is a much more simple story than Aronofsky’s other work with Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, and The Fountain. Go see this movie. I can’t say that you will love it like I did, but I feel like it needs to be seen, no matter if you have religious background or not.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah? Did it sink or swim? Let me know!

 

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