With the Golden Globes last weekend, the awards race jumped into quick action right after the new year, and the movies opening every week are numerous and bountiful! Now whether that means they are all great is another story altogether. Let us begin shall we?
I would never be one to trash an effort solely because I'm not a fan of a genre. Growing up Disney, some might assume that one is just naturally inclined to like things of a musical nature, but that could not be further from the truth. Frankly, the majority of musicals make me cringe with horror, so I forced myself to clamor through the big screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. Okay...it still stands that musicals are NOT my thing, but at least this one was cleverly put together...and man alive, can some of these actors sing. The shining gem here was Anna Kendrick, she of the silly antics but powerhouse vocals on Pitch Perfect, as well as, the crap Twilight series. What you might not know was that she got her rise to fame through a string of notable Broadway moments, starting nearly twenty years ago at the age of twelve. From her voice to Johnny Depp’s to Meryl Streep’s to Emily Blunt’s to even Chris Pine’s (yes, the new Capt. Kirk can sing) and Tracey Ullman, the performances are well, frankly above par. Not something I'm likely to watch again, but lovers of the genre and Sondheim will likely be satiated! ###-1/2
Next comes a swell sidestep into sweet schlock. My first cinematic recall of Simon Pegg was in the zombie comedy caper Shaun of the Dead, well over a decade ago. Since then, I've had a pretty pleasant time watching his outings from time to time. With the release of his latest film Hector and the Search for Happiness, we find Pegg owning up to his over-that-certain-age bearings. He plays the title character, a psychoanalyst who is recognising that he has hit his quasi mid-life crisis. This promulgates a change, where he decides to travel the world on an open-ended ticket to discover other people's interpretation of what makes them happy. Kismet, drama, synchronicity and mayhem ensue, but while the film will no doubt be seen as a tad formulaic, I can't help but see it as an Idiot Man’s Guide to Looking for your Life's Answer. It may not change your life, but there is a definite reality to be found within the and that will do just nicely! ###
Still Julianne Moore, Still Alice. Be still cinematic Oscar/awards gods! This film finds never-aging, milky white screen goddess doing her best to give her acting chops a nice workout. Yes, she succeeds! Doesn’t she always? Now, whether it warrants being thrown on the silver screen for critics and audiences alike to pay good money to watch….meh. The film is seamless in its own right, but really only as a Hallmark (or stretching it while being nice, an HBO) film. We have a nice mix of actors including Moore, Alec Baldwin, the ever-boring Kristen Stewart, and please-feed-me-ten-sandwiches Kate Bosworth, and while they are all perfect for their roles, again…the big screen? Moore’s film was actually one of several hacked from Sony a couple of months ago and made available online forthwith. Save your monedas and find a copy online. Great acting chops solidify a decent watch; after all, Moore just won Best Actress at the Globes the other night. Still, tell me that I’m wrong when I claim that this movie belonged much more on the small screen than on the big one. ##-1/2
And now the horror…the horror!! This weekend sees the release of two horror flicks that put a decent, if nothing too new, spin on the current slate of crappy terror movies released in spades this past season. Let’s start with Australian import The Babadook, a mother-and-son being haunted by an entity tale that feels ripped out of the US TV series, A Haunting…but as they often do, Aussies do stellar work with horror films and thrillers (see the Wolf Creek series). The best way to make a decent horror flick is to immediately make the audience feel something for the protagonist(s) and work on the viewer’s heartstrings or ability to relate. A single mother dealing with a dead husband and lonely, odd child helps to do that immediately in this film. I don’t want to spoil it, but add in the appearance of a book that won’t go away and a malevolent spirit, and what you have is a recipe for frights and spooks. The film plots along rather slowly at first, but stay with it. You’ll be glad you did. ###
The other horror flick is called We Are What We Are, a film that was released sporadically in the English-speaking realm between late 2013 and 2014. This religion-make-people-nutso film draws on the typical stereotypes of fanatical Christians but then takes it a step further by then involving small town ideals, hidden secrets and cannibalism in a drawn-out but creepy manner. The film is, again, quite available to view online, but I must say that a religious-themed horror film of this nature has been done already…and done better before. Please view Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey in Frailty for more of the same…only better! ##-1/2
The actor J.K. Simmons is likely best known for being the white supremacist asshole on the HBO prison drama OZ from several years back. His permanently stuck-at-age-55 look has never vanished and it serves him well in Whiplash. In this film, he is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does he take his students to task in this film as a taskmaster jazz band professor, he takes his role to task, as well. He is dynamite in this film, and when he won the Globe for Best Supporting Actor last weekend, I immediately had a screening of the film and was blown away. Again, the story is a bit TV formula in its plot, but the degree of storytelling and language used in such a pivotal way makes this a very necessary, big-screen film lesson on tenacity, education and cruelty, mixed with insecurity and ego. This movie is a true human tale, and will make Simons more of a household/Hollyweird name than ever before. To have that happen later in his career is brilliant. So is this film! ####
As a young child and teen, I always held a quiet respect and (embarrassingly) ever so slight awed disgust for Stephen Hawking. Truth be told, it was his caricature on The Simpsons that made him palatable for me to watch and eventually study in university. (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P9lf6StTyfQ) At some moment, I even owned a copy of “A Brief History of Time”, but along the journeys and moves, it was lost. What a viewer starts to sense as s/he watches The Theory of Everything is that most of the film, while revolving around Hawking's sudden neurological disorder, is a testament to his relationship with his first wife of nearly 30 years. The performances of Eddie and Felicity Jones are beyond outstanding. In fact, Redmayne won the Globe for Best Actor just a few days ago, so the accolades are already coming in for his amazing portrayal of Hawking. This film is not to be missed. ####
I leave the reviews in your capable hands and eyes this weekend, amores! Take care and talk soon!