Happy Bloody New Year dears! How are you? Resolutions made...or not? Broken already? 2014 has passed and with it, a final close to the joyous holiday season also draws to an end. Fitfully, as the holidays end, sale season begins and so does the film critics' races and awards season. Being a cinephile doesn't start and stop with the four seasons and the beauty of a new year means a new slate has commenced.
2015 begins with a slew of cinema opening up in the next few weeks and I choose to start with one of the only films to cater to a kids-and-family audience. Though it opened for the holiday season in the UK some weeks ago, the film Paddington opened on Kings' Day here in Spain and surprised you may be to read this, but the film is pleasantly intriguing in its comedic simplicity. In fact, despite a few formulaic touches, and yes Nicole Kidman as "the femme fatale" is part of that, this is a stellar way to start the new-year with an old friend. Paddington Bear was one of the first memories I have of an oft-times Anglophilic-tinged childhood in the USA, and seeing such a funny and downright cute portrayal of him and the Brown family onscreen was a true pleasure and the perfect winter with family film. I must say as I watched it, there were certain elements of the film that harkened back to Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mister Fox here and there, and naturally that is the highest of compliments. Take the tots, take your kids, take your teen. You'll be quite glad you did. ###-1/2
And then there’s a limited release running of cult-famed director Brad Anderson’s new film, lovingly titled Stonehearst Asylum. He of The Machinist, Transsiberian and The Call fame certainly loves taking it abroad whenever possible for his filming, and one can only presume that this was Anderson getting his yayas off on his Americanised take of a dark, British and (dare I say) wannabe Gothic tale of...well...that’s just it. Much ado about Kate Beckinsale trying to be unattractive and failing miserably at it, perhaps? I’ll be kind and spare much assay about her acting, but frankly what disappointed me was watching Sirs Ben bloody Kingsley and Michael Caine act the crap out of thankless roles. These are men who have won so many acting awards between them, been nominated for scores more, and both been knighted (In fact, Kingsley famously demands to be addressed as such on set) by the head of the New World Order and England’s Queen Elizabeth, and this is what we get? To quote Whitney Houston...hell to the nah...thank you kindly. #
Oh Brad Pitt...you can start...aging...NOW! Or not, funk it. His latest film The Fury is an intense look at the end of the WWII and is in no way in reference to the Furor or the insanity of war. Instead, it is a reference to the armored tank that Pitt as emboldened Sergeant “Wardaddy” Collier and his crew ride into the German countryside. In a way, while the film is in some way your typical, epic battle film and certainly won’t push the emotional-cinematic boundaries of Saving Private Ryan, but hot damn if director David Ayer doesn’t throw a visceral cinematic punch of his own. Coming from Schwarzenegger’s last outing in atypical action flick Sabotage (lackluster though a bit fun), this is quite a step up for the somewhat fledgling director. What impressed me most about the film, in an actor’s vein, was young Logan Lerman’s (from the Percy Jackson series) acting his young butt off and executing a performance that is both naïve and yet forcedly hard. Come awards season, I doubt he’ll be nominated, but this film should break him out somewhat as an actor. This season’s (if not this year’s) best war film, hands down. ###
Lastly, run to see what is undoubtedly one of this season’s and year’s best movies....and it stars Michael Keaton. But not as Batman...but as Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). In all honesty, as I was watching the film, I could not help but feel like the film might be one of the truest, onscreen portrayals of getting a play together for Broadway. This movie is dynamic. Its plot revolves around the reboot of Keaton’s career and while he doesn’t use his real name, the script is so cleverly scribed by director/producer Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, one can’t help but be pulled into the film’s lull. Throw in some of the year’s quirkiest and best acting performances by Keaton, Naomi Watts, Emma Stone and especially Edward Norton, and what you have is a recipe for black comedic brilliance. It goes without saying that this film deserves to be on a slew of Top Ten Lists and whatever accolades it receives, it deserves them. On some level, this is nearly perfect cinema. #####
What a great way to start the year off. See you soon on the moon, dears!