Ridley Scott delivers the second Old Testament retelling of the year with “Exodus: Gods And Kings,” with the story of Moses and the Plagues. Visually stunning, with the plagues taking on entirely new forms and the most epic cinematic parting of the sea yet, Scott appears to focus more on great cinematography elements rather than focusing much on characters or reshaping the story. The cast feels a bit off, with Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, and Sigourney Weaver all feeling misplaced, but Christian Bale and Ben Kingsley fit perfectly into this world as does the gorgeous Maria Valverde, who takes one of her first big steps into American cinema.
Paul Thomas Anderson is back, this time with ’60s crime drama “Inherent Vice”. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as a personal investigator, the cast of characters around him is enough to sell most people on this film. The ensemble cast includes Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, and Jena Malone, all to the tone of a Thomas Pynchon novel. Described as “part surf noir, part psychedelic romp,” there are so many moving parts to this film, it has to been seen even despite its 2 1/2 hour run-time.
Written by and starring comedian Chris Rock, “Top Five” is also his directorial debut. Taking a step towards the serious, one has to wonder whether there are hints of reality strewn into the story, as it projects a former comedian known for certain roles (i.e. Hammy The Bear) who decides to leave comedy behind him when he gets sober. Struggling with keeping up appearances on his fiancee’s (Gabrielle Union) reality show as they prepare for their wedding and being followed around by a gorgeous and down-to-earth journalist, played by Rosario Dawson, Rock’s first foray into drama could prove to be a success.
“After The Fall” definitely provides a different sort of role than we are used to seeing from Wes Bentley, this time as a troubled husband and father who turns to extreme measures to find the money to keep his family afloat. Unfortunately, Bentley often has a hard time of even lifting supporting roles above mediocrity, so I cannot imagine him holding much weight in a leading role. One actress I wish would find more high profile work is the very talented Vinessa Shaw, who is always solid but never finds roles in the films that actually count.
Ryan Reynolds plays the father of an abducted little girl in Atom Egoyan’s (“Chloe”) latest film, “The Captive”. Stopping at the grocery store for dessert, when he comes back to the truck, his daughter is gone and his wife, played by the talented Mireille Enos blames him. Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman play the detectives involved in the case, which turns out to be much stranger than anticipated. Also starring a creepy looking Kevin Durand, with the white snowy landscape, the trailer for this film alone is chilling.
Isn’t it strange how these ensemble cast independent films never look very good despite having these amazing talents in their film? “The Color Of Time” has a brilliant young cast, with James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, and Zach Braff, but the film itself looks a bit dull and uninspired. Toss in twelves directors for the film and it starts to sound like quite the mess. Regardless, with a cast like that, it is impossible to pass up.
I often wonder what the world would be like without crappy comedies like “Expelled” and who thinks these are good enough ideas to push into theaters. Often feeling like crappy episodes of Disney or Nickelodeon shows, this one attempts to recreate some of the magic of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” by having the quippy, fast thinking high school boy get expelled and try to keep it from his parents with things like pulling the fire alarm, pretending to be his mother, and shooting a teacher with a blow dart. Except this film fails miserably at recreating that classic.
#FreeTheNipple has to be one of my favorite movements, as women try to take back their sexuality by walking around public areas wearing pink masks and going topless. “Free The Nipple” is a fictional film about two girls who have no money to their name but are willing to go all in on this revolution, knowing very well that they will likely go to jail. But as the synopsis says, this is more than a film, its an actual movement and hopefully this gets the word out.
Jim Broadbent takes on the role of Santa Claus in this rather well produced, high end Christmas film called “Get Santa” that no one’s ever heard of. When Santa falls out of the sky, loses his reindeer, and gets thrown into jail, its up to a young boy and his father to help save Christmas. Full of British humor and British stars, I assume the only reason this has not reach the masses is because it is stuck in the U.K. However, kudos for attempting to add a new staple to the holiday movie scene in such a fashionable way.
Orson Welles is one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema, but he was not always loved and even tells the story of someone asking late in his life, “did you ever make a film after Citizen Kane?” to which he smiles. “Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work Of Orson Welles” is a documentary collection of interviews with Welles and the directors he has inspired, while show clips of his films and throughout his love and hate relationship with Hollywood.
There is only so much a stationary camera can do for a documentary and in the case of “Maidan,” which shows the civil unrest of 2013-2014 in Ukrainian capital’s central square, the non-moving camera makes for long, drawn out takes of people talking that feels more like a home movie and less like a feature film. I understand the process of getting the word out cannot always been glamorous, but when the two minute trailer is painful enough in its own right, I cannot imagine sitting through this entire film.
“Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks” looks just as bad as it sounds. Apparently based on an international hit play, the film version of it looks absolutely terrible as Gena Rowlands plays a retired woman looking for dance lessons and getting the sassy and smart-mouthed Cheyenne Jackson as her instructor. This odd couple is eventually brought together by something, as he teaches her dances from all around the world. I often wonder who these geriatric comedies are made for, because they feel extremely out of touch from even the older generations.
The through-line of the film “Tip Top” is not covered anywhere in the trailer. Much in foreign language film fashion, the film blends genres, with dark comedy and drama at the forefront. The parts not discussed in the trailer are why these two women, Isabelle Huppert and Sandrinne Kiberlain, are being brought together. The synopsis describes of a murder which might involve the police as suspects and these women are looking into the case. Not really solid on any fronts, the film feels flimsy and misguided.
Since the Academy Award nomination for the documentary “The Square” at last year’s Oscars, I feel like more than ever multiple people documentaries about the various wars around the world have come to light. “We Are The Giant” takes viewers to the Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations and protests in the Middle East. Filming most in secret for the last few years, the film shows different people from different walks of life getting involved. And I am sure this is not the last documentary following its footsteps.
Exodus: Gods And Kings
MOST LIKELY CATCH ON NETFLIX (75%)
PROBABLY CATCH ON NETFLIX (50%)
The Color Of Time
MIGHT CATCH ON NETFLIX (25%)
Magician: The Astounding Life And Work Of Orson Welles