Big Eyes


Amy Adams doesn't want to part with this prop, although Christoph Waltz reassures her.

Amy Adams doesn’t want to part with this prop, although Christoph Waltz reassures her.

(2014) Biographical Drama (Weinstein) Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Danny Huston, Krysten Ritter, Jason Schwartzman, Terence Stamp, Jon Polito, Elizabeth Fantone, James Saito, Guido Furlani, Delaney Raye, Madeline Arthur, Emily Bruhn, Alan MacFarlane, Tony Alcantar, Jaden Alexander, Andrew Airlie, Matthew Kevin Anderson, Stephanie Bennett, Andrea Bucko. Directed by Tim Burton

Art is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. The big-eyed waifs painted by Keane were, in the 1950s and 1960s, highly sought-after. Prints and posters hung in many homes and the originals were highly sought-after by collectors. Walter Keane was one of the first to commercialize art in many ways, leading the way for guys like Andy Warhol and Robert Wyland. There are those who would sniff that Keane’s vision was more kitsch than art and doesn’t hold up over the years. But Keane held a secret much deeper than that.

Margaret Ulbrich (Adams) has fled an abusive marriage, taking her daughter Jane (Raye) to San Francisco where her friend DeeAnn (Ritter) is overjoyed to see her out on her own. Margaret loves to paint but she’s forced to take a mundane job to support her daughter, but still continues to paint and sells her art in the park on weekends. There she meets Walter Keane (Waltz), a charming and outgoing man who claims he once studied to paint in Paris. He’s a born salesman and at the moment he’s selling himself. Margaret, who knows that a divorcee with a daughter isn’t going to be attracting a lot of romantic attention, marries Walter despite DeeAnn’s misgivings.

Soon Margaret starts painting a series of sad children with oversized eyes. Walter is painting his landscapes and both are not really selling much of anything. Walter manages to wrangle Enrico Banducci (Polito), the owner of one of the city’s iconic jazz clubs, to hang some of the artwork in the club where Walter can ostensibly sell it, but the place the art gets hung – a corridor leading to the bathrooms – isn’t exactly the place where people look for artwork. However after a staged row gets more customers into the club to see the fireworks between Banducci and Walter some attention gets paid to the art.

But not Walter’s art – Margaret’s. Soon her artwork begins selling like hotcakes and in a moment of perhaps panic but more likely pride, Walter claims that he is the artist that painted the waifs. Soon, there is huge demand for these paintings and Walter opens up a gallery. When people start stealing posters and postcards, he begins charging for them. Before long, the waifs are an international phenomenon.

For Margaret, success is bittersweet. The money is nice and the recognition is terrific, but nobody is recognizing her. It’s Walter reaping the success, Walter getting the recognition. Even a now-grown Jane (Arthur) recognizes that her mother is being screwed. Walter’s increasingly bizarre behavior, brought on by drinking, becomes too much. Margaret leaves and takes Jane with her to Hawaii, but Walter needs her paintings to fuel his income. The arrangement seems to work but it becomes clear that keeping the secret is a terrible burden for Margaret. When the truth comes out, where will the chips end up?

Burton has always been the kind of director whose films you can tell instantly are his, even if you don’t know what you’re seeing. He outdoes himself here – not so much with the semi-Gothic look of some of his movies, not even in his fascination with kitsch which is certainly present here, but in his use of color. Every shot is like a painting, with the colors melding together in not only the set design and the costumes but even down to the lighting. Burton’s eye is exquisite.

The story is based on Margaret’s memoirs and thus Walter is given short shrift in many ways. The point of view is strictly Margaret’s and while some of Walter’s family have complained that the film portrayed him as a talentless hack and even that he taught Margaret how to draw the waifs (which he was unable to reproduce in court during the libel trial that is depicted at the end of this film), all I can say is that you don’t go to the movies to seek the truth, merely an aspect of it, a perspective on it. And who’s to say what the truth is? There’s Margaret’s story, Walter’s story and somewhere in between is the reality of what actually happened.

Adams is one of my favorite actresses and she gives a solid though unspectacular performance as Margaret. Margaret is the mousy submissive 50s housewife through much of the movie and that can impede a performance if one is constantly looking down at the floor miserably, but Adams does eventually give Margaret some spunk which shows through in different often unsettling ways. Waltz, who I almost always enjoy, is a bit miscast here; while he has the charisma and charm to pull that aspect of Walter off, sometimes he’s so overpowering that the movie tilts a bit in the wrong direction. Less would have been more in this case. Also, both have trouble maintaining their accents as Waltz’ Austrian accent sometimes slips out and Adams’ Tennessee accent sometimes slips away. A bit more consistency would have been nice.

Like Ed Wood (whose writers co-wrote this film), Burton shows an unusual sympathy for those outside the system, those relegated to freak show status. The Keanes operated outside the normal boundaries of the art world back then, as represented by a snooty art critic (Stamp) and a snobby gallery owner (Schwartzman) and more or less clawed their way to the top. There is no doubt that Walter was an excellent promoter and while his actions may have been reprehensible, once in awhile you get a glimpse of the insecurities within that may well have fueled his behavior and Big Eyes succeeds very well there. This isn’t Burton’s best work, but it is his best in quite awhile.

REASONS TO GO: Gorgeously shot. Champions the outsider once again. Captures the kitsch of the era nicely.
REASONS TO STAY: Occasionally an accent drops. Waltz is unusually out-of-step.
FAMILY VALUES: There’s a little bit of harsh language and the themes can be pretty adult.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The real Margaret Keane can be seen reading a book on a park bench in the scene when Walter and Margaret are painting in front of the Palace of Fine Arts.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/11/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 70% positive reviews. Metacritic: 62/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Ed Wood
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT: Exodus: Gods and Kings

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New Releases for the Week of December 26, 2014


Into the WoodsINTO THE WOODS

(Disney) Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, Daniel Huttlestone, Lilla Crawford, Lucy Punch, Tammy Blanchard. Directed by Rob Marshall

In a kingdom of myth and legend, there lies a village on the edge of the woods where a baker and his wife live. They want nothing more than to have a child, but they have been unsuccessful so far. In rolls a witch who tells them that they’ve been cursed, but tells them in order to reverse the curse they need to gather a cow as white as milk, hair as yellow as corn, slippers that glitter like gold and a cape as red as blood. Into the woods they go to find these things and there they’ll find Cinderella, Prince Charming, Rapunzel, Jack (and his beanstalk), Red Riding Hood and assorted giants, wicked stepmothers and princes. But in the woods, nothing ever goes the way it’s supposed to and the woods are indeed a dangerous place. From the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical and the director of Chicago.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)
Genre: Musical
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material)

Big Eyes

(Weinstein) Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston. Walter Keane was one of the most successful painters of the 1950s and early 60s. His figures, with oversized eyes and waif-like expressions became a cottage industry to themselves. The trouble is, that he didn’t pain any of them. Not a one. His wife Margaret did.

See the trailer, clips, a promo and premiere footage here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and brief strong language)

Force Majeure

(Magnolia) Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren. While on a family ski vacation in the Alps, a family enjoying lunch on the terrace dining room of the resort they are staying at witness an avalanche bearing down on them. As people scatter and his wife and children panic, a family patriarch will make a decision that will shake his marriage to the core and leave him struggling to regain his role in the family as well as a man.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for some language and brief nudity)

Foxcatcher

(Sony Classics) Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller. The eccentric heir to an enormous fortune decides to spend some of his wealth on creating an Olympic training camp for wrestlers. Inviting a gold medal winner and his brother to the family estate where he has created that state-of-the-art camp, the increasing paranoia of the would-be coach and the unhealthy lifestyle that he has led his charges into leads to an incident that nobody expected. Carell is said to be a front runner for the Best Actor Oscar for his performance here.

See the trailer, clips and promos here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for some drug use and a scene of violence)

The Gambler

(Paramount) Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson. An English professor who loves to take risks and has become a high-stakes gambler on the side. Owing money to Asian and African-American gangsters and a violent loan shark who warns him of the hole he’s digging in, his budding relationship with a student may end up being more collateral than he’s willing to pay. A remake of the 1974 James Caan drama.

See the trailer and an interview here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Wide release
Rating: R (for language throughout and for some sexuality/nudity)

The Imitation Game

(Weinstein) Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Mark Strong, Charles Dance. Alan Turing was one of the great mathematicians of his day. His work helped break the Enigma code which was thought to be unbreakable; it helped win World War II for the allies. However, the road to breaking that code was perilous and torturous and Turing was hiding a secret that if it came out might have derailed his work altogether.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Wide release
Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual references, mature thematic material and historical smoking)

Unbroken

(Universal) Jack O’Connell, Garrett Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock. Louis Zamperini started out as a kid who constantly was getting into trouble with other kids and the law. However, the big brother he looked up to steered him towards track and field, enabling him to become an Olympic champion. After enlisting to fight in the Second World War, his plane was shot down in the ocean and he and a fellow airman endured 47 days adrift in the Pacific before being picked up by a Japanese warship and being sent to a brutal prisoner of war camp where he underwent intense physical and mental torture. His courage and will to survive remain as inspiring now as they were back them.

See the trailer, interviews, clips, featurettes, premiere footage and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.
Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for war violence including intense sequences of brutality, and for brief language)

Four-Warned: December 2014


The Hobbit: Battle of the Five ArmiesEvery month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (1.0)
2. BIG EYES (1.3)
3. UNBROKEN (1.4)
4. EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY (1.3)
2. WILD (1.4)
TIE. MR. TURNER (1.4)
TIE. MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (1.4)
TIE. LEVIATHAN (1.4)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

DECEMBER 2, 2014

A FIELD FULL OF SECRETS (Gravitas) Genre: Documentary. A filmmaker and an eccentric transsexual inventor believe that they have found the blueprints for a spacecraft in the combining of crop circles. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Kooky concept but no trailer.

DECEMBER 3, 2014

WILD (Fox Searchlight) Genre: True Life Drama. The amazing true story of a woman, haunted by bad decisions, drug abuse and the memory of her mother, who sets out to cleanse herself by hiking the thousand mile Pacific Crest Trail alone despite having no experience at it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Looks like potentially another Oscar nomination for Reese Witherspoon.
ZERO MOTIVATION (Zeitgeist) Genre: Comedy. A platoon of female Israeli soldiers fight boredom, sexism and ill-fitting uniforms in the hopes of getting transferred to Tel Aviv. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 What looks to be an affectionate but comedic look at the Israeli military, feminism and bureaucracy in general.

DECEMBER 5, 2014

THE BAREFOOT ARTIST (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Artist Lily Yeh determines to create art installations in the most impoverished communities around the world. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A portrait of an amazing soul.
THE BEAST (IFC Midnight) Genre: Drama. A young woman can’t get enough of the massively endowed beach that regularly ravishes her in the forest, her libido extending to the French country estate in which she resides. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 The first of a pair of erotic releases from maverick Polish director Walerian Borowczyk from the 70s making their way to American screens only now.
COMET (IFC) Genre: Romance. The story of a pair of star-crossed lovers is told in non-chronological order. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks kind of dream-like and maybe a little pretentious but the attractive couple of Justin Long and Emmy Rossum may overcome all that.
DYING OF THE LIGHT (Lionsgate) Genre: Spy Thriller. A CIA agent, ordered to retire, goes rogue when he discovers that his nemesis has resurfaced. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks kind of like a standard Nicolas Cage B-movie action film.
INSIDE THE MIND OF LEONARDO 3D (Submarine Deluxe) Genre: Documentary. Perhaps the greatest genius of the Renaissance and of all time, the painter/scientist/engineer/inventor/sculptor/architect/etc. is given a unique biography utilizing modern 3D technology.. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Unfortunately, couldn’t get the trailer in 3D to get a look at the film as it’s meant to be seen but having the current Dr. Who Peter Capaldi playing Leonardo has to be a good thing.
LIFE PARTNERS (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. When a sheltered young woman finds a man to fall in love with, her bestie tries to maintain their relationship despite her friend’s new-found love. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Really looks kind of like a typical indie romantic comedy but it might surprise me nonetheless.
MURDER OF A CAT (Gravitas) Genre: Comedy. When action figure designer Clinton’s cat is seemingly senselessly murdered, he determines to find his cat’s killer, uncovering a town-wide conspiracy that he could never have conceived of. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Might be trying too hard to be zany.
PIONEER (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Hell bent on being the first to reach the bottom of the North Sea, a professional diver agrees to take on a dangerous job for an oil company, not realizing the powerful forces in play that may be putting his life at stake. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Another great film coming from Norway; what’s getting into the water there?
POKER NIGHT (XLRator) Genre: Thriller. A rookie detective is kidnapped by a sadistic thrill killer and in order to survive the night must utilize the wisdom imparted to him by veteran cops at their regular poker game in order to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Might be interesting with a pretty nifty cast but the trailer looked generic.
THE PYRAMID (20th Century Fox) Genre: Horror. The discovery of a previously unexplored pyramid in the Egyptian desert awakens an ancient evil. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Looks a little bit too much like The Ruin for me.
SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The formation of the women’s movement and the rise of feminism is documented here. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Given the assault on women’s reproductive rights from the religious right, this couldn’t be more timely.
STILL ALICE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. At the height of a brilliant career as a linguist, a woman contracts Alzheimer’s. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expands January 16). RATING: 2.5 Very much looking forward to this one but no trailer yet.
TAKE CARE (eOne) Genre: Romantic Comedy. After an accident leaves her immobilized, a young woman calls on an ex-boyfriend for help, only to be reminded of why they broke up in the first place. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 There seems to be a lot of films with this theme coming out in the indie ranks lately.

DECEMBER 10, 2014

MAGICIAN: THE ASTONISHING LIFE AND WORK OF ORSON WELLES (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Documentary. Welles is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers and writers of his day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Can’t wait to see this one.

DECEMBER 12, 2014

AFTER THE FALL (EOne) Genre: Drama. In order to support his family, a suburban dad takes to a life of crime. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 A parable of modern economics and perhaps a warning that people driven into a corner with nothing more to lose may do desperate things.
THE CAPTIVE (A24) Genre: Thriller. The disappearance of a young girl destroys the marriage of her parents with her mother believing her father had something to do with it; when a pair of detectives believe they’ve seen images of her alive years later, the father obsessively tries to find her again, looking for his own redemption and the restoration of his relationship with his wife. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A different kind of role for Ryan Reynolds and I kinda like it; having Atom Egoyan directing is always a good thing.
THE COLOR OF TIME (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Biographical Drama. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams struggles with the demons of his past as he prepares for a reading in New York. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Has an excellent cast (including James Franco, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain and Henry Hopper) but looks a tad pretentious in the trailer.
EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Biblical Drama. Two brothers growing up sons of the Pharaoh end up opposing each other; one as the successor to the crown, the other as liberator of the Hebrew slaves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Ridley Scott’s take on The Ten Commandments.
FREE THE NIPPLE (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. A group of women in New York including Miley Cyrus protest topless, asking why the media will show violence uncensored but refuses to show the female breast. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 After putting aside all the juvenile titillation comments, the core question is a legitimate one; a dramatization of a real movement.
IMMORAL TALES (IFC Midnight) Genre: Drama. Four tales of softcore erotica through various ages and locations. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 The second re-release this month of a lost erotic classic by Polish director Walerian Borowczyk.
INHERENT VICE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy Thriller. The tale of a drug-addled investigator looking into a complicated plot to kidnap a billionaire in the 1960s and commit him to an asylum, giving his wife control of his assets. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in Wide release January 9). RATING: 2.3 Paul Thomas Anderson adapts Thomas Pynchon? Either a cinematic must-see or a magnificent disaster.
LITTLE FEET (Factory 25) Genre: Drama. Two children decide to take their goldfish from their Los Angeles home to the ocean, an odyssey in which they’ll meet some unique characters. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Definite film festival fodder but beautifully photographed in black and white, with the children of director Alexandre Rockwell starring.
R 100 (Drafthouse) Genre: Dramedy. An ordinary office drone in Japan joins a mysterious club in which there is only one rule; you cannot quit for an entire year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A sexy look at pleasure and pain that reminded me a bit of Eyes Wide Shut from director Hitoshi Matsumoto.
TOP FIVE (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. After leaving behind a career in stand-up after being voted the best at it in the world, an encounter with a reporter leads a comic to re-evaluate his stance. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Written and directed by Chris Rock, this might be the movie that defines his career.
WE ARE THE GIANT (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. Activists in the Arab Spring are profiled, not only chronicling their activities during that period in 2010 but how their lives have been affected since. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A hopeful reminder that when people unite they can change anything – and everything.

DECEMBER 17, 2014

GOODBYE TO ALL THAT (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. After being unexpectedly informed by his wife that she wants a divorce, her husband must put both feet forward into a dating scene that’s changed radically from when he was single. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Has been making waves on the festival circuit and with a great cast and a funny/charming trailer could be a sleeper indie hit.
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (New Line) Genre: Fantasy. The conclusion of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 While it hasn’t had the acclaim and box office of the LOTR trilogy, the finale (and possibly the last cinematic visit to Middle Earth in a long time) still merits keen interest.
IF YOU DON’T, I WILL (Film Movement) Genre: Comedy. A couple that have been together a long time try to hang on to the magic but when the woman suddenly reveals during a hike that she intends to remain in the forest, the couple find themselves at a crossroads. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Two of the most popular actors in France, Mathieu Amalric and Emanuelle Devos star.

DECEMBER 19, 2014

ANNIE (Columbia) Genre: Musical. An orphan charms her way into the heart of a hard-nosed billionaire running for mayor of New York City. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 One of the rare musicals that has really left me flat; I’ll probably see this remake just for Jamie Foxx.
THE GAMBLER (Paramount) Genre: Drama. Based on a 1974 film starring James Caan, a college English professor who’s also a high-stakes gambler gets in over his head when he pits a criminal against the operator of an illegal gambling ring. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in wide release January 1). RATING: 2.2 Opening now for Academy consideration but didn’t see anything that indicated that there would be anything more than a glance for Oscar consideration.
MEDEAS (Vladar) Genre: Drama. Trying to make a go of it in a harsh economic and physical environment, a dairy farmer copes with a wife pulling away from him and her children. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 An often intense but more often frustrating art film that played the Florida Film Festival earlier this year.
MR. TURNER (Sony Classics) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of eccentric 19th century English painter J.M.W. Turner who became one of the most popular artists of his day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Timothy Spall is being talked up as a possible Best Actor nominee.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (20th Century Fox) Genre: Adventure. Heroic night watchman Larry travels to London with his friends from the museum to save the fading magic that animates the exhibits after dark. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I found the first two films charming and as this is Robin Williams’ final major studio film, there will be a bittersweet feeling to this one.
SONG OF THE SEA (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. In a world of fading magic, two children make a desperate journey to the ocean. Release Strategy: New York City/Toronto. RATING: 2.0 From the director of the Oscar-nominated Secret of the Kells.
WINTER SLEEP (Adopt) Genre: Drama. Three people – a disillusioned former actor now running a small hotel, his fiery wife with whom he has a tempestuous relationship and his recently divorced sister are trapped in the hotel by a blizzard, allowing their long-simmering animosities to take flower. Release Strategy: New York City/Washington DC. RATING: 1.9 A lyrical looking film that won the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

DECEMBER 24, 2014

BELOVED SISTER (Music Box) Genre: Drama. The true story of an 18th century German poet who married one sister and maintained a romantic relationship with the other in a daring flaunting of convention that would raise eyebrows even now, 250 years later. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 A florid period piece but German filmmakers seem to excel at this sort of thing.
TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. After returning to work following a serious bout of depression, a woman is informed that she is to be let go but can keep her job if her fellow employees vote to allow her to – and sacrifice their bonuses in order to do it. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.6 The great Marion Cotillard stars in a movie by the Dardennes brothers, rising stars in the European filmmaking community.

DECEMBER 25, 2014

AMERICAN SNIPER (Warner Brothers) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in Wide Release January 16). RATING: 1.9 The latest from director Clint Eastwood which is usually a slam dunk as far as I’m concerned.
BIG EYES (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. In the 1950s some of the most popular artwork was done by Walter Keane whose paintings of waifs with huge eyes became a national sensation; the trouble was that the paintings were actually done by his wife Margaret with Keane taking credit for her work. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 I’m still a Tim Burton diehard despite a couple of recent missteps but this one looks like a definite step in the right direction.
THE INTERVIEW (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. When a witless talk show host lands an interview with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the CIA tries to get him and his producer to assassinate the Glorious Leader. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 While I tend to blow hot and cold with Seth Rogen’s stoner humor, this one looks genuinely funny.
INTO THE WOODS (Disney) Genre: Musical. The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm are brought into focus in this cinematic version of a Stephen Sondheim musical. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Sondheim is one of the greatest in Broadway history and Oscar-nominated director Rob Marshall leads an all-star cast but still I harbor some disquiet about this one.
LEVIATHAN (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A land dispute in a small Russian village causes tension in a family and the community but also exposes the flaws and corruption of the Russian legal system. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.4 Looks absolutely stunning.
SELMA (Paramount) Genre: True Life Drama. Dr. Martin Luther King decides to take a stand for African-American civil rights by conducting a march on Selma, Alabama – which will stir up violence and hatred but lead to landmark changes. Release Strategy: Limited (opens in Wide Release January 9). RATING: 2.1 I’m a little wary of these kinds of films as they often lose track of the importance of the events in favor of building the legend of the catalysts.
UNBROKEN (Universal) Genre: Biographical Drama. Olympic athlete Louis Zamperini survives a plane crash and 47 days in a raft in shark-infested waters only to be “rescued” by an Imperial Japanese warship and sent to a hellhole of a POW camp. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Angelina Jolie’s latest directorial effort has garnered a bit of Oscar buzz.

DECEMBER 31, 2014

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (A24) Genre: Action. During the worst year of crime in city history, an immigrant arrives in New York facing a particularly uphill battle to the American dream. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Up and coming director J.C. Chandor takes on urban decay and its effect on the lives of those stuck in it.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Pyramid, Wild, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Inherent Vice, Top 5, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Annie, The Gambler, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, American Sniper, Big Eyes, The Interview, Into the Woods, Selma, Unbroken, A Most Violent Year