So… February was largely disappointing for new movies. Kingsman: The Secret Service was alright but Jupiter Ascending was abysmal. Sigh. Pray March will be better.
CHAPPIE Directed by Neill Blomkamp. Starring Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel.
Getting somewhat nervous about this one. Blomkamp did not do too well with Elysium and the idea of sentient robot is not exactly original, is it? Jackman is in it as well, as I generally do not like any movie he’s in. Ah well.
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Jason Hall. Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller.
So will the real American Sniper please stand up? The film, a biographical account of Navy SEALs sharpshooter Chris Kyle – deadliest marksman in U.S. military history – has split US audiences down the middle. From liberals decrying it as jingoistic propaganda to conservatives hailing it as a tribute to a deserving war hero.
Written & directed by Damien Chazelle Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons & Paul Reiser.
Whiplash – the story of Andrew Neiman (Teller), a young jazz drummer who attends one of the best music schools in the country under the tutelage of Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), the school’s fearsome maestro of jazz – has been the surprise package for the Academy Awards, garnering Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Written by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr & Armando Bo. Starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts.
Nominated for a total of nine Oscars, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is surrealist black comedy at its best. Mocking the artifice of celebrity and the entertainment industry, Birdman is a fascinating inside look into the absurd insanity of entertainment world as perceived by its protagonist, Riggan Thomson.
Directed by James Marsh. Written by Anthony McCarten. Starring Eddie Redmayne & Felicity Jones.
The Theory of Everything is a beautiful film. Beautifully shot, beautifully scored but ultimately, it is a story about two beautiful people who had to reinvent themselves and their relationship constantly in the face of challenging life circumstances.
The acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephen J Hawking (Redmayne) is by now quite well-known even in pop culture circles. What is less known perhaps is the journey that both Hawking and his former wife Jane Wilde Hawking (Jones) took to make him the icon that he became despite suffering from debilitating motor neuron disease.
Director Marsh treats both sides of the story diplomatically and sympathetically, although perhaps – especially in the third act – at the expense of narrative clarity. Events are rushed somewhat and real life details are fudged to keep the characters on the good side of the audience.
Whilst Redmayne’s stellar performance is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime distinction, equal credit must go to Jones for portraying Jane’s stoic determination to support her husband. Which is fitting, considering screenwriter McCarten based his screenplay on Jane’s memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen.
In the final analysis, it is clear that the film is as much about her as it is about him and the message of the movie is summed up in Hawking’s quote – “Where there’s life, there’s hope….”
The Theory of Everything is playing in the cinemas now.
Written & directed by Mike Leigh. Starring Timothy Spall.
Premiering at Cannes last year, Leigh’s biopic of famed English painter JMW Turner has already garnered a Best Actor award for Spall’s performance in the lead role and a special jury prize for the film’s cinematography for Dick Pope.
That just about sums it up really. Spall plays Turner as a brutish flawed man who had an unique ability to produce epic, awe-inspiring work which was extremely radical in its day. Pope manages to make virtually every outdoor shot a Turner painting and it is a wonder to behold! Check out the amazing of re-creation of The Fighting Temeraire (1839) below.
Leigh’s triumph with Mr. Turner is stringing together a loose collection of slice of life vignettes and filling them with all the relevant details to make that time and place come alive. The pacing is a little slow and nothing overtly dramatic happens but that’s the whole point of the exercise.
In the right hands, such evocative cinema is stirring and inspiring – Leigh and his heart-felt tribute deserves recognition as one of the best movies of 2014. Absolutely essential for art lovers everywhere.
Here’s a New Year Resolution for ya. Power of Pop will be expanding our film coverage in 2015 to highlight the movies we think PoP visitors will be interested in. Good stuff, no fluff (cannot bluff!) or something like that…
Anyways, here’s a couple of films we are interested in for January 2015.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
(Written & directed by Ned Benson)
New Year’s Day
Ignore the gimmicky title – this has nothing to do with The Beatles. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is the collective title of three films subtitled Him, Her & Them respectively. As you can guess, Him and Her are told from the perspectives of the male (James McAvoy) and female (Jessica Chastain) characters accordingly. Them is the compromise, a combination of Him and Her into one movie – which probably makes much more sense from a commercial point of view but less so, from an artistic standpoint. Presumably, moviegoers who enjoyed Them will then want to watch Him and Her, which will be released in the latter part of 2015. Fascinating premise, nonetheless.
Is Spike Jonze’s Her a geek film? One could argue that it is a scifi movie but the elements are so marginal that in fact it’s probably more of a romantic comedy-drama with superficial scifi tropes. BUT. This last week, I have been speaking to my students about the purpose of setting in a story and I could not help but be distracted by the setting of Her.
David O. Russell has done it again! After the director’s success with last year’s romance-drama Silver Linings Playbook, Russell puts his own spin on “ABSCAM” a well-publicized scandal from the late 70s. The storyline behind American Hustle is quite complicated and difficult to summarize in a sentence or two but I will try my best.
Reel to Real is a new feature to cover non-geek films over here at Power of Pop.
Machete Kills (Directed by Robert Rodriguez)
The first Machete flick was fairly good fun as the unlikely anti-hero (Danny Trejo) cut a swath through one-dimensional bad guys with OTT cartoon violence, surrounded by buxomy babes and a host of well-known actors e.g. Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal etc. Inspired by 70s action exploitation movies, Machete did fair business at the box office.