Chris Hemsworth film

Some Movies to See this Weekend, January 16, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015 Rob Samuelson

This is the first crowded opening weekend of 2015. Another couple 2014 Oscar contenders get wide releases and the usual January stuff has moved from a trickle to a downpour. You never know, some of it might be good. Most of it is probably trash. But let's take a look anyway in the event you're looking for some theatergoing this weekend.

A Most Violent Year
Director: J.C. Chandor
Writer: J.C. Chandor
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

J.C. Chandor is a bit of a chameleon if his first three films are to be believed. His first, Margin Call, is a play-like drama set in a high powered broker office during the start of the 2008 financial crisis. His second, 2013's terrific All Is Lost with Robert Redford, was an almost wordless film that utilized the elements – and the elements of cinema – to tell a story with only visuals. And now, A Most Violent Year is a gangster epic. Oscar Isaac plays a trucking company executive trying to keep his hands clean but his wife (Jessica Chastain), a gangster's daughter, is pulling strings to make their legit business be a little more illicit. Both actors have blossomed into some of the finest performers of their generation, capable of phenomenal back-and-forth, and the arguments hinted at in the trailer look like big deals.

American Sniper
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Jason Hall
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Kyle Gallner, Sienna Miller

If it's anything like that first trailer, American Sniper will be a taut thriller about the things society asks of its soldiers and the prices they pay. That might not be likely, but it is possible. Eastwood is rarely a great director but always a capable one who knows what he's doing. On his way to leading man status, Cooper has grown from “pretty good” to “really good” and his search for that Oscar continues here. The guy is a movie star who is trying his best to be a character actor, especially with the makeup and hair of American Hustle and now the bulking and beard he wears in this movie. He was able to mostly pull it off in the former film, but it might be a greater test as he is asked to carry an entire drama by himself, without the aid of an ensemble.

Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Morgan Davis Foehl
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, William Mapother

It's been six years since Michael Mann released a movie (2009's Public Enemies). Here he returns with Thor himself in tow as an imprisoned hacker being brought out of jail to help the feds track a hugely powerful mega hacker from doing things like exploding nuclear power plants. Yes, it's silly to see someone like Hemsworth being considered a genius with a physique that could earn him a lot of money on the MMA circuit (not that those people can't exist, but let's just say Hemsworth doesn't often give off that “genius” side of the equation in his roles) but hopefully Mann will move past that stuff quickly and focus on the cat-and-mouse chase elements promised by the trailer. After all, Hemsworth does carry a gun with authority in the preview.

What's worrisome about this movie, aside from its January release date (the dumping ground for movies Hollywood doesn't have faith in), is its focus on technology. Those movies tend to be instantly dated because of the iterative nature of technology. Next year, computers will already be vastly better than the ones used onscreen here. The trick is to make the story not hinge on the tools themselves but rather in the emotion of lack of control or whatever theme the filmmakers want to explore. Given what we've been shown here so far, I worry about the tech being the hook itself. But I could be wrong, and I like seeing Hemsworth fight people.

Director: Paul King
Writers: Paul King, Hamish McColl
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville

An anthropomorphic, speaking bear rides a bathtub down a flight of stairs, hilarity ensues. That's the sarcastic tagline, but critics seem to be flipping for this family film. Hugh Bonneville, who plays the patriarch of the family that takes in the homeless Paddington, seems his usual stuffy self, the kind of guy who will struggle with the pull of spontaneity before finally recognizing its good parts. Basically, he's the same as his Lord Grantham character on Downton Abbey. Nicole Kidman looks to be playing a very similar part to the one she had in The Golden Compass, although it will be unnerving if the same twist applies here.

The Wedding Ringer
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Writers: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender
Starring: Josh Gad, Kevin Hart, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting

Josh Gad, despite his rising star in the comedy film arena, seems like just another “guy” to me. I don't really know what he brings to the table. He's relatively humorous but his presence is mostly just “bland looking guy who calls out how bland looking he is.” Kevin Hart, on the other hand, has made me laugh a lot in his cameos in things like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and recently in Chris Rock's Top Five, but I'll admit to never having seen any of his starring roles or comedy specials. People love him, though, so there must be something going on. In this, Hart plays a man who hires himself out to friendless grooms who need best men for their weddings, creating “lifelong” relationships through faked pictures and whatnot. There seems to be a lot of ingredients for good mistaken-identity farce in this, so let's cross our fingers and hope this is a nice little comedy to warm us up on another cold January weekend.

You Might Also Like



Contact Form