Merry happy, everybody! Here is a handy guide to the flood of motion pictures opening today, because I had nothing to do last night.
Big Eyes: Tim Burton reunites with his Ed Wood screenwriters for another tale of a misunderstood creative; it’s a little on the messy side, but Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz are pretty great as the dysfunctional couple at its heart. (You can still tell exactly when Burton loses interest in the script, though.)
The Gambler: Mark Wahlberg’s death-wish smile is the perfect accessory for Rupert Wyatt’s extra-nihilistic remake of Karel Reisz’ semi-forgotten 1974 drama. Wyatt surrounds his star with a fantastic supporting cast … though I’m not sure it’s possible for Andre Braugher to pull out his authority-figure persona now that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has subverted that so … deliciously.
Inherent Vice: Paul Thomas Anderson turns Thomas Pynchon’s shaggy-dog detective story into a shaggier, possibly even weirder experience than the book, with fully commited performances from Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Katherine Waterston and, um, Martin Short. I liked it. A lot.
The Interview: Well, look at that. It (sort of) opened after all, appearing in the U.S. on various services and in Canada on Google Play. I suppose I have to watch it now and form an opinion.
Into the Woods: Rob Marshall turns Stephen Sondheim’s allegedly transcendent stage musical into a terrible screen musical. Say what you will about Tom Hooper’s lens choices in Les Miserables, at least he knew where to put the frickin’ camera. Glenn, who has much more invested in this than I do, feels the same.
Mr. Turner: Timothy Spall packs a universe of meaning into the terse physicality of JMW Turner in Mike Leigh’s terrific drama, which is not quite a biopic but more a study of an entire culture. Taken as a personal drama, though, it’s a hell of a thing. Susan agrees.
National Gallery: Okay, it doesn’t open until tomorrow, but the latest institutional deep dive by legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman is totally a Christmas movie — it’s really long, suitable for both thoughtful consideration and escaping your family. Susan likes it a little less than I do, but she still likes it.
Unbroken: Angelina Jolie’s WWII drama, based on the biography of Louis Zamperini, utterly fails to live up to the year of passion-project drumbeating from Universal and the filmmakers; it’s a competently realized but crushingly dull POW picture, and Jack O’Connell ‘s monotone performance never lets us understand what makes this guy so remarkable. And then the movie ends, and three or four screens of end-credit text make you realize what’s been missing all along. (Bottom line? Zamperini’s life was a lot more interesting after World War II.) Susan has my back on this.
And there we are. Enjoy your egg nog, and check back here once you’ve done your Boxing Day shopping for my review of The Interview in a day or so. Happy merry!