This week: August: Osage County(bumped from its previously-scheduled opening last week) unleashes 2014's first bolt of LOOK AT ME I'M ACTING! Other choices you have while you count down to the Golden Globes (Sunday night) and the Oscar nominations (next Thursday) include Ralph Fiennes' latest actor-director turn in Charles Dickens tale The Invisible Woman; Mark Wahlberg's Navy SEALs drama Lone Survivor; and Renny Harlin's CG'd-up action-tacular The Legend of Hercules.
Oscar-winning actor (for 1995's Leaving Las Vegas), cultural curiosity (for his Superman and Elvis obsessions, tax troubles, hair, etc.), Coppola family member (Francis Ford is his uncle), meme generator, and cult icon Nicolas Cage is about to become a half-century man. And what better way to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of the most predictably unpredictable movie stars of all time than by checking out a pair of his movies?
Tomorrow (NC's actual bday: Jan. 7), Midnites for Maniacs unspools a pair of Cage classics, starting with his breakout role as a totally tripandicular Hollywood punk mooning after the title character in 1983's Valley Girl. This movie has it all: a killer soundtrack, terrible-amazing hair and fashions, the immortal EG Daily, and maybe the best prom scene in the 1980s teen-movie canon. We melt with you, Nic.
Breathe easy, halfling: the middle installment in Peter Jackson's Hobbittrilogy is a huge improvement over the first film. Also new this week: Emma Thompson turns in a cranky-yet-lovable performance as the woman who wrote Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks (with Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney); Liev Schreiber battles oddly familiar space monsters in The Last Days on Mars; and Tyler Perry celebrates the holidays as only he can, with A Madea Christmas. Read on for reviews and trailers.
FILM Clad only in a dingy T-shirt and tighty-whities, with an overgrown beard and a hollow look of defeat in his eyes, shut-in Ian (Adrian DiGiovanni) spends his days channel-surfing and plotting ways to commit suicide. When his beloved vintage TV ("His name was Kent," he tells the camera, in the first of many direct addresses) fizzles, smokes, and goes dark, he finally takes action.Read more »
FILM Paolo Sorrentino has only been directing features for 12 years, so perhaps it's premature to expect a masterpiece from him — although he probably doesn't think so. Amid generally tepid post-millennium Italian cinema, he's been consistently ambitious and bold, from 2001's One Man Up onward. That facility has won a lot of acclaim (most notably for 2008's Il Divo), but also attracted a certain amount of skepticism: Is he more style than substance? What does he have to say?Read more »
This week, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire stands poised to crush all who dare step to it, but there are some alternatives out there. There's the San Francsico Film Society's weekend-long Cinema By the Bay festival (my overview here), as well as the latest from acclaimed director Alexander Payne, the small-scale but still very moving Nebraska (Dennis Harvey's review here.)
Plus: a festival favorite from Belgium, and Vince Vaughn's sperm-bank comedy. Reviews for both (plus guaranteed big kahuna Catching Fire) below.
This week, doc lovers are in luck: not only is Chris Marker's seminal 1962 Le Joli Mai making a return to theaters (Sam Stander's take here), but Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney delves into cycling's greatest scandal in The Armstrong Lie (my review here).
Two big 'uns this week: blockbuster-to-be Thor: The Dark World(reviewbelow), and the very fine drama Dallas Buyers Club,featuring standout performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (Dennis Harvey's review here). If you seek a respite from Hollywood, check out San Francisco's own South Asian International Film Festival (some recommendations from me, here), or read on for more short takes on this week's new offerings.