Sunday, January 12 2014, 03:31 PM MST
Box Office: Recommended Films for December 20-24, 2013
Recommended films showing in Salt Lake City for the week of December 20-24, 2013
1. American Hustle (R)
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
3. Frozen (PG)
4. The Huger Games: Catching Fire (PG-13)
5. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
1. Frozen (PG)
2. The Book Thief (PG-13)
3. Saving Mr. Banks (PG-13)
4. Enders Game (PG-13)
5. Despicable Me 2 (PG)
1. Inside Llewyn Davis (R)
2. 12 Years a Slave (R)
3. Dallas Buyers Club (R)
4. Nebraska (R)
5. Out of the Furnace (R)
4 out of 5 Stars
Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence
Genre: Crime, Drama
Recommended To: those looking for a decent Martin Scorsese film made by someone other than Martin Scorsese.
Synopsis: Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) has made a living off being a low-level con. When an overly ambitious FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), threatens to shut Rosenfeld down he’s forced into big-time mafia territory and all the dangers comes with it.
Review: Certain critics have put director David O. Russell’s American Hustle on such a high platform it was hard not to be disappointed by the film. Hype generates excitement and high expectations and when a film. Despite being quite good, fails to live up to its reputation that disappointment can be a very bitter pill to swallow.
Following the success of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook Russell is poised for brilliance, but American Hustle isn’t his masterpiece as it plays up the comedic aspects of the story while undercutting any sense of tension or real drama. It’s an entertaining film, but ultimately it doesn’t feel nearly as smart as it should and this has little to do with Russell’s script, which was co-written by Eric Singer (The International). The blame falls somewhere in the presentation as Christian Bale’s Robert DeNiro impression comes up short and Bradley Cooper runs slightly amuck as the not-so-clever DiMaso. The result is a film that never feels as dangerous as it should. It’s just a touch too silly to build any sort of tension. However, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence are fantastic and the art design, costumes and cinematography deserve high praise. The film, which seemed like a lock for a top five of 2013 ranking, wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but it’s still an entertaining escape into the underbelly of a yet-to-be-revitalized Atlantic City set against the sleazy style of the 1970s.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell
Recommended To: Fans of Will Ferrell and his usual suspects as well as those who enjoyed the original film.
Synopsis: Ron Burgundy and his trusted team of newscasters attempt to revitalize their careers by helping to launch New York’s first 24-hour news station.
Review: I didn’t see Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy until after I had started working for a television station and was fairly surprised to see that underneath all the silliness was a whole lot of truth in regards to the going ons behind the scenes. Sure, we don’t have knife fights with the competition, but that sense of being a team made up of unconventional parts certainly applies. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues took seemingly forever to made and while a 9-year break between films could have derailed the project the hiatus doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on the franchise as the magic is mostly still there. The only real noticeable difference and hindrance is Steve Carrell’s rising star. Carrell’s character, Brick Tamland, was great for one liners but this film looks to expand his role by giving him a subplot involving a relationship with Chani, a dysfunctional secretary played by Kristen Wiig, and the results are unfunny and generally a nuisance as it takes the film on unnecessary tangents that add little to the central story. Not that tangents are all that uncommon in Anchorman 2 as the film often veers off course to indulge in strange storylines that come out of left field. Fortunately for the film most of these detours are funny enough to not take away from the enjoyment of the movie. The film also excels when it comes to cameos. The massive battle between news teams in this film is simply hilarious and it’s hard to imagine that it will ever be topped should the Burgundy’s legend continue on through the 1980s. If you liked the first film you’ll enjoy this one as well.
Inside Llewyn Davis
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake
Recommended To: Those looking for a great character study, fans of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s and anyone wanting a master class on how to make a truly beguiling film.
Synopsis:A week in the life of Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a struggling folk musician in New York’s fledgling Greenwich Village scene.
Review: Some filmmakers make their careers on films about flashy characters; the Coen Brothers make films about antiheroes, outcasts and eccentric everymen (yes, I’m ignoring Intolerable Cruelty). They don’t stick to any particular genre and as a result constantly surprise. Inside Llewyn Davis is a difficult film in that its main character is disagreeable. You can admire Llewyn Davis, but liking him without reservation is somewhat out of the question. He’s an artiste first and any sort of humanity comes in a distant second. This probably makes the film sound rather unappealing, but in the hands of the Coens it is a hypnotic, intriguing and often humorous experience filled with great supporting characters played by the likes of Carey Mulligan, John Goodman and Justin Timberlake. It also offers a peak into a culturally significant era where folk music was about to break through as the voice of the discontent.
Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the Coens’ best. Its soulful, heartfelt and wonderfully left of center.
Saving Mr. Banks
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Annie Rose Buckley
Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama
Recommended To: Those interested in the story behind Disney’s adaptation of P. L. Travers’ Marry Poppins who don’t mind that the truth has been sweetened to ensure their enjoyment.
Synopsis: For years Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been looking make a film based on P. L. Travers’ (Emma Thompson) stories about Mary Poppins. For years Travers has told Disney, “No.” In 1961 Travers agreed to give Disney two weeks to change her mind.
Review: To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of Walt Disney’s Marry Poppins we get a Blu-ray release of the film and Saving Mr. Banks, a somewhat truthful look at the struggle Disney had getting P. L. Travers to sign off on letting him make the film in the first place. It would seem that Travers wasn’t too keen to Disney’s brand of entertainment and was completely disinterested in letting him make a film based on her books. Tom Hanks is an affable Disney and Emma Thompson makes for a rather prickly Travers (with a soft center, of course), but the film’s real delight is watching Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) and the writing team try and serenade the cranky author into enjoying their vision of her work. There are flashbacks to Travers’ youth, and while these do somewhat inform us as to why she might not be more agreeable these sequences aren’t nearly as effective as they need to be. As it stands Travers feels a bit undefined and her actions in the second half of the film feel less than motivated. Of course that might be because the real story isn’t exactly the story that Saving Mr. Banks is telling. Instead of sticking to the truth screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith have sweetened up things a bit as it downplays Travers’ disappointment in the film Marry Poppins. It’s not a fatal flaw, but it is somewhat disappointing that audiences, who will believe what they see, aren’t given a less self-celebratory experience.
-Ryan Michael Painter