Opening in Las Vegas, November 20, 2015

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Lots of prestige openings this week as we are fully in Oscar season. At least, if not two, Best Picture nominees likely from this weekend.

The most likely is Spotlight (93), getting universal raves. Gun to my head, it’s the odds-on favorite for Best Picture right now. A journalistic thriller (how quaint), it has an all-star cast investigating sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Not likely to be Cardinal Law’s favorite film this year. Alonso Duralde: “Spotlight is that rare journalistic procedural that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as “All the President’s Men,” and while the movie never glamorizes or makes saints of its hard-working newsgatherers, it does stand as a reminder of the power and importance of a free press, particularly in ferreting out local corruption and malfeasance.”

Another sure-fire Oscar contender, at least in the Best Actress category, is Room (86). My review is here. I like the film, wasn’t overwhelmed. James Berardinelli: “Room is honest and challenging but it’s more uplifting than one might expect from a film with such a horrific backstory.”

A few would-be Oscar contenders have proved unworthy. By the Sea (44) a Brangelina vanity project, is underwhelming critics. Peter Rainer: “Both Jolie Pitt and Pitt have demonstrated their chops in far better movies. I suspect the problem here is that there was no one around to tell them, “Please don’t. Please. Don’t.”’

I’m always a little put off by American remakes of good foreign films. It’s as if saying, “we know you don’t like subtitles, so here’s Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman to satisfy you.” Thereby Secret in Their Eyes (46), a remake of the Oscar-winning Argentine film, which is also not thrilling anyone. A.A. Dowd: “Yet nothing short of overhauling the material into something genuinely fresh could make Ray’s Secret feel essential. Tweaks aside, it remains, by in large, the same movie — which is to say, fundamentally redundant.”

The box office winner this week will be the awkwardly titled The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (65), the end The Hunger Games saga. I’m enjoying all the articles about how when this started Jennifer Lawrence was an indie actress and people doubted her casting; now she’s one of the biggest stars in the world. Josh Kupecki: “This concluding chapter is a solid culmination of a franchise that has had its ups and downs. Lawrence’s superb performance grounds the film, as she oscillates between badass archer and increasingly disenfranchised political pawn, and mercifully the late Hoffman’s CGI scenes are kept to a minimum.”
Finally is The Night Before (58), a raucous comedy with Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I like Rogen, but after seeing Steve Jobs I hope he does an equal number of serious parts. I understand he does these to pay the bills. A. O. Scott: “The emotional moments don’t pay off any better than most of the jokes, which reach for the safest kinds of provocative punch lines having to do with sex, race and religion.”

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

3 responses »

  1. Joseph Gordon Levitt is having a tough year box office wise. He’s going to need to attach himself to something safe and commercial next year.

  2. Like I posted in the Random Thread, surprised that Gordon-Levitt at this stage of his career would do a film like that. And when you factor that last year he was in the Sin City sequel (a bigger flop than either of this year’s films have been), he’s really hit a flat spot after his great run from 2009-12.

    I must admit I would’ve thought The Walk would’ve done much better than it did; maybe I’m just forgetting Zemeckis’ run of success and popularity has well and truly gone.

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