Hot off the two-part final installment of the Twilight saga, director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters; Dreamgirls) shoots a good deal higher with The Fifth Estate. DreamWorks’ attempt at a WikiLeaks movie (Australian director Robert Connolly took the first stab), the film stars man of the hour Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange and Daniel Brühl (in prime position to steal some more scenes) as website co-founder Daniel Domscheit-Berg. We Steal Secrets suggested that the documentary route (or at least the rushed Alex Gibney version) was not the best way to explore the WikiLeaks story, so perhaps this narrative approach by TV scribe Josh Singer (The West Wing; Fringe) will pan out better. Reviews have been middling to poor and Assange himself has written to Cumberbatch saying, “I believe you are a good person, but I do not believe that this film is a good film.” Still, Cumberbatch is having a hell of a year with more to come.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich holds court in Inequality for All, the first documentary from Jacob Kornbluth (writer/director of The Best Thief in the World starring Mary-Louise Parker). Kind of like a polished version of An Inconvenient Truth with a more engaging speaker, the film looks at wealth disparity in the U.S., how we got to this point, and what could be done to close the gap. The sub-5′ Reich is a pleasure to watch and the film makes strong political points without being overly partisan. It’s no 20 Feet From Stardom or The Crash Reel, but it’s a mighty fine documentary nonetheless.
36 years after Sissy Spacek set fire to her prom, Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry; Stop-Loss) takes a stab at Stephen King’s Carrie. Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass; Hugo) plays the titular telekinetic with Julianne Moore as her oppressive fundamentalist Christian mother. The Brian De Palma original is…fine, so I’m not super excited about a remake/reimagining/rewhateveryouwannacallit. At least it’s rated R so some gory Evil Dead-like images are likely.
Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger loved working together in Expendables 2 so much that they’ve reteamed for Escape Plan. Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, the world’s best prison designer. Set up and incarcerated in a facility he concocted, he teams up with high-up inmate Emil Rottmayer (Ah-nuld) to bust out of the joint. Jim Caviezel, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vinnie Jones, and Vincent D’Onofrio co-star with Mikael Håfström (1408) calling the shots.
Now we get to the more complicated portion of our program, beginning with another mysterious Weinstein double-feature. The most appealing of the two is the long-shelved (seven years, to be exact) horror film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane from Jonathan Levine (50/50). The other choice is Concussion, about a housewife who gets bumped on the head and decides to become an escort. From what I can tell, The Carolina is running the same two-for-the-price-of-one special that they did for the two French films two weeks ago, but if I hear otherwise, I’ll update the news here.
More promising is the first in the two-week Music Movie Madness Fest, featuring a quartet of Hard Rock/Metal music docs. This week’s offerings are the new 3D concert film Metallica: Through the Never, which also has an apocalyptic subplot involving the quest of a roadie played by Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines); Broadway Idiot, chronicling Green Day’s American Idiot from best-selling album to New York musical; and two older titles, Rob Reiner’s classic This Is Spinal Tap and “the real Spinal Tap,” Anvil: The Story of Anvil, both of which are worth checking out whether or not you’ve seen them. Tickets may be purchased for individual shows or $32 for all four, though the 3D show of the Metallica doc may or may not be part of the latter deal. Next week, the selections are all rock/R&B related.
Fleeing the Scene
Four fact-based films take their final bows on Thursday night. The best of the lot is Rush, though the lasting power of Lee Daniels’ The Butler (two months!) is impressive. By comparison, the more middling and problematic Parkland and Runner Runner never really stood a chance.
Also out after one week at the Fine Arts is I’m So Excited, definitely worth your time and one that I will prioritize review-wise. Reverse-eloping with it is Short Term 12, a lock for my year-end ten-best list.
Pacific Rim looked great on the big screen and unless your living room is an actual movie theater, the effect won’t be nearly as impressive. Hopeless of looking good on any screen, unless it’s microscopic and comes with a mute button, is The Heat, the DVD of which includes a commentary track featuring the original MST3K cast, a true indication of the film’s quality.
On Netflix Instant
Pretty slim pickings this week with the theatrical and unrated versions of Paranormal Activity 4 (a not terrible film and a big step up from the previous installment) as the highlights alongside ActionFest alum Hammer of the Gods.
Also, continuing the trend of the year’s worst films hitting Netflix is Movie 43, which may be watched in its entirety as a means of guessing what kind of compromising photos Peter Farrelly has/had on each of the all-star cast members…or fast-forwarded to the “Super Hero Speed Dating” sketch, the film’s sixth chapter, which is actually good. The last sketch before the credits, “Victory’s Glory,” with a basketball coach (Terrence Howard) pepping up his team by reminding them that they’re black and the opponents are white, is also not bad. The rest of the film…well, one never does quite recover from the sight of testicles on Hugh Jackman’s neck.