Even though ‘The Interview’ may not be hitting theater screens as originally planned, this Christmas week still has lots of notable new releases to congest cinemas.
The biggest of the Christmas Day releases is ‘Unbroken‘, the Angelina Jolie-directed bio-pic of Olympic athlete and World War II bombardier Louis Zamperini. The screenplay, which was re-written by Joel and Ethan Coen, briefly shows Zamperini’s childhood and Olympic career, but mostly focuses on his time in a war plane, floating adrift in the Pacific Ocean, then being held as a P.O.W. in Japan. Little-known actor Jack O’Connell plays the lead, and slightly better-known actors Domhnall Gleeson, Jai Courtney and Garrett Hedlund co-star in smaller roles. Beware that nothing happens in ‘Unbroken’ that you haven’t already seen in the trailer.
Mark Wahlberg stars in the new crime drama ‘The Gambler‘ from the director of ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’. Wahlberg plays a professor with a bad gambling habit. Too many losses force him to borrow big in order to pay off his debts, but whether he’ll use a loan shark’s cash to settle the score or try to win even bigger is up in the air.
Disney takes another crack at adapting a Broadway play for the silver screen with ‘Into the Woods‘, a hodgepodge of fairy tales clustered together with loads of sweeping musical numbers. The unevenly paced and dark family flick comes from ‘Chicago’ director Rob Marshall. It stars Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp.
Alongside those, four soon-to-expand awards contenders open in limited release.
Earning positive buzz is the Martin Luther King, Jr. bio-pic ‘Selma‘. David Oyelowo stars as King. The film follows his three-month 1965 campaign for equal voting rights leading up to the march from Selma to Montgomery. Word of mouth regarding the film has been very encouraging.
Clint Eastwood’s second movie of the year just might make up for the crime against musicals (and humanity) that was ‘Jersey Boys’. ‘American Sniper‘ tells the true story of the United States’ most decorated sniper in military history. Chris Kyle holds the record for the most confirmed kills. The film stars Bradley Cooper and functions like an unofficial companion piece to last year’s ‘Lone Survivor’. Although very good, I don’t see it earning any Oscar nominations.
Tim Burton has broken free from the weird shackles that bind him, but that’s not necessarily a good thing in this case. All oddities are missing from ‘Big Eyes‘, a drama that tells the story of Margaret Keane, the artist who painted “big eye” paintings that became popular in the 1950s. Stealing her glory was her shady con-man husband Walter. The film follows their beginnings and her attempt to cut loose of him and earn the rights to her art. While you might assume that a collaboration between Burton, Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz would result in greatness, ‘Big Eyes’ is quite bland.
IFC is releasing the new film by Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne on one screen this week. ‘Two Days, One Night‘ stars Marion Cotillard in a role that’s certain to earn her another Oscar nomination. Her character, Sandra, is a young mother and wife whose job salary keeps their family afloat. The film kicks off shortly after she’s laid off from her job when her boss asks everyone to vote on one of two things: let Sandra keep her job, or let her go so the remaining employees get a 1,000-Euro bonus. After slipping into depression from being fired, Sandra’s former boss allows a re-vote, so Sandra spends two days and one night visiting her co-workers one-by-one and asking them to vote in favor of her keeping her job.