‘Out of the Furnace,’ ‘American Hustle’ anticipated
How many of the flicks that opened at the end of December will still be projecting on cinema screens come January? Hollywood hopes a lot, but too often too much holiday punch dilutes audiences as they flock to the first or second choice that injected buzz, likes or tweets. An example: Although stellar word of mouth at previews propelled Warner Bros. to select “We Are Marshall” as an inspirational Christmas release, the “Rocky Balboa” boxing icon and the two week feel good lead from “Pursuit of Happiness” resulted in only moderate reception, especially in Big City U.S.A.
All whining aside, a modern piece of film noir partially shot in West Virginia will be one of the movies short changed in performance times and/or “hold over” weeks. The blue collar Appalachian steel mill culture struggles of two brothers Rodney and Russell (Casey Affleck and Christian Bale) in “Out of the Furnace” symbolically represent the tarnished American Dream, i.e. earning a better life than the present.
Older bro Russell has sacrificed to keep the family together, whether taking care of his terminally ill dad or paying Rodney”s gambling debts. Fate throws a fatal car crash his way sending him to prison (the former West Virginia Penitentiary) while Rodney enlists for an Iraqi tour of duty. When released, Russell has lost the love of his life (Zoe Saldana), his dad has passed, and Rodney’s quest to escape the Rust Belt have him brutalized by participation in secretive bare knuckle street fighting.
Brooding, cluttered and tattered interiors often contrast with hazy bright sunshine beaming hope, but director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) suggests the illuminated exterior as elusive at best. The film is missing a requisite femme fatale, but the degenerative drug kingpin (Woody Harrelson) immerses viewers in pure and powerful evil, lacking any redeeming value.
Intertwining “The Deer Hunter” bottomless post traumatic stress disorder pit and noir expressionism, “Furnace” resonates through impeccable acting and resounding foreshadowing of the doomed nature of these inner convoluted journeys by these small town “anybodys.”
UNWRAPPED, STIRRED & FROZEN
While animated sisters Anna and Elsa of the eternal “Frozen” kingdom have captured the Disney “princess” spirit of past classy, graceful and feisty heroines i.e., Aurora (“Sleeping Beauty”), Jasmine (“Aladdin”), Ariel (“Little Mermaid”), and Belle (“Beauty and the Beast”), the new female role models equate strong-willed and free spirited personas instilled with benevolent natures, conflicting emotions, and often dutiful aspirations, which bond relationships over romantic gestures.
Winter wonderland inducing “gifts” (aka: talents) have drawn Elsa into self-isolation motivated by fear where she removes herself from sensitive, subtle, uncontrollable emotional triggers that in excess merge good and bad outcomes.
Though, the Hans Christian Andersen “snow queen” slightly mimics X-Men’s “Storm,” “Frozen” retains the fairy tale allure through mythical trolls, a funny snowman, brilliant music, stunning visuals and heart-melting unconditional love demonstrations that equate magical signature Disney animated icons be it “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast,” or “Pocahontas,” without threatening the sacredness of “Cinderella,” “Snow White” or “Sleeping Beauty.”
DINOSAURS AND DRAMA (all
unpreviewed at presstime)
The family-friendly Anna and Elsa sisterhood competes with the favorite creatures of boys, dinosaurs. Based on a BBC mini-series, “Walking with Dinosaurs,” the state of the art 3D adventure has been labeled immersive as it places you in the prehistoric world alongside these extinct creatures.
Other films demanding attention:
“Saving Mr. Banks” (starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers) tells the real backstory behind the acquisition and making of “Mary Poppins” directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side).
Boxing reemerges as Sly (“Rocky”) Stallone and Robert (“Raging Bull) DeNiro face a satiric “Grudge Match.”
What trade pub Variety has called “a cynical tale of Wall Street bad boys behaving badly” casts Leonardo DiCaprio as the coke snorting, pill popping, high rolling Jordan Belfort, the self-proclaimed “Wolf of Wall Street.” Expect a triumphant DiCaprio performance as the stock manipulating decadent financial guru directed by Martin (“Taxi Driver”) Scorsese as what reviewers call finger pointing at us for allowing the fleecing Gordon Gekko style stockbroker to work his charms.
Described as murky and intriguing, “American Hustle” places an ensemble cast in the seedy, disco days of Times Square where scheming and con-artistry prevail. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence topline..
Four rugged, relentless, focused Navy Seals (Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, and Josh Berry) face an onslaught from 200 Al-Qaeda soldiers which asks movie goers to determine “The Lone Survivor.”
A Pulitzer Prize winning play — “August: Osage County” featuring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, and Dermont Mulroney – reunites strong willed women during a family crisis at the Oklahoma home where they grew up.
Ben Stiller reimagines “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” who drifts into a fantasy world of heroics, romance and globetrotting.
“Her” offers an inquisitive examination be it in a surrealist screwball manner of an artificial “love,” herein the operating system of a computer featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson.
Finally, most of the above blend drama, comedy , fantasy or adventure, but anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) sets sights for comedy is the king in the sequel, “Anchorman II: The Legend Continues.”