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Rise of the Lycans

By: Jeff Ford
By: Jeff Ford

Award season is upon us.

Award season is upon us.  This past weekend, the Golden Globes were handed out and these tend to be a precursor to the Oscars.  If past trends hold true, then look to “The Descendants” and “The Artist” as the films to beat.  I can vouch that “The Descendants” is a great enough choice to be included in the discussion, with George Clooney almost a shoo-in to win Best Actor.  As for “The Artist”, that determination must come later.  If what I received through Facebook is true, then it will be on the weekend schedule at The Kentucky Theater and I will determine its validity later. 

The last three slots will be hard to fill.  If it was up to me, my three would be “The Ides of March”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “50/50”.  I’m holding out hope that “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II” can sneak in a nod, not so much as it is the best film of the year but more as a consolation prize for the 8 films in the series, all have been of high quality.  This is a long shot at best, but weirder things have happened (I’m looking at you “Sixth Sense”).

Enough stalling.  It’s time to get to the purpose of this blog.  By my estimates, 5 films are appearing for the 1st time in Lexington.  Three of these are new releases while two are expanding here after their limited runs.  As usual, the ratings I assign are my own and nobody elses.  They do not reflect the final film.  It’s more of how effective the marketing campaign is on me.  For a brief synopsis of what the numbers mean, please refer to last week’s post.  As for now, let’s get the show on the road.  First up is…

UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING

Humans have discovered the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans.  Naturally, when we humans come across things that are different from us, we must destroy them.  The vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale, “Royal Deceit”) leads the charge against the humans who want her clan exterminated.

This is the fourth installment of the Underworld Saga and the third for Kate Beckinsale in a starring role.  I’ve seen the first 2 and came away “Underwhelmed”.  For an action film with vampires and werewolves (aka Lycans), I thought it was very much morose.  There was not much joy in the proceedings.  It was too much into the goth and Matrix style.  I can recall pieces from the first.  The second I’ve seen but that is all I can say about it.  I can’t remember anything about it.  This fourth looks about the same as the first.  Will I go see it?  I get the feeling I may reluctantly find my way into a seat.  I just saw “The Descendants” (my current pick for best film of last year) and feel the need to counter balance my theater viewings with something completely dreadful.  Oh the torture of the Guilty Pain.  I’ll grant this 2 Silver Crosses out of 5.  “Underworld: Awakening” is rated R for strong violence and gore, and for some language.

RED TAILS

This film is based on the true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American pilots during World War II.  Kept on the ground for the majority of the war due to segregation, they finally have their chance to shine when they are called into duty under Col. A.J. Bullard.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. (“Snow Dogs”), Terrence Howard (“Who’s the Man?”) and Bryan Cranston (“Dead Space”) star.

This film has been in some form of development for over 20 years, which predates the 1995 HBO film “The Tuskegee Airman” starring Laurence Fishburne (very good film by the way).  It was financed by George Lucas, who also directed some reshoots when the original director Anthony Hemingway was unavailable.  Thankfully, Mr. Lucas stayed away from the writing chair. 

This film is tough for me to gauge.  With this film, I sit firmly on the fence.  The trailer didn’t inspire me but I always give pause when I see Terrence Howard’s name.  I really loved his performance in “Hustle & Flow” and he was the superior Rhodey in the “Iron Man” films.  That is counterbalanced by Cuba Gooding, Jr.  He followed up his Oscar win in “Jerry Maguire” with some pretty bad choices (“Rat Race”?  “Snow Dogs”?  “NORBIT”?!?  Come on.  You’re better than that.)  Since I can’t decide either way, I’ll stick to the middle.  3 Republic P-47 Thunderbolts out of 5.  “Red Tails” is rated PG-13 for some sequences of war violence.

HAYWIRE

Gina Carano (“Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3”) puts her MMA career on hold (she hasn’t fought since 2009) to portray a black ops super soldier in the latest from Steven Soderbergh (“Solaris”).   When she is double crossed by her superiors, she’ll need to rely on all her skills to escape and exact revenge on those responsible.

When I first saw this trailer, my initial reaction was one of a “here we go again” attitude.  How many vehicles have wrestlers or fighters starred in that have not been even remotely good?  If I had the time, I could probably come up with a few (“The Rundown” and “They Live” are the only ones that spring to mind right now).  Then I saw who directed this film.  It’s the Oscar winning director of “Traffic” and “Erin Brockovich.”  His films are usually interesting, although this film may be more in line with the “Ocean’s 11” trilogy than “The Girlfriend Experience” or his breakthrough indie film “Sex, Lies, and Videotapes”.  After that initial shock, the trailer started rolling out the supporting cast.  There’s Ewan McGregor (“Trainspotting”), Michael Douglas (“Wall Street”), Antonio Banderas (“The Mask of Zorro”) and Michael Fassbender (“X-Men: First Class”), to name a few.  Of course, it also has Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”…they all can’t be winners.)  Needless to say, my interests have been peaked quite a bit.  I’ll rate it as 4 American Gladiators out of 5.  “Haywire” is rated R for some violence.

THE ARTIST

Welcome to Hollywood, circa the late 1920’s.  Silent films are on the way out as audiences are mesmerized by the talking pictures.  Silent movie star George Valentin’s (Jean Dujardin, “Ca$h”) career is on the decline when he bumps into Peppy Miller, a dancer who is on her way up. 

Fresh off its big win in the Golden Globes, “The Artist” makes its way to downtown Lexington.  Hmmm… a black and white, silent film being released in 2011 (well, here it’s 2012).  With this film, I smell Oscar bait.  However, it’s different enough from the rest of the field to stand out and Oscar is also infatuated with its past.  I must say I am intrigued by the trailer.  It looks like this is a classic riches to rags story where the main star learns to appreciate what is truly important in life.  That is simply my conjecture.  I have not read any spoilers on this and will choose to remain oblivious until I can see the film unspool in front of me.  Can it top “The Descendants”?  I’ll find out soon.  I’m granting this 4 Talkies out of 5.  “The Artist” is rated PG-13 for a disturbing image and a crude gesture.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE

A year after his father (Tom Hanks, “Bosom Buddies”) passed away in the attacks on the World Trade Center, a young kid (Thomas Horn, “Jeopardy!”) finds a key left behind in his dad’s belongings.  His search for the corresponding lock takes him through all 5 boroughs of New York, encountering many different folks who have their own way of coping with the tragedy. 

… How do I approach this?  I was told by someone that if I gave this a bad mark, I was being insensitive.  Instead, I’ll defer to the critics who have already seen it (quotes taken from Metacritic.com).  Pete Hammond from Boxoffice Magazine: ”It’s an emotional powerhouse of a film, an unforgettable and rewarding motion picture experience.”  James Berardinelli from ReelViews.net: “Director Stephen Daldry has fashioned an emotionally powerful cinematic testimony about that horrific late summer day.”  Nick Pinkerton from Village Voice: “Such an abundance of "epiphanies," one after another, amount to a tactical assault on viewer sentiments. The deluge of tears is Daldry's idea of pathos, but to these eyes, it's Oscar-trolling 9/11 kitsch.”  Manohla Dargis from The New York Times: “Yes, you may cry, but when tears are milked as they are here, the truer response should be rage.”  Lou Lumenick from the New York Post: “About as artistically profound as those framed 3-D photos of the Twin Towers emblazoned with "Never Forget'' that are still for sale in Times Square a decade after 9/11.”  I’ll end with Scott Tobias from The A.V. Club: “It will always be ‘too soon’ for Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, which processes the immense grief of a city and a family through a conceit so nauseatingly precious that it's somehow both too literary and too sentimental, cloying yet aestheticized within an inch of its life.”

In case you were wondering, as of Tuesday, January 17, Metacritic.com has the average score at 44 out of 100 from 25 reviewers, while Rotten Tomatoes has it at 52% positive out of 62 reviews.  For me, I’ll simply leave it as a 2 out of 5.  “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is rated PG-13 for emotional thematic material, some disturbing images, and language.

(Side note:  the critic whose tastes are similar to my own is James Berardinelli.  He listed this film as the 6th best film of the year)

 

That’s all for now.  Tune in next week when Liam Neeson battles wolves. 

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