Christian Bale

20th Century Fox

Two powerful men — brothers from other mothers and great friends since childhood — find their relationship tested when the father of one (but guardian to both) makes it known which of the two he prefers. Division, betrayal and mass casualties soon follow as the two former best of friends become the worst of enemies. Marvel’s Thor films tackle this setup with a sense of fun, Shakespearean drama and a believably strained bond between Thor and Loki. Ridley Scott‘s equally mythical take on a similar subject is adapted from a slightly older source material than the comics, but the result is something far more ridiculous and far less engaging. Exodus: Gods and Kings aims for an epic feel built on the back of a personal, emotionally-fueled feud, but neither the big nor the small conflicts ever achieve the intended effect and instead leave viewers with a bloated, scattershot and unnecessary take on a familiar tale.

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Steve Jobs biopic

On the surface, the news is strange: an Aaron Sorkin-penned script — an ambitious one, to boot! — about one of the modern world’s great visionaries just can’t get made. But upon closer examination, it seems clear that Sony’s Steve Jobs biopic was never going to pan out. With the news (via Variety) that Sony has effectively tossed their long-gestating project into a teensy, tiny trash can somewhere (perhaps someone just slid their mouse over an icon, clicked, held, and moved?), it seems as if this feature may never come to fruition. News that Universal may pick up the feature is initially heartening, but we’ve got a better idea: just don’t make it. Or, perhaps more accurately — and yes, far less salaciously — just don’t make it as is.

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Exodus Gods and Kings

In case you hadn’t realized it from Exodus: Gods and Kings, Noah, The History Channel’s The Bible, that Ben-Hur remake due out in 2016 and the second Bible pic Ridley Scott plans on making sometime in the future, the Bible epic is back in a big, big way. Which hasn’t been the case since the late ’50s/early ’60s, when Bible heroes were as prevalent onscreen as superheroes are today (although they’re basically the same when you think about it: cool capes, mystical powers, characters who totally seem to die yet are retconned back to life for the sequel). Ben-Hur. The Ten Commandments. The Greatest Story Ever Told. King of Kings. Huge films that bore equally huge amounts of profit. But is there some kind of connection between this new Bible craze and our last frenzy to put butts in seats with talk of Christ, God and “In the beginning”? According to Exodus – the new swords ‘n’ sandals project from Scott, Christian Bale and a cast of millions — there totally is. And also, there isn’t. It’s kind of confusing. Here’s why.

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20th Century Fox

Ridley Scott is no stranger to period epics, but Gladiator aside, he hasn’t had the best of luck with them at the box office. 1492: Conquest of Paradise disappeared from theaters faster than the Native Americans did from Columbus’ conscience, and Robin Hood resulted in people wishing they were watching the Kevin Costner version. (Okay, maybe that was just me.) His 2005 religious-themed epic meanwhile, Kingdom of Heaven, failed to appeal to audiences and only banked less than $50 million domestic (on a $130m budget). But Scott’s nothing if not persistent — hence his penchant for director’s cuts — and he’s ready to try his hand at another biblical epic combining faith in a god with slow-motion death from horseback. And he found two perfect Middle Eastern actors to head up his cast. Exodus: Gods and Kings is the story of the tiff between Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) that resulted in the former orchestrating a mass exit of god-fearing slaves out of Egypt and the latter being inundated with messy plagues. Check out the first trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings below.

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Christian Bale in Exodus

There are few things that are certain in this world: death, taxes, the fact that there’s always an episode of Law and Order: SVU playing on at least one channel at any given time of day or night, and that the biblical epic will always find its way back into the mainstream of cinema. It may have been since the 1950s when the big budget, large scale production was en vogue, but with films like this year’s Noah getting audiences nostalgic for animals marching two-by-two and the big guy upstairs, now Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings has its path paved to go full blown Charlton Heston with no regrets. The first images from the film, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly, show that happening right away.

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Actor

The Best Actor field this year is a bit different than normal. Christian Bale is the only nominee to have won an Oscar, and that was in the Best Supporting Actor category. More over, two of the nominees (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey) have never received a nomination before. It’s not that these guys are newcomers. They’ve been acting for years, some of them in respected and popular films. The Academy is just finally getting around to giving them some recognition. Still, each nomination comes with a social issue attached to it. Whether it be the greed of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, the plight of the elderly in Nebraska, slavery and white guilt in 12 Years a Slave, or good old fashioned AIDS baiting for the Academy voters in Dallas Buyers Club, these nominations could be seen as a nod to the issue rather than the actor. (This could explain why Robert Redford and Tom Hanks were shut out of the contest this year: no social issues with lost yachters and captains who thwart Somali pirate attacks.) No matter what, someone will be winning his first Best Actor Oscar. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Actor along with my predicted winner in red…

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Ben Affleck in Gone Girl

Now that 2013 is coming to a close, let the opening salvo of 2014 be a slew of furrowed brows. In the first looks for their upcoming roles, some of 2013’s most talked about actors look very concerned. Two of them may be concerned because they are taking on roles for major names in the field of directing. Ben Affleck can be seen in the first still from David Fincher’s drama Gone Girl, while Christian Bale is playing Moses is Ridley Scott’s upcoming epic Exodus. And while master detective and part-time dragon Benedict Cumberbatch may not be getting the same directing pedigree in The Imitation Game, he does get to play famed codebreaker Alan Turing for the immensely talented Morten Tyldum, who directed the underseen Headhunters. All in all, there is great cause for concerned glances as we gaze upon these first looks.

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review american hustle

It’s 1978 in New York City, and Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is working hard to perfect the mother of all comb-overs. It’s an elaborate and time-intensive endeavor, but if he’s going to do it he wants it done right. He treats his businesses the same way, both the dry cleaning front and the illegal scams he runs on the side, and he’s a success because he works hard, does the job right, and never gets greedy. Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), his partner both in crime and in the bedroom, is a fan of v-necks and faux British accents, but she’s not too hot on Rosenfeld’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Trouble arises in the tightly-coiffed form of F.B.I. agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who busts one half of the criminal duo with the intention of coercing them into helping him take down some far bigger fish. Target number one is the easily corruptible Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) from the nearby New Jersey shore, but as DiMaso’s eyes grow at the thought of nabbing even higher profile targets the entire operation threatens to spiral out of control. It doesn’t bode well for Irving’s tenuously-constructed combover either.

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outofthefurnace

“There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show.” The above summary is of an an impromptu speech The Wire showrunner David Simon delivered at “The Festival of Dangerous Ideas” in Sydney this week. Simon’s work as producer has been characterized by a distinct effort to represent the “great horror show” America he mentions – the America without social mobility, the America where people are left to survive in the marginal social position they’ve inherited, the America without special interest groups to make a perpetual underclass visible in the media and worth pandering to for politicians’ votes. The Wire, as Simon attests directly, sought to represent the conditions and lives of people who are “economically worthless,” a series that lent a rare lens to ordinary people’s endurance in the face of total invisibility in the public sphere. Mainstream contemporary movies and television shows have, perhaps until very recently, almost exclusively surveyed the lives of those with considerable economic worth: audiences with expendable income that can be advertised to during commercial breaks or be expected to buy most movie tickets. But Out of the Furnace and Killing Them Softly – both of which take place in 2008 and were released almost exactly a year apart – offer an incisive lens into a hermetically sealed, economically deprived, and otherwise underrepresented American underclass.

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cooper

43-year-old Scott Cooper didn’t direct his first feature film until he was 37.  2009’s Crazy Heart scored Jeff Bridges his first oscar, and it also made Cooper a director on the rise. The film cost only $7m and went on to earn more than $47m worldwide, making it both a critical and financial smash. That’s not a feat we see often, but for Cooper, he couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming result for his debut. His follow-up, Out of the Furnace, is an entirely different kind of film, featuring an ensemble cast, life and death stakes and suspense. Before it premiered at AFI Fest last month, one of the producers compared Out of the Furnace to The Deer Hunter, inferring that they didn’t set out to make a film that goes down easy. The talent in attendance clearly stated their intention: they wanted to make a movie about America. Not the big booming cities, but the small towns that have been left in financial turmoil. That wasn’t the story Brad Ingelsby‘s set out to write in the beginning. “The original screenplay was based on the idea of a man who gets out of prison and must avenge someone,” says Cooper, delving into the film’s subtext. “The rest all comes from a very personal experience. As I said in those opening remarks [at AFI], I wanted to show the turbulent world we’ve lived in the the last five years. I thought it was important to express my personal and artistic worldview through that lens, and out comes Out of the Furnace.”

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DF-08470.CR2

Willem Dafoe is a chameleon, and everyone knows it. He’s ruled as Emperor to the Green Martian Tharks, done a painfully human portrait of Jesus, terrorized Spider-Man, eaten a bird as Max Schreck, and, of course, convincingly played a Huey Lewis and the News fan. Yet, that handful of roles doesn’t even begin to cover half of the shapeshifting Dafoe has done over his career. He can carry a picture, light some sparks with only a few minutes of screen time, or, in the case of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, have his voice do all the work. In Out of the Furnace he plays John Petty, a low-rent gangster Rodney Baze Jr. (Casey Affleck) does underground fights for. All of Dafoe’s scenes either involve Affleck, Christian Bale, or Woody Harrelson. Working opposite of those three isn’t exactly a bad day’s work. Dafoe has acted with some of the best (including himself in Spider-Man) and the topic of what makes a compatible scene partner came up when I spoke with him recently.

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Film Title:  Out of the Furnace

Editor’s note: Our review of Out of the Furnace originally ran during this year’s AFI Fest, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in theatrical release. Sometimes it seems like the future is rapidly approaching, with more and more information being digitally consumed and smartphones attached to the palm of almost everyone’s hand, but there are still places that are untouched by time, where family and community are paramount. It may seem like a simpler life, but Scott Cooper’s Out of the Furnace shows just how difficult life in an industrial community on the decline can be. Russell (Christian Bale) and Rodney Baze (Casey Affleck) are two brothers trying to carve out fulfilling lives for themselves in the wake of hard times and the deteriorating health of their father. Russell is a good man who seems content to work hard for his family and his girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana), but Rodney is more of a loose canon. As a solider recently called back for another tour overseas, the younger Baze brother is wrestling with some serious demons.

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Look, I know we all love Batman. His cool gadgets. His imposing figure. The way he dresses like a diminutive winged mammal and punches people in the head. And with the latest non-LEGO incarnation of the caped crusader still a few years away, things can be a little tough sometimes. We all need our coping mechanisms- maybe revisit earlier Batman films, pick up a comic book or swallow fistfuls of gravel in an attempt to sound more like Christian Bale.

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furnace

When the first trailer for Scott Cooper’s (Crazy Heart) Out of the Furnace hit, it made the movie seem like a pretty safe bet right away. The footage had a tattooed, rusty authenticity to it, the story featured stakes that were immediate and grave, and the cast—well it’s just a really good cast they’ve put together. But then, in the second half of the ad, what originally looked like a simple, gritty revenge story suddenly gave way to religious imagery, corny flashbacks, general melodrama, and a soaring Pearl Jam song over the soundtrack that made the whole thing seem like it just might be too pretentious and overbearing to reach its potential. Now there’s a second trailer out for the film though, and while it’s mostly a remix of footage that was already shown in the first, this time the focus is more on the danger of getting involved with a bunch of criminal hillbillies, and this time some girl doing a sort of panicked cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ provides the soundtrack, so everything gets presented with a much more haunting tone and less of a bro rock one. Check it out, really, it ends up working so much better.

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american hustle poster bradley cooper

During the production of David O. Russell‘s American Hustle, the public was been concerned with one thing, and one thing only: Bradley Cooper‘s perm. And rightfully so. Though the trailer and some stills have shown it off in context of the film, new character sheets are letting us get a look at the thing up close and personal, along with rest of the cast in all their seventies glory. American Hustle focuses on the infamous ABSCAM operation, in which a con artist (Christian Bale) and his mistress/partner in the scam (Amy Adams) are forced to team up with a federal agent (Cooper) to catch other criminals. But because this is the seventies, there is a whole lot of debauchery and side-boob going on to distract them from their goals.

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Cillian Murphy Batman

If you’ve ever wondered what Cillian Murphy would have looked like as Batman, wonder no more. The above image (via Batman-News) is from the new Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set, and they’ve got him as Bruce Wayne, too. Somewhere, Tim Burton is jumping with glee. Now, if you’ve ever wondered whether the Swear To Me voice was always in the mix, wonder no more again. As the below screen test video proves, Christian Bale was asking where the drugs were in that now-signature growl from the very beginning (although I wonder if Kevin Conroy has something to say about what Christopher Nolan is claiming here). Just think. In ten years, we’ll be seeing shots like this of Josh Brolin and video like this of Ben Affleck surface. But who will we be watching in the Batsuit in twenty?

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edgerton

The first time we heard that Ridley Scott was thinking about putting together a Moses tale, word was that the project he was eyeballing was called Exodus, Fox was pressuring him to put it on the fast track, and he and the studio were trying their damnedest to get Christian Bale to attach himself as the film’s lead. Well, some exciting developments have gone down since then. Not only has Bale definitely agreed to come on board and grow a hipster beard to play Moses, but the film is also definitely set to go in front of cameras soon—likely as soon as September even. And now, in yet another bit of promising news, THR is reporting that rising star Joel Edgerton is negotiating to star opposite Bale.

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American Hustle

Yesterday gave us our first glimpse at the sweet ‘dos of David O. Russell‘s latest film – American Hustle. Today, we have the opportunity to witness all that greased-hair goodness in motion, and I strongly implore you to take that opportunity. Those who hit “play” on this trailer without knowing what American Hustle is about probably won’t know that much more by the trailer’s end. So here’s the scoop – Hustle is a fictional account of the ABSCAM sting operation from the ’70s-’80s, wherein the FBI and a con artist (Christian Bale) team up to take down both thieves and corrupt public officials. But if the trailer didn’t want us to know that, then it’s probably not super important right now. What is important is the performances, the style, the haircuts, the costumes and the music (which tells us everything we need to know – there will be both good times and bad times). And there’s plenty of goodness within that series of flashing images. Be on the lookout for a menacing Jennifer Lawrence, Bale playing a butt like a bongo drum, and a Quentin Tarantino-style trunk shot. There are also a few peeks at the juicier bits – guns and weeping and a bag-over-the-head-style kidnapping. American Hustle is definitely one to keep your eye on. Check out the first trailer after the break.

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American Hustle

The past three years have been very kind to David O. Russell. The director is responsible for 2010’s The Fighter and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, so naturally he’s stepping back into the game with a new film that combines the very best forces from both movies to contend this award season. American Hustle is set in the 1970s and ’80s in New York, which is ever-evident from this new batch of  stills, released by USA Today. The film centers on the FBI’s Abscam sting operation and will deal with government agents and conmen on both sides of the affair. Let’s talk about that perm. Bradley Cooper, who plays an “unhinged FBI agent” has a head full of curls that is just truly terrible, but the beard almost makes up for it. Almost. According to USA Today, the hairstyle was popular among ’70s professional baseball players, but that really doesn’t make it okay. Christian Bale as the greasiest Bronx conman there ever was serves up some fantastic crumpled suits in that orange-brown-putrid green color combination you just never see outside any other decade. I think those aviators paired with the combover are a nice touch, but who am I to judge? Check out one more still, after the break.

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Out of the Furnace

Christian Bale doting on his brother. Economic hardship. Boxing. Right off the bat, the trailer for Out of the Furnace can’t help but recall 2010’s The Fighter, even if Bale has a little less Boston in his speech and a little more bulk on his frame. But soon enough, Out of the Furnace distinguishes itself and the real story becomes clear. Bale plays Russell Baze, a steel-mill worker whose brother becomes involved in a local crime ring and disappears. After every effort to find his brother has failed, Russell takes the law into his own hands to uncover the truth.

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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