Rosamund Pike

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

The Oscar Hopefuls is a new series that allows us to take a dive into the Oscar race. Instead of focusing on the marketing campaigns or the buzz, we want to focus on what really matters: the movies and performances themselves. This will include deep dives into individual movies and musings on various categories throughout awards season. Originally I had intended to kick this series off with a look at a spectacular movie that will likely be overlooked. However, today a topic was brought to my desk that feels equally deserving of the space. That great movie, to be named later, will be the focus of the next edition of The Oscar Hopefuls. For now, I’d like to focus on a topic that’s always been important to me: leading ladies. Over at The Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg writes about A Year without Best Actresses in response to a Gregg Kilday article at the Hollywood Reporter about the lack of quality Best Actress candidates in comparison to the wealth of choices in the Best Actor category. And while there’s much to be said about the balance between male and female leads overall, I’m not entirely sold on the lack of quality candidates in 2014.

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Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

The first rule of Gone Girl is you don’t reveal spoilers about Gone Girl. At least not without warning or proper cover for where those spoilers might be found. So, more than most weeks’ editions of Movies to Watch, this one really urges you not to look at the list of titles without having seen the new film in focus. I’m not even tagging the post with any of my selections as keywords. On the other side of the table, there is a possibility that I could spoil some of the movies on the list by including them here. I’ve tried to avoid doing so, and I’ve tried to avoid elaborating on any connections between movies that ruins those I’m recommending, as the assumption is that you haven’t seen the 12 picks (there’s one movie from last year that I wound up eliminating on account of the reason for linking it probably spoils it). Anything really old, though, is fair game. There’s one in particular here that is such a classic that its plot twist is quite common knowledge. This week I’ve kept the recommendations linked by director or actor to a minimum since the theme and plot of the Gillian Flynn adaptation is a more interesting angle than the careers of Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and David Fincher. I shouldn’t have to waste slots to tell you to watch Gone Baby Gone, The World’s End or any of the director’s prior, better films, most especially Fight Club and Zodiac. Once again, you should […]

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Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike

For 114-minutes Hector and the Search for Happiness walks the tightrope between nausea and uplift. A movie whose logline is “a psychiatrist searches the globe to find the secret of happiness,” seens congentinally constructed to evoke such mixed emotions. And so Maria von Heland and Peter Chelsom’s uneven screenplay beats on with a confluence of stirring and sickening sequences — its unrelenting optimism alternately admirable and revolting. That said, there is something about Chelsom’s film, his first since the Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2009, that occasionally has the power to win you over.

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Gone Girl

Gone Girl is not about love. It’s not about marriage or even about a missing person. It has all of those elements, but they are background noise to an exploration of how we judge, en masse, things we know nothing about. Thoroughly and profoundly cynical, David Fincher‘s movie comes in the middle of a thriving gossip culture that’s been amplified by technology. Royal babies, Benghazi, Michael Brown. Millions of instantly formed opinions are screamed far beyond the back porch. We seem to be under the delusion that we’re somehow missing out when the rest of the pack tweets, posts and shares their uninformed impressions. We need someone new every day (celebrity or temporary celebrity) to be mad at. Normally, something like this would be subtext in a film, but with almost every important sequence and character decision launched or colored by what large amounts of strangers will believe, spitting on the court of public opinion stands just as tall as the whodunnit element. It’s given voice in the film by a noisy neighbor who’s desperate for attention (Casey Wilson), a front lawn camping press corps, bloviating media figures stirring the pot, a chorus of anonymous people whose takes randomly fill the air, and a general spectre that clouds every decision. These figures all feed at the trough when Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on the morning of her 5th wedding anniversary. She’s smart, engaging, accomplished, and she was once the young inspiration for a beloved children’s book character. Already a minor […]

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Relativity Studios

There’s no doubt that Simon Pegg is a star, but after dozens of feature films it’s safe to say his biggest successes — both financially and memorably — have been as parts of franchises. Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and his work with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost (yes, I’m counting “The Cornetto Trilogy” as a franchise) have all become part of our collective film conscience, but how many of his solo films can you name? He’s had six leading roles in non-franchise movies… even if you can name a couple of them can you honestly say they were all that good? As a fan of Pegg’s I always hope for the best with each new film of his, and thankfully the trailer for his latest gives me reason to expect the best this time too. Hector and the Search for Happiness is the story of a psychiatrist (Pegg) who realizes one day that not only is he unsatisfied with his own life but that he’s clearly in no position to be helping anyone else. Determined to explore what it is that makes people happy and content with their lives he sets off on a trip around the world where he encounters people, platitudes and the desire for a penis. (I promise this will make sense soon.) Check out the trailer below.

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The Worlds End Movie

For fans who like to recreate movie moments, The World’s End offers a destructively inebriated challenge. One night, twelve pints, twelve pubs. If you’re trying to be authentic, alien robots and a deep sense of foreshadowing are must-haves. In the movie, Gary King (Simon Pegg) forces his friends to take a second stab at the Golden Mile pub crawl with no regard for age, teetotaling or blue goo-filled beings trying to remove their personalities. When they were kids, they missed the finish line by three pubs, and even though their middle-aged attempt is marred by the fate of the entire planet, King valiantly soldiers on. That got me thinking: what would it take to survive a real-life Golden Mile?

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Ben Affleck in GONE GIRL

You can have your Paul Thomas Andersons and Terrence Malicks, your Richard Linklaters and Friedberg/Seltzers. For my money the most consistently fantastic and exciting director working today is David Fincher. Even perceived “bottom tier” Fincher thrillers (Panic Room, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) are better than a large percentage of other suspense films out there, and it’s his work that I most look forward to every couple years. His latest is once again an adaptation of an immensely popular novel, but unlike Stieg Larsson’s Nordic thriller Gillian Flynn‘s book lacks a distinct visual style that plays so well into Fincher’s wheelhouse. The film, scripted by Flynn herself, is a mystery set in suburban America that follows a man’s (Ben Affleck) attempt to find his missing wife (Rosamund Pike) and convince the world that he’s not somehow responsible. Check out the first trailer for Gone Girl below.

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Hector

If you were, say, a psychiatrist treating severely depressed people, it would probably be slightly concerning when several or none of those patients reported getting any happier. It might even make you a little depressed yourself. In the case of Simon Pegg and his floundering practice in Peter Chesholm‘s Hector and the Search for Happiness, it’s enough to have him questioning every little bit of his increasingly draining existence. Naturally, the remedy for undoing the blues when you’re well to-do and can apparently take that much time off work is to get out of London for awhile and find yourself. It’s not just a sense of self he’s looking for while he’s traveling around the world, but the real key to happiness itself — presumably so he can take that knowledge home with him and share it with his gloomy patients.

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Ben Affleck in Gone Girl

If you’ve so far resisted reading even just one of author Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novels, now is probably the time to give in and give over to the twisted charms of any of Flynn’s three books and get sucked into her cleverly engineered worlds, especially since you’re about to be inundated with all sorts of material from the David Fincher-directed take on her most recent novel, “Gone Girl.” Fincher’s version of Gone Girl features an interesting and varied cast of talents (which is a nice way of saying that I’m not entirely sold on a few of his picks), including Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Missi Pyle, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Casey Wilson, Patrick Fugit, Scoot McNairy, and Carrie Coon, and it attempts to translate Flynn’s complicated story of a young wife (Pike) who goes missing and what that means for her embattled husband (Affleck). As is the case with all of Flynn’s works, it’s difficult to truly explain what the film is about without giving a whole mess of stuff away. It’s best to spout off a common-sounding storyline, and pair it up with the assurance that it’s only a tiny bit of a big, dark, winding, insane iceberg. Basically, Gone Girl sounds like a TV movie – and it’s not. This is pure Fincher territory. The new film also boasts a script from Flynn herself – one that the author has apparently already sliced and diced up into something new, making her old third act disappear right along […]

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bernal

What is Casting Couch? Today it’s the last bits of casting news coming in for the week. That’s it, it’s the weekend, it’s time to see movies that are out, not read about movies that haven’t been made yet. Before we go though, let’s cap things off with news about Bond Girl Rosamund Pike. As sad as everyone is over Jon Stewart taking a 12 week hiatus from The Daily Show, the silver lining in the story is that he’s taking the time off to try his hand at directing movies, so at least we’ll get to see what a Jon Stewart-directed movie looks like. So far what we know is that it looks like a dramatization of the life of Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was imprisoned and tortured in Iran for 118 days, and that it’s going to be called Rosewater, because that’s what the guy doing the torturing smelled of. The new news here is that we now also know what Stewart’s version of Bahari is going to look like, because The Wrap is reporting that he just cast Gael Garcia Bernal in the role. Who he’ll cast as Jon Stewart in the scene where Bahari goes on The Daily Show is anybody’s guess, but I vote Jason Momoa.

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59761341261826-jackreacher1

Christopher McQuarrie has been trusted for quality ever since his screenwriting debut with The Usual Suspects. It’s an intriguing movie, not only because of the twist we all know, but it’s made even more interesting by the fact McQuarrie knew next to nothing about the 101 rules of screenwriting. It was unconventional, surprising, and entertaining. Most of those adjectives don’t apply to his adaptation of Lee Child‘s character Jack Reacher, but “entertaining” surely does. The lack of surprise becomes apparent from scene one in McQuarrie’s film. It is a mystery story that we already know the answer for, at least a part of it. The first act comes down to James Barr’s (Joseph Sikora), a former Army sniper, involvement in a horrific shooting. We know most of that answer in frame one, and that’s a smart choice on McQuarrie’s part. Based on conventions alone, we already know whether Barr is innocent or not, so McQuarrie doesn’t try to string the audience along for that meaningless mystery, telling us flat out from the start if he did it or not.

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Cate Blanchett

What is Casting Couch? It’s a round-up of Hollywood casting news, not one of those porn videos where a 19-year-old gets exploited in a grimy-looking office. Move along, perv. Now that we’ve got all of those live action Snow White movies out of the way, it makes sense that we would move down the fairy tale lineup and start seeing a rash of new Cinderella projects popping up. And, if Disney has their way, their Mark Romanek-directed Cinderella script from The Devil Wears Prada scribe Aline Brosh McKenna will be the hit that starts the trend. They’re trying to get casting for the film off on the right foot with the acquisition of a big name, as Deadline reports that the House of Mouse is in serious negotiations with Cate Blanchett to come on board to play a character called Lady Tremaine, known in some circles as the wicked stepmother. Given her experience playing a creepy elf in the Lord of the Rings movies, this seems like something of a perfect fit.

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Jack Reacher Tom Cruise Robert Duvall

Lee Child has published seventeen novels with lead character Jack Reacher, and this December one of them will finally be hitting the big screen. Reacher was a military policeman once upon a time, but just because he no longer carries a badge doesn’t mean he’s forgotten wrong from right. Now he wanders the nation from one state to the next, and like Bruce Banner and Sam Beckett before him he helps those unable to help themselves. “One Shot” (renamed simply Jack Reacher for the movie) is the ninth book in the series and sees him investigating a mass shooting in Middle America and the man arrested for the crime. Reacher has some very specific characteristics, mostly focused on his size, that should have realistically precluded any actor under 6’3″ from playing him onscreen. Hollywood though is a magical place where respect for the written word isn’t always a priority, so Tom Cruise was cast in the role. Cruise, as we all know, stands 3’7″ which led to a fair amount of bitching and moaning online about his giant ego in a tiny body ruining such a kick-ass literary character. But books and movies are two different mediums, and changes big and small are inevitable when adapting between them meaning the resulting films should be judged on their own merits. We got a glimpse of those merits with the first teaser back in July, but today the full trailer has dropped offering us a look at the story, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie‘s sense […]

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We’ve been hearing about Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s next film together as co-writers for a while. A mashup between the concepts of the pub crawl and the apocalypse, The World’s End has been said to be the third film in an informal trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Other than Wright directing and co-writing the film with Pegg, we’ve also known from the start that Pegg was set to re-team with Nick Frost as its stars. But, seeing as the film’s synopsis says that it’s about five friends in their forties trying to recreate an epic pub crawl they completed when they were younger, there’s always been a question of who else was going to be joining the cast. Well, a press release put out by Universal today not only confirms a couple names that have been floating around for a while, it also adds two more to the mix.

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Russell Crowe in Noah

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a column about movies and stuff. With a particular focus on “and stuff.” We begin tonight with a shot of Russell Crowe as Noah, in the upcoming vision from director Darren Aronofsky. He’s looking quite grizzled, like an older version of his character from Gladiator. And that’s alright. Because that situation worked out pretty well. Then again, he also looks like a slightly older version of his Robin Hood…

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr dresses up in a frilly lace cravat and some leather boots, grabs his sword and takes a trip to France to become a Musketeer. Unfortunately, he seems to be almost 400 years too late for those kinds of shenanigans. So he hops the English Channel to become a spy with MI-7. Of course, no one told him that MI-7 was actually nothing more than propaganda. So he heads back home for a good night’s sleep, and to make sure that happens, he videotapes himself throughout the house. While he doesn’t witness any paranormal activity, there are many unspeakable things that can be seen on them.

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It should come as absolutely no surprise that understanding (and potentially even enjoying) Johnny English Reborn does not necessitate any sort of familiarity with the first film, though moviegoers who are acquainted with Rowan Atkinson’s particular brand of idiot-in-the-wild humor will likely find a few more chuckles in the film than those who are not. Atkinson reprises his role as dumb bunny “MI-7” spy Johnny English for the film, picking up after the action of 2003’s eponymously named Johnny English, which saw him prevail against all odds (most notably, his complete lack of skill and overinflated confidence). But English is now in disgrace, self-exiled to a monastery in Tibet after a job gone awry inMozambique (English’s failure there made international headlines – my favorite of which being a rag’s pronouncement that the entire operation should be called “Doh’zambique”). English is attempting to re-center himself through rest, mediation, and literally dragging a stone around by his balls, so it’s probably welcome news when a former associate comes forth with intel about a shady assassination trio. “Vortex” is bent on offing the Chinese premier, but American agent Fisher (Richard Schiff) will only talk to English. Suddenly, the world’s dumbest spy is back in action and essential to planetary peace.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets ready to celebrate Halloween in style with some horror releases… and he’s not just thinking of Footloose. Unhappy with his life, he follows the bucket list path of Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, traveling to the bottom of the world where he finds himself in a small Antarctic town that has outlawed dancing. So Kevin takes it upon himself to help the people get their groove on only to discover they’ve been taken over an alien species that duplicate human form. Later, he takes a trip back to the heartland where he finds a feral woman chained in a cellar… pretty standard for some of the towns he’s been to. Finally, not being able to find a theater that is still playing Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), he checks it out On Demand and promptly throws up.

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For those of us who are not predisposed to spend hours of our time spying on birds in a forest, birding aficionados can seem like an awfully strange lot. That’s not to suggest that their hobby isn’t understandable. After all, the satisfaction in finding a rare bird seems similar to the sense of accomplishment one feels upon finishing a difficult puzzle, or upon finally locating Waldo. Still, anyone who’s ever accompanied a birder on his mission knows that once the object of prey is spotted there will be a long, frenzied staring and photographic session, with any slight movement met with enthusiastic “oohs” and “aahs.” If you’re not of the niche birder community, this is an insufferable experience. So it’s hard to fathom why director David Frankel and screenwriter Howard Franklin imagined anyone would be especially entertained by a movie about it.

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Christopher McQuarrie’s upcoming adaptation of the Lee Child novel “One Shot” continues to make curious casting decisions. First it cast Tom Cruise, the diminutive head of the militant wing of the Church of Scientology, as the hulking, brute of a protagonist Jack Reacher. And now it has cast a German man in the role of The Zec, a Russian ex-POW who acts as the story’s antagonist. And not just any German man, the most German man in the world: Werner Herzog. To the public at large, that name might not mean much, but for those of us reading a film site, it’s kind of a big deal. Herzog is one of the most respected directors of film on the planet, his narrative works include things like Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre: The Wrath of God and his documentary work includes titles like Grizzly Man and the upcoming Into the Abyss. We’re used to hearing his voice narrating his docs, and he’s even showed up in features with small roles before (my favorite being his turn as the creepy father in Julien Donkey-Boy), but this will be the first time he ever gets a meaty role in a mainstream Hollywood film. Is it now only a matter of time before the entire country falls in love with Herzog’s rich, comforting grandfather voice? Is it only a matter of time before we see bumper stickers and novelty Ts carrying catchphrases about trees being in misery and birds screaming in pain? Is this the beginning […]

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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