W.E.

In an age where Hollywood studios finally seem to be wising up to the value of streaming rights to their content, I’ve been questioning the continued viability of all-you-can-watch subscription services like Netflix. But, if the company is able to continue inking deals like the one they made today, we could all be safely watching gobs of cheap movies through their platform for the foreseeable future. What’s this deal I speak of? Brothers Harvey and Bob’s Weinstein Company has made an agreement with the service to make a host of their recent films available for streaming on Netflix exclusively, instead of sending them to cable. That includes titles like the Madonna-directed W.E., the Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus, and probably the crown jewel of the deal, Best Picture Nominee The Artist. As usually happens when deals like this are made, ass-kissing by both sides commenced. Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos said, “We couldn’t be happier to be working again with Harvey and Bob, who have an unmatched track record of creating critically acclaimed and commercially successful movies.” He then added, “The Artist is a symbol of the Weinsteins’ triumphant return to the top of the film business. Through deep passion, great taste and phenomenal vision, Harvey and Bob continue to surprise audiences and make history.” You hear that? These returning heroes are making history. That Uggie was one cute dog.

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Madonna’s second directorial effort W.E. has been greeted by a torrent of negativity, with critics assailing her revisionist portrait of the illicit romance between King Edward VIII and the American divorcée Wallis Simpson to the tune of a 14% on the all-powerful Tomatometer. If it’s not quite the unholy mess that the reviews have promised, there’s no question that this is a sloppy, hubristic affair. It looks pretty, with style and eloquence to spare, but it’s perilously over-directed. Apparently the Material Girl never met a random cross-cut, outsized camera movement, or other unneeded flourish that she didn’t like. That penchant for pristine visuals at any cost is just part of what detracts from the terrific performance by Andrea Riseborough as Simpson, which could have provided the core of a great picture. The British actress has beauty and intelligence to spare, the sort of charismatic movie star screen presence that carries you through the slowest moments. You want to watch her. Unfortunately, Madonna only lets you do so for half of the movie’s rather trying two hours. The rest of the time, we’re stuck with an unnecessary 1998-set corollary to the 1930s-set main action. There, lonely American Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) obsesses over Wallis and Edward, spending all her time at a Sotheby’s auction of their estate.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr hunkers down and braces for award season. He also prepares for an onslaught of celebrity guest stars in New Year’s Eve, which features a poster that looks like a “Friends available to chat” sidebar on Facebook. In order to watch all the movies for the week, Kevin hires the only babysitter available… Jonah Hill. What could possibly go wrong with that? Fortunately this frees him up to see some of the smaller releases, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, W.E. and I Melt with You. And he wraps up the week wondering why everyone needs to talk about him.

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Considering how much I like striped shirts, pasta, and films from controversial Greek directors, it looks like I may need to stow away in someone’s suitcase and get over to Italy next month for the 68th Venice Film Festival. The fest, which runs from August 31 to September 10, has just released their lineup for the year, and I may be speaking out of my macaroni here, but this batch of films really wets my noodle. Nathan already reported last month that George Clooney’s The Ides of March was likely to join the festival, and today’s announcement confirms that twofold – Ides will not only show at the festival, it will serve as opening night film. Other good stuff here includes Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (which has one of my favorite trailers of the year), Roman Polanski’s adaptation of play God of Carnage (shortened to Carnage), Ami Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Steve McQueen’s Shame, Todd Solondz’s Dark Horse, Madonna’s W.E., Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, and Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos’s Alps. In short terms, this is an incredible lineup of films that I cannot even remotely snark on, because I would probably do something violent if it meant I could go to the festival. Check out the full list of films after the break.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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