One of last year’s baitiest Oscar flicks, I for one was more than a little surprised at the lack of a Best Picture nod for this one, mostly due to it’s being rather brilliant. Make no mistake, this is a thriller-drama that takes its sweet time doing its thing. For some people that near-inertia will sound the klaxon of boredom, but if your tastes are similar to mine I would recommend sticking it out. The tension becomes almost unbearable as the three towering central performances wrestle against one another. Although Carell (and his prosthetic nose) stole most of the limelight, it’s really Channing Tatum who surprises with serious dramatic range and it’s Mark Ruffalo who owns every scene he’s in as Tatum’s older, more talented brother. Darker, heavier and more formally rigorous than either of director Bennett Miller’s previous efforts, Capote and Moneyball (the latter of which is a damn classic I tell you!), this is heady stuff, and when it’s all over and you begin to look into the twisted true story, that’s when the brilliance of this film and its disturbing monotone really hits.
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR:
The cinema community lost Sidney Lumet nearly a decade ago, but his spirit is alive and well in this brilliant 80s-New York crime saga of just the sort Mr. Lumet was so suited to. This is the story of Abel Morales, a young immigrant making his way up the ladder of shady big business one rung at a time. Oscar Isaac is one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood at the moment, and as far as yours truly is concerned he can do no wrong. He certainly does no wrong here and is matched every riveting step by another of the finest actors in cinema, Jessica Chastain and an understated supporting turn from Albert Brooks. As marriage drama, crime thriller or snapshot of a specific place and time, this is evocative and hefty stuff from J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost) who is getting better with every effort.
INTO THE WOODS:
There’s really very little reason for me to review this one. If you think you’re going to enjoy this colourful, classical and costumed musical from that master of the stage Stephen Sondheim, then you probably will. A stellar cast has a lot of fun and sing-talks its way through a narrative sewn together from the best bits of various fairytales like Frankenstein’s Monster at a kid’s birthday party. Meryl Streep deservedly gets most of the attention for her scene-stealing work here, as she once again makes us all ask the question: who do other actors even bother? This is fun stuff, especially if you can ignore the fact that from the two-thirds mark this one entirely loses its way in the woods of plot coherence and never quite gets back on track. Definitely recommended for light, easy, brain-melting watching, even if it’s getting harder to ignore the fact that it’s been 13 years since Chicago (come on Rob Marshall!).