1. American Sniper (Entering wide release, Warner Brothers, 3,555 Theaters, 132 Minutes, Rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references, Rotten Tomatoes: 75% Fresh (122 reviews) as of this writing.): By now, we all know of Chris Kyle. He was the most successful sniper in the Iraq War (and by most successful, as the poster to the left so proudly exclaims, they mean the most lethal). He was an author and worked to help his fellow veterans adjust to the world back home. The adjustment process involved taking veterans to a local shooting range. One veteran he took there wasn’t ready for that kind of therapy and turned the gun on Kyle, killing him.
This film doesn’t focus on that event, instead on Kyle’s own inability to adjust to life back in the States and his compulsion to return back to Iraq again and again. But take away Kyle’s fame and the tragic way he died, isn’t that a story we’ve seen on film numerous times before?
The film received a Oscar nomination for Best Picture, and Bradley Cooper for best actor, so there must be something that makes it a cut above the rest.
2. Paddington (Weinstein Company/ Dimension Films,3,303 Theaters,95 Minutes, Rated PG for mild action and rude humor, Rotten Tomatoes: 98% Fresh (83 reviews) as of this writing): The beloved Peruvian bear from the books of your childhood has finally come to the big screen, and surely you are greeting this news with a sense of overwhelming dread.
After all, children’s books are typically a short form medium, which means more bells and whistles have to be added to the story to make it to the barest minimum of a film’s running time.And the more you add, the more likely some, if not all, of the charm of the original story will be lost.
And this one had to bear with its lead voice, Colin Firth, backing out at the last minute, which is never a good sign for a film.
Of course, that was by mutual agreement with the studio, as Firth couldn’t find the proper voice for the character (he was replaced by Ben Whishaw). The rest of the cast is still intact and filled with a great assortment of quality actors (and, since the cast features Hugh Bonneville and Peter Capaldi, you can consider this the Downton Abbey/Doctor Who crossover you always wanted). And that 98% positive reviews is nothing to sneeze at. All signs point that this will be the rare anomaly–the children’s book adaptation you’d actually wouldn’t mind taking your kids to.
3. The Wedding Ringer (Sony/Screen Gems, 3,003 Theaters,101 Minutes, Rated R for crude and sexual content, language throughout, some drug use and brief graphic nudity. Rotten Tomatoes: 26% Fresh (27 reviews) as of this writing): Sometime last year, about nine months ago, Wedding Crashers, Hitch, and The Hangover checked into a seedy no-tell motel off the Interstate near the California coast. After a night for tawdy passion, we have the bastard offspring for that unholy union, this film.
The film is about Doug (Josh Gad) who is about to marry Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). Only one problem. He doesn’t have any friends so his side of the bridal party is lacking.Enter Jimmy (Kevin Hart), a best man for hire who….
Okay, I’m going to stop the recap right there. I hope this doesn’t come off as insensitive or misogynistic, but if a guy like Josh Gad could get a girl like Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, odds are he has a good enough personality to have his own friends. I mean, not to be too cruel, but she is way out of his league. Partnerships like this do happen in the real world, I’ll grant you that, but that’s because the frumpy guy has a lot to offer the hot woman.And if he has a personality good enough to keep the woman interested, he will probably have no problem filling out a bridal party with groomsmen. I am several levels below Gad on the hotness scale and I had enough friends for seven groomsmen.
So, yeah. Not buying it. The film just lost me.
4. Blackhat (Universal, 2,567 Theaters,133 Minutes, Rated R for violence and some language,Rotten Tomatoes: 32% fresh (68 Reviews) as of this writing): 2015 has the makings of being the year of the hacker, as those cyber-terrorists continue to blossom from cads who would use your credit card to buy World of Warcraft memberships to dangerous men and women who can push the world to the brink of war.
But, really, who wants to see a movie about them, even if it is Chris Hemsworth playing the hacker? Unless the hacker’s code is created by pinching someone in the face, it will be hard to make that kind of story interesting.
But that’s the kind of story we are getting here. Directed by Michael “Style before substance, always” Mann, whose track record of late has been less than sterling. I like Hemsworth and I’d love for him to get a career outside of comic book and fairy tale films, but this film might just kill that dream dead in its tracks.