Wednesday, December 3, 2014

New Releases (4/12/2014)

In cinemas this week: Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Captive, The Congress, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Human Capital and The Green Prince.

Exodus: Gods and Kings - From acclaimed director Ridley Scott comes the epic story of one man's daring courage to take on the might of an empire. Using state of the art visual effects and 3D immersion, Scott brings new life to the story of the defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) as he rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. It's not a good film. I felt every one of those 150 minutes trickle by. It is very boring and unintentionally goofy. Impressive early scale and design swallowed up by a dull script with horrendous dialogue and character. There's nothing going on here. The key events in the story are all there - Moses' banishment, the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments - but the lulls in between are as vacant as Moses himself.

The Captive - Matthew steps briefly into a diner and comes out to find that his young daughter Cassandra has vanished without a trace from the back of his truck. Her unsolved abduction destroys Matthew's once-happy relationship with his wife, Tina, who, haunted by mementos of Cassandra that appear mysteriously at her work, suspects her husband of foul play. Years later, when detectives Nicole and Jeffrey discover recent images of Cassandra online, Matthew risks everything to ensure his daughter's safe return-and to save himself and Tina from the limbo of unrelenting despair.

The Congress - More than two decades after catapulting to stardom with The Princess Bride, an aging actress (Robin Wright, playing a version of herself) decides to take her final job: preserving her digital likeness for a future Hollywood. Through a deal brokered by her loyal, longtime agent (Harvey Keitel) and the head of Miramount Studios (Danny Huston), her alias will be controlled by the studio, and will star in any film they want with no restrictions. In return, she receives healthy compensation so she can care for her ailing son and her digitized character will stay forever young. Twenty years later, under the creative vision of the studio's head animator (Jon Hamm), Wright's digital double rises to immortal stardom. With her contract expiring, she is invited to take part in "The Congress" convention as she makes her comeback straight into the world of future fantasy cinema.

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day - Follows the exploits of 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences the most terrible and horrible day of his young life - a day that begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by one calamity after another. But when Alexander tells his upbeat family about the misadventures of his disastrous day, he finds little sympathy and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him. He soon learns that he's not alone when his mom (Jennifer Garner), dad (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette) and sister (Kerris Dorsey) all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Anyone who says there is no such thing as a bad day just hasn't had one.

Human Capital begins at the end, as a cyclist is run off the road by a careening SUV the night before Christmas Eve. As details emerge of the events leading up to the accident, the lives of the well-to-do Bernaschi family, privileged and detached, will intertwine with the Ossolas, struggling to keep their comfortable middle-class life, in ways neither could have expected. Dino Ossola (Fabrizio Bentivoglio), in dire financial straits, anticipates the birth of twins with his second wife (Valeria Golino). Meanwhile, Dino's teenage daughter's relationship with hedge-fund manager Giovanni Bernaschi's playboy son complicates an already tricky social dance of status, money and ambition. Paolo Virzi's taut character study deconstructs the typical linear narrative, observing transformative events from each character's perspective. The result is a nuanced account of desire, greed and the value of human life in an age of rampant capitalism and financial manipulation. I caught this at the Sydney Film Festival, and though it has diminished considerably since the viewing, I got wrapped up in this quite clever screenplay. ★★

The Green Prince - Set against the chaotic backdrop of recent events in the Middle East, Nadav Schirman's The Green Prince retraces the details of a highly unprecedented partnership that developed between sworn enemies. In the style of a tense psychological thriller, this extraordinary documentary recounts the true story of the son of a Hamas leader who emerged as one of Israel's prized informants, and the Shin Bet agent who risked his career to protect him. I admired the way this was film put together - just the two testimonies, Mosab and his Israeli SS handler - and sat quietly in shock as the revelations were revealed. ★★★1/2

Weekly Recommendation: The Green Prince and Human Capital from what I have seen, but I am dying to see The Congress. Been on my radar for 18 months. Exodus is another misfire from Ridley Scott - don't say I didn't warn you.  

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