The PopMatters Fall Movie Preview - December 2013

by Bill Gibron

6 December 2013

Like a great battle, or a criminal desperately trying to avoid capture, Hollywood breaks out the big guns this month, giving us new efforts from Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, the Coen Brothers, and Spike Jonze, along with the typical mainstream holiday fare.
 

6 December


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Out of the Furnace

Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Sam Shepard
6 December
Out of the Furnace

Scott Cooper came out of nowhere to lead legendary actor Jeff Bridges to his first (!) Academy Award win with the saga of a sad country singer, Crazy Heart. Since then, fans have been eager to see what he would do next. The answer is this well acted if redundant thriller that borrows liberally from other, better offerings while staying true to the genre tropes it needs to survive. Christian Bale gives a definitive performance as a working class Joe who sees his life systematically unravel around him. When the tragedies start striking too close to home, he decides to get revenge on those who’ve wronged his family.

 

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Inside Llewyn Davis

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake
6 December
Inside Llewyn Davis

It’s the Coen Brothers. It’s another period piece (this time set in the evocative world of a pre-Bob Dylan Greenwich Village), and it contains a terrific soundtrack full of classic folk songs. So what’s not to love? Well, for one thing, the title character (essayed perfectly by Oscar Isaac) is a bit of an asshole. Second, the film is more or less a loop, ending where it begins and causing us to reconsider everything we’ve seen before. So all cinematic complications behind, this still rates as one of the brothers’ best, an intricate character study of how a life in service of fame can be fleeting, or an outright failure.

 

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Last Days on Mars

Director: Ruairí Robinson
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Elias Koteas, Romola Garai, Goran Kostić, Johnny Harris, Tom Cullen, Yusra Warsama, Olivia Williams
6 December
Last Days on Mars

2013 has been a pretty good year for sci-fi. We’ve had the realistic lost in space impact of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, while a little indie gem entitled Europa Report did a decent job of exemplifying the effects of prolonged space travel. Now we get this unusual quasi-horror film focusing on potential life on the Angry Red Planet and how a group of explorers (lead by Liev Schreiber and Elias Koteas) come face to face - some literally - with a menacing Martian “bug.” Sure, the film tends to fall into the pseudo-zombie style of scary movie toward the end, but the use of the interplanetary setting and Ruairí Robinson’s direction help sell it.

 

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Twice Born

Director: Sergio Castellitto
Cast: •  Penélope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Saadet Aksoy, Mira Furlan, Jane Birkin, Sergio Castellitto as Giuliano
6 December
Twice Born

As usual with foreign films with little commercial appeal beyond the arthouse, this 2012 offering is just seeing a perfunctory, end of 2013 release. It tells the story of a war widow (Penelope Cruz) trying to reconnect with her angry teenage son (aren’t they all???). Interestingly enough, Emile Hirsch plays the husband she lost in the battles of Bosnia some 16 years before. Critics have complained that there is enough of the enigmatic actor in the narrative, but for the most part, this looks like another strong if somewhat standard mother/son story. Cruz is a fine actress, so if anyone can make this work, she can.

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