Film

PopMatters Film Preview: December 2014

This is it, the final push for the 2014 Awards Season, which includes some big names, some Academy almosts, and subjects as diverse as snipers, orphans, civil rights, and paintings of children with big, sad eyes.

This is it, the final push for the 2014 Awards Season, which includes some big names, some Academy almosts, and subjects as diverse as snipers, orphans, civil rights, and paintings of children with big, sad eyes.

 
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Film: Wild

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Gabby Hoffman, Charles Baker

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/w/wildposter.jpg

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5 December
Wild

They call it "dressing down". There's also several far more unflattering terms used for when actors and actresses remove the "glamour" element from their onscreen persona. Think Charlize Theron in Monster or Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder and you get the idea. In this case, Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon looks for a little more Academy love playing the real life Cheryl Strayed, a woman who decided to reclaim her downwardly spiraling life via a thousand-mile hike through the Pacific Crest trail alone. Part personal reflection (with accompanying flashbacks) and spiritual road movie, the end result proves Witherspoon's award season worthiness if nothing else.

 
Director: Grégory Levasseur

Film: The Pyramid

Cast: Ashley Hinshaw, Denis O'Hare, James Buckley, Daniel Amerman

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/p/pyramidposter.jpg

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5 December
The Pyramid

A horror movie? Three weeks before Christmas? I guess Hollywood has to counterprogram to someone, right? Anyway, this latest effort from the French filmmaking team of Alexandre Aja (producer) and his screenwriter collaborator Grégory Levasseur (only directing here) wants to reinvigorate the age old ancient Egyptian curse narrative with some postmodern quirk (found footage, contemporary politics). The only problem: neither man (responsible for such excellent frightmares as Haute Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake) has anything creative to add here. The script comes from a pair of novices and the cast contains a bunch of no names. Now that's scary.

 
Director: Erik Skjoldbjærg

Film: Pioneer

Cast: Aksel Hennie, Wes Bentley, Stephen Lang, Jonathan LaPaglia

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/p/pioneerposter.jpg

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5 December
Pioneer

At first, this seems to be another horror film. A group of divers in the '70s are competing to see who can go deeper as part of a plan to lay petroleum pipe at the bottom of the North Sea. Soon, however, a tragic accident leaves several lives in the balance, with a major oil company and complicit government eager to cover things up. This 2013 thriller, made by Norwegian filmmaker Erik Skjoldbjærg (best known for the original version of Insomnia) is already being westernized by Hollywood with producing partners Grant Heslov and George Clooney working on a possible remake.

 
Director: Sam Esmail

Film: Comet

Cast: Emmy Rossum, Justin Long, Eric Winter

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/c/cometposter.jpg

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5 December
Comet

Now this sounds insane. Supposedly set in a "parallel universe not unlike ours", we meet a less-than-happy couple, Dell (Justin Long) and Kimberley (Emmy Rossum) as their relationship slowly crumbles. We then jump back and forth in time to see how things started, and how the little moments of misunderstanding and misery build up until everything comes crashing down. Early word argues that the sci-fi aspect of the approach is minimal at best while others site Annie Hall as obvious inspiration. Who knows? The RomCom has been left for dead before. One doubts this concept could revive it.

 
Director: Paul Schrader

Film: Dying of the Light

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Anton Yelchin, Irène Jacob

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/d/dyingofthelightposter.jpg

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5 December
Dying of the Light

A few months back, writer/director Paul Schrader (of Taxi Driver fame) got together with his stars Nicolas Cage and Anton Yelchin to protest the handling of his latest film, CIA thriller The Dying of the Light, by its producing studio (Grindstone, a division of Lionsgate). Seems that after it was completed, producers took it away from him and more or less "remade" his vision. Long available (and dismissed) on Pay Per View, the film is now getting a minor theatrical release before becoming yet another example (The Canyons, his Exorcist prequel) of Schrader being disrespected by the mainstream establishment.

 
Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

Film: Still Alice

Cast: Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish, Shane McRae, Stephen Kunken

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/s/stillaliceposter.jpg

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5 December
Still Alice

Julianne Moore stars as a linguistics professor coming to terms with the fact that she has early onset Alzheimers. Alec Baldwin plays her husband, with Kristen Stewart her defiant daughter. Made by the directing duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, responsible for the less than impressive The Last of Robin Hood, there's not much here that's new and a lot of this ground has been covered by dozens of documentaries. Still, with all the actors giving their best performances in quite a while, what should be stale ends up rather engaging. Indeed, Moore alone makes the movie.

 
Director: Susanna Fogel

Film: Life Partners

Cast: Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, Adam Brody, Greer Grammer, Gabourey Sidibe, Julie White

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/l/lifepartnersposter.png

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5 December
Life Partners

Paige (Gillian Jacobs) and her lesbian slacker pal (Leighton Meister) have the perfect platonic relationship. That is, until a guy walks into their life. Tim (Adam Brody) is a doctor and he comes between these BFFs, forcing the ladies to figure out how he will fit into their already established bond. Written by Joni Lefkowitz and Susanna Fogel and directed by the latter, it's based on a successful play from the pair about their own experiences as friends. They were also the stars of a popular web series in 2008, another bit of autobiography entitled, oddly enough, Joni and Susanna.

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