Eddie Redmayne in The Danish GirlTHE DANISH GIRL

Yes, I’m reviewing director Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl again, even though my previously published review is really all the film merits. (For those who missed it, the critique ran in my movies-of-2015 article under the “10 Least Favorites” header, and consisted of 19 words: “Everything irritating about period movies, ‘prestige’ movies, issue movies, and Eddie Redmayne all rolled into one carefully tucked package.”) Yet due, no doubt, to the four Oscar nominations the drama received, one of which it actually deserved, Hooper’s latest has finally landed on area screens, so I suppose a few more words are in order – just enough of them to purge the loathing I’ve felt for Hooper’s latest these past four weeks.

Kevin Hart and Ice Cube in Ride Along 2RIDE ALONG 2

It’s impossible not to notice that for roughly 75 percent of Ride Along 2, even when he’s indoors, Ice Cube is wearing dark sunglasses. I’m reasonably sure it’s because he was asleep. What other excuse could there be for Cube, as one of this action comedy’s producers, allowing the witless slapstick of Kevin Hart being accosted by a CGI alligator? Or the moment in which a recently shot man sits up, and panicky Hart is convinced he’s a zombie? Or the interminable foot chase in Miami underscored by (wait for it ... ) Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga”? I mean, really – “Conga”? Still?! It’s been more than 30 years since that single was released! I’m not laying all the blame for the song’s clichéd inclusion at Cube’s feet, but surely the rap legend could’ve put one of those feet down with a practiced “Aw, hell no!” and demanded wittier musical accompaniment.


Leonardo DiCaprio in The RevenantAs we Oscar watchers frequently like to ask on nomination morning: Who knew? Regarding this year’s contenders, who knew that category fraud would be so successful? Who knew that the lesbian romance Carol would be so well-liked – just not well-liked enough? Who knew this would be the second year in a row with acting races populated exclusively by white people? Who knew that Lady Gaga would receive as many nominations as Ridley Scott?

Leonardo DiCaprio in The RevenantTHE REVENANT

As you may have heard, The Revenant – given its bloody violence, grisly survival tactics, and almost complete lack of levity – is strong medicine. It also inspires the same reaction that strong medicine does; you’re glad it exists, but ugh, the taste. There are images and battle sequences in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s neo-Western that I didn’t think movies were even capable of, let alone capable of making transcendently beautiful and utterly horrifying in equal measure. Yet all that beauty and horror turn out to be in the service of a dispiritingly one-note, unduly protracted revenge saga that, miraculous visuals aside, could have easily starred Charles Bronson in his mid-1970s heyday. It’s Death Wish in fur coats – or, more accurately, The Passion of the Christ if Jesus survived his crucifixion and was determined to get even with that bastard who hammered the nails.

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in CarolCAROL

Carol is director Todd Haynes’ period drama about a passionate lesbian affair, and it’s a good thing the movie won’t be turning into any kind of mainstream hit, because otherwise it could have a truly dangerous effect. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, gazing at each other with urgent need, make the unhealthy and widely frowned-upon activity look so chic, sexy, and seductive that if the film became too popular, we might easily be seeing an entire generation of young women eager to be smokers.

Margot Robbie in The Big ShortAs is traditional, I’m taking my annual stab at guessing this year’s Oscar nominees a week before they’re actually announced: at 7:30 a.m. Central (5:30 a.m. for those sleepy souls in Hollywood!) on Thursday, January 14. As isn’t necessarily traditional, my guesses in nine categories are also in this week’s print edition of the Reader, which meant I had to make final decisions a full day earlier than usual. Which, in turn, meant that I made seven major prediction changes mere seconds before they were in my boss’ hands ... and likely would’ve made more if he got to the office just a few minutes later.

But I’ll also, in my head, no doubt be making additional changes up until 7:29 a.m. next Thursday, so enough waffling! Let’s get this fool’s errand over with!

 

This past April, my editor and I were talking about writer/director Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, the supremely eerie, clever science-fiction thriller I had just written about. Jeff hadn’t seen the film yet, but said he was looking forward to it, and added, not necessarily verbatim, “Based on your review, I’ll be very disappointed if it doesn’t wind up on your 10-best list.”

THE HATEUL EIGHT

Its opening credits remind us that the vengeance-minded Western The Hateful Eight is “the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino.” That’s actually helpful. Because by the time the closing credits roll some two-and-three-quarter-hours later (the movie’s 70-millimeter “roadshow” version lasting some 20 minutes more), you’d swear it was at least the 28th film by Quentin Tarantino. I admire the man’s output to no end, and five of his seven previous features are firmly entrenched amidst my 10 favorites for their particular years. But despite its flashes of brilliance, I found myself as annoyed with The Hateful Eight as I was with 2012’s Django Unchained, and for much the same reason: its auteur, by now, appears so immersed in the act of loving Quentin Tarantino that he leaves almost no room for us to love him, or his films, back.

DADDY’S HOME

I wasn’t terribly happy to sit through Daddy’s Home, given that director Sean Anders’ slapstick starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as über-competitive caretakers is a major comedown from the duo’s inspired pairing in 2010’s The Other Guys. But I was, at least, happy to have seen the movie during a well-populated screening with loads of grade-schoolers in attendance, as their frequent cackling clarified that the film was a family comedy, and therefore not designed to be as funny as, you know, a real comedy. I guess I was confused by the many jokes about Ferrell having to produce a sperm sample, and Bobby Cannavale manhandling Wahlberg’s prodigious package, and Ferrell’s stepdaughter (who appears to be about six) castigating him for “crying like a little bitch.” But what do I know? Bring the kids!

During my extended holiday stay in the Chicago area, I saw a fantastic movie, a sizable disappointment, and an utter clunker. But as Carol, Legend, and The Danish Girl aren't currently playing at a theater near you (at least if you live in the Quad Cities region), let's instead focus on the other fantastic movie, sizable disappointment, and utter clunker I saw.

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