Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Opening This Week - December 4

Here are the films coming to theaters this week:


Chi-Raq

"Chi-Raq" is Spike Lee's modernized, satirical adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes set against gang violence in Chicago. This project, even the name of it, is something of a hot topic. The name, of course, comes from a comparison between gang violence in South Side Chicago to war zones in Iraq. Whether the term is used commonly or not, it isn't one they're particularly proud of, nor should they be. Even if there's something noble about attempting to provoke reflection on gun violence, Lee has received backlash for attempting to satirize this very real and painful situation. Nevertheless, so far critics have been mostly positive about the film.


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Krampus

As the holiday themed films continue to roll out, "Krampus" is a rare breed of Christmas horror that seems fit only for a niche audience (especially with its PG-13 rating). It also seems strange to see Adam Scott in a film such as this, but I suppose it is in keeping with his 2015 that has seen him branching out into genres other than comedy.


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Macbeth

Before gamers get to see the first cinematic take on the Assassin's Creed franchise by director Justin Kurzel, he sets his sights on William Shakespeare's Macbeth. It's the story of a Thane of Scotland that decides to take the throne away from the King after receiving a prophecy from three witches. After the murder he becomes King only to suffer from guilt and paranoia. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are great in everything they do, which makes this film all the more enticing just to see them together. It's getting strong reviews so far, and the consensus is that it remains faithful to the source material with brilliant performances and beautiful aesthetic flair. It's easily my most anticipated film opening this weekend.


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The Letters

Mother Theresa was one of the most inspiring and selfless humanitarians of modern times. The film examines her life and work. It's told by a Vatican Priest through letters she had written over the last 40 years of her life. This project has been writer/director William Riead's labor of love over the past 14 years, but it's being released with little acknowledgement during a busy holiday film season.


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Youth

The latest from director Paolo Sorrentino (who won over a lot of cinephiles with his 2013 film "The Great Beauty"), looks like a charming buddy drama sure to include insightful reflections on family, friendship, career, aging, and the many emotions tied up those things. It's already being well received overseas, but it makes it's debut in the States this week.


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The World of Kanako


This Japanese film is about a former detective who begins searching for his estranged daughter after she goes missing. His search leads him to discover the bizarre, deadly secret life she's been living. It looks like the word brutal might be an appropriate way of describing not just the bloody violence in the film, but also the experience of sitting through it. Nevertheless, there also appears to be the stylistic workings of a director worth taking note of. 


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Life

This is the biographical drama of the 1955 photo shoot of James Dean (Dane DeHaan) by LIFE magazine photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson). Dean, was at the time, a rising star, and he's played by rising star Dane DeHaan. Pattinson on the other hand, is a more experienced star, but he's still trying to shake the association with the Twilight series. Yet even if Dean was, and is, a classic Hollywood icon, it's hard to imagine this film making bank at the busy December box office, especially with its largely absent ad campaign and middling reviews.


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Christmas Eve

With an uninspiring title, uninspiring effects, and a concept that's been done many times before (though perhaps not as a holiday film), it's hard to imagine this film finding success. It looks pretty forgettable and it faces an uphill battle considering holiday films haven't found success yet this season. Worse yet they're about to be completely forgotten once the towering titles of mid to late December start hitting theaters.


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MI-5

Jon Snow isn't dead! I want to believe he still has a chance to make a comeback! But if Kit Harington was hoping to bring to life a blockbuster film career, he really does know nothing. He's off to a rough start with the abysmal "Pompeii" and now this forgettable action spy thriller that's already seen its share of negative reviews. It's a continuation of the long running BBC One series of the same name, but that makes the decision to cast a series newcomer in the lead role all the more curious (even if it is someone with the star power of Kit Harington).


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Also wanted to give a mention to the Kent Jones documentary "Hitchcock/Truffaut," that is also opening this week. It features a number of filmmakers discussing how Truffaut's 1966 book "Cinema According to Hitchcock" made a lasting impression on them and influenced their filmography.