Upcoming Theatrical Releases
Wednesday, December 17
The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
PG-13; 2 hr. 30 mins.
From Academy Award (R)-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” the third in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world. Enraged, Smaug rains his fiery wrath down upon the defenseless men, women and children of Lake-town. Obsessed above all else with his reclaimed treasure, Thorin sacrifices friendship and honor tohoard it as Bilbo’s frantic attempts to make him see reason drive the Hobbit towards a desperate and dangerous choice. But there are even greater dangers ahead. Unseen by any but the Wizard Gandalf, the great enemy Sauron has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As darkness converges on their escalating conflict, the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must decide – unite or be destroyed. Bilbo finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his friends in the epic Battle of the Five Armies, as the future of Middle-earth hangs in the balance. (Synopsis by Warner Bros.)
There isn’t much story left to tell, and much of the drama has passed, but Jackson (barely) keeps this afloat with his usual visual splendor. This latest trilogy hasn’t lived up to the expectations set by the first trilogy, but those are lofty goals. The real problem here is that incessant sequel generation is the new norm. Fans should see this in the glory of the theater. Everyone else? Rent it.
Friday, December 19
Director: Will Gluck
PG; 1 hr. 59 mins.
A Broadway classic that has delighted audiences for generations comes to the big screen with a new, contemporary vision in Columbia Pictures’ comedy, Annie. Director/Producer/Screenwriter Will Gluck teams with producers James Lassiter, Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith, and Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, Laurence “Jay” Brown, and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith with a modern telling that captures the magic of the classic characters and original show that won seven Tony Awards. Celia Costas serves as Executive Producer. The screenplay is by Will Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna, based on the musical stage play “Annie,” book by Thomas Meehan, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and on “Little Orphan Annie,” (C) and (R) Tribune Media Services, Inc. Academy Award (R) nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) stars as Annie, a young, happy foster kid who’s also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014. Originally left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they’d be back for her someday, it’s been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). But everything’s about to change when the hard-nosed tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) – advised by his brilliant VP, Grace (Rose Byrne) and his shrewd and scheming campaign advisor, Guy (Bobby Cannavale) – makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. Stacks believes he’s her guardian angel, but Annie’s self-assured nature and bright, sun-will-come-out-tomorrow outlook on life just might mean it’s the other way around. (Synopsis by Sony)
When you update a film, it is supposed to feel… modern. This is as dated and unremarkable a remake as you could imagine. There is a certain cheapness to this production (read: money grab) that prevents it from truly connecting. Skip it.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Director: Shawn Levy
PG; 1 hr. 40 mins.
Get ready for the wildest and most adventure-filled Night at the Museum ever as Larry (Ben Stiller) spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever. (Synopsis by Fox)
Nothing new or memorable here, but it is a satisfying end point to the series. The most emotional impact is realizing Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams are both gone. Rent it.
Director: Bennett Miller
R; 2 hr. 14 mins.
FOXCATCHER tells the story of Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum), who sees a way out from the shadow of his more celebrated wrestling brother Dave (Ruffalo) and a life of poverty when he is summoned by eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont (Carell) to move onto his estate and train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Desperate to gain the respect of his disapproving mother, du Pont begins “coaching” a world-class athletic team and, in the process, lures Mark into dangerous habits, breaks his confidence and drives him into a self-destructive spiral. Based on actual events, FOXCATCHER is a gripping and profoundly American story of fragile men who pinned their hopes for love and redemption on a desperate obsession for greatness that was to end in tragedy. (Synopsis by Sony Classics)
Three top-notch performances strengthen a strong script. It’s the American Dream under a microscope, with equal parts drama and technical aptitude. This is one of the year’s best. See it.
Upcoming DVD Releases
The Maze Runner
Director: Wes Ball
PG-13; 1 hr. 54 mins.
When Thomas wakes up trapped in a massive maze with a group of other boys, he has no memory of the outside world other than strange dreams about a mysterious organization known as W.C.K.D. Only by piecing together fragments of his past with clues he discovers in the maze can Thomas hope to uncover his true purpose and a way to escape. Based upon the best-selling novel by James Dashner. (Synopsis by Fox)
Somewhere between “Lord of the Flies” and “Cube” is this latest installment of young adult lit. This is a runner-up to “The Hunger Games” in this crowded genre, but it is at least watchable if not fun. Rent it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
PG-13; 1 hr. 41 mins.
The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan. (Synopsis by Paramount)
Remember how bad the “Transformers” series has been? This is much, much worse. This is the definition of brainless entertainment. Sure, it’s a story about mutant turtles. But you could replace any of the characters with any other standard-issue action movie characters and this would be the same turd of a film. Stop ruining my childhood. Skip it.