I haven't seen "Transformers: Age of Extinction" yet, and if truth be told, I'm not exactly rushing to amend that state of affairs -- Michael Bay's cash-spinning franchise exhausted me on its very first entry, and while the third film was certainly an improvement on the bewilderingly incoherent second, I'm not sure I have the stamina to go there again for 165 minutes. Then again, I'm a longstanding Mark Wahlberg fan and am rooting for Jack Reynor's career to take off, so maybe at some point down the line.
I liked Ned Benson's debut "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," the edited version of which I caught up with a Cannes last month -- but not as much as I liked Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy in it. I haven't seen the two-film version of the project that debuted in Toronto, but I sensed something had been lost in its condensation into one feature.
The Academy has announced its official rule changes today, on the heels of a release earlier this week that addressed campaign strictures. Key changes have been made in a number of categories, including Best Picture, Best Original Song and the acting fields.
Better late than never, as they say -- and for the longest time, it looked rather as if it could be closer to "never" when it came to a US release date for "Snowpiercer." The Chris Evans-starring sci-fi thriller from Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho was released in the director's homeland 11 months ago, but famously got caught up in an(other) editing dispute with The Weinstein Company, with even the film's actors getting vocally involved in the fallout. In the end, Bong prevailed, and his cut of the film finally hits US screens in limited release today. So, is it worth the wait?
Pop quiz: What do Chris Rock, Claire Denis, Eddie Vedder and Josh Hutcherson all have in common? Answer: They could all be Oscar voters very soon. The annual Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences invitation list always makes for interesting reading, shedding light on just how large and far-reaching the group's membership is -- or could be, depending on who accepts their invitations.
Ah, remember "Alone Yet Not Alone?" For a couple of weeks at the wintery height of awards season, it was the gift that kept giving for Oscar scandal-mongers -- the head-scratching surprise of its nomination in the first place, the uncovering of its dodgy campaign tactics, the shame of its eventual disqualification. And five month later, most people have forgotten the film (which was formally released only last week) ever even existed. Oscar season: it chews you up and spits you out, but rarely quite so humiliatingly.
I've been eager to see how Joe Carnahan will follow up 2012's "The Grey" (my number one movie that year). He had a stellar vision for "Daredevil" but Fox passed on it and gave up their lease, leading Marvel to develop the property with "Cabin in the Woods" director Drew Goddard as a series for Netflix. Coming this year (or maybe next — watch for a Toronto bow) is "Stretch" with Patrick Wilson and Chris Pine. And Carnahan has always had this and that lurking, whether an adaptation of James Ellroy's "White Jazz" or the Pablo Escobar story "Killing Pablo." But it looks like the gritty "Five Against a Bullet" is on deck, and it sounds awesome.
Rooney Mara has been playing things pretty cool since picking up a Best Actress Oscar nomination two years ago for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The franchise initially beckoned by David Fincher's Scandi-thriller remake hasn't come to pass, which has left Mara room to be discerning: she had classy leading roles last year in David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and Steven Soderbergh's "Side Effects," though neither one was built entirely around her; a tart supporting role in Spike Jonze's Best Picture nominee "Her" further added to her credibility.
Joe Swanberg is such a prolific one-man indie factory -- he's directed 16 features in nine years, believe it or not -- that it can be difficult to mentally separate each one of his films from the others. So while I can't name career highs with complete authority, I'm comfortable saying that "Happy Christmas" is easily my favorite of Swanberg's films to date: a big-hearted, precisely observed character piece that has the warmth and texture of actual cinema.