‘American Sniper’ had a record-shattering weekend at the box office, grossing an astounding $105 million from Friday to Monday. It’s already the second biggest earner of Clint Eastwood’s entire career after ‘Gran Torino,’ and with six Academy Award nominations (and great word-of-mouth) behind it, it’s posed to become his biggest hit ever.
I wonder if Chris Kyle was a Clint Eastwood fan. ‘American Sniper’’s marketing materials describe Kyle as “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history,” but before his military career, Kyle was a cowboy. He wore a hat and boots, and even carried a six-shooter. Eventually, he gave up the cowboy life and decided to serve his country. He was a gifted marksman and trained to be a Navy SEAL. But even as a soldier, Kyle never lost that cowboy swagger—or that sense that someone has to venture out into the frontier and protect the American way of life. That’s what Kyle learned from his father—who raised him to be a “sheepdog,” a watchful protector in a world of sheep and wolves—and from watching violent Westerns like the ones that made Eastwood a major Hollywood star.
Okay, so there was a fair amount of disappointment around the 2015 Academy Award nominations. Everything was not awesome for ‘The Lego Movie,’ robbed of a Best Animated Movie nod, and David Oyelowo’s dreams of a Best Actor nomination vanished when Steve Carell and Bradley Cooper’s names were mentioned instead. ‘Force Majeure’ got snubbed for a Best Foreign Language Film nomination and ‘Selma’’s Ava Duvernay was robbed in the Best Director Category. I just keep looking at the list of nominations and playing “Sad Trombone” over and over again. It’s basically the official theme song of the 2015 Academy Awards.
On the list of uncinematic activities, computer hacking has to rank near the top, somewhere between small-business accounting and taking a nap. It’s tedious, static, and solitary work, and what little’s interesting about it is largely incomprehensible to those without advanced degrees in computer science. In a lesser filmmaker's hands, a hacker movie like ‘Blackhat’ would be terminally boring. But ‘Blackhat’ is in the hands of Michael Mann, and that means it’s also stylish, moody, and punctuated by intense action scenes.
The former CIA operative turned full-time rescuer of his perpetually kidnapped family at the center of the ‘Taken’ series is famous for—as he put it to the men who took his daughter in the first film—a “particular set of skills” that make him “a nightmare” for bad guys. Here now is a partial list of the particular skills Bryan Mills—played by the 62-year-old Liam Neeson—displays in ‘Taken 3’:
Back in October, it was reported that ‘Lucy’ and ‘Avengers 2’ star Scarlett Johansson had been offered $10 million to anchor the new, American (and live-action) version of the classic Japanese anime ‘Ghost in the Shell.’ It took a while for Johansson to decide (“Hm, do I really want $10 million? This is a tough one!”), but Variety now says she’s made up her mind: Johansson will star in the new ‘Ghost’ for director Rupert Sanders.
“Nothing is over!” These are the words of Col. John J Rambo, the hero of ‘First Blood’ (better known as ‘Rambo’) and then ‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’ and then ‘Rambo III’ (the only one people call by its actual title and then ‘Rambo’ (better known as ‘Old Rambo’). After what basically amounts to a movie-long chase, ‘First Blood’ concludes with a heartfelt speech from star Sylvester Stallone, explaining how nothing (meaning the Vietnam War) is over for him; that his mind is too scarred from his brutal deeds and by the cruel treatment he’s received on the homefront. It’s a powerful (if occasionally incomprehensible) scene.
Full details are still forthcoming, but it looks like ‘The Interview’—Seth Rogen’s ultra-controversial comedy about an American assassination attempt on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un—will open on Christmas after all. Sony initially cancelled their planned December 25 release after hackers threatened theaters that dared to show ‘The Interview’ with terrorist attacks, and many of the biggest exhibitor chains in the country (including Regal and AMC) subsequently decided not to run the film.
J.J. Abrams is famous for keeping secrets. His whole schtick as a director is the “mystery box”—finding pleasure in the unknown, and in the tease of that uncertainty. He didn’t show the monster in the trailer for ‘Cloverfield’; hell he didn’t even show the title of the movie in the trailer for ‘Cloverfield.’ If J.J. Abrams could release a movie without telling you anything about it, he probably would.
Having gone on an unexpected journey and endured the desolation of Smaug, Peter Jackson’s bloated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ finally comes to ‘The Battle of the Five Armies,’ which is less of a climax to this trilogy than a distended epilogue. After spending two movies and 330 minutes building up the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) as the ultimate antagonist, he’s eliminated from the story completely in the first ten minutes. He’s literally gone before the title appears onscreen.
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