American Sniper

Warner Brothers

Rated R for graphic violence, sexual references and pervasive profanity

Bradley Cooper Stars In Biopic Chronicling Sharpshooter’s Exploits

Navy Seal Chris Kyle served four tours as a sniper in Iraqbetween 2003 and 2008. Over the course of dangerous deployments to Ramadi, SadrCity, Fallujah and other hot spots, he racked up enough kills to become the most lethal sniper in the history of the U.S.military. Directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood, American Sniper is a reverential biopic chronicling the eagle-eyed sharpshooter’s enviable exploits.

The film is based on Kyle’s autobiography of the same name, and stars Bradley Cooper in the title role. Besides highlighting battlefield heroics, the movie mixes in plenty of poignant flashbacks from the protagonist’s formative years.

For instance, in those early childhood scenes, we see Kyle learning to shoot from his father (Ben Reed), nobly protecting his little brother Jeff (Luke Sunshine) from a playground bully (Brandon Salgado Telis), and piously pocketing his dog-eared copy of the Bible while attending church services. These telling tableaus are obviously designed to provide hints at how such an exemplary combination of character and skills might have been forged.

Another focus of the picture is Kyle’s relationship with his terminally-worried wife, Taya (Sienna Miller). She’s raising their kids back in the States, but often finds her long-distance phone chats with her hubby rudely interrupted by everything from IED explosions to enemy fire. However, Kyle always attempts to qualm his frazzled spouse’s fears with calm reassurances that he’ll survive the ordeal.

This deliberate humanizing of the soldier at the center of the story into a tenderhearted family man is what sets American Sniper apart from other recent war flicks like Lone Survivor and The Hurt Locker. Consequently, we really care whether this patriot will ultimately return home safe and sound.

Kudos to Clint Eastwood for fashioning such a moving and well-deserved salute to a true American hero!

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 132 minutes

 

 

Inherent Vice

Warner Brothers

Rated R for profanity, violence, sexuality and graphic nudity

Joaquin Phoenix Plays Pothead Private Eye In Hippie-Era Whodunit

Dateline:Los Angeles, 1970, which is where we find Private Eye Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) living in a beach house with a view in a fictional, seacoast enclave calledGorditaBeach. He’s totally wasted, but that doesn’t stop Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) from approaching her ex-boyfriend for help with a personal problem.

Seems that the fetching femme fatale is currently the mistress of real estate magnate Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), and she has reason to believe that the philandering billionaire is about to be involuntarily committed to a mental institution by his vindictive wife, Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas), and her lover, Riggs Warbling (Andrew Simpson).

Against his better judgment, Doc takes the case, and soon finds himself swept into a seamy underworld filled with colorful characters ranging from a recently-paroled black radical (Michael Kenneth Williams) to an avowed white supremacist (Christopher Allen Nelson) to the proverbial prostitute with the heart of gold (Hong Chau). After being conked on the head, Doc comes around in a police station where he learns that he’s the prime suspect not only in the disappearance of both Mickey and Shasta Fay, but in a murder to boot.

So unfolds Inherent Vice, a surreal whodunit far more concerned with recreating the feel of the post-’60s daze of free-flowing drugs than with crafting a compelling crime thriller. Unfortunately, the absence of a credible plotline means the premise soon dissolves into a rudderless, meandering mess, reducing the viewing experience to enjoying the retro décor, fashions and slang of the period.

The picture was directed by five-time Oscar nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Magnolia), who also adapted the script from the Thomas Pynchon best-seller of the same name.

The film does feature a few standout performances, most notably, Joaquin Phoenix in the starring role, and Josh Brolin as a hard-nosed LAPD officer. Otherwise the production makes precious little use of the services of its cluttered, A-list cast which includes Academy Award winners Reese Witherspoon (for Walk The Line) and Benicio del Toro (for Traffic), and Oscar nominees Eric Roberts (for Runaway Train) and Owen Wilson (for The Royal Tenenbaums).

An unstructured, atmospheric affair ostensibly designed to appeal to folks nostalgic for the hedonistic hippie era.

 

Good (2 stars)

In English and Japanese with subtitles

Running time: 148 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening January 16, 2015

 

Blackhat (R for profanity and violence) Cybercrime thriller about a furloughed convict (Chris Hemsworth) who collaborates with American and Chinese authorities to track down the mysterious hacker attempting to cripple the international banking network. With Viola Davis, Wei Tang, John Ortiz and William Mapother. (In English and Spanish with subtitles)

 

Paddington (PG for mild action and rude humor) Family-oriented adventure about a British family that befriends a talking bear from Peru (Ben Whishaw) who’s on the run from a cold-hearted taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) determined to put him on display at London’s Natural History Museum. Cast includes Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters and Hugh Bonneville.

 

The Wedding Ringer (R for crude humor, pervasive profanity, coarse sexuality and brief graphic nudity) Kevin Hart stars as the title character in this bromantic comedy as a faux Best Man hired by a socially-awkward groom-to-be (Josh Gad) in need of a BFF. With Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Alan Ritchson, Catherin Chen, Nicky Whelan, Olivia Thirlby and Cloris Leachman.

 

Escobar: Paradise Lost (Unrated) Romance thriller, set in Colombia in the summer of 1991, about a Canadian surfer dude (Josh Hutchinson) who is pressured to serve as a hit man after falling for the niece (Claudia Traisac) of drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benicio del Toro). Support cast includes Anne Giradot, Carlos Bardem and Brady Corbet.

 

Giuseppe Makes A Movie (Unrated) Vanity documentary chronicling the making of Garbanzo Gas by former child actor-turned-low-budget filmmaker Giuseppe Andrews in the trailer park where he was raised.

 

Human Capital (Unrated) Ensemble drama, set inLombardy, about two families whose lives intertwine following a Christmas Eve hit-and-run accident that knocks a waiter off a bicycle and leaves him comatose. With Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Bruno Tedeschi, Matilda Gioli and Fabrizio Gifuni. (In Italian and English with subtitles)

 

Little Accidents (Unrated) Serendipitous drama about three strangers (Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook and Jacob Lofland) who form an unlikely bond in the wake of the mysterious disappearance of a teenager (Travis Tope) from a town already reeling from a coal mine tragedy. Co-staring Josh Lucas, Chloe Sevigny and Beau Wright.

 

Match (R for profanity, drug use and sexual dialogue) Hidden agenda dramedy about a doctoral student (Carla Gugino) working on her dissertation who travels with her husband (Matthew Lillard) fromSeattle to NYC to interview an eccentric, Juilliard professor (Patrick Stewart). With Rob Yang, Maduka Steady and Jaime Tirelli.

 

Son Of A Gun (Unrated) Cat-and-mouse crime caper, set in Perth, about a 19-year-old petty thief (Brenton Thwaites) who, against his better judgment, becomes the protégé of Australia’s Public Enemy #1 (Ewan McGregor) after the two stage a daring jailbreak. With Alicia Vikander, Matt Nable, Tammie West and Jacek Koman.

 

Spare Parts (PG-13 for profanity and violence) Overcoming-the-odds saga inspired by the real-life exploits of four undocumented aliens (Carlos PenaVega, David Del Rio, J.R. Villarreal and Jose Julian) who, with the help of their high school teacher (George Lopez), manage to compete against a team from MIT in a national robotics competition. Ensemble includes Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis and Alexa PenaVega.

 

Still Alice (PG-13 for mature themes, brief profanity and a sexual reference) Julianne Moore portrays the title character in this poignant portrait of a linguistic professor suffering from Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. With Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish.

 

Underdogs (PG for mild epithets) Fact-based football drama, set in Ohio, recounting how a perennial, cellar-dwelling, high school team, with the help of a new coach (D.B. Sweeney), prevailed in a big showdown for bragging rights against their powerhouse, cross-town rivals. Cast includes William Mapother, Richard Portnow and Logan Huffman.

 

Vice (Unrated) Sci-fi thriller about a businessman (Bruce Willis) who opens an “anything goes” resort with life-like robots that look human. The plot thickens when a self-aware android (Ambyr Childers) with a mind of her own escapes from the compound and makes a break for it. With Thomas Jane, Bryan Greenberg and Charlotte Kirk.

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