Month: December 2014

THE BEST OF DANIEL BARNES 2014

imagesBetween my regular reviews in the Sacramento News & Review, my work here on E Street Film Society, and my occasional contributions to other publications and websites, I penned roughly 300 film-related reviews and articles in the calendar year 2014.  It was a busy year, but also a rewarding one – I was admitted into the San Francisco Critics Circle, covered the Mill Valley Film Festival, and met a lot of amazing and inspiring new people.  But more than anything, I watched and I wrote – so before all that hard work gets disposed into the wastebasket of yesteryear, I have compiled my picks for my own best reviews of 2014.  I divided them into 3 categories – my 10 favorites that went into print, my 10 favorites published only on E Street Film Society, and my 3 favorite Dare Daniels.  There will be many more original pieces to come on ESFS in 2015, including a Dare Daniel review of Simon Sez in early January, but for now let’s take a look back at the year in The Barnesyard.

10 BEST E STREET FILM SOCIETY-ONLY REVIEWS (ordered by post date)

*L’ECLISSE (posted on February 24)
The mot juste: “In Antonioni’s world, a society that acts entirely on avarice and self-interest is a society destined to lose its own soul and doomed towards savagery. By the end of L’Eclisse, humanity has become a zombie race, a gaggle of monkeys returning to primordial treetops of their own design”

*THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (posted on March 11)
The mot juste: “Desperation and rye whiskey seep out of Gazzara’s every pore, and he makes Cosmo’s obsessive dedication to the dingy theatrics of his Sunset Strip titty bar both sad and strangely charming.”

index*THE CHASE (posted on March 17)
The mot juste: “The “New Hollywood” of the 1960’s and 70’s produced a number of toxic takes on American institutions, but no filmmaker was as consistently convinced of the venality at the heart of American society as Arthur Penn. Even Hal Ashby was ultimately a humanist, and Francis Ford Coppola ended up making some decent table wines. ”

*THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (posted on April 16)
The mot juste: “Maybe The Holy Mountain is really just about assembling a restless montage of fucked-up shit, taking us on an acid trip through the poison-tipped nettles of Jodorowsky’s subconscious. There is a stream-of-consciousness feel to the pace and structure, and most of the film defies a simple reading. My personal perspective is that The Holy Mountain is less a film about Christ than about Christianity, with Jodorowsky leading us through an avant-garde spook house of the depraved effects of religious fundamentalism before finally showing us a way out. The way out just happens to involve burning idols and money, expanding consciousness through the use of psychedelic drugs, and participating in cult-y, est-like self-help rituals. Look, it was the early 1970s, alright?”

*THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (posted on May 2)
The mot juste: “There isn’t that one obvious thing that doesn’t work about this particular reboot – it’s a lot of tiny things that don’t work feeding into a tributary system of things that don’t work, which eventually dumps into an entire ocean of not working.”

index*EQUUS (posted on May 12)
The mot juste: “Lumet was a director who rose or fell based on the quality of his source material and collaborators. He served the demands of the story, rather than demanding that the story serve his esoteric vision or personal style. Give him a perfectly cast actor like Henry Fonda in a can’t-miss property like 12 Angry Men, and Lumet would deliver a fully realized vision. But give him a lot less and you got a lot less, and despite achieving a creepily tactile sensuality in certain scenes, the shock value of Equus seems especially suited to the intimacy of the stage. It’s a film about man-equine love that is mostly made of horse you-know-what, and only Lumet’s professional burnish keeps Equus on pace.”

*KISS ME, STUPID (posted on June 19)
The mot juste: “Dino pleads that sex ‘is a habit with me, like breathing.’ Or like heroin. Or like blood to a vampire. The flayed-alive version of Dean Martin that we see in Kiss Me, Stupid is barely even a recognizable human being, just an unpasteurized, all-encompassing zombie thirst for gin and sexual conquest. His dinner order is ‘a bowl of bourbon and some crackers.’ He dabs whiskey behind his ears like cologne. Early on, we see him lustily ogle a headless and legless sewing mannequin, and there is the brief suggestion that he is going to rape it somehow.”

*SHOCK CORRIDOR (posted on July 10)
The mot juste: “Real life is rendered in crisp and shadowy black-and-white, while color Super 8 becomes the film stock of nightmares. After nearly an hour of omnipresent – and by this point, clearly unreliable – non-diegetic narration, Johnny quizzes a fellow inmate, ‘Do you hear voices?’ Shock Corridor becomes the collective madness of its own audience.”

Ozu. End of Summer. Cry Walk*THE END OF SUMMER (posted on July 31)
The mot juste: “There is no more powerful a sequence of images in the cinema than a Yasujiro Ozu shot-reverse-shot. The great Japanese director was a master of composition, a painter of perfect vertical lines, but I always associate him with his uniquely visceral approach to classic one-on-one conversation. Ozu had a knack for getting his actors to address the camera at 92-98% direct eye contact with the camera lens in these sequences, giving the impression that the audience-eye is the one being met while still offering a quintessentially Japanese sliver of modest remove. Whatever sensation of pure glee my nine year-old niece gets from the “Let It Go” sequence in Frozen, I feel the same thing watching Ozu dialogue scenes.”

*4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS (posted on September 1)
The mot juste: “If there is a problem with the film, it’s that it can be as severe and standoffish as the society it portrays – Mungiu does not “ratchet up” tension so much as “set it and forget it,” with the camera only coming to life during emotionally heated moments. But this is a minor quibble against a film that finds terror and transcendence in the mundane details of life under a dictatorship, a world where trust itself is a counterfeit currency.”

10 BEST IN PRINT (ordered by publication date)

*DRAFT DAY (short) (published in SN&R on April 10)
The mot juste: “Costner was a killer-for-hire in 3 Days to Kill, and he’s the general manager for the Cleveland Browns in Draft Day, but he plays the same character in both films: a real man. He is suspicious of intellectuals and non-Americans, uncomfortable with free-thinking women, and doesn’t care one bit for this Twitter thing (if that’s what it’s even called!).”

index*THE RAID: BERANDAL (published in SN&R on April 10)
The mot juste: “Evans and Uwais stage these hyperbolic hand-to-hand combat sequences with a ruthless, almost hallucinatory perfection—this is what a Busby Berkeley movie would have looked like had he been a sadist instead of a pervert.”

*A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 (short) (published in SN&R on April 24)
The mot juste: “Wayans spends most of the movie screaming at inanimate objects (including Jaime Pressly, as his wife), and there is a scene of him sexually violating a wooden doll that is Oscar-worthy work in my hell.”

*BEGIN AGAIN (published in SN&R on July 3)
The mot juste: “Although the film hinges on a philosophical disconnect between the business side of the music industry and the burning desire of artistic creation, there is barely a difference between the album oriented rock slop the movie rejects and the AOR slop it embraces. When Knightley complains that one of her songs is ‘buried in production,’ the line is delivered completely without irony, even though every song here rests in that same sonic graveyard.”

*GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (published in SN&R on July 31)
The mot juste: “There is an exhilarating impression that the film may actually have the guts to surrender to Pratt’s Kool-Aid Man chaos, but the feeling is short-lived. Soon, we’re stuck following magical orbs and infinity stones with the awesome power to do things I never really cared about, and Pratt’s dizzy charm is pushed aside in favor of plot-heavy predictability and Marvel Universe-building.”

images*BOYHOOD (published in Colorado Springs Independent on August 13)
The mot juste: “At the end of the film’s first seamlessly interwoven vignette, 6-year-old Mason and his family are moving away from their sleepy East Texas town to a new life in Houston. As the car drives off, a young playmate of Mason’s speeds up the road on his bike, already blurred by the tall grasses of fading memory. He is the first of many forgettable friends who will flit in and out of Mason’s life, some of them positive, some of them worrisome, almost all of them benign and fleeting. Late in the film, when Mason is a college-bound teenager, an adult friend of the family offers that post-adolescence is ‘where you find your people,’ and Mason can barely refrain from rolling his eyes. The miracle of Boyhood is that we empathize with everyone in this scenario — with the talked-at teen receiving clichéd advice from a man he barely knows, with the clueless adult awkwardly attempting to communicate an ultimately righteous idea to a younger generation, and even with the nameless and forgotten playmate starring in his own alternate-universe movie life.”

*CALVARY (published in SN&R on August 14)
The mot juste: “When McDonagh keeps the film on track, Calvary is close to profound, with an elegantly reserved visual style that matches the script’s moral ambivalence. Father James has been stationed in a small but diverse town that butts up against a lush but desolate stretch of the Irish coastline, and it’s the perfect environmental complement to the waves of moral ambivalence that splash throughout the film—it appears both heavenly and God-forsaken at the same time.”

images*GONE GIRL (published in Colorado Springs Independent on October 1)
The mot juste: “Affleck is a revelation here, giving by far the best performance of his career, and is seemingly more comfortable in the skin of this accomplished liar and possible sociopath than in all the bland action heroes and trembling rom-com sad sacks he’s ever played.”

*INTERSTELLAR (published in SN&R on November 6)
The mot juste: “The original script by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan may only be good for hitting the nail on the head over and over again, but at least they’re taking swings. There is something exciting about a film that tries to fill your mind and then blow it, even if it’s only filling you full of hot air.”

*FOXCATCHER (published in SN&R on December 18)
The mot juste: “Like the isolated DuPont, Mark is a hornet’s nest of contradictions—he advocates for an American Dream that thoroughly fails him 47 out of every 48 months— and in DuPont he finds a father figure with the same inarticulate, evangelical and vaguely resentful form of patriotism.”

3 BEST DARE DANIELS

alpachino*JACK AND JILL (posted on May 27)
The mot juste: “Sandler treats his audience with contempt…and why not? God knows they’ve earned it.”

*FREDDY GOT FINGERED (posted on August 6)
The mot juste: “Freddy Got Fingered wants so badly to shock you out of your middlebrow complacency, but it’s never disturbing, only sad. That’s not to say that Green didn’t make exactly the film he wanted to make – it’s just that he is a pathetically one-note provocateur. ”

*LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (posted on September 8)
The mot juste: “In the anti-justice morass of Law Abiding Citizen, civil rights are the things that prevent you from getting home in time for your daughter’s cello recital.”

The Barnesyard Presents: The Best of Filmmusic 2014

images Hello all!

HERE is my Xmas/New Year’s present to all ESFS readers: a carefully curated Spotify mix of some of my favorite movie scores of 2014. This is not intended to be an authoritative list or a best-of ranking, but rather a cohesive mix celebrating some of the finest filmmusic of the year. To that end, while I certainly considered the impact and effect of a particular piece of filmmusic on the film, I wanted to find compositions that stand on their own (the Oscar-winning Steven Price score for Gravity is a good example of music that works wonderfully within the scene, but doesn’t hold up when divorced from the images). That is one of the reasons that this mix is so heavy with credits music and main themes – these are pieces generally created to exist on their own, rather than push the story or underline an emotion. My other criteria:

images4-Only 2014 NYC commercial releases were considered.
-I had to have seen the film (sorry, Big Eyes, among others)
-I only allowed 1 (and in rare cases, 2) tracks per movie.
-I only considered 100% musical pieces, no vocal accompaniments allowed.
-The mix had to be CD-length or shorter.
-The movie soundtrack had to be available on Spotify.

That last stipulation eliminated a couple of my favorite 2014 movie scores from consideration – Visitors (Philip Glass) and Young Ones (Nathan Johnson) – as well as the soundtracks for Foxcatcher, The Gambler, Venus in Fur, The Fault in Our Stars, Nightcrawler, and more. I also had to leave off a couple of odd-duck scores, most notably Justin Hurwitz’s work on Whiplash, because they just didn’t fit within the mix.

index2However, that still left an overabundance of fantastic and incredibly varied filmmusic, from the heroin-laced score of Only Lovers Left Alive to the unearthly creep of Under the Skin to the many moods of Alexandre Desplat. I hope you enjoy the mix, and I’ll see you in 2015!

COMPLETE TRACKLIST (film and composer in parentheses)

1) “Godzilla!” (Godzilla – Alexandre Desplat)
2) “Mr. Moustafa” (The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat)
3) “Grand Piano Main Titles” (Grand Piano – Victor Reyes)
4) “Main Titles” (The Two Faces of January – Alberto Iglesias)

index35) “The Double Theme – Version 1” (The Double – Andrew Hewitt)
6) “On the Plains” (The Homesman – Marco Beltrami)
7) “Andrew Void” (Under the Skin – Mica Levi)
8) “Mr. Turner” (Mr. Turner – Gary Yershon)
9) “Mattow and Reporters” (Robocop – Pedro Bromfman)
10) “Find Me When You Wake Up” (Edge of Tomorrow – Christophe Beck)
11) “Monkey to the City” (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Michael Giacchino)
12) “Axe Gang” (Snowpiercer – Marco Beltrami)
13) “Russian Ambush” (Stalingrad – Angelo Badalamenti)
14) “Winterreise” (The Congress – Max Richter)
15) “Garden Shadows (Piano)” (A Most Violent Year – Alex Ebert)
16) “Arrival at Lord Cotys’ City” (Hercules – Fernando Velazquez)
17) “Cornfield Chase” (Interstellar – Hans Zimmer)
18) “Whole Lot Like You” (Cold in July – Jeff Grace)
index519) “The Taste of Blood” (Only Lovers Left Alive – Josef Van Wissem, SQURL)
20) “Sugar Storm” (Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
21) “Epilogue” (The Theory of Everything – Johann Johannsson)
22) “Alan Turing’s Legacy” (The Imitation Game – Alexandre Desplat)
23) “The Homesman Main Title” (The Homesman – Marco Beltrami)
24) “Amethyst” (Inherent Vice – Jonny Greenwood)
25) “Calvary Theme” (Calvary – Patrick Cassidy)

Listen to the entire mix on Spotify.

2014 END-OF-YEAR CRAMFEST CAPSULES, PART V (THE FINAL CHAPTER)

imagesWednesday, December 3

Unbroken (Dir.: Angelina Jolie; GRADE: C) Reviewed for the SN&R on 12/25/14.

The Congress (Dir.: Ari Folman; GRADE: B+) Expansive philosophical head-trip from Waltz with Bashir director Folman deals with issues of performance and perception, and the impermanence of artistic identity in a disposable culture.  The film never fully wrangles its disparate ideas, and the casting of Wright seems like a bit of a compromise, but it is fully successful as a visual, aural, cerebral, and emotional experience.

Thursday, December 4

The Great Invisible (Dir.: Margaret Brown; GRADE: B-) Moderately successful documentary about the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil leak, and its lingering effects on the Gulf communities.  Brown is insightful while maintaining a light enough touch, but the finished product feels a tad flimsy, and an engaging personal story never emerges.

indemxCoherence (Dir.: James Ward Byrkit; GRADE: B+) A fascinating and unexpectedly profound low-budget puzzle movie that plays like Primer crossbred with one of Woody Allen’s high-concept comedies.  The better, gutsier version of The One I Love.

Friday, December 5

Manakamana (Dir.: Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez; GRADE: B-) Alternately enchanting and sadistically boring documentary is a series of static, seemingly hidden-camera shots from inside the same high-speed mountain tram in the Himalayas.  Minuscule moments of human frailty and a yearning for interaction are all we have to grasp on to here, perhaps the inevitable byproduct of a world where a 3-day hike has become a 10-minte ride.

Red Army (Dir.: Gabe Polsky; GRADE: C+) Slick but skin-deep documentary about the dominant Russian ice hockey teams of the late-Soviet era.  The film is not particularly rewarding as a personal story (the interviewees come off as emotionally uninvested), and it only occasionally succeeds as a look at the connections between international sports and Cold War politics. Reviewed for the SN&R on March 19, 2015.

Saturday, December 6

indexzzI spent this day rewatching some of the films I had slated for my top 10 listUnder the Skin, Mr. Turner, We Are the Best!, and Listen Up Philip.  All of them met or exceeded the quality of their original viewings – the biggest second-watch revelation was that, divorced of the first-watch shock value, the self-destructive misanthropy of Listen Up Philip seemed less funny and more painful.

Sunday, December 7

Leviathan (Dir.: Andrei Zvyagintsev; GRADE: B-) ***DO NOT OPEN UNTIL FEBRUARY 2015***

Nightcrawler (Dir.: Dan Gilroy; GRADE: B+) One of a handful of films that I went out-of-pocket for in order to ensure that I got caught up before deadline (Mistaken for Strangers and Starred Up were the other two).  A genuinely creepy and soul-rattling work from first-time director Gilroy, helped immeasurably by a gaunt and ghoulish Gyllenhaal, as well as cinematographer Robert Elswit’s dark-night-of-the-dead-soul images.  There are a few times when you can feel Gilroy the screenwriter working Gilroy the director like a puppet, but for the most part this is a cohesive and highly cinematic satiric thriller, almost as if Travis Bickle were the star of Network.

Starred Up (Dir.: David Mackenzie; GRADE: B) Muddled but captivating prison drama about an extremely violent young man (Jack O’Connell of Unbroken) promoted to the same adult prison as his lifer father (Ben Mendelsohn).  I only understood 2 out of every 3 words, but Mackenzie (Young Adam) engages in some powerful visual storytelling, and O’Connell is an impressive screen presence.  He is even better in a better film set for release next year – Yann Demange’s Mill Valley Film Festival standout ’71.

Monday, December 8

indexSelma (Dir.: Ava Duvernay; GRADE: B) Reviewed for the SN&R on 1/8/15.

The Gambler (Dir.: Rupert Wyatt; GRADE: C) Reviewed for the SN&R on 12/25/14.

Tuesday, December 9

Into the Woods (Dir.: Rob Marshall; GRADE: C) Reviewed for the SN&R on 12/25/14.

And that’s it!  I had to have my ballot filled out by the time I went to bed on Wednesday the 10th, so that evening was spent finalizing my selections, meaning the 9th was my cutoff date. The second round of voting occurred on Friday the 12th, and I was in San Francisco on the 13th and the 14th. My deadline for the SN&R piece was Monday the 15th, so if I didn’t see a film by December 9, it was “out of competition.”  That still left 195 films “in competition,” but inevitably, there are key films that I missed.  In no particular order, here are the movies that I most regret not seeing before awards/best-of deadline:

indexNorte, the End of History; Big Eyes; Borgman; Goodbye to Language; Winter Sleep; Tales of the Grim Sleeper; Why Don’t You Play in Hell?; John Wick; Jersey Boys; The Drop; Stray Dogs; The Tale of the Princess Kaguya; Closed CurtainThe Interview; Actress; The Strange Little CatThe Dance of Reality; National Gallery; Song of the Sea; 20,000 Days on Earth; Tracks; Beyond the Lights; Salt of the Earth; Violette; Stand Clear of the Closing DoorsVic + Flo Saw a Bear; Ilo Ilo; The Trip to Italy; The Case Against 8; The Last of the Unjust

And that’s not even a complete list.  While I feel that I did a thorough job catching up with 2014 releases, and I’m very satisfied with the quality of my top 10 list, it is certainly possible that an even better top 10 could have been pulled just from that list of unseen titles.  It’s really quite humbling, and an important reminder that no matter how much we think we know, there is always so much left to learn.

Onward to 2015!

2014 End-of-Year Cramfest Capsules, Part IV

last_days_in_vietnam_-_h_-_2014My attempt to post a mini-review for every film I watched or re-watched in advance of the SFFCC awards and my top 10 list petered out in early December, as I got flooded by screeners and ballots.  But I want to put a bow on the year 2014, so I will dole these out over the remaining days of December.

Saturday, November 29

Snowpiercer (Dir.: Bong Joon-Ho; GRADE: A-) [REWATCH] I reviewed this when it played in Sacramento last summer, but I appreciated this thinking-person’s blockbuster a lot more the second time around.  It injects intelligence and weirdness into the apocalyptic-action genre without sacrificing any of the film’s relentless forward momentum.

Last Days in Vietnam (Dir.: Rory Kennedy; GRADE: B+)  Powerful and personal documentary about heroism, regret and tragedy in the chaotic final days of the American occupation of Vietnam.

indexWild Tales (Dir.: Damien Szifron; GRADE: B+) Reviewed for the SN&R on March 26, 2015, and reprinted in the San Antonio Current.

Inherent Vice (Dir.: Paul Thomas Anderson; GRADE: A) [REWATCH] Reviewed for the Colorado Springs Independent on 1/7/2015.

Sunday, November 30

The One I Love (Dir.: Charlie McDowell; GRADE: B-) A trojan-horse indie comedy that slowly reveals itself to be an unsettling examination of marital expectations and frustrations.  Elizabeth Moss is up to the challenge of those tonal shifts, but co-star Mark Duplass doesn’t quite match her.  This film won the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Special Citation for underrated independent cinema.

Tuesday, December 2

Maleficent (Dir.: Robert Stromberg; GRADE: D-) Disney Hell.  Blobby CGI, incomprehensible acting choices, a dead-end narrative, and a lead actress who only comes to life during her de rigeur jagged crying scenes.  Unwatchable.

index2A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Dir.: Ana Lily Amanpour; GRADE: C+) An interesting but underdeveloped twist on the vampire movie, shot in America but set in Iran, and spoken in Farsi with English subtitles.  The premise is provocative, and Amanpour shows a lot of promise, but the film is so padded it feels like an 80-minute short.

Mistaken for Strangers (Dir.: Tom Berninger ; GRADE: A-) Ostensibly a behind-the-scenes concert documentary about the breakthrough indie rock band The National directed by the lead singer’s metalhead schlub brother, but actually a hilarious and observational look at the strains of competition and modeling in sibling relationships (almost unwittingly, it also becomes an American Movie-style sendup of bad filmmaking).  The long, final tracking shot of Tom holding his brother’s microphone cord as he tears through the concert crowd beats anything in Birdman.

The Barnesyard’s Now Playing Power Rankings (Dec. 26, 2014 – Jan. 1, 2015)

chilling-first-trailer-for-foxcatcher-with-steve-carell-5By now, pretty much every film critic in America and abroad has released their list of the best films of 2014. “What are your favorite films of the year?” It’s The Big Question of the moment, but the question I get asked most often throughout the year is, “What are your favorite films playing right now?”

In order to answer that question en masse, I will be posting weekly updates to my Now Playing Power Rankings, a ranked list of every film playing in a Sacramento-area theater, as well as a few selections playing only in the San Francisco Bay Area. This list will be updated every Thursday evening/Friday morning as the weekly film schedules are solidified. These are NOT aggregate rankings, they are my personal rankings for the best films currently in theaters. Here is my NPPR for the final week of 2014:

December 26 – January 1

* = currently playing in SF Bay Area only

BUMPED

*1) Boyhood
*2) Mr. Turner
3) Foxcatcher
*4) The Grand Budapest Hotel
5) Gone Girl
*6) Nightcrawler
*7) Citizenfour
*8) Whiplash
*9) The Babadook
10) The Equalizer

MIXED-POSITIVE

11) Big Hero 6
12) Fury
13) St. Vincent
14) The Theory of Everything
15) Wild

MIXED-NEGATIVE

16) Interstellar
*17) Dear White People
18) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I
19) Penguins of Madagascar
*20) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

DUMPED

21) Birdman
22) The Gambler
23) Unbroken
24) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
25) Into the Woods
26) The Interview
27) The Imitation Game
*28) Awake: The Life of Yogananda

HAVEN’T SEEN (in alphabetical order)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
*Antarctica: A Year on Ice
Annie
Big Eyes
The Book of Life
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Horrible Bosses 2
The Maze Runner
*National Gallery
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
PK
*The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Top Five

Daniel Barnes @ the SN&R – 12/25 issue

maxresdefault*In this week’s SN&R, me and Jim Lane offer our picks for the 10 best films of 2014 (it’s not clear in the online version, but my contribution ends after the list of best performances).

Here are my picks for the top 10 films:

1) Under the Skin; 2) Inherent Vice; 3) Listen Up Philip; 4) Boyhood; 5) Mr. Turner; 6) Stranger by the Lake; 7) We Are the Best!; 8) Snowpiercer; 9) Foxcatcher; 10) The Grand Budapest Hotel

And my top 5 documentaries:

1) Visitors; 2) The Overnighters; 3) Happy Valley; 4) Mistaken for Strangers; 5) Rich Hill

la_ca_0415_unbroken#barnesyardbumps:

*Helped by intensely physical performances from Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, director Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher has the teeming, sweat-lodge claustrophobia of a wrestling room.

#barnesyarddumps:

*The musically monotonous Into the Woods combines the worst of Stephen Sondheim with the worst of hack director Rob Marshall.

*Angelina Jolie’s soulless WWII biopic Unbroken plays like softcore torture porn.

3-the-hobbit-3-the-battle-of-the-5-armies-what-to-look-forward-to-the-hobbit-3-the-battle-of-the-five-armies-review*If director Rupert Wyatt really knew when to fold ’em, he would have done it when someone suggested that Mark Wahlberg play the self-destructive, nihilistic, university professor protagonist in The Gambler.

*The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final (fingers crossed!) chapter in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth wank-a-thon, is another long and dismal cartoon.