By Sarah Payne
Nocturnal Animals – December 9 – Directed by designer Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals is sure to be stylish, if nothing else. Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon all star in what Peter Travers from Rolling Stone describes as a, “stunning film noir that resonates with ghostly, poetic terror.” The trailer opens with Adams’ character receiving a copy of her ex-husband’s (Gyllenhaal) book manuscript in the mail. While the plot is purposely kept ambiguous, I would expect a decent amount of violence. That same Rolling Stone review describes a scene that’s, “as terrifying as any chainsaw massacre or Jim Thompson crime novel, showing Ford’s unexpected flair for shuddering unease and grisly, galvanizing action.”
Passengers – December 21 – I’ve been on a real space kick these past few years. But perhaps that’s because there have been so many good sci-fi films lately, like Interstellar, Gravity, and The Martian. Passengers falls in the same genre – about a human expedition in space – and stars two of my favorite actors right now, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. The premise of the film is Lawrence and Pratt’s hibernation pods open prematurely – 90 years before their destination. According to a recent Deadline piece, Lawrence and Pratt didn’t know each other before working on the film. Director Morten Tyldum told Deadline, “It’s an intimate film, but the epic quality was a balancing act. Because it’s a character-driven film, they have to go through extreme choices. It’s really a roller coaster emotionally.”
The Accountant – What I like about this film is the chemistry between Christian Wolf (Ben Affleck) and Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). They’re both math nerds. Where Christian struggles in social situations, Dana finds ease. And even though Christian is cooking books for the bad guys, you can’t help but root for him when you learn his backstory and see his serious combat skills. What I struggle with is the parallel story about a Treasury agent that’s on the hunt for Christian. There’s a lot of time wasted in the film on this storyline, where the detectives always seem to be two steps behind Christian. I would have rather seen more screen time dedicated to Christian’s childhood and relationship with his brother, which would tie nicely into the ending of the film.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – If you’re looking for a fun, action-packed, and stereotypical Tom Cruise movie, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is your pick. There’s really not much substance when it comes to plot. Most of the film features different scenarios where Tom Cruise successfully fights off 10 different guys at once. Colbie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) keeps up as Major Susan Turner, but there’s very little chemistry between the actors. A pleasant surprise in the film comes in the form of Danika Yarosh (Shameless), who plays a teenager that’s possibly Jack Reacher’s daughter. For someone so young, Yarosh adds subtlety to her performance and a playfulness that seems authentic. She definitely stands out as a rising star.
MUSIC REVIEW – WALLS by Kings of Leon – I’ve been a dedicated Kings of Leon fan for nearly 10 years now. Back in the days of “Use Somebody” and “Sex on Fire,” the Followills (three brothers and a cousin) were wild men in their twenties. They sang about drinking too much, getting rowdy “Back Down South,” and the lonely existence of a single man. Flash forward to October 2016, with the release of WALLS, their seventh studio album, and the first of their albums to reach a number spot on the U.S. charts. Music.Mic aptly calls the album “dad rock.” While the Followills settle down and have kids, Kings of Leon music has become disappointingly tame. Even the album cover depicts the four men with make up on, submerged in what seems to be milk. There are a few salvageable songs on the album, like “Reverend” and “Muchacho,” which harken back to their southern roots. The title track is a beautiful piano piece that hones in on lead singer Caleb Followill’s lyrics, “You tore out my heart / you threw it away.” But seriously, Kings of Leon, where did your masculinity go?