MOVIE BUFF-ET: Oscar-aspiring motion pictures open this weekend in local theaters


A number of movies that opened in Los Angeles and New York in December to make the Oscar deadline for inclusion for this year’s award ceremony have finally made their way to Northwest Arkansas. That should be good new to filmgoers with a rainy and gloomy weekend weather forecast on tap.

New In Local Theaters

  • The Bye Bye Man (PG-13) 1 hr. 36 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • Elle (R) 2 hr. 11 min.
    (Malco Fiesta Square, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Jackie (R) 1 hr. 40 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square)
    » Watch trailer
  • Live By Night (R) 2 hr. 9 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Monster Trucks (PG) 1 hr. 45 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback)
    » Watch trailer
  • Patriots Day (R) 2 hr. 13 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer
  • Sleepless (R) 1 hr. 34 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square)
    » Watch trailer
  • Silence (R) 2 hr. 41 min.
    (Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
    » Watch trailer

Three of the films have a historical bent with Martin Scorsese’s Silence leading the way with a story of two 17th-century Portuguese missionaries — Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver — heading to Japan to find their missing mentor, Liam Neeson. Scorsese had been attempting to get the film made for three decades.

In Jackie, Natalie Portman stars as Jackie Kennedy in director Pablo Lorraine’s film detailing her time as the First Lady and after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The film reportedly pulls no punches.

Director Peter Berg teams with Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day, a film that details the 2013 terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon and the manhunt for the two brothers who spearheaded the atrocity. The pair made a fine disaster movie together last year with Deepwater Horizon, hopefully this one will be as good.

Ben Affleck directs and stars in Live by Night, which is based on the fine 2013 Dean LeHane crime novel of the same name. Affleck has proven himself to be a strong director in recent years with Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo. Maybe this film will follow suit.

If none of these suit your taste, the new horror flick The Bye Bye Man and the latest Jamie Fox action picture Sleepless also debut this weekend.

And if you haven’t seen Hidden Figures yet, it’s an inspiring, uplifting movie that is worth watching.

Elevated expectations makes LA LA Land feel a bit lackluster


Critics adore director Damien Chazelle’s musical LA LA Land. The National Board of Review named it one of its top 10 films of the year, it won the Critic’s Choice Movie Award for Best Picture, and the film recently collected seven Golden Globes.

With such praise my expectations must have been elevated too high because I found the movie more than a little bit boring and somewhat of a downer.

That’s not say that my impression is entirely trustworthy. I tend to like happy endings with my musicals, and that’s not exactly the case with this movie.

The film dotes on its Los Angeles setting, and that’s just not my cup of tea. Some are swooning over the opening scene, set on a jam-packed L.A. highway. Trapped in stand-still traffic, the various motorists spring from their vehicles, decked all in primary colors, singing and dancing and having a ball amidst a tremendous snarl of trucks and cars and other vehicles. I guess my disdain for traffic drove me out of the moment, and I don’t think I ever fully engaged with the film after that.

Maybe, I didn’t give the movie the best chance to work it’s magic?

The performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were good. Both dance well. Gosling handles a tune better than Stone, but she did fine. Their chemistry is alluring, and I think I would enjoy seeing them star opposition one another again — this is at least their third film together — but with far different material.

The romance is more of the modern sort than a throwback, which many might find gratifying, but there have been a few too many loved-but-lost plots to play across the big screen this year for me to get all that excited about this one despite the dancing and singing.

The movie was well made, but maybe the material just hit me wrong?

(PG-13) 2 hr. 8 min.
Grade: B

Classic Corner

Singin’ In the Rain

In conjunction with Fathom Events, the Malco Razorback Theater will hold special screenings of the 1952 classic musical/comedy Singin’ in the Rain at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday.

There are a lot of great musicals, and everyone has their particular favorite, but there is no doubting that directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen crafted a classic with Singin’ in the Rain.

Set at the dawn of talking motion pictures in 1929 and lightheartedly depicting some of the struggles Hollywood went through in making the transition to sound, the film is a tour de force for Kelly who not only directed and starred but also choreographed it, too, like he did with most of his films.

Kelly obviously shines, particularly while dancin’ and singin’ in the rain for title tune. It’s in one of the most charming and historic numbers ever filmed.

However he and his co-director Donen trained ample light on co-stars Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds.

O’Connor’s performance of “Make ‘Em Laugh” is every bit as strong as Kelly’s “Singin’ in the Rain” performance outstripping the song’s introduction in a 1948 Kelly film The Pirate.

Arthur Freed, the king of MGM’s lavish musicals, wrote the lyrics for the all the songs and his partner Nacio Herb Brown wrote the music. All are good with most being delightful.

The recently deceased Debbie Reynolds is the female lead Kathy Seldon, a chorus girl hired to sing and speak for caustic silent film star Lina Lamont, played by Jean Hagen. Lamont’s voice rivals fingernails on a chalkboard in timber and intensity. The movie and her performance lifted Reynolds career to star level.

The film is wonderfully shot by Donen, and the Technicolor creates a wonderful kaleidoscope on the screen that’s sure too lift one’s spirits. If you’ve never seen Singin’ in the Rain, watching it on the big screen is a wonderful option.