New Movies for December 25th 2012: Strivers and Zombie Killers
In Arbitrage, Richard Gere plays Robert Miller, a New York hedge-fund magnate with the world at his feet - money, power, mansion, a loving, supportive wife (Susan Sarandon), a beautiful, young mistress (Laetitia Casta), and a devoted daughter (Brit Marling) who works loyally by his side. But, once he gets into a deadly car crash which Gere tries to cover up his involvement in, and once his daughter starts to discover discrepancies in the accounting, the world he rules over seem to be built more of clay and his own life to be running borrowed time.
The trouble is that though the topical hedge-fundy parts are interesting and educational, and Gere does get to show his chops, once the investigation begins (headed up by the always fun Tim Roth), screenwriter-director Nicholas Jarecki often swerves the film into being just another episode of one of the CSI or Law & Order TV shows.
Arbitrage has a very bright picture with excellent contrast producing deep blacks in power suits and town cars, bright white shirts and chandeleers, and a wide range of corporate greys and blues. Miller's home displays warmer browns of candlelit bookshelves and tables while his mistress add a dash of heat with a richly-colored kaftans and dresses. Images are detailed but often lit airily and evenly, and are slightly soft so figures aren't that dimensional.
The gentle-spoken dialogue is clear as is the the orchestral/standards score, but it's all spread across the front channels with little or no use of the surounds even in the somewhat bassy tumbling-car crash scene and the explosion shortly thereafter.
The death-and-desperation-in-the-world-of-privelage story reminded me of Woody Allen's Matchpoint, but further comparisons to that movie only make more obvious Arbitrage's lack of verve, thematic depth, and filmmaking brilliance.
Video: 1.78:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: director's commentary, "A Glimpse into Arbitrage" and "Who is Robert Miller?" featurettes, deleted scenes with optional commentary. Studio: Lionsgate.
Resident Evil: Retribution 3D
Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, AVP: Alien vs. Predator), Resident Evil: Retribution 3D is the fifth film of the zombies-have-take-over-the-world franchise which guarantee gore, action, and, high production values. Retribution finds Earth's last hope, Alice (Milla Jovovich), taken prisoner by the evil Umbrella Corporation whose T-virus had set the zombie ball rolling. In the process of escaping from the complex, more of her past is revealed and she finds herself on an international virtual reality mission to, with a little help from her friends, hunt down those responsible for the deadly outbreak. This quest takes her to virtual versions of Tokyo, New York, Washington, D.C., and Moscow, all the while struggling to stay alive long enough to uncovers the truth behind the outbreak. But once she does, she is forced to re-think everything.
The rest of the cast includes Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Li Bingbing, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, and Kevin Durand. The film made $220 million in worldwide box office. This two-disc set has extras on both Blu-rays as well as 2D Blu-ray and UltraViolet digital copies. A 2D set is also available with a UV Digital Copy.
Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: commentary by Anderson and actors Jovovich and Kodjoe, commentary by Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt, deleted and extended scenes, "Project Alice: The Interactive Database," "Maestro of Evil: Directing Resident Evil: Retribution," "Evolving Alice," "Resident Evil: Reunion," "Design & Build: The World of Resident Evil: Retribution," "Drop (Un) Dead: The Creatures of Retribution," "Resident Stuntman," "Code: Mika," and "Resident Evil: Retribution - Face of the Fan" featurettes, Capcom game trailers - Resident Evil 6, Devil May Cry, and Dragon's Dogma; 2D Blu-ray and UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Sony.
In this action thriller by director David Koepp, former law student Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), now makes a living as an adrenalin junky New York City bike-messenger athelete - one of the 1,500 who risk life and limb daily in Manhattan dodging and weaving, speeding and slipping between cars, cabs, and buseses, and avoiding pedestrians where possible. Wilee likes to danger up a notch by riding the fixie - a lightweight, single-gear bike with no brakes - and today he's going to get all the high-speed menacing challenge he yearns for in trying to deliver an innocent-seeming small envelope so valuable that a desperate, in-dept NYC police detective (Michael Shannon) begins to chase Wilee down in order to take it from him. Thus begins a rush through busy city streets in a high-speed battle-of-wits, and Wilee's wind, will, and skill producing fast-paced thrills all round.
Video: 2.40:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: "The Starting Line - Meet the Cast" and "Behind the Wheels" featurettes; UltraViolet digital copy for streaming/downloading. Studio: Sony.
In this story-within-a-story-within-a-story, famous author, Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid), reads to a gathered crowd his new book, The Words, about an aspiring writer, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), who works as a mail supervisor in a literary agency while his novel continues to be repeatedly rejected by assorted New York publishers. On his honeymoon in Paris, Jansen is given a wedding present by his new bride, Dora (Zoe Saldana), of an old briefcase from an antiques store containing an old manuscript. The book is, of course, brilliantly written and, back in New York, Jansen gets the urge to type it into his computer which, of course, his wife finds, reads, and then, of course talks him into taking his new novel to the literary agency he works at where publisher, Joseph Cutler (Željko Ivanek) reads it and, of course, offers to publish it and, of course, it becomes an enormous success, hurling Jansen to fame and fortune.
Thereafter, Jansen's meets an old man (Jeremy Irons) in Central Park, who claims to be the true author of the manuscript, explaining that it was based on his own life in Paris. He then tells him the story of how, as a young man (played by Ben Barnes) he was stationed in France during World War II and how, after his French wife left him, he channeled his anguish into writing the book and then, when he gave it to his wife to read, she loves it so much she decides to return to him - leaving the book in the briefcase on the train.
Hammond, the famous author, brings his public reading to a halt, but an enthralled, pretty, young would-be writer Daniella (Olivia Wilde) uses her charms to persuades him, back at his appartment, to reveal all - of the story, himself, and his long buried romantic emotions. But should he risk getting involved again?
The Words was written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal as their directorial debut. This is an extended special edition of the film.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: "Unabridged: A Look Behind the Scenes of The Words," "A Gentleman's Agreement : A Look at how Bradley Cooper and the Filmmakers Found The Words," "Clay and Daniella," and "The Young Man and Celia" featurettes. Studio: Sony.
The Well-Digger's Daughter (La Fille du Puisatier)
In this 2011 old-fashioned adaptation by Daniel Auteuil of 1940 Marcel Pagnol-directed French drama based upon a Pagnol novel - both of the same name - the actor-director transplants the study of class distinctions, gender roles and sexuality, and the importance of reputation to WWI-era rural France.
Having recently lost his wife, middle-aged well-digger Pascal Amoretti (Auteuil) is left to care for six daughters. He sends the 18-year-old Patricia (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), the second-oldest, to live with her Parisian benefactress, but when she returns she's got the social accent and cultured graces - as well as refinement and beauty - ill-fitting to her old rustic hometown.
Now Amoretti's boss, Philipe (Kad Merad), though older, balding and decidedly less attractive than her, has taken a shine to the enchanting young woman. Amoretti gives him permission to take Patricia to an air show and though she refuses to go with Philipe, she does want the chance of seeing the handsome young pilot, Jacques Mazel (Nicholas Duvauchelle), she'd run into earlier, who is the son of a wealthy merchant (Jean-Pierre Darroussin).
Patricia gets pregnant by him - scandal and shame! - and then Jacques is called up to serve in the war giving his mother (Sabine Azema) a letter to deliver to Patricia. Class conscious and capitalistic, Mater secretly burns the letter setting in motion a series of events that can only lead to tragedy and despair.
Video: 1.85:1. Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Extras: gallery of 16 stills.; DVD. Studio: Lobster Films.