Big-budget science fiction is experiencing something of a renaissance. Director Ridley Scott’s The Martian follows a string of commercially minded, studio-backed sci-fi movies, including Interstellar and Gravity, which play out small-scale personal dramas on a big-scale stage (outer space).
There are few genres as enduring in American cinema as the gangster film (see The Godfather, Goodfellas, and Casino, for starters). These films collectively explore our cultural fascination with violent, charismatic criminals — self-made figures who operate outside the system to great personal gain and at the expense of law, order, and often many lives. Generally, these films portray the gangster’s world as governed by highly intricate systems of hierarchy, fealty, and unwritten yet brutally enforced codes of behavior (no snitching!).
Cameron Diaz stars in the new comedy The Other Woman as Carly, a no-nonsense, successful Manhattan lawyer. We know she is successful because both her apartment and corner office feature floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing spectacular, geographically implausible views. Also, she has pretty shoes. Carly is dating a seemingly perfect guy named Mark. He is perfect, the film tells us, because he has great hair, sometimes sends flowers, and has what looks to be a very expensive watch (and no apparent need for a day job). Carly’s nicely ordered life is overturned, however, when she unexpectedly discovers that Mark is actually married, and, even more unexpectedly, strikes up a friendship with his wife Kate (Leslie Mann) and his other mistress Amber (Kate Upton).
Dom Hemingway, written and directed by Richard Shepard, stars Jude Law as the title character, a career criminal on parole after 12 years in prison. Dom is vengefully determined to claim what he thinks is rightfully his, and heads to the grand French villa of a powerful crime boss (Demián Bichir), hoping for a big payday as remuneration for his years of silence while in prison. Along the way, Dom gets himself in and out of trouble — most of it comical and amusingly mischievous, some of it brutal and truly menacing, and almost all of it involving copious amounts of drink and drugs — before turning his efforts to a reconciliation with his estranged daughter, and perhaps, a slim chance at redemption.
Bethlehem follows 17-year old Palestinian Sanfur (Shadi Mar’i), the brother of a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and Razi (Tsahi Halevi), the Israeli Shin Bet (secret service) officer who has recruited Sanfur as an informant. Set in Israel and the West Bank around 2004 near the end of the Second Intifada, the film explores the region’s broader conflict by examining the social connections surrounding the central characters.
Well, it’s been a long awards season, full of glitz and glamour, politeness (the interviews), and politicking (the studio campaigns). Heavy rainstorms in the Los Angeles area early Sunday suggested even the sky was getting tired of red carpets and acceptance speeches, and it was time to bring this season to an end with the biggest televised celebrity spectacle of the year — the 86th Annual Academy Awards.