Screening Room: ‘Vice’

(Annapurna Pictures)

Yes, that’s Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in the latest dark comic take on modern American history from Adam McKay, who previously dissected the 2008 crash in The Big Short.

Vice opens on Christmas Day. My review is at PopMatters:

The Cheney presented in Vice is pretty close to the one we saw in those terrifying years after 9/11. The one going on Meet the Press to talk with barely repressed glee about going to “the dark side” to fight this wrong war against the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. (Bale takes the sideways silent snarl seen in that chilling appearance and runs with it.) The one who popped up with creepy regularity in the behind-the-scenes books, pulling strings behind a clueless George W. Bush and not-so-secretly operating the machinery of a government, having long yearned to break free of the chains of democracy…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Hostiles’

The latest movie from Scott Cooper (Black Mass) is a pitch-black, viciously violent Western starring Christian Bale as a cavalry officer nearing the end of his string and Wes Studi as the Indian chief who Bale has to partner with for survival.

Hostiles opens in limited release tomorrow and expands widely in January. My review is at Film Journal International:

Hostiles is a western that wants to encompass the entire moral history of the Indian Wars into one fell, vengeance-rattled saga. Of course, it doesn’t succeed—that is the fate of westerns that overextend themselves. It doesn’t completely fail, either. There are images here that will bang around in your head with a chilly echo for days afterward, not to mention a nagging sense that one has just witnessed a great and unsolvable crime…

Screening Room: ‘Knight of Cups’

In the newest Terrence Malick indie, Christian Bale is a screenwriter undergoing a romantically attractive existential crisis amidst the Hollywood demimonde.

knight-of-cups-posterKnight of Cups is playing now. My review is at PopMatters:

Like the deck of tarot cards that provides its narrative spine, Knight of Cups is shuffled up and dealt out with a witchy randomness. Making a mockery of Syd Field’s rules of screenwriting (where’s the inciting incident?), the film offers stories of sprawling entropy. Whether that’s enough to sustain an entire movie will be decided by the viewer’s appetite for moony maundering in gorgeous settings…

The trailer is here:

Small Screens: ‘Batman’ Returns!


Once upon a time you could safely rely on being able to find a couple things somewhere on TV, if you just flipped around long enough: The Three Stooges and the old Batman series. Running in seemingly near-constant syndication long after its too-brief run (120 episodes over 3 seasons from 1966–68), its Pop Art-mad cheeky humor was the way that most people growing up in the 1970s was introduced to the Caped Crusader. Once Frank Miller and Tim Burton started going all gothic on Bruce Wayne in the ’80s, it was always characterized as a reaction to the camp factor of an Adam West Batman and villains like Liberace, Tallulah Bankhead, and Milton Berle.

But the show has been increasingly hard to find outside of YouTube and black-market dubs, due to a long-running rights dispute. That may soon be over, as it was reported yesterday that the entire run of the series will be released in a box set of DVDs and Blu-ray sometime later this year. The news was broken by … Conan O’Brien. Big fan?

New in Theaters: ‘American Hustle’

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper strut in 'American Hustle'
Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper strut in ‘American Hustle’

americanhustle-poster1After last year’s wildly popular but kinda underwhelming mental-illness romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell changes things up with the sprawling, polyestered, multi-Golden Globe-nominated, 1970s scam flick American Hustle. Not a bad switchup, all things considered

American Hustle opens this weekend in limited release and goes wide on December 20. My review is at Film Racket:

Somehow there’s never been a big movie about Abscam, the ambitious late-1970s FBI corruption probe that convicted six Congressmen and one Senator for taking bribes from fake Arab sheikhs. Although it plays with a few shards of the real story, David O. Russell’s highly imitative but gung-ho drama American Hustle is not really about Abscam. What you have here, amidst all the science-fiction hair and byzantine deals cut in rooms lined with cheap wood paneling, is an epic power ballad of a story about love, friendship, and the high costs of each…

The ladies of 'American Hustle'
The ladies of ‘American Hustle’

Here’s the trailer, which reveals absolutely nothing about the plot; dig it:

New in Theaters: ‘Out of the Furnace’

Christian Bale and Zoe Saldana in 'Out of the Furnace'
Christian Bale and Zoe Saldana in ‘Out of the Furnace’

Out-of-the-Furnace-PosterNow that December’s here, the Oscar race can begin in earnest. One of the first out of the barrel is Out of the Furnace, which was a Ridley Scott / Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle sometime back but was later (probably fortunately) retooled by Scott Cooper (2009’s Jeff Bridges crusty heartwarmer Crazy Heart) into a self-consciously gritty blue-collar revenge tale with a whole roster of boldface names.

Out of the Furnace is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

Although Christian Bale plays a down-to-earth factory guy in Scott Cooper’s bashed-knuckle drama, there’s still a dark superhero glimmer to his too-good-to-be-true character. In a story littered with moral compromises and horrendous decisions, Bale’s Russell Baze doesn’t show a moment of weakness. He stalks right into the very maw of an Appalachian hell without seeming to give it a second thought. After all, he has his family to defend. That would be all well and good were Russell being played by Charles Bronson and this was a world of strict blacks and whites. But Cooper seems to be aiming for something different, trying to tell a familiar vengeance story with uncommon grit and attention to character. Batman just doesn’t fit that well into that kind of universe…

Here’s the trailer: