“Jane Got a Gun”
Sometimes, production problems pledge a film. Issues swirled around this loose remake of the 1971 western, “Hannie Caulder.” The original director, Lynne Ramsay, quit and was replaced with Gavin O'Connor (“Warrior”). Actors like Michael Fassbender, Jude law and Bradley Cooper were hired and quit due to creative differences and schedule changes. Joel Edgerton switched roles to accommodate the cast, and Ewan McGregor came in to steady the ship. Natalie Portman was only solid foundation this film had throughout. It got buried in three years of release delays. When it finally dropped, there wasn’t a bang. No, this one rises in a slow burn. Thanks to strange editing decisions, it has its fair share of lingering shots and awkward silences. It eventually gets going, but it takes a lot of patience to get there. They should’ve pulled the trigger on this a long time ago. The wait doesn’t payoff – barely worth a watch.
It’s Christmas in April – well sort of. This is a tale of Christmas out of control and a boy who wishes for a simpler time. It’s not as serious as it sounds. It’s more of a horror/comedy – let’s call it a hormedy, brought to you from writer/director Michael Dougherty (“Trick 'r Treat”). The recipe is a bit off though because it does go into dark places very quickly without apology. The adult members of the cast are a collection of cross-genre veterans – Adam Scott (“Piranha 3D”), Toni Collette (“Fright Night”), David Koechner (“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”) and Allison Tolman (FX’s “Fargo”). Emjay Anthony accepts the lead role of the little boy hoping for a Christmas miracle but receiving a nightmare, and he gives this grim film a little heart. “It’s a Wonderful Life” it ain’t, but it is barely worth a watch.
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“Secret in Their Eyes”
Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts have been megastars since the ’80s, but this is their first collaboration as they team up to remake this 2009 Argentinean thriller. The tense drama moves back and forth in time, revolving around a team of FBI investigators and the impact after the murder of one of the investigator’s daughters. Despite Kidman and Roberts’ star power, it’s Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”) who steals most of the scenes. And despite Ejiofor commendable job and decent performances by Kidman and Roberts, there was no real reason to remake this film. The original was remarkable and won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Writer/director Billy Ray can hardly be blamed. He probably just wanted to bring a great film to American audiences with some great actors speaking the lines in English. Unfortunately, it just didn’t translate as well – barely worth a watch.