Doug Strassler is a freelance writer and lifelong pop culture junkie. A 2001 graduate of the University of Virginia, he currently lives in New York City. His proudest accomplishment remains having Anthony Hopkins say that he likes him.
Who would have thought that of all things, Hitchcock, Sacha Gervasi’s window into Alfred Hitchcock prior to and during the making of Psycho, one of the most enduring films of all time and a suspense classic, would turn out to be primarily a romance?
[rating=2]Starring: Kerry Bishé, Edward Burns, Heather Burns, Marsha Dietlein, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Anita Gillette, Tom Guiry, Ed Lauter, Michael McGlone, Connie Britton Director(s): Edward Burns
Writer(s): Edward Burns
The big Irish family at the center of The Fitzgerald Family Christmas have a double whammy come year’s end: celebrating the birth of their mother in addition to the birth of Christ. But as Gerry, the well-meaning prodigal son played by writer-director-star Edward Burns, tries to gather everyone together, Burns has almost as much trouble cobbling a believable movie in this by-the-numbers production from his patented assembly line.
[rating=3]Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Marion Cotillard, Armand Verdure, Céline Sallette, Bouli Lanners, Jean-Michel Correia
Director(s): Jacques Audiard
Writer(s): Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain; based on the short story collection “Rust and Bone” by Craig Davidson
One of the more common images used in marketing Jacques Audiard’s intense new drama, Rust and Bone, is that of a killer whale, a gorgeous and not irrelevant sight given that Stephanie, the role essayed by Marion Cotillard, is a whale trainer. Having such a creature represent the film is a wise choice given that Bone itself is a crude look at animal instinct and magnetism – especially in human form.
In Matthew Quick’s sensitive novel Silver Linings Playbook, the Solitano family – moody paterfamilias Pat Sr., peacekeeping mother Dolores, and son Pat Jr., recently released from a mental institution for reasons yet to be discovered – live in an Eagles-obsessed Philly suburb in South Jersey. David O. Russell has both adapted and directed the movie version of Quick’s book, which results in a scattershot translation lacking in many of the details that grounded the original story. That the Solitano household now exists in an unspecified Pennsylvania town is just the tip of the iceberg in how Silver, a piercing look into the mind of the mentally ill, has morphed into a neutered, loosy-goosey comedy without claws.
Nobody Walks, from director and co-writer Ry Russo-Young, gets right down to business in its scant 82 minutes. No sooner do we meet Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a 23-year-old Brooklyn artist just off an LAX-bound flight than we see her making out with the guy with whom she has headed to the parking garage. It turns out they’ve only just met, and while she’s happy for the ride, so to speak, that’s all. I guess she doesn’t have much time to waste either.
[rating=3]Starring: Keira Knightley, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jude Law, Domnhall Gleason, Matthew Macfadyen , Kelly Macdonald Director(s): Joe Wright Writer(s): Tom Stoppard
Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina is certainly Leo Tolstoy’s classic as you’ve never seen it before. An often breathless conversation between filmic and theatrical language, writer Tom Stoppard’s adaptation literally puts heroine Anna and her Russian cohorts on stage in plain view of all. The message in this work about passion between the classes is a constant reminder that when it comes to decisions of the heart, everyone is watching. Love is a spectator sport that doesn’t always guarantee a victor – though it will always declare a loser.
[rating=3]Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Ashley Greene, Michael Sheen, Billy Burke Director(s): Bill Condon Writer(s): Melissa Rosenberg
Though the Twilight series, which culminates in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the fifth and final segment in the franchise, has been a major boon to the film industry and to all involved onscreen, including three directors, stars Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, and Kristen Stewart, original author Stephenie Meyer and a host of character actors and technicians, its blueprints come straight from television.
[rating=2]Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Mark Ivanir, Catherine Keener, Imogen Poots, Christopher Walken Director(s): Yaron Zilberman Writer(s): Seth Grossman and Yaron Zilberman
Oh what a frustrating movie A Late Quartet turns out to be. What could have been an eye-opening look at a fringe industry and the lives of the talented performers who thrive within it ends up being a by-the-numbers melodrama, despite a sterling cast.
[rating=2]Starring: Doona Bae, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, James D’Arcy, Tom Hanks, Jim Sturgess Director(s): Tom Twyker, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski Writer(s): Tom Twyker, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Are some books simply impossible to adapt? It’s one thing to make a disappointing film version of a beloved novel such as The Fountainhead or The Great Gatsby, where the story can be reproduced but the magic of the imagery or the interiority of ideas cannot. But can a book whose very essence depends on its literary structuring successfully morph into a two-dimensional, all-visual medium? Time can only tell with the adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey.