Mini Reviews (December 2014)
The Theory of Everything, Vile
The Theory of Everything (December 3/14)
The Theory of Everything details the relationship and eventual marriage that ensues between Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his first wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), with problems inevitably ensuing as Hawking's health slowly-but-surely deteriorates in the wake of his ALS diagnosis. It's riveting subject matter that's employed to disappointingly tepid, run-of-the-mill effect by director James Marsh, as the filmmaker, working from a script by Anthony McCarten, has infused the narrative with a pervasively bland vibe that's reflected in the movie's myriad of generic attributes - with The Theory of Everything, for the most part, boasting the feel of an endeavor crafted entirely from a blueprint for films of this nature (ie this is strictly a paint-by-numbers inspirational biopic). There's little doubt, however, that the movie remains watchable for much of its first half, as Redmayne's often astonishing performance proves effective at compensating for the various deficiencies within the proceedings - with the inherently fascinating trajectory of Hawking's disease and career carrying the narrative through it's more overtly hackneyed spots. Given that the film is based on Jane Hawking's book, however, it's perhaps not surprising to note that The Theory of Everything, past a certain point becomes more about Jane's trials and tribulations than Stephen's - which ensures that the movie eventually progresses from mildly watchable to flat-out tedious (ie Jane predictably just isn't as interesting a presence as Stephen). The emotional revelations of the final stretch are consequently drained completely of their impact, and it's ultimately difficult to label The Theory of Everything as anything more than a particularly blatant bit of Oscar bait.
Vile (December 19/14)
An almost comically terrible Saw knockoff, Vile follows several strangers as they're abducted and confined to a dilapidated old house - where they're eventually told that the only way out is to inflict tremendous amounts of pain on one another. (The characters have all been equipped with a machine that collects a specific brain fluid that's only released when one is in extreme turmoil.) It's an inherently stupid premise that's utilized to consistently underwhelming (and flat-out tedious) effect by filmmaker Taylor Sheridan, with the pervasively low-rent atmosphere, which is perpetuated and compounded by a series of aggressively amateurish performances, standing as the tip of the iceberg in terms of the movie's myriad of distracting deficiencies. It becomes clear, inevitably, that the silly setup is really just an excuse for Sheridan to offer up a series of torture sequences, with the director's inability to establish even a single compelling character ensuring that such moments fall hopelessly flat (ie these scenes are appreciatively disgusting, yes, but it's impossible to care what happens to any of these people). There's little doubt, as well, that Vile only grows more and more tedious as it progresses, with Sheridan's last-minute decision to transform one of the victims into an antagonist smacking of desperation and serving little purpose aside from prolonging the already-interminable running time - which inevitably (and ultimately) confirms the movie's place as a seriously dreadful horror effort.