Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Alfred Molina, Michael Kelly
“Secret in Their Eyes” had its work cut out for it. The source material is a (fantastic) 2009 Argentinean film which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film the following year. It’s an intense, well-plotted crime thriller with an unrequited love story at its center. I described it at the time as “The Remains of the Day” set in a 1970s police station. Writer and director Billy Ray (“The Hunger Games,” “Captain Phillips”) knew that timeline wasn’t going to fly with a 2015 American adaptation, and while he loses a bit of the “Remains” aspect of the original story as a result, the time in which he places the flashback, post-9/11 Los Angeles, is a genius move. Paranoia is at an all-time high, and all of law enforcement was under tremendous pressure to find someone they can turn, and once they did, they protected that asset at all costs. You can see where that kind of environment would cause good cops to make bad decisions, and bad cops to make worse ones.
Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) works security for the New York Mets, but he spends his nights scanning databases for the one that got away 13 years ago, when he was working for the Counter Terrorist Unit in Los Angeles in 2002. He’s watching a local mosque, and when he receives word that a body is found in a nearby dumpster, he is shocked to discover that it is the daughter of his colleague Jessica (Julia Roberts). Ray’s only suspect in the case was a boy who regularly visited the mosque, but because of the boy’s value (he was a mole, and was about to give CTU an entire sleeper cell), he was considered untouchable.
Present-day Ray asks Claire (Nicole Kidman), for whom he’s been carrying a torch since the moment he met her and is now the city’s district attorney, to reopen the case so they can investigate a man recently out on parole, whom Ray firmly believes is Jess’ daughter’s killer. At this point, even Jessica is telling Ray and Claire to walk away, but Ray is motivated by this case for a reason that not even Jessica knows.
Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode,
Nicole Kidman, Jacki Weaver
Korean director Park Chan-wook is one of the biggest filmmakers in his country and a cult figure here in the U.S. thanks mainly to his 2004 revenge thriller “Oldboy.” Fans have been patiently awaiting his English-language debut for quite some time now, and though it’s taken longer than expected for Park to export his talents to Hollywood, it’s hard to imagine a film more perfectly suited to his tastes than “Stoker.” A psychological thriller that’s every bit as tense, twisted and sexually perverse as the director’s previous work, “Stoker” is the kind of movie that gets under your skin and stays there for days, an achievement on its own whether you enjoy Park’s disturbing family drama or not.
After her father is killed in a horrible car accident on her 18th birthday, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is awash with emotion, but mostly curiosity when her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed, arrives at the funeral with news that he’ll be coming to live with India and her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) in their Gothic-styled mansion. Puzzled as to why Charlie’s existence was kept a secret from her, India begins to suspect the mysterious stranger is up to no good when he begins seducing Evelyn just days after her husband’s death. But when people around town start disappearing and Charlie’s attention turns from Evelyn to India, his ulterior motives are finally revealed.
Everyone has taken that soul-sucking job in order to pay the bills. And while we proles may tease them for living the glamorous life, actors probably take that job more often than anyone, since they never know when the next job is going to come. (Case in point: Michael Madsen told us that he categorizes the movies he’s made as “good,” “bad,” and “unwatchable.”) Putting this theory to the test, we scoured the filmographies of this year’s nominees in the acting categories, looking for movie titles that screamed ‘bad idea.,’ and we were not disappointed with what we found. Jesse Eisenberg, for example, did a TV movie called “Lightning: Fire from the Sky,” which will be the main feature at our next Bad Movie night. Here are ten other films that this year’s candidates would probably prefer remained unseen.
Colin Firth (Best Actor, “The King’s Speech”)
Movie: Femme Fatale (1991) IMDb rating: 4.6 The plot: An English artist-turned park ranger falls for and marries a stranger, only for her to disappear days later. As he learns more about his wife, he gets deeper and deeper into the Los Angeles underworld looking for clues that will lead him to her. Firth’s character: Joe Prince, the aforementioned artist/ranger. How bad is it?: You may not see the ending coming, but that is about the only thing this movie has going for it. Armed with one of the most awkward love scenes we’ve seen in ages, this movie does not gel on any level, using mental illness as a means of providing psychological depth, not to mention Acting!, with that last word ideally spoken like Jon Lovitz. Firth is actually passable here, given the material, and Danny Trejo pops up as a tattoo artist. But you can bet that when someone assembles a clip show of Firth’s finest moments, this movie will not make the cut.
Jeremy Renner (Best Supporting Actor, “The Town”)
Movie: National Lampoon’s Senior Trip (1995) IMDb rating: 4.9 The plot: A group of delinquent kids takes a bus trip to Washington D.C. to tell the President first-hand what is wrong with the education system, something a couple of corrupt politicians intend to exploit. Renner’s character: Mark “Dags” D’agostino, a slacker stoner. With pierced ears. How bad is it?: Put it this way: the first actor listed in the credits is Matt “Max Headroom” Frewer, and the movie’s few laughs come from Tommy Chong as the drug-addled bus driver. On the “National Lampoon” movie scale, this one lands somewhere in between “Class Reunion” and “Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj.”