I’ve always enjoyed the performances of Austrian-born actor Christoph Waltz, particularly his Oscar-winning turns in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained, although he’s always been on the verge of going a tad too far over the top.
And that’s exactly what has happened in BIG EYES (12: Entertainment In Video), a real-life tale of fraud and female subjugation in the 1950s and ’60s.
Directed by Tim Burton, Amy Adams stars as artist Margaret Keane, whose paintings of doe-eyed children were tremendously popular.
Waltz plays her controlling conman husband, manipulating her in order to take credit for her work. Margaret discovers he is claiming to have painted the pictures himself, and she and her daughter are forced to live a lie for years.
Burton’s style is a good visual match for the subject matter. The film has the soft, cartoonish look of one of Keane’s paintings. It’s kitsch and amusing, albeit shallow, and trivialises the abuse that Margaret must endure.
The script tends toward the blunt, with the narration over-explanatory and Waltz’s involvement building to a cringe-making courtroom appearance after Margaret resolves to prove his deceit.
But it’s still a fascinating story told with flair and Adams acts with bewitching delicacy to anchor the film.
> Two decades have passed since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels goofed their way to box office success in Dumb And Dumber. But reprising their roles in DUMB AND DUMBER TO (15: Universal) is an exceedingly dumb move.
It isn’t just that the joke has gotten old, and the actors look tired, it’s that the Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter, push too hard for jaw-dropping moments, robbing the characters of the innocence and spirit of camaraderie that once balanced the stupidness. This time, the dim-witted guys just come across as obnoxious.
When Harry (Daniels) discovers a long-lost daughter, he breaks his friend out of a psychiatric hospital and they go on a road trip. Harry needs a kidney and aims to harvest one from the daughter, Penny, while Lloyd (a very creepy Carrey) joins the search only because he has designs upon the rest of her body.
Kathleen Turner is a rare bright spot as Penny’s world-weary biological mother.
Nostalgia may tempt fans of the 1994 film, but there are fewer laughs in this sequel than Harry and Lloyd have brain cells.
> Director Peter Jackson is at the peak of his powers as an epic journey finally comes to an end in fantasy adventure THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (12: Warner). Even if he doesn’t match the gravitas of Tolkien’s writing, he leaves Middle-earth on an adrenaline-pumping high.
He marshals elves, dwarves, orcs and mortal men in awesomely staged conflict after Thorin (Richard Armitage) hunkers down at Erebor to protect the glittering dunes of gold that Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) has left behind.
Spectacular opening scenes find the dragon breathing fiery havoc on Lake-town, challenged only by human hero Bard. Despite having the title role, Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is again a supporting character, trying to broker peace using the all-powerful Arkenstone, while Thorin’s quest is the real heart of the story.