Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Rupert Wyatt does a fine job of directing the talky drama around Los Angeles with fine support from the likes of Jessica Lange as his estranged mother and Brie Larson as his student. Simon Rhee from Best of the Best shows up as a Korean bruiser and George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, The Delta Force) shows up for a quick minute as a family patriarch. I didn't even know the guy was still alive! Great to see you, George! A massive and bald headed John Goodman gets to drop some of the film's greatest dialog in a pair of scenes as he questions how a successful, good looking smart guy like Bennett could destroy his life with such idiotic abandonment. With a little CGI muscle, Goodman should play The Kingpin whenever the villain shows up on Daredevil. Wahlberg is handed some very provocative and near poetic lines throughout, especially during an early scene in the classroom where he moves around the space, questioning and belittling his students in what was a more exciting class than I ever had in 4 years. Some actors can't handle a lot of dialog but Wahlberg takes it all on with surprisingly ease and aplomb. While I'm not too surprised The Gambler hasn't garnered any major award attention, I do feel it got lost in the Holiday shuffle and deserves more credit than it's being given.
I won't bore you with too many thoughts on Into the Woods, it wasn't for me and I just didn't dig it. Beautifully shot yet a bit boring to watch. Maybe if you're into musicals. Next up was A Most Violent Year, a flick I had no opinion on and hadn't even seen a full trailer. From the title, cast and look of the picture, I figured it was about mobsters in New York. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor, who gave us the fascinating Margin Call in 2011, a look at the inner workings of an investment bank during the first part of the financial crisis followed up by the lauded but overrated "man on a boat VS nature" All Is Lost starring Bobby Redford in 2013. A Most Violent Year stars up and comer Oscar Isaac (Drive) as Abel Morales, a mostly by the book immigrant businessman who owns a heating oil business in New York during 1981, one of the most violent years on record. Abel has vast ambition to expand his company but his trucks keep getting hijacked and his product sold to various mystery buyers. He must tread lightly as the local District Attorney is about to begin investigating his business while wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) keeps pushing him to man up and protect his empire and family.