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Nicolas Cage is an acting maniac by more than one definition – he takes on so many projects you’d think he had a castle to pay off (spoiler: he did at one point), and his persona is the closest anyone will get to the textbook definition of sheer mania. When used poorly, he’s a blubbering, boring ham, like in USS Indianapolis or Left Behind; when used correctly, he’s a screaming, bug-eyed genius. Luckily, Brian Taylor (of Neveldine & Taylor) is the kind of filmmaker who knows how best to channel Cage’s energies into something suitably, irrepressibly insane – surround him with a world and premise just as crazy as he is.
With awards season dying down, it’s time for the also-rans. January and February are known as ‘dump months,’ the time of the year where studios dump the movies they don’t have much faith in. These include, sadly, the films initially made with Oscar gold in mind, but whose ambitions were tampered by everything from industry heat to test screenings. This spot is reserved for films like The Founder or Cake, fine enough films on their own but clearly meant to grant some awards heat to their central performer. Sadly, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpoolclearly belongs in this category, a handsome but anemic sob story about the cruelty and vanity of Hollywood that isn’t nearly as interesting as its central performance.
In a world where Minions and Lightning McQueen dominate the attention of most children in America, it’s lamentable that Paddington isn’t more of a thing here. To Brits, Paddington Bear – the central figure of Michael Bond’s children’s books in the 1950s and beyond – is as much a children’s icon as Doctor Who: an adorably polite, anthropomorphic bear cub who loves marmalade as much as he does getting into trouble. Despite all odds, 2014’s Paddington turned out to be a uniquely charming and effervescent adaptation of the character, updating him for a more modern, diverse London without skipping a beat. Now its sequel, Paddington 2, has arrived, and by golly, if it’s not just as warm-hearted and downright fun to watch as its predecessor.
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a man of routine, head of one of the great haute couture houses in 1950s London. His life is as immaculately controlled and considered as the beautiful dresses he makes for women of stature, with nary a hair out of place in the sumptuous London studio he shares with sister and business partner Cyril (Lesley Manville). Even his romantic pursuits are transactional, his loves a series of temporary muses he discards when their personality grates, or they disrupt his routines too much.