Top Five, Chris Rock’s latest effort as writer-director, gets a wide release this week from Paramount Pictures. On the one hand, that goes to show you how incredibly weak this year’s fall crop of studio releases has been; we’re supposed to be getting the big Oscar pictures around this time, and what we’re getting instead is respectable but middling stuff like The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game. On the other hand, Top Five is Rock’s best movie to date, and the fact that it’s actually getting the chance to compete with big-budget behemoths like The Hobbit over the Christmas season is the cultural equivalent of spiked egg nog.
Check out this week’s issue for new reviews of: Exodus: Gods and Kings, a new 3-D biblical epic from Ridley Scott (Gladiator); Once Upon a Time Veronica, a Brazilian drama about an isolated woman whose social life consists almost entirely of sexual hookups; Point and Shoot, a documentary about a Georgetown University graduate who became a combatant in the Libyan Revolution; Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation, about the ongoing construction of Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona; two programs of shorts from this year’s Sundance Film Festival, one animation and the other live action; and The Two Faces of January, an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith mystery novel starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac.
Best bets for repertory: Steve James’s Hoop Dreams (1994), Saturday and Tuesday at Gene Siskel film Center; Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and White Christmas (1954), all week at Music Box as a double feature with audience sing-alongs between the films; and John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988) and Chris Columbus’s Home Alone (1990), Wednesday at Music Box as an alternative double feature, for those of you who can’t stand to watch White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life anymore.