We’re getting into crunch time for award season. Releases are picking up throughout the month, including a behemoth mid-month that will suck up all the money.
Five Star Day
Cam Gigandet (Twilight) stars in this undoubtedly awful movie about a dude who gets a perfect horoscope on his birthday but it turns out his birthday sucks. So he sets off to find other people born on the same day and find out if their birthday sucked as bad as his did. I’ll go out on a limb and say he falls in love with whomever Jena Malone (Sucker Punch) plays. This movie kicked around the festival circuit for more than a year—never a good sign.
The Son of No One
Channing Tatum stars in this movie about a cop who goes back to patrol the neighborhood he grew up in and old secrets and family complications rear their ugly heads. Sounds like Justified. Like…exactly like Justified.
Some people seem to think that Eddie Murphy is returning to the version of himself that we loved in the 1980’s, but I don’t know what is making anyone think that. This movie looks both stupid and bad. Brett “I boned Olivia Munn once and she’s bitter about it” Ratner directs Murphy, Ben Stiller, Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda in this revenge fantasy about stealing from a Wall Street type who ran off with everyone’s pension money. As terrible as this movie looks—and it looks pretty goddamn bad—I’m sure it will make a ton of money since all anyone wants to see these days is “regular” people (in what universe do uber-successful Murphy and Stiller represent normal people?) get revenge on rich assholes.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
I have a hard time getting into the Harold & Kumar movies but I get that a lot of people dig it. I like both John Cho and Kal Penn and I usually find some of the bits funny, but overall these are not must-see movies for me. And I find it odd that it’s coming out so far in advance of Christmas. By the time the holidays roll around, the abundance of holiday releases will push it out of theaters. Makes me think the movie isn’t any good.
Let’s make a bet. I bet that this movie is bad. Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Dame Judi Dench and It Boy Armie Hammer, this has “Oscar bait” stamped all over it. But that’s the thing about award bait. The harder you try to make an award-winner, the harder your movie is going to suck (see also: Amelia). Using that logic and throwing in the cheeseball old man makeup on DiCaprio and his terrible accent, I think this movie probably blows. Anyone want to take that bet?
The Bully Project
Documentarian Lee Hirsch (best known for doing campaign ads for President Obama) takes a look a peer-to-peer bullying amongst our youth and the lasting effects of that bullying. It sounds both necessary and depressing.
Here’s another one you don’t need to be a genius to tell it sucks. When the first trailer came out months ago I said to a friend, “I think Tarsem Singh has lost his mind.” Nothing about Immortals thus far has made me think otherwise. Tarsem has, in the past, made movies with extraordinary visuals and mediocre stories but Immortals doesn’t have the same shiny Tarsem look to it. The colors are dank and depressing and Mickey Rourke’s vagina dentota helmet freaks me out. I will say this, though—I’ve never really gotten Henry Cavill, but seeing him run around shirtless in the Immortals ads, I’m beginning to get what everyone else goes on about.
Jack & Jill
Adam Sandler hates us. There is no other explanation.
Lars von Trier has gotten great notice for this film all year, so it’s too bad he made those comments about understanding Nazis at Cannes in May. He torpedoed any hope he had of award consideration. Lead actress Kirsten Dunst might be able to escape unscathed—she did win Best Actress at Cannes, after all—but I’m not sure Melancholia will reach a wide enough audience to get some traction. Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard, Keifer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg star in the story of a bride who is dealing with unresolved sibling issues on her wedding day. Oh, and there’s a planet that just emerged from space, ready to smash the Earth to smithereens. Von Trier is not my cup of tea—his films tend to be long, slow and shocking for no reason other than to shock us. Pointless shocking is the worst kind of shocking.
I saw this during the Chicago Film Festival and I LOVED it. It’s a bit more light and optimistic than director Alexander Payne’s previous movies, such as Sideways and About Schmidt, but I enjoyed the change in tone. George Clooney is great as a Matt, the patriarch of one of Hawaii’s founding haole families who is dealing with settling his family’s trust, discovering that his wife, who is in a coma, was cheating on him, and trying to reconnect with his daughters. Payne makes the most of his Hawaii settings and he draws out Clooney’s best performance since O Brother Where Art Thou? Clooney is an early favorite for Best Actor (he’ll have some competition from The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, though), and Payne is sure to score writing and directing nods, as well as a probable Best Picture nomination for his first film in seven years.
Happy Feet Two
Adorable dancing penguin Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) is back, this time father of his own chick, Erik, who has to find his place in the flock. Herd? Whatever you call a bunch of penguins. Happy Feet was cute but it wasn’t groundbreaking animation or anything and I expect the sequel to be the same. Cute, but easily forgotten.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1
Either you’re totally stoked to see the penultimate entry into the Twilight Saga or you don’t give a shit. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods & Monsters, Kinsey) is a real showman with an eye for detail and it shows in the increased production values, but I’m not sure that will be enough to overcome the wretched source material—Breaking Dawn is the worst book in the series. I’m most worried about Bella’s wedding dress, though. On the one hand, it’s designed by Carolina Herrera so it shouldn’t be awful—no one understands constructing a dress for a woman’s body better than Herrera—but Stephenie Meyer, she of NO TASTE, was given a lot of input so I’m worried the dress will turn out to be a tacky horrorshow. Anyway, Breaking Dawn 1 will get all the money for November.
Early word from the UK, where it premieres first, is that this is a brilliant film. James McAvoy voices Arthur, Santa’s son, and the movie shows us how exactly Santa does deliver all those presents in one night. The Santa family is comedically dysfunctional and Arthur ends up going on a secret mission. I wasn’t particularly interested in this until the UK reviews started coming in so glowingly, but I fear that the splashier Muppets will probably do in Arthur Christmas on this side of the pond.
This movie is SO PRETENTIOUS. Like, if anyone other than French people made it they would be roasted as try-hards. But it is French, so everyone’s like, “This is the greatest movie ever made!” While The Artist is, technically speaking, a very good movie, it’s almost unbearably unwatchable in all its black and white, silent smuggery. French writer/director Michel Hazanavicius brings us the story of George Valentin, a silent film star who is gripped with fear and insecurity over the arrival of the “talkies”. Jean Dujardin is really good as George and if this movie weren’t so goddamn up its own ass, I would be all over that French fox Jean, but as it is I keep remembering how angry this pretentious movie made me and that ruins it.
I know I’m in the minority on this. People all over the world have been losing their shit over this movie since Cannes in May. I accept that everyone will disagree with me.
A Dangerous Method
The Fassbender stars with Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley in David Cronenberg’s take on the relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and Jung and a troubled patient, Sabina Spielrein. I’ve been hearing that Cronenberg really wants some mainstream acceptance but A Dangerous Method fell flat at TIFF and reviews have been mostly mediocre, so it falls to next year’s Cosmopolis to get Cronenberg that hit.
Based on Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s 3D homage to celluloid films, or so said all the film geeks after a “secret” screening at the New York Film Festival. I think this looks okay. The visuals are lovely and fanciful, which fits the story of an orphan boy who lives in a train station in Paris and discovers his father had been keeping a secret. The children are charming—Asa Butterfield (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) and Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In, Kick-Ass) are both enjoyable young actors. The adult cast features Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Ray Winstone and Emily Mortimer, all of whom are also enjoyable. Though the movie looks very pretty, nothing about it screams, “Run out and see me immediately!”
Jason Segel’s labor of love, The Muppets brings the beloved characters into the 21st century. Some of the old guard from Henson’s company have recently come out against the movie, saying Segel didn’t respect the history of the Muppets because Fozzie tells a fart joke. The thing is, the Muppets have been stagnating for years (partly Disney’s fault), and what Segel has done is update the mythology and make it interesting and accessible to people today. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if this movie is as good as some are saying and it gives us a reason to have Statler and Waldorf back in our lives. Amy Adams and pretty much all of Hollywood co-star.
My Week with Marilyn
Michelle Williams takes on the task of bringing Marilyn Monroe to life on screen and she’s at least halfway successful. Your appreciation for her performance will rest largely on your tolerance for Williams. My Week with Marilyn follows Monroe as she arrives in London to film The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and the personality clash that ensues. Marilyn was ostensibly on her honeymoon with Arthur Miller (Dougray Scott, back from the dead) but she ends up spending time with Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), an assistant director on the film. Probably none of this really happened—the romance between Marilyn and Colin, anyway—but it’s a fetching story performed by an attractive, talented cast. Worth seeing eventually.
In the 1990’s a corruption scandal rocked the anti-gang unit of the LAPD’s Rampart division. It’s a story made for the movies—widespread police corruption, the involvement of a hip-hop mogul (Suge Knight), and links to the murder of Notorious BIG. It was inevitable that someone would eventually get around to making a movie about it. Rampart focuses not on the tabloid aspect of the scandal, though, but on one of the crooked cops involved as he tries to balance his unraveling life. Woody Harrelson reteams with his The Messenger costar, Ben Foster, and director, Oren Moverman, in Moverman’s sophomore directorial effort. Harrelson, a much better actor than anyone really gives him credit for, is winning raves for his performance and has a slight chance of scoring his third Oscar nomination with this role.