M: Blah blah blah… Christmas blockbusters… blah blah blah… Oscar bait… and here they are:
Out of the Furnace
M: Oddly, we discussed this briefly last month, when it was scheduled to open on November 27th. It got pushed back. I’m presuming that’s because the only other movies opening this week is the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, a bit of Oscar-bait only opening in NY and LA, and The Last Days on Mars, another indie not getting a major release. Given the big names in the cast, that’s a wise movie that could turn this into a box office winner.
C: Seems like it to me. I know people planning to see it this weekend, which might not have happened were it up against bigger competition.
M: In case you missed it last month, you can click the link above, or simply know that it’s a hardscrabble drama with a great cast, and that Casey Affleck playing the screw up brother is too frequent a thing.
E: Affleck’s on the hunt for a supporting actor nomination, so if you care about that, you might want to check this film out.
Inside Llewyn Davis
M: E, since this is Oscar-bait and therefore right up your alley, you should be the one to tell the good people all about.
E: The Coen brothers won the Palm D’Or at the Cannes film festival for this tale of a young folk singer of the 1960s, adrift and dealing with crises existential, artistic and romantic. Success at Cannes doesn’t always translate into American box office or awards success, but this movie definitely makes the shortlist when any awards watcher talks 2014 Oscar.
C: Yes, but does it actually look good? Existential crises are not always the best subject matter for films.
E: I can’t say I find the trailer immediately prepossessing, but the Coen brothers really get music, so that element at least might work. Star Oscar Isaac isn’t familiar to me, but Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan classes up a cast that includes Garret Hedlund of Tron and Justin Timberlake. Oh, and the odd but often excellent John Goodman.
C: Hm. A weird mix, but possibly a good one.
The Last Days on Mars
M: Indie sci-fi horror thriller in the vein of the original Alien movie. Looks terrifying, in a good way. Liev Schreiber, who I’ve always liked for some reason, stars.
C: Maybe because he’s got this really really intense thing going on, yet can also be funny? I like him too. Maybe not enough to see this, though. It sounds like an episode of The X-Files or Doctor Who — mysterious, terrifying life form picks off a small, isolated crew one by one — but, without the pair of heroes I like and know will be okay, that may be too scary for me.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
M: And now we start the holiday blockbuster season.
E: Um, hello Mr. Late-to-the-Party. Frozen and Catching Fire started off the holiday blockbuster season. You could even argue that Thor 2 did, although since that film opened before Thanksgiving I’d probably have shoot down that contention.
C: Maybe Thor 2 counts as a sort of appetizer?
M: Yes, Thor 2 is the nachos of the blockbuster season. But you guys know what I mean. A few things that get put out for Thanksgiving, but The Hobbit is launching the season of “please go to the theater to see these when you have a week and a half off of school, and are sick of being cooped up ion the house with your family, especially if Cousin Eddy comes to visit” movies.
E: Yeah, whatever. Which kind of sums up how I feel about this flick.
C: Here we go with E’s sourness on the subject. Brace yourselves, readers who actually enjoyed the first film (and I’m with you guys).
M: We recently watched the first movie of what should not have been a trilogy, and I must admit, I liked it a lot more than I did in the theater. Between that, and the massive overload of commercials for part 2, I’m getting pretty excited for it!
E: I rewatched There And Back Again recently too and was actually less impressed than I had been in theater. I don’t know why I’m feeling so glum about it — there are elves! We love elves! — but I’m having trouble mustering my usual enthusiasm.
C: I do think it’s what M said; if this were the final part of a two-parter, I’d be really, really excited. As it is, though I definitely want to see it, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough material for three movies that that is dampening my excitement.
E: Yes, exactly. I feel like they’re stretching the story beyond all recognition.
C: But if they do it right, this should be the best of the three! We get Benedict Cumberbatch’s Smaug, and almost all the greatest parts of the book: Beorn, the spider battle, the barrels, Laketown. They’re really not leaving anything for the last movie except the Battle of Five Armies, and whatever crap they make up about Gandalf and the Necromancer.
A Madea Christmas
M: And this brings the season crashing back to Earth.
C: He’ll keep making these movies as long as people keep watching them, I guess. So people must be watching them.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
M: This will probably disappoint, but I am still very excited, as the previews have so much promise!
E: I’m sorry. Maybe it’s because I didn’t see the first movie. Maybe it’s because I didn’t want to see the first movie. Either way, I just don’t get the appeal.
M: Humor. Humor is the appeal. Maybe that’s why you don’t like sitcoms, too. You’re allergic to funny.
E: Maybe I am, because I can sense you’re trying to be amusing and yet I do not laugh.
C: “Maybe it’s because I didn’t see the first movie”? Um, yeah, E. Are you often excited about sequels to movies you haven’t seen? But you’re being stupid because Anchorman was awesome. I really hope this will be really funny too. Maybe the fact that it’s been a long time will mean they actually worked on making it a great script…?
E: Oscar-bait drama that took the first major prize of the season, the National Board of Review’s film of the year.
M: Speaking of “I don’t get the appeal,” a man falls in love with an operating system (basically, Siri)? Why would I want to watch that?
C: Well, it was funny on that episode of Big Bang Theory. But that was 20 minutes.
E: Okay. Generally I would agree that it’s not an immediately impressive premise, but I’d never thought that I would love Ryan Gosling’s “man pretends sex doll is a real person” movie, either, and our Mom calls that the best example of lived out Christianity she’s seen in a modern movie. So if Lars and the Real Girl can make this kind of odd subject matter work — and it really really does — maybe this one can too.
C: Aww, Lars is a great movie. However, that movie didn’t star Joaquin Phoenix’s creepy-guy mustache, and this one does.
E: This New York Film Critic award-winning film has great buzz, but it looks so awful.
M: Wait, what? ‘Splain.
E: I haven’t seen anything redeeming in the trailer. Still, look for possible nominations for stars Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, all of whom have been nominated (or actually won Oscars) for their work in previous David O. Russell films. It’s some sort of miserable mob affiliated caper; I like heist movies, but not mob ones, so it’ll be interesting to see where they draw the line. I’m also hot and cold to David O.
C: Critics like a movie and E doesn’t think it looks good? This is noteworthy.
M: Okay, first off, it’s con artists working for the FBI to take down the mob, so it’s not going to be a mob movie in the sense that you don’t like. Second, how can the sight of Bradley Cooper with curlers in his hair not be “redeeming”? That in and of itself is funny. Well, if you have a sense of humor it is. So is Christian Bale’s comb-over.
E: Or something. Why do the women get to look fantastic in this movie while the men look like they crawled out of a nightmare?
C: “Get to”? Try “have to.” The number of boob, leg, and butt shots in the trailer alone answers your question.
E: Fair point. However, M, the preview I saw did not play this as a comedy, or even as a heist. It played it as dour and desperate — except a few moments with everyone’s favorite screwball Jennifer Lawrence.
M: Now, I’m not saying this is going to be the best movie of the year, but based on the previews I’ve seen it looks entertaining and the cast is phenomenal, which makes it something that is usually in your wheelhouse, so you’re just baffling me this month. Maybe if some of these people had been in episodes of The Good Wife…
E: You again with this thing you’re promoting as humor that isn’t actually funny… At any rate, I hope you’re right, because I am going to have to see this movie, and right now the prospect is about as appealing as eating a bar of soap.
C: I have to say, I’m with E on this one. It looks like a lot of unpleasant, desperate people making terrible life choices and being mean to each other. But glamorized.
E: C, you’re forgetting the comb-over. But maybe I should too. Shudder!
Saving Mr Banks
C: This, on the other hand, looks fantastic!
E: Agreed! I cannot wait to see this movie about the making of the film Mary Poppins. There’s huge awards buzz for my beloved Emma Thompson, and a good bit for Tom Hanks in his supporting role as Walt Disney. The 90s stars make good!
C: They might have done one or two memorable things in the 2000s, as well… but they point is, I love them both so very much. And though “the making of Mary Poppins” isn’t exactly a no-brainer as a subject for a feature film, the story actually looks quite intriguing.
M: I’m hugely excited for this one. I’ve been looking up bits about the true story, and it’s fascinating. Did you know that there are huge autobiographical elements to Mary Poppins? Or that Travers disliked the animated sequences in the movie so much that she refused to sell Disney the rights to any of her other works for the rest of her life due to them? Or that Mary Poppins name was because she “popped in,” and popped out at the end of the stories?
E: Not before I started hearing things about this movie, but I can’t wait to find out more, and to see this movie, whether it deviates slightly from the truth or not.
C: As long as the spirit of the thing is respectful, which hopefully it will be.
M: I’m with you — behind-the-scenes of the making of one of our childhood favorites, with the added bonus of the cast and that it’s Disney, seems like such a winner. Can’t wait!
Walking With Dinosaurs
E: While Frozen is definitely the jewel of the season’s family offerings, this dinosaur story (a computer animated, aiming for photo-realistic Land Before Time) seems likely to please any little dinosaur lovers who might be running around your knees. I have to say, though, my kids didn’t see particularly drawn to the preview.
C: It maybe looks a little too much like a nature program. This might have been better on TV. But we’ll see what the reviews say.
C: “What’s better than Ronin? 47 Ronin, obviously.” I like to think that’s how this movie got green-lit. Seems as plausible as anything about this.
M: Keanu Reeves, samurai. Obviously, we’re working with a very high level of realism.
E: Wouldn’t you agree it’s the most interesting looking movie Reeves has made in years if not decades?
C: First of all, it hasn’t been “decades” since The Matrix, so no. But this story of 47 masterless samurai fighting mythical beings and monsters has the potential to be something interesting. Or just a boiling mess of CG spectacle and fight sequences.
M: Okay E, this is a comedy, so we know you’re not interested. However, I have been cracking up NON-STOP at the commercials for this. I love the concept of sexagenarian Rocky vs. sexagenarian Raging Bull. Throw in Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart (their interactions in the previews are hilarious) and my only worry is that they’ve used all the best parts in the commercials.
E: Actually, I’m with you on this one. Rather to my surprise, the trailer is hilarious if alarming. Will I see it in the theaters? No. There’s too much else for me to see in December. (Heck, I haven’t caught up with a few movies I should have seen back in October.) But this looks like a blast. Weren’t we joking about Kevin Hart a few months ago, wondering who he was? Well, I won’t forget him again.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
E: I love the Thornton Wilder story on which this movie is based, about a nebbishy fellow who lives wild fantasies in his head.
M: All those who’ve ever heard the word “nebbishy” before raise your hand. Oh, what’s that? Even spell-checker’s not raising it’s hand? Huh, who’d have thunk it.
C: I just used this word yesterday, so ha ha two against one. Get with the Yiddish times, M. My primary association for this film, though, is not the famous story (which I must admit I haven’t read) but the 1947 Danny Kaye film. I haven’t seen that since childhood, though, so all I really recall is “guy has an elaborate fantasy life.”
E: I liked the old movie version well enough. I like Ben Stiller. Still, I am leery. The commercials don’t sell the film, but there’s enough awards buzz surrounding it for me to be hopeful. It made the NBR’s top ten, and you rarely see an outright lemon there.
M: What’s NBR? National Book Review?
C: Nota Bene Review? Nassssty Burglarses’ Review?
E: Read above, siblings. The National Board of Review. Of course, they’re a kind of odd, shadowy organization, but still, they give out the first major of awards of the season that culminates with the Oscars, and the nominees and winners almost always appear on their top ten list.
M: That aside, I’m similarly wary. I don’t know the story, other than that I know I’ve heard OF it, and it looks like it could be really good, but something’s making me cautious in my optimism. One thing I know is that it’s not Kristin Wiig’s presence, she’s great.
C: At any rate: cautious interest seems to be the key phrase for all of us regarding this movie.
The Wolf of Wall Street
E: On the other hand, the awards community is very interested in Martin Scorcese’s indictment of 80s greed, but it looks absolutely miserable to me.
C: Wow, that’s two this month.
E: I mean, I get it, excess is supposed to be ugly and excessive. That doesn’t mean I want to watch it! It’s been quite the year of excess for Leonardo DiCaprio (a outside contender for best actor in both this film and The Great Gatsby).
M: I feel the same way. I’m still not sold on Jonah Hill as someone I ever want to watch in something (I really need to see Moneyball, though), and as much as I like them both, DiCaprio and Scorsese are unfortunately hit and miss together.
E: You do need to watch Moneyball. But yeah. Not feeling it. And I wish I was, because I’ll probably have to see it.
Justin Bieber’s Believe
M: How is there another Bieber movie already? Seriously, I’m starting to think he’s David Koresh.
E: Thank God I don’t have to see this one! No Oscar potential here. And no need to figure out what the heck you mean comparing him to a cult leader. Oh, wait.
M: I’ve been on a bit of a Mark Wahlberg kick lately, including my first watching of Invincible, which was decent, and a trip to his burger joint that he, Donnie and their chef brother Paul opened, which has the best onion rings ever. So, I’m interested in this, even though it’s reportedly a tough watch because of the subject. Based on an actual mission, the film follows a team of Navy SEALS facing overwhelming numbers while trying to take down a top Taliban leader.
C: Sounds… vaguely like a lot of movies that have come out in recent years.
E: I’m interested. The supporting cast is promising — Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Alexander Ludwig — but man, the subject matter looks incredibly stressful and the title doesn’t exactly make me feel hopeful about the ending. So, I don’t know.
M: It did lead to Wahlberg eviscerating Tom Cruise over Cruise’s moronic comments about acting being as hard as being a soldier in Afghanistan, so it already has high marks in my book.
August: Osage County
C: I’m afraid the colon in the title is just a bit much for me — and I’m an academic! Seriously, what were they thinking? Is this the sequel to a movie called August that I’ve never heard of? Part of the highly anticipated teen sensation, the August Saga?
E: I’m a little disappointed/surprised you haven’t heard of the source material, C. Yet another Oscar bait, starring Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer and Tony award winning play. Though it’s been highly anticipated, first word from folks who’ve seen the movie hasn’t been as fulsome as hoped.
M: So, was their word emptysome?
E: Har har. Well, it’s about a squabbling family, so it might actually be something we’d enjoy if it’s well done. And the supporting cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Cooper, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepherd, Juliette Lewis and — does this make you happy to hear? — Julianne Nicholson, who had a small recurring role on The Good Wife. You know, just in case you need more reasons.
C: That does sound good. Well, okay, McGregor and Cumberbatch sound good, anyway.
E: Oh, and it was produced by George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who brought you the brilliant tragicomedy The Descendants and the utterly marvelous Good Night and Good Luck. So hopefully we’ll all get lucky and it will be good! Either way, December should be a very good month for film lovers.