E: Or, a list of movies I won’t see while catching up on all the Oscar films released in November and December.
M: Including the ones that only got released in L.A. and New York that will just be coming to theaters now, which somehow makes them “last year” movies, at least as far as awards are concerned. Which is Crap with a capital C. But I digress. Let’s just say, January is a bit barren of good things we haven’t already talked about.
E: Exactly. It doesn’t mean there’s not a ton in the theater you want to see — I’m just scrambling to find actual new releases to put on this list. Still, when you scrape the bottom of the barrel, a few moderately interesting films do float up.
C: Gee, that makes them sound so appetizing.
M: Mmmmmmm… moderately interesting!
E: So interesting that you forgot the month had started and are only now joining our conversation, M…
M: Oh sure, don’t call or mention it when we’re together in person, use the wrong email address and then blame me. Fine. Let’s get to the tasty offerings…
The Best Offer
E: Geoffrey Rush — also in theaters in The Book Thief — stars as a reclusive antique dealer.
C: This is actually an Italian film, though it seems to be mostly a British/American cast, also including Jim Sturgess and Donald Sutherland (as well as Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks). There’s an eccentric heiress, a scam, a mystery, a romance, and a score by the incomparable Ennio Morricone. More than just moderately interesting, I’d say.
M: That’s quite the cast for an obscure Italian film, and the trailer is quite gripping. I’d say interesting is an understatement, this has the looks of a movie that could be a word-of-mouth hit.
E: Other than the creep factor of Geoffrey Rush gripping a girl half his age, I’d agree.
M: Well, yes, there is that.
C: Gripping a girl? I feel like that depends on context. If, for instance, he tripped and was just steadying himself…
M: Yeah, if only that were it. That dirty thought that first came into your mind when she said it? That’s the one.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
E: This is the kind of thing I’m talking about. The studios aren’t even trying. They’ve been dazzling us all December and now they’re letting movies like Wolf of Wall Street, August: Osage County, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty try to take hold.
C: Or letting people catch up on the already confirmed holiday blockbusters they haven’t gotten around to yet. But I suppose there is a fan base for these Paranormal Activity films, even if we aren’t in it.
M: I shudder to think what that fan base is. I think it’s the folks who are the “normal” people in the book Feed that C gave me for Christmas. Only, maybe dumber. Quick note to our readers: if you’re a big Paranormal Activity franchise fan and I offended you… well… I’m struggling to even type an apology, and I can’t. So, for my lack of apology, sorry.
E: Dude! It’s not like Paranormal Activity is torture porn. What’s so morally objectionable? All I meant was that those movies are really cheaply made and so any return they make is practically money for nothing for the studio. And it’s the only major new release all weekend. They’re coasting.
C: Yeah, that was overly harsh.
M: Oh, get off it. I’m not calling it *morally* objectionable, just intellectually. But to explain, the first one being a “surprise success” I could see. Sequels? Multiple sequels? They’re cheap, like you said, and everyone knows it’s fake, and the gimmick is that it’s supposed to look “real”. It’d be like if they made seven Blair Witch movies. It’s the surprise that works the first time (if at all), everything after that is just dumb.
E: Ragged misfit refugees travel through Laos and enter a rocket building contest. This looks like a supremely well done feel-good story in the vein of Slumdog Millionaire or October Sky.
C: What with the rockets and the not being America, yeah, I imagine that’s exactly how it was pitched.
M: Despite my instinctual aversion to movies I have to read while watching them, I do make exceptions for supremely good films, and I absolutely LOVE October Sky. So, this could be a Netflix candidate at some point.
E: How generous of you.
M: Look, Miss High and Mighty, I can’t even find a trailer for it, so you’re pushing your luck getting me this far.
The Legend of Hercules
M: This, on the other hand, I have about as much interest in as I do a good bout of the flu.
E: Twilight‘s Kellen Lutz stars as the titular Greek hero. The film appears to have the laudable ambition of being a low rent Clash of the Titans. Delicious.
C: Fun fact: this is one of two Hercules movies coming out in 2014, the other one (Hercules: The Thracian Wars) starring The Rock, which you’ll all get to enjoy in July.
M: Hollywood, doing something in twos? Never!
C: Remember when there were two Alexander the Great movies in production? This feels similar, though that never panned out.
M: Totally! And usually when they do a two-fer like this, at least one of the movies flops. Not always (see: Deep Impact and Armageddon), but most of the time.
E: Actually, I love Greek mythology and pretty much all things classical — and that is why I’m actually less thrilled to be, um, spoiled for trashy Thracian choice.
C: By which, I take it, you mean you’d be super psyched if only either of these looked good.
M: I, too, am a Greek myth fan, and love that Rick Riordan revived interest in them. The new wave of super-slick visual, no plot movies, however (Clash and Wrath of the Titans, Immortals, the two forthcoming Hercules movies), have me less than inspired. Maybe some day soon someone will get one right.
The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box
C: Hercules, Midas box — we are all about the Greeks these days, huh?
E: Actually, this is a Victorian adventure story, in which a seventeen year old boy named Mariah sets off to rescue his family and finds a hidden magical realm where he dallies with a magical object of great power. I couldn’t resist adding it, since the movie’s peopled with wonderful supporting actors — Michael Sheen, Keeley Hawes, Lena Headley, Sam Neill, and Ioan Gruffudd.
M: Sounds appealing, and I do love Sam Neill, but….
C: If you asked me to make a list of actors I quite like who have all done some terrible projects, that would be a portion of the list.
M: Exactly. Except I don’t know Hawes.
C: Oh, that’s my exception: British miniseries queen Keeley Hawes. She could have been in a few lemons, I suppose, but I don’t know of them.
E: Coming back to this movie for a second. Is it probably silly? Sure. It’s going to come out on video on February 10th, so clearly someone doesn’t have confidence in its theatrical run. But. They managed to convince a pretty nice cast to take part, even if some of them have suspect judgement. Despite the main character being a boy named Mariah, I love magical adventure stories.
C: It looks like a Steampunk Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, with some Series of Unfortunate Events thrown in. And probably about the quality level of that old show.
E: Sounds like it’s good for a rental, then: I liked that show!
M: How generous of you.
E: Aaron Eckhart stars as the classic mash-up monster placed in a modern dystopia where gargoyles battle demons. Costarring Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto, and Chuck‘s Yvonne Strahovski.
M: No, not nice. Pretty Frankenstein. Bah, humbug.
C: You didn’t let me finish. As I was starting to say, I watched a couple of Chuck reruns yesterday…
M: …from the first two seasons, I hope…
C: AHEM! And as I watched, I was thinking it was a shame Yvonne Strahovski had dropped off the map since. She had more chops than her eye candy role originally showcased. I don’t know about this movie, though; I like weird, but Frankenstein vs. gargoygles vs. demons might be a little too much weird for me.
E: The trailer doesn’t look particularly impressive, aspiring to be a cheesy fun ride like Underworld. Which I did like for what it was, but I’m dubious that this will reach even that level.
M: In case you can’t tell from my first comment, which C so rudely jumped all over…
C: You interrupted ME!
M: Details. Anyway, I have seen many previews for this, and it looks to me like what Frankenstein’s monster actually was… an abomination. Frankenstein’s monster is supposed to be hideous. Aaron Eckhart is in the running for sexiest man alive every year. And, if execs were honest they would admit he primarily gets roles because of his looks. Throwing a few scars on his face doesn’t get the Frankenstein-y job done.
C: That is a fair point. It doesn’t seem quite in the Mary Shelley spirit.
M: Quite right. Then you throw in that it looks like a bad Underworld rip-off, as E mentioned, and I can’t get far enough away from this pile of steaming poo.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
E: Must we? I’m sorry, but Chris Pine as Jack Ryan? Who thought this was a good idea? Let me at him.
C: Jack Ryan is officially the town bicycle of Hollywood. Too bad, ’cause he used to be cool.
M: So, you’re saying that playing Jack Ryan is now the equivalent to dating Winona Ryder?
E: In early ’90s. I’d be more inclined to say Jennifer Love Hewitt, but sure.
M: As for the movie, I wonder, if we could get past them recycling the part to many actors, and look at the merits of the movie itself, if we might not feel differently. Tom Clancy is a brilliant novelist, with lots of material to draw from. Kenneth Branagh is directing, and supporting. Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley also star. Then again, this is opening in January, not even March or April… so I don’t know what to make of it. I’d like it to be good, I’ll say that.
C: And it’s Chris Pine. Sorry, New Kirk fans, but the dude is just smarmy.
M: For the record, Kirk is supposed to be smarmy. Much like Luke Skywalker was supposed to be whiny in Star Wars.
E: Yeah, I’m not sure I object to the constant shifting of actors as much as I do this particular actor. Now, I grant you, Kenneth Branagh’s a terrific director. But otherwise, this looks like — what was your charming phrase — a pile of steaming poo.
M: Based on the promo material I’ve see I don’t think that’s fair, but I can’t argue its virtues that vehemently, either.
E: So now that I know who Kevin Hart is, I have to plug his second movie in 3 weeks. In order to prove his worth to his would-be fiancée’s family, Hart rides along with her crazy hot tempered cop brother (Ice Cube) and hilarity (hopefully) ensues.
C: Oh, I saw the trailer for that! The concept’s been overdone (at least loosely speaking), but this particular version might be amusing in places.
M: I agree, it looks overdone, but like there could be a few good scenes/lines in it. And Hart is growing on me just in the previews of this an Grudge Match alone. I’ll definitely see Grudge Match before I see this, though. And I know, that’s very generous of me.
C: I’m not even sure what that joke means at this point.
The Nut Job
E: Animated heist movies about squirrels robbing a nut store/factory.
C: Starring Will Arnett’s voice acting, this might be amusing — I do love a good heist — but the trailer lacks any really good laughs. Which is not a great sign for an animated movie of this type.
M: I think you both, and our readers, will agree that even mediocre animated movies are marketed to death before they come out. On the other hand, I just saw my first commercial for this this weekend. Not a good sign. When you combine that with it being headlined by Will Arnett (who has always rubbed me the wrong way), and looks like Over The Hedge, which was a first class flop, I’m not lining up for tickets.
E: The only thing I can say in disagreement with that is that we saw a preview for it in November before Frozen. Otherwise you’re right on target.
E: So tell me. If you look up this film on Rotten Tomatoes, Samuel L. Jackson’s face dominates the poster, but his name doesn’t appear as one of the stars. What’s up with that? Anyway, the story seems to revolve around Dominic Cooper, a D.A. who commits a hit and run and then manufactures evidence to acquit the criminal accused of his crime.
C: Pretty sure SLJ’s on the poster because he plays the accused criminal. Who turns out to be a rather nasty character, it seems, putting the ever-smarmy Cooper in an ethical bind. Rather From the Hip-esque, I guess, but without the dark comedy.
E: None of that explains why the most famous actor isn’t listed in the cast. Also, sigh. From the Hip. Love that movie.
C: I’m just saying, you might be putting a little too much weight on Rotten Tomatoes’s perfect accuracy. Look at other websites?
M: Yeah, I can’t explain why Jackson’s not listed in the cast, but (in my best Samuel L voice) he sure as hell is in the mother bleeping movie! He is the accused criminal, who may in fact be guilty of fatally wounding (read: murdering) the victim before the hit and run. Cooper appears to figure it out, and Jackson goes after him and his family. I love From the Hip as much as either of you, but I’m not remotely seeing the comparison. This looks more like a movie Judd Nelson would have made in his post-stardom days. Maybe one that starred Alyssa Milano in her down period, too.
E: As opposed to her up period, where she had a brilliant film career?
M: She has had at least two successful runs on TV, with a seriously bad stretch between them. Now she seems to be settled into being Alyssa Milano, living off residuals, and doing whatever she wants without making, to use the phrase of the month, steaming piles of poo.
C: The comparison was just that “lawyer works to get a guy off criminal charges then realizes the guy is evil” is the narrative of both films. The details and tone are completely different. And why on earth are we talking about Alyssa Milano?
M: Because we are easily sidetracked?
C: True enough. Fishy-eyed British star Dominic Cooper headlining a Hollywood film is more noteworthy to me. Let’s stick with that.
C: Dangerously confusable with The B.F.G. What were they thinking?
E: It really shouldn’t be — far from Roald Dahl, this is the tale of a high school where the Queen Bees all search for the same must-have accessory — a gay best friend.
C: Well, that has offensive potential through the roof. I mean, it’s cool to see a teen movie that has two gay protagonists, as this does, but it’s not clear from the summaries whether this is actually an indictment of the commodification of gay identity, or just a light treatment of it. It looks more like the latter, but we’ll see, I guess.
M: My guess is it will be an indictment on the superficial mean girls for wanting one, while still glorifying the GBFs they are pursuing.
C: I guess what I’d like it to be is an interesting exploration of the simultaneously understandable and problematic choice to step into a typecast identity for the sake of social advancement. Indicting the mean girls, while always a good thing, seems like a no-brainer here.
Knights of Badassdom
E: Movie about LARPers Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Summer Glau (Firefly), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Steven Zahn (You’ve Got Mail) who accidentally conjure up a real demon.
C: So, sort of Buffy meets that web series starring Felicia Day. Basically, straight-down-the-middle geek pandering.
E: Yeah. And I’m not sure, but Summer Glau might actually be the demon. Speaking of pandering to the fan-boys.
M: Poor Summer Glau, she needs a hit. I’m doubting this is it.
E: Tom Everett Scott joins Jean-Claude Van Damme in his latest epic about drug cartels and Navy SEALS.
C: Tom Everett Scott, the young-Tom-Hanks-lookalike star of That Thing You Do? He’s still an actor?
E: He seems to have spent a lot of time on TV — Law & Order, Southland — and doing voiceover work. So, yeah. Not so much the next big thing he was touted to be in the early ’90s, but making a living. You have to give him props for that.
M: I believe the term is “working actor,” which is impressive, even if his career hasn’t taken off the way it looked like it once would. Kind of like the baseball player who was a top prospect, never really pans out, but ends up playing 15 years in the majors as a utility infielder. Never a star, but still better than 99.9% of everyone that tries the profession.
C: Excessive sports metaphor aside, it’s surprising to see him headlining again. That’s all I’m saying.
M: Unlike you pretentious literary snobs, the rest of us unkempt, teeming masses like sports.
E: No one said they didn’t like sports, Mr. Touchy.
M: Calling my perfectly good and valid sports metaphor “excessive” implies that.
C: Oh, for goodness’ sake. The point is: Navy Seals, drug cartels, young action guy, old action guy…
M: Not sure Tom Everett Scott counts as “young” or “action guy”, but continue…
C: If that sounds good to you, go see this movie. If not, there’s always Vanessa Hudgens.
E: True story of a pregnant teen (yes, played by Vanessa Hudgens) out on the streets and finally off them. Costars Rosario Dawson, Ann Dowd, James Earl Jones, and Brendan Fraser.
M: Is it me, or does it seem like Hudgens is trying too hard to shed High School Musical?
E: Ding ding ding! (Not that this doesn’t sound far more appealing than Spring Breakers…)
M: (not that that’s a high bar…)
C: It looks sort of like a cross between The Pursuit of Happyness and Where the Heart Is, based on a gritty-yet-ultimately-heartwarming true story. In other words, this looks considerably better, and more like real acting, than anything Hudgens has ever done before.
M: (not that that’s a high bar…)
C: I don’t know what y’all are so down on. Even if it’s not amazing, isn’t this a step in the right direction if she wants a real career?
That Awkward Moment
C: Can “that moment” stop being a thing? I can’t even figure out why it became a meme to begin with.
M: I’ve apparently missed that meme.
E: Fruitvale Station‘s Michael B. Jordan stars alongside Zac Efron and Miles Teller as friends navigating the pitfalls of dating. The fact that this is one of the most high profile releases of the month should tell you something about this January.
C: Hm. That sounds like a sitcom, not a movie.
E: Exactly. Exactly. Maybe because Efron and Teller are largely television actors?
C: No, because “navigate the pitfalls of dating” is not a plot so much as a loose premise.
M: Okay, enough about the actual movie, let’s get to the more important topic here. I’m sorry, but if your name is Michael B. Jordan and you’re trying to become famous post-1984, shouldn’t you be going by whatever the “B.” stands for, and initialing the “M”? So in his case, “M. Bakari Jordan”? Also, since he was born in 1987, shouldn’t he be able to sue his parents for naming him Michael Jordan? At that point, the Michael Jordan was MICHAEL JORDAN. It’s not like there was any doubt. Why would you do that to your child? *shudder*
C: Hey, it could have been way worse. Also famous in 1987, also a pairing of two very common names: Michael Jackson.
M: *more violent shudder*
E: Befuddled by parenting and frozen out by their own offspring, Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga skip their children’s orientation tour at a posh liberal arts college in order to connect with each other.
C: To clarify, they are the solo parents of two separate children, and have just met, not a couple reconnecting while their twins tour Middle
M: I thought that before I watched the trailer, too. Now, I like both Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga, but as a couple? And I don’t know about you, but the trailer made pretty much everything look forced to me.
E: I don’t know, I kind of thought it looked cute.
M: Really? C, you’re the tie breaker.
C: I think the movie’s overplaying the “she’s a free-spirited rule-breaker, he’s a buttoned-up stuffed shirt” thing and that’s where the awkwardness comes from, not from any lack of chemistry between the actors. The idea of parents having a meet cute and playing hooky while their kids go on a college tour is simultaneously fun and little, um, too much of a fantasy? That’s the way it comes off in the trailer, anyway.
C: Speaking of confusable titles, what the–? Are they trying to one-up John Keats?
M: If they’re going for a higher-minded audience than Hercules 3D, not that that takes much, then they very well may be.
E: Unable to get over a terrible break up, new college grad (and Veronica Mars star) Chris Lowell transforms himself into his ex-girlfriend’s ideal man. Costarring Agents of SHIELD‘s Clark Gregg as the embodiment of corporate mediocrity and Mom‘s Allison Janney as a wise astronomer, Piz needs to figure out if the girl’s really worth changing himself for. Let’s guess what happens.
C: Yawn. I’m just boggling that you called her “Mom‘s Allison Janney.”
E: Heh. I originally wrote “The West Wing‘s Alison Janney,” but then I thought, should I cling to that credit just because it’s her best role? Mom seems to be a hit show, and it’s clearly her most current credit, so I decided to go there instead. Trying to be less, I don’t know, snotty.
M: Don’t, it doesn’t suit you. 😉 On a related-but-not-really-related-to-the-movie note, did you guys know that Clark Gregg, also of The West Wing by the way, is married to Jennifer Grey?
E: Yes I did. As does anyone who watched her win Dancing With The Stars.
M: Not shockingly, I missed that.
C: Anyway, good luck to you, Piz. Hope you get a girl you deserve.
M: We’ll see you again in March, where I (though I doubt my bad-boy Logan Echolls-loving sisters) will be rooting for you.
C: As for the rest of you, we hope you’ve seen something here that will tide you over till February!