E: I have to be honest: it will be a minor miracle if I see anything this month that actually officially opens in January. It’s all Oscar for me, this month and next. Why bother with this slate’s trifling offerings when there’s so much fantastic stuff out there that opened in December and November?
M: I’m unlikely to get to the theater in any given month, but yeah, with things I want to see (Selma, Theory of Everything) and things I feel like I should see (Hobbit, Mockingjay), this month’s openings might not make the list.
C: I mostly agree — heck, like M I’m still hoping to catch some stuff that came out in November, like The Theory of Everything — but it sounds like a few December movies aren’t as urgent as I thought they’d be. Based on the reviews, for instance, Unbroken could wait for DVD and we’re better off skipping Annie entirely. I still really want to see Selma, though.
E: Selma‘s at the top of my list for this season (and count me in on The Theory of Everything, too), but isn’t coming to a theater near me until the 9th.
M: I will defend Unbroken, which I did see. Everything they included from the book they did VERY well. My issue with it is that they ended it too soon, but it is a very good movie. And I didn’t see it, but my kids loved Annie.
E: Which is all to say, the January release list is so paltry and insignificant that, as you may have noticed, we completely forgot to write it up in a timely manner.
E: Spanish horror movie.
M: Are we starting with this just because it comes first alphabetically, or to REALLY accentuate the point about January’s slate?
C: It’s a pretty bad slate.
E: Both. As for the plot, cute/hot television reporter gets infected with demon spawn and wrecks havoc. Obviously.
C: If I had a nickel for every time that happened…
E: If you were wondering just how thin and pathetic the new offerings this weekend were, I needed to pad out the horror film fest with this documentary about the American-Chinese food favorite. Was there a real General who made the famous chicken? If you’d like to know, this is where you go to find out.
C: Not gonna lie — now I want to know!
M: Not gonna lie — now I want some Chinese food.
C: Picking up the phone as we speak.
E: Really? Well, I suppose since it has to contend with all the Christmas releases — Into the Woods, Unbroken, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies — they might as well not even bother.
C: Would you expect the film to have a big release in some other month? I didn’t even know a sequel was contemplated, which makes me question whether Dan Radcliffe is in this one.
M: Nope, apparently it’s set 40 years later. But Helen “Narcissa Malfoy” McCrory is in it, so you know, that’s almost the same thing?
E: You can hardly find a British movie these days without at least one Harry Potter alum in it. While I’m sure the cast and crew don’t feel this way, this lame offering feels exactly like no one is bothering.
M: It only feels that way because no one is.
M: Just by default, shouldn’t they have released this in November?
C: It does feel like they missed something obvious there.
E: Unchallenged. Based on a true story, a Nigerian community comes together to protect their oil rich land from greedy multinational oil companies and their own corrupt government.
C: Aw, heartwarming!
E: There’s hostage-taking in L.A. (I’m not sure how factual that is), a loathsome oil company fat cat played by Mickey Rourke, and variously complicit compatriots played by Anne Heche, Vivica A. Fox, Sarah Wayne Callies and Kim Basinger, as well as the committed fighters Akon, Wyclef Jean and Mbong Amata (who appears to be the wife of the writer/director, Jeta Amata).
C: Wait… now I can’t tell if that’s heartwarming. Hostage-taking doesn’t sound heartwarming.
E: Yeah, not so much.
M: One of the things I really liked and appreciated about Unbroken was that it did not say “Based on” a true story. It proudly put up “A true story,” and stuck to facts. This one feels like it’s gonna be a lot of “based on” and not a lot of “true.” And with that cast, a buried January opening is a really bad sign.
E: The tone seems a bit muddled to me, somewhere between a thriller and an inspirational Disney movie with cartoonish characters. It looks like it might be an important story told with perhaps not as much depth as the subject deserves. On the other hand, even if it’s being released in the January graveyard, it’s probably a triumph that such a film was made and released at all.
M: Seriously? Hollywood taking on a movie demonizing an oil company, and you think it’s a triumph it got made? More like an inevitability.
C: It’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it.
E: Well, I meant a story told from an African point of view by an African writer and director, but I take you point.
M: Ah, and now I take yours as well.
E: In case you’re not interested in the movies opening in wide release on this day — Selma and A Most Violent Year — you have this time travel flick in the vein of Looper and Minority Report.
M: Okay, I like both of those, to varying degrees.
E: Temporal Agent Ethan Hawke (looking thin, old, and just plain strange) routinely travels back in time to stop various criminals from committing their crimes. Now he goes back to solve one last case, the one that’s eluded him all his career (how original!): a devastating terrorist attack that killed thousands.
M: Two unoriginal formulas, but formulas not often combined. Still, I’ll probably just pop Frequency into the BluRay player instead.
C: Let’s just hope it doesn’t have the plot hole that ruined Frequency (an otherwise excellent film) for me.
E: The siblings — like many other sci fi-loving geeks — are picky about time travel stories. It’ll be interesting to find out (assuming it’s worth us eventually seeing) if this movie strains our credulity or not.
E: Oh, Liam Neeson. Weren’t you an Oscar contender once?
M: This is an excellent lead in to another post we’re writing at this moment, where we discuss Russell Crowe’s comments about actresses needing to “act their age.”
C: Achem, Mr. Neeson…
E: This is an adaptation of Ron Rash’s coming-of-age story about a young man (Jeremy Irvine) trying to change his life in a backwoods community plagued by violent feuds and alcoholism. Its combination of hopeless poverty and cyclical violence reminded me of the haunting Winter’s Bone; it looks and sounds well made. The supporting cast includes Noah Wyle, Haley Joel Osment and Minka Kelly.
C: Noah Wyle, star of the Librarian films? Wow! How did they get that guy?
M: Hey, stop that! Wylie is good and I want him to get more good roles. I don’t know Irvine (still haven’t seen War Horse), but he looks capable, and the plot looks dark but complex. I like Osment, or at least I want to, despite not having seen him in much of anything in the last decade plus. Kelly was good on Almost Human. Definite potential.
E: I also think this might be good, but I doubt it’s going to get a wide enough release to matter in the theaters. It might be something worth seeking out to stream eventually, though.
E: Again, there are some terrific looking 2014 films going into wide release this weekend — Still Alice, featuring best actress front runner Julianne Moore’s performance as a woman with Alzheimers, and Clint Eastwood’s thriller biopic American Sniper — you’ll be happy to know things are improving and you may find other viable option at the multiplex as well.
C: I don’t know how Julianne Moore never came up in our conversation about women over 40 who get good parts in movies. She is one of the five, for sure.
M: But, somehow, she is not in Blackhat. I can’t help but wonder at the person pitching this to a studio. The government needs the world’s greatest hacker to stop a cyber terrorist. That hacker happens to look like the sexiest man alive and have action hero fighting skills. Totally believable, right?
C: I KNOW. I could not contain my eye rolling throughout this trailer. It was just too much absurdity! And I love the Thor movies!
E: So, er, does this mean you’re going?
M: Oh, totally.
C: No. I’m serious. This looks utterly implausible, and also not fun. If you’re going to defy all belief, I need jokes.
E: Quirky comedy about two Hollywood wannabes who have ten days to write the screenplay that will save their lives. When they seek peace and quiet out in the country, wackiness ensues instead in the form of Marisa Tomei and Sam Rockwell.
M: Not in the form of Kim Jong Un? That would be funnier.
C: Nope, I’m pretty sure Tomei and Rockwell are funnier. Though I’m not sure how they “ensue.”
M: I didn’t see a lot of ensuing in the trailer. Or a lot of funnier.
E: Someone took the classic children’s book, chewed it up, and vomited it onto the screen. Where are the words for this movie? Vile. Appalling. Astoundingly misguided and bad. That’s what I thought every single time I took my kids to a movie in the last six months and got assaulted by this hideous preview.
C: It’s like they put the story through some sort of experimental de-charming process.
E: The bathtub careening down the stairs. The earwax on the toothbrushes. Hugh Bonneville looking like a bumbling fool. Everything. It’s just awful.
M: Okay, I have not seen a single preview for this, so I don’t have the same reaction as you, E. The only thing I’ve seen for it doesn’t really count: it was Nicole Kidman’s appearance on the Tonight Show, supposedly to promote this. She ended up not promoting it, however, when she and Jimmy Fallon recounted a previous encounter in 2005 when a mutual friend brought her to his apartment for them to meet. They were both single at the time, and she liked him, but he had no clue that’s what was going on until this interview. His reaction was PRICELESS.
E: Back me up, C.
C: I’ll back M up. It was priceless. But yes, I’ll also back you up: this movie looks less appealing than a bowl of cheese sauce left out on the back porch overnight in mosquito territory.
M: Mmmmmm… cheese sauce.
C: For our SANE readers, if you’re thinking right now about whether mosquitoes would land in a bowl of cheese sauce, you’ve already done more thinking than these screenwriters seem to have done.
E: So, to sum up, let’s all watch that interview clip on Youtube and not this movie.
E: Comedian George Lopez stars as a down-on-his-luck substitute teacher who inspires his inner city kids to enter a national robotics competition using only — you guessed it — spare parts. Like tampons. Marisa Tomei plays a fellow teacher, and Jamie Lee Curtis their beleaguered principal.
C: Tomei again! Good month for her. Haven’t seen her in a while. Or JLC for that matter. (Though I think they’ve been in things I just haven’t seen.)
M: Agreed about Tomei and Curtis. Also good, this doesn’t sound like something I’ve seen a hundred times. Oh wait, yes it does.
C: Actually, I’m interested. I often like this kind of movie, but what makes this great is that it’s a true story, and a pretty dang impressive one. A team of Mexican immigrant students with a budget of $800 beats M.I.T. in a national competition? I don’t think there’s a cap on the number of stories like that I want to hear!
M: That’s fair.
E: Unusual, well-reviewed contemporary British romance starring Bleak House‘s Eddie Marsan and Downton Abbey‘s Joanne Froggatt.
C: Hm. I can’t picture Marsan doing romance.
M: I didn’t think that the British did “contemporary.”
C: What’s Doctor Who, then?
M: Sci fi. Duh.
E: I don’t mean this in a mean way, because I love Anna and Bates, but Froggatt is young and gorgeous. At some point, are casting agents going to pair her with a man in her own age- and looks-range?
M: Like Liam Neeson?
E: Right. What was I thinking?
C: Bruce Willis still starring in action movies? Where’s his letter from Russell Crowe?
M: To quote a local Boston radio legend, “You’re making… my point.” However, in this case, I don’t think that Willis is involved in the action part of the movie.
C: Vice basically stole the idea of Dollhouse, as far as I can tell. Only there’s a resort (run by Willis) where people go to do any disgusting thing they want with lifelike robot people, whose robot memories are wiped every day. But — don’t tell me you guessed this! — the pretty girl robot starts to remember, and then she runs away, and then some bulky guy played by Thomas Jane has to save her.
M: Right, so it takes a little bit of The Purge (let people get things out of their system in one place), and a bit of your run-of-the-mill sci fi/futuristic plot (one person or cyborg bucks the system that looks utopian but is actually dystopian). Oddly enough, this is the kind of plot that is in my wheelhouse. So much so that I’m a sucker for it. Heck, I even watch and kind of enjoy crappy movies like In Time. I feel like this will be like that, I’ll end up seeing it on video or cable at some point, think it’s not very good, but enjoy it.
E: I’m not sure what this has in common with In Time other than being lame sci fi, but okay.
M: It’s the “one person fights the supposedly utopian system” aspect. I can see how you’d miss that, though.
C: First of all, that name, seriously. It would be a clever play on words if there weren’t a movie called The Wedding Singer. I hope people will just watch that instead of this.
E: It’s Kevin Hart again, starring as a man who hires himself out as the best man guaranteed to give an amazing toast and be the life of your wedding even if no one actually knows him.
C: Oh, right, because none of your closest friends and relatives would think it odd that they’ve never met your best man before.
M: Seems like a combo of Hitch and Wedding Crashers, but without the promise of either, and, unfortunately, with Kevin Hart. Dude needs to slow down a bit, I think.
E: Imagine if a devotee of Wes Anderson, James Bond and Austin Powers made a spy comedy thriller about a missing Goya painting and the quirky aristocrat — a blond, mustachioed Johnny Depp — sent to retrieve it.
C: From your description that sounds like something I might like, only I feel like this looks awful instead.
E: Ewan McGregor plays Depp’s boss, Gwyneth Paltrow his darling wife, Paul Bettany his manservant/muscle, and Olivia Munn an American femme fatale. You might hate me for saying it, but it doesn’t seem as dreadful as most Johnny Depp films of late.
M: I don’t. I saw the trailer, and half of me thinks that it could be abysmal, but the other half wonders if it could be a modern day Pink Panther. I hope for the latter, but not very confidently.
E: Well, that’s it exactly. It’s probably drivel, but it just might be genius.
C: Is it weird that the “t” in the name really bothers me? I know, I know, it’s weird.
E: Is it weird that it bothers me too?
M: No, because they make a conscious effort to pronounce it, which just makes it sound wrong. I think that’s supposed to be part of the wacky charm of it, but instead it’s part of why I can’t figure out if it’s going to suck.
E: It’s a Lifetime movie for the big screen! What’s a hot high school teacher to do when she’s trapped in a loveless marriage to a philandering John Corbet? If you’re Jennifer Lopez, you turn to the super hot and perfect-seeming teenage boy next door, who’s guaranteed to give you hot sex, and, eventually, violently stalk you and your family and ruin your life.
M: Could this be any more of a retread?
C: Well, I guess it’s often gender-swapped, but otherwise no.
M: Um, no it’s not. It’s always the female teacher, which for some reason is considered far less creepy. When it’s the other way around it’s just a hit song by The Police.
E: They did make those movies, but you’re right, we do see more of the female teacher ones these days.
C: I meant that the affair-gone-sour-turns-to-violent-stalking part is usually gender-swapped.
E: Costarring Kristin Chenoweth as the best friend and Pretty Little Liars‘ Ryan Guzman. I expect that if this is in your wheelhouse, then it’ll do just what you want it to.
E: Jennifer Aniston makes a play for an Oscar nomination, and if the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild are to be believed, she just might get there. At some point this film did officially premiere back in 2014 — so quietly we didn’t even hear about it and we keep our ears pretty low to the ground, as it were — but generally opens today.
E: At any rate, Aniston eschews make-up–
C: Well then give her an Oscar, duh.
E: –to play a pill-popping mess who stalks the bereaved husband of a friend from support group after the friend (Anna Kendrick) kills herself. Kendrick makes plenty of appearances talking to Aniston, so there’s real quirk, but the story centers around grief, depression and misery.
M: The holy trinity for a blockbuster film!
C: You mean an Oscar favorite.
E: The movie itself doesn’t seem to have drawn the same level of love from critics that Aniston’s performance has. Odd, considering the presence of Kendrick, Sam Worthington as the husband, Felicity Huffman as the support group leader as well as William H. Macy, Mamie Gummer, and Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza.
M: Maybe it’s the grief, depression and misery? Wait, no, critics love those things.
E: The worst thing about this movie — which is sadly not the fact that I may have to see it — is the way critics boringly insist on using the title to inspire their reviews. Sour center! Crumbling! It’s sweet! There’s nothing sweet about it! I hope it’s not the last slice of Aniston’s new found acting prowess! UGH.
M: Really, that’s the worst thing? Do I need to bring the above three words back up again?
C: I’m with E here. Movie critics, put the puns down and slowly back away.
M: So you both thing that bad puns referencing the title are worse than a woman who’s a “pill-popping mess,” grief, depression or misery? See what I’m up against here, folks?
E: Creepfest — predictably written by Philip Roth — about a decrepit aging actor (Al Pacino) attempting to revive his career and also embarking on a strange affair with the lovestruck daughter (Greta Gerwig) of friends (Diane Wiest and Dan Hedaya). Who’s actually a lesbian. Just gross, self-serving, indulgent twaddle.
M: Who’s Philip Roth?
E: Famous American writer of such navel-gazing twaddle as Portnoy’s Complaint, The Human Stain and Goodbye, Columbus. All whiny “why don’t all hot women want to sleep with me all the time/the world revolves around my private parts” idiocy.
C: Basically the poster boy of liberal intellectual misogyny.
M: Explains why I don’t know him. Thanks.
E: Loving someone won’t save them, a nurse explains to a mother checking her son out of a hospital. Skeptics will be proven wrong, the gum-snapping mother replies. And so begins an adventure in which an unconventional woman tries to care for her intermittently violent son with the help of a neighbor (a teacher on leave). This film won the grand jury prize at Cannes and raves (including a long shot at Oscar) for star Annie Dorval.
C: Interesting. Sounds more poignant or potential controversial than “adventuresome,” but could be intriguing.
M: Remember the comments at the start of this post about having things I want to see from previous months? This will not top those.
E: No, me neither. Granted, I think you could make an amazing movie about the troubles of living with a disabled or mentally ill child.
M: Totally agree.
E: It’s a subject that could be addressed a lot more. From the preview, however, I feel like they’re trying to make the struggle cutesy, somehow, which loses my interest.
E: Well-reviewed documentary about the Soviet national hockey team.
M: Remember my comment on Mommy?
E: I’d sort of think this might be something you’d watch, though. I mean, it seems interesting enough to me; I wouldn’t see it in a theater, but I’d watch it on cable.
M: Yes, well, my comment on Mommy was that it wasn’t going to jump ahead of the things I already wanted to see in the theater. Netflix is a different thing entirely. For both of these, actually.
C: I feel like, with Netflix, we live in an age where documentaries finally reach a large enough audience that the people who would be interested in their niche subject matter might actually get to see them. Which is nice.
M: I will say, when looking for the trailer, I had a hard time finding it. Mostly American Sniper trailers came up, and one version of this in spanish. Not necessarily the best sign for Netflix availability.
E: Oh, weird. The one I saw was definitely not in Spanish.
E: After hearing that her younger brother lies in a coma, Franny (Anne Hathaway) flies home and — with the help of his journal — begins to record sounds that might tempt her brother back to the world. One of her most significant finds is his favorite singer, played by Johnny Flynn, who to Franny’s surprise begins to show up a the hospital to play for Henry. Romance ensues.
C: Oh, my boyfriend’s a big Johnny Flynn fan, so he told me this was being made a while back; it slipped my mind. It sounds good — and I mean that literally, with Flynn’s nice soft voice and music written by Jenny Lewis and her boyfriend Johnathan Rice. Plus Anne Hathaway is likeable.
M: A little bit of a twist on While You Were Sleeping? If there’s a realistic, fun, quirky family and maybe a Cesar Romero reference or two, it could work.
E: The secret to making a successful romantic comedy: more Cesar Romero.
C: I don’t think this one’s a comedy, really. But “the more like While You Were Sleeping the better” is a good rule for any movie.
E: Well made but derivative-looking animated fantasy involving tiny people, fairies, monsters, a magical potion, classic rock of the 70s, and heaven knows what else.
M: Huh, I thought you’d be all over this one, E. In addition to it being co-written by George Lucas, and having pretty great looking animation, the voice cast is pretty spectacular.
E: I can see why you’d think that (I do love all things little), but the animation doesn’t actually look that appealing to me. And don’t hate me, but after the prequel trilogy I’m pretty skeptical about my old hero George Lucas. Still, I’m always happy to see more good movies, and more good kids movies especially.
M: As you know, I have long ago soured on Lucas, too.
M: Back Street Boys: Please don’t.
C: Everyone’s favorite genre the movie-about-a-real-band meets another favorite genre, movies-about-people-we-forgot. Get your tickets early.
E: Kevin Costner’s been helping wife Jennifer Ehle raise their biracial granddaughter Eloise (Jillian Estell) right up until Ehle’s death. Now he’s forced to let her other grandmother, Wiwi, further into his manicured life. Of course Wiwi — played by the luminous Octavia Spencer — brings charm and a whole lot of messy life along with her. Also costars Anthony Mackie and Paula Newsome.
M: Don’t forget that Costner appears to be a drunkard, and the whole thing ends up in court. Looks like it could be a cross between St Vincent and Evelyn, not that I think it’ll be anywhere near as good as the latter. I’ll probably just watch that instead.
E: And kind of a racist, too. But they all love Eloise! And Wiwi’s going to teach him how to have fun!
C: So clever they’re being with the title, too. By the way, the fourth movie of the month with the word “black” in the title.
E: Five guys (including James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, and Karl Urban) share a penthouse apartment, not to actually live in but as a sort of safe house where they can indulge in dark and risky behavior. Will it surprise you that a woman’s murdered body ends up chained to the bed?
M: Shocker! And wait, did we actually post about this one months ago, or did we discuss it and figure out that it wasn’t releasing until later?
C: We definitely already wrote about this months ago. I remember saying it sounded like a gross(er?) version of The Apartment.
M: Thought so. That should tell our readers what the expectations for this film are. Pushed out by its distributor into the movie graveyard of January. Not. Good.
E: I think you can say this about the plot, too. Not. Good.
M: Everyone who disagrees raise your hand.
E: I don’t see any hands.
C: Well, that’s all, folks. Did you find anything you’re planning to go see? If so, let us know below!