October 2015 Movie Preview: Happy Days Are Here Again

E: I don’t want to sound too dewy eyed, but thank heaven for October. And not just any October, but this beautiful, Oscar contender-filled October.

M: So, it’s not just a bunch of horror flicks this year? Woo-hoo!

E: No, it’s totally not.

M: And as an FYI to our readers, C was unable to participate this month, and because of me ending up on a jury and crazy government regulations (sorry, I know that’s redundant) making work crazy, we’re not digging as deep into the limited releases as we usually do this month. Our apologies!

Week 1 – The Martian, Legend, He Named Me Malala, Freeheld

Week 2 – Pan, Steve Jobs, Big Stone Gap

Week 3 – Bridge of Spies, Crimson Peak, Goosebumps

Week 4 – Burnt, Jem and the Hollograms, The Last Witch Hunter, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost, Rock the Kazbah

Week 5 – Our Brand is Crisis, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

October 2

The Martian (wide)

E: Boom, right out of the gate, October smacks me with one of the movies I’m most excited about for this entire year. After The Force Awakes, this leads the pack for late year releases, and yeah, that includes all of the Oscar fare (some of which is very exciting too) and Mockingjay Part 2.

M: This is on my list of books to read that I haven’t had time for yet. Because of that, and because I’m not likely to see it in the theater, I’ve been avoiding commercials and trailers, hoping to read it before it comes out on video. I did catch one commercial that gave away the basic plot, though, so I’ll take part in the convo here.

E: Well, it’s your basic story of a botanist left behind on Mars filled the most ingenious (and apparently accurate) science derring-do since McGyver; after his NASA crew mates accidentally strand him on the red planet, Mark Watney has to figure out a way to stay alive in an alien environment, a temporary shelter, to communicate with Earth, and to hitch a ride home. I’m not sure that I can adequately express what a smart, thrilling, edge of your seat read this was; you need to run out and buy this book today, bro, and anyone else who’s reading this should too. Assuming you like smart and funny protagonists and amazing adventures, that is.

M: I love the line in the one commercial I did see, where he says “Well, I am the best botanist on the planet.”

E: That’s his character in a nutshell; self-deprecating, witty and cocky. It’s a major part of what makes the book so great, and obviously it’s carried through. They would have to fall down big time to make this movie anything short of fantastic, and nothing in the trailer leads me to think they have.

M: Good to hear!

E: Three comments about the adaptation. First, Matt Damon is brilliant casting; you believe that he’s smart and resourceful, and he also has the charm to carry off being alone on screen talking to himself for much of the film. I expect this will be one of the best things he’s ever done. He’s definitely on the long list for an Oscar nod.

M: I don’t know, it’s his second major “stranded alone on a planet” role in two years. I hope he doesn’t get type-cast. 😉

E: Would you call his turn in Interstellar a “major” role? I wouldn’t.

M: Ok, I was thinking more that they were both major movies.

E: Ah, I see your point.  Either way, it certainly is two planetary loners right in a row, which is potentially unprecedented. Next, the commercials are fond of implying that Mark has a wife and baby to get home to. In the book, he doesn’t. I’ll be curious to see if this has changed, or if the commercials are using footage of one of Mark’s former crewmates’ wife and child (who are discussed in the book) and cutting the clips together to give audiences who haven’t read the book the wrong impression.

M: It wouldn’t be unlike Hollywood to try to amp up the stakes by changing the character’s family situation like that. Of course, it also wouldn’t be unlike Hollywood to splice a trailer to take things out of context and give you false impressions.

E: Right, which is why I’m sort of curious about it. Finally, back to casting with a less complimentary tone. If you’ve read our television previews from last week, you know that here at Relatively Entertaining, we appreciate casting that actually looks like America. Which is why I’m specifically wondering why all the Asian characters in this book were either written out (one subplot involving the Chinese space agency may have been very reasonably omitted for time) or turned either white or black. I’m not sorry to see Chiwetel Ejiofor in the movie, he’s a great actor, but they couldn’t find someone Indian to play Vincent Kapoor?

M: Apparently Ben Kingsley wasn’t available.

E: Snort. It’s not dampening my desire to see the movie; I just see it as a missed opportunity to get some unrepresented minority actors some screen time by not whitewashing their races.

Legend (wide)

E: 1960s London. Meet the legendary Kray brothers: Reggie, the gangster prince of the East End, suave and polished, James Bond’s criminal equivalent, and Ronnie, a paranoid and violent schizophrenic.

M: Must be a Brit legend, I’ve never heard of ’em.

E: And I think a very local, London-club scene centered one. The twist? Both Reg and Ron are played by Tom Hardy.  He’s up for a challenge, that one.

M: It’s always hit or miss with one actor playing twins. Sometimes it works, like Armie Hammer as the Winklevi in The Social Network. Sometimes it’s a disaster, like Van Damme in Double Dragon. I tend to like Hardy, and think he’s probably up for it. Problem is, much like his Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, the voice he’s doing for Reggie is really hard to understand, at least in the trailer.

E: It totally is, you’re right.  I found the trailer a little mealy-mouthed in general.

M: Totally.

E: And for the record, I don’t think Van Damme even counts as an example; his terribleness is not related to the number of characters he’s playing.

M: He was a huge star at the time, though, so I’m taking it as a contrast to his other films. But I definitely get your point, he’s no Tom Hardy, that’s for sure.

E: Now, American gangster Chaz Palmenteri…

M: …does he ever play anything else?

E: …wants their help to turn London into the Las Vegas of Europe, Reggie as front of house and Ronnie as behind the scenes muscle. (And yes, it’d be nice to see Palmenteri stretch his acting muscles for once.)  But when Ronnie gets out of hand — as of course he would — the mob turns to Reggie to take care of things. Which obviously, he’s not going to do. Ah, the life of a criminal.

M: Last month (which feels like a week ago, for the record) we discussed Black Mass, which is a very different kind of mob movie. This one looks far more sensationalized, and more fun, and, well, less interesting.

E: Or they both look totally uninteresting.  Take your pick.

M: Fair enough. Quick marketing note… I noticed in commercials that Black Mass got a subtitle (The Story of Whitey Bulger) AFTER it opened. Guess they did a crappy job marketing it before it opened, and felt like adding that would drum up at least a little more business. I’m betting it didn’t work.

He Named Me Malala (limited)

E: I’m not really sure why the title of the movie differs from the title of the bestseller (I Am Malala) but whatever. I’m very excited about this documentary.

M: Before watching the trailer, I was confused by that, too. I think, however, that the reason is because this is NOT the book, it’s a documentary that will probably include much of what is in the book, but will include much that comes after the book as well, and will not be tied to it’s structure.

E: Right.  And there is some discussion about the fact that while her father gave her the name of a local murdered activist, she had to choose to accept that mantle; lots of credit to her folks, but also taking responsibility for who she’s made herself. I’m an ordinary girl, the 17 year old Nobel laureate says, but if I had ordinary parents, I would have two children by now.

M: My eldest “ordinary girl” daughter has read the book for school, and I am so glad she has. I haven’t yet, but from what I know of the story it’s similar to me to Unbroken, where it makes you wonder what is wrong with people, seeing the absolute worst that humanity has to offer, and then inspires you, showing you the indomitable power of the human spirit.

E: Yes. “I am those 66 million girls who are deprived of an education. I am not a lone voice: I am many. And our voices are our most powerful weapons. One child. One teacher. One book. And one pen. They can change the world.” Seriously, it makes me cry just transcribing that.

M: The wrong movie opening this weekend is named Legend.

E: It really puts our First World complaints in perspective.

Freeheld (limited)

E: Based on the true story of new Jersey policewoman  Laurel Hester (last year’s Oscar winner, Julianne Moore), who after being diagnosed with terminal cancer fought to have her domestic partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) inherit her pension despite the practices of the day. The movie chronicles Laurel and Stacie’s relationship (yes, the age gap is accurate), Laurel’s sickness, and their legal fight. It’s honestly kind of shocking to remember this only happened 10 years ago. We’ve come a long way.

M: Is it me, or does the way the movie was filmed and costumed make it look like it happened much longer ago? It looks to me like it’s set in the 80’s or even 70’s.

E: Yes, and I find that a little confusing. Why does Hester have Farah Fawcett hair? Even if it’s accurate, it’s not smart.

M: The only thing I can think is that they want to make the attitudes seem more outdated, but even that’s a stretch.

E: Moore gets prickly when festival going journalists call the movie a “gay” movie; for Laurel, the issue wasn’t sexuality, but upholding the law and applying it equally. Page, a producer on the film, perhaps less so.

M: Well, Moore’s statements mirror my opinion. Constitutionally, the only question is if they actually had an official partnership. And by that, I mean partner as opposed to boyfriend/girlfriend, regardless of sexuality.

E: Yes, an official registered domestic partnership.  As usual, Moore’s been on firmly place on everybody’s Oscar prediction list…

M: …She’s becoming the new Meryl Streep.

E: Well, she gets Oscar buzz for most of her roles, but has far fewer nominations than most people think. However, festival buzz hasn’t been that terrific; word is that the writing doesn’t live up to the noble intentions. Still, I like the look of activist Steve Carrell and Michael Shannon as Laurel’s partner, an ally to Laurel rather than an enthusiastic proponent of the large cause of gay rights, and I won’t be sorry to have to see if for it’s Oscar prospects.

M: I agree on Shannon, but Carrell looks like he’s overacting in the one scene I’ve seen him in.

E: Okay, maybe I should say that I like the fact of Carrell’s presence. He might be part of what the critique is, playing that odd stereotype of a gay man who loves to make straight men uncomfortable by flirting with them.  And again, maybe the actual man is like that, but you have to find a way to do it that doesn’t feel reductive.  And — woohoo — The Good Wife‘s Josh Charles as a lawyer for the county, so that’s another boost. And yes, I do realize that every time I see him in another movie or show, it’s because he quit my favorite one and left a miserable gaping hole in it. Thanks for reminding me.

October 9

Pan (wide)

E: Acclaimed British director Joe Wright defies expectation again with another very unusual take on a famous literary property. Known for his adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and the stage-like film version Anna Karenina, Wright’s bringing us this time an origin story, a sort of prequel to the classic novel Peter Pan.

M: I’m not sure you need the “sort of”.

E: I guess I don’t want to imply that J.M. Barry wrote it?

M: I understand that, I guess, but that doesn’t make it any less of a prequel.

E: Yeah, probably an unnecessary hesitation.  Find out how Peter became Pan, and how James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) went from being his friend and ally against the pirate Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman) to his mortal enemy.

M: So, I saw commercials for this and realized I don’t really know how Peter Pan became Peter Pan. I know the classic Disney movie, and the children’s books around it, but I don’t know much outside that. Even Finding Neverland didn’t go into that at all.

E: No one does!  Not everything comes with a prequel; most classic stories don’t. But sure, it’s curious idea; our inner fan fiction writers are celebrating.

M: I also totally didn’t recognize Jackman!

E: He doesn’t look like himself, I agree. Mostly noted for its gorgeous visuals, the movie has drummed up some discontent by casting Rooney Mara as Indian (Native American) princess Tiger Lily.

M: So above in The Martian we have an Indian being offensively cast as a black man, and here we have a Native Person (as the Wampanoags at Plimouth Plantation will tell you, they were here before America) offensively-referred to as an “Indian” and offensively white-washed. Yay Hollywood!

E: Keepin’ it classy!

Steve Jobs (limited)

M: This is a limited run? Then why am I seeing commercials for it in every commercial break of everything I watch?

E: It’s only limited to start with; it opens big on the 23rd.

M: Ah. Got it.

E: So, okay. Danny Boyle, director who brought us violent drug trip Trainspotting and edgy feelgood Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, continues to baffle with his genre spanning project choices. This is the second of two 2015 biopics of the Apple founder, and looks to be far less sympathetic.

M: Two? It feels like there’ve been about 12 at this point. Or do you mean two incredibly recent ones?

E: The one with Ashton Kutcher came out earlier this year, Jobs, and who looks at the guy from That 70s Show and immediately hates him?Michael Fassbender, on the other hand, immediately brings a level of both fascination and repulsion with him; I knew Jobs was famously hard to work for — so much so that he got fired from his own company — but wow.  I wouldn’t call him a tormented genius so much as a tormenting genius.

M: The problem for me? Watching the previews for it I feel like I’m watching Michael Fassbender, not Steve Jobs. There are moments in the trailers where they make him look like Jobs, and you kind of forget it’s Fassbender, but most of the time? Not so much. It’s distracting. Bad job (pun intended) Danny Boyle.

E: I get that, but I’m not sure I agree; I’ll have to see the movie to tell, and I will be seeing the movie, because Fassbender has oodles of Oscar buzz. Kate Winslet, almost unrecognizable as colleague Joanna Hoffman, has plenty of Oscar buzz herself; really the debate with her is whether it’s far for her to be campaigned as a supporting character (where she might have a better shot at capturing a nomination) or if she belongs in lead.

M: First you wanted me to believe that Julianne Moore had Oscar buzz. Now Kate Winslet? How gullible do you think I am?

E: Very.

M: Fair enough.

E: Even Seth Rogen’s probably shooting to follow Jonah Hill’s path to a supporting nomination in his role as less media savvy co-founder Steve Wozniak. And then there’s Jeff Daniels as the money man and voice of popular discontent.

M: Overall, it seems like it wants to be The Social Network, but about Apple. Even the score in the trailers is similar. Right now, based on what I’ve seen, and based on how many Jobs biopics or Jobs-included movies have been made, I just don’t see a new, compelling narrative.

Big Stone Gap (limited)

E: This Ashley Judd vehicle is billed as a romantic comedy, but after watching the trailer, I’m starting to feel like that’s an insult and a complete misunderstanding of the film.  It purports to tell the story (set in 1978) of 40 year old spinster Ava Maria Mulligan (Judd), who works on literacy in her town, and might be interested in Patrick Wilson, but also might want to travel the world, too.

M: Yeah, based on the trailer I see a lot of people concerned with romance, but not a lot of romance. Or comedy. Well, except Whoopie Goldberg, she has some funny lines.

E: This colorful little town overflows with eccentric characters.  Do the people who write these movies ever go to small towns?  Why do they all think the percentage of eccentrics goes up as the population shrinks? Because in small towns we’re as boring and interesting as everywhere else.  You’re not likely to get one town with Whoopie Goldberg as Ava’s sassy shopkeeper best friend Fleeta, desperate  to pair her buddy off, and Jane Krakowski as someone named Sweet Sue, and Jenna Elfman as Wilson’s other love interest, Ida Lou.

M: Well, hopefully there’s only one Krakowski, she’s annoying enough all by her lonesome.

E: The cast is rounded out with John Benjamin Hickey, Anthony LaPaglia, Chris Sarandon, Jasmine Guy and Judith Ivey, all of which makes me wonder if this movie might be a little better than it looks.  I mean, I like the idea of a woman who lives her life her own way without that meaning she’s a either superhero soldier or defined solely by booze and sex.

M: I like that too, but I have a few concerns. First, I didn’t see a sign of either LaPaglia or Prince Humperdink in the trailer, which isn’t good. Second, this was a festival film… last November. Any movie with big name actors headline that sits in a can for 11 months has something wrong with it.

E: Yes, that’s not a good sign at all.  Also, sample dialogue (I’ll spare you the naughty comparison to an appliance).  Ava: “I like being the town spinster.  It has cache.” Fleeta: “Well you can’t hug cache.”

M: That wasn’t as good as Fleeta’s “I don’t know why you honkin’ the horn. I’m standin’ out here black as night, I know you can see me.”

October 16

Bridge of Spies (wide)

E: It doesn’t get much more high profile than a Steven Spielberg historical flick (based on a true story!) starring Tom Hanks.

M: Maybe in 1995.

E: Ouch! Okay, fine, perhaps those two aren’t quite at their fame zenith, but they still command mad respect. At least from me and people older than me, right?

M: Honestly, it’s Hanks who has lost more “cache” (to quote Big Stone Gap). Speilberg’s getting mentions in pop songs.

E: Fair enough, though I think they both just work a lot less.  Speilberg’s tackling a time period a little off his usual, though: the Cold War.

M: I’m not sure that matters, he does current, period and future all pretty freakin’ well. Anyway…

E: Tom Hanks plays an insurance lawyer who’s taken the unpopular job of defending a Soviet spy who couldn’t sway anyone else to be his champion. Then an American pilot gets shot down, the Soviets want to swap the two, and somehow (this seems very dodgy) he gets saddled with negotiating the exchange. “We need to have the conversation our government can’t,” he says, handing a highball glass to his opposite number in East Berlin.

M: Yeah, this is one of those that makes you wonder if it’s the “you wouldn’t believe it if it weren’t true” type of story, or the “based REALLY FREAKING LOOSELY on a true story” kind.

E: I will say, it looks a touch old fashioned.  Hanks’s character loves lowering his chin and giving us significant stares after making serious pronouncements. But. I do really want to like this, and the fact that the Coen brothers wrote the script gives me hope. I hope it’s a killer of a thriller.

M: I agree, and will not make the same 1995 joke about the Coen’s, even though I could.

E: Thanks for refraining, because you totally could. Costars Alan Alda, Mark Rylance and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan (Gone, Baby, Gone) as Hanks’ aged-up wife, a curiously star-lite cast.

Crimson Peak (wide)

E: Ready for an artsy horror flick?

M: No. But really, does it matter if I am?

E: Not a bit. Either way, Guillermo del Toro’s latest will arrive in theaters, a gorgeously atmospheric haunted house story set in Victorian times in a crumbling, ornate mansion.  Smooth Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) woos Edith Cushing (Mia Wasichowka), a girl who’s seen ghosts since her childhood. It looks a bit like he steals her from another suitor, Sons of Anarchy‘s Charlie Hunnan, actually. Oh, Edith. Never pick the dashing stranger over the sweet boy next door.

M: Especially when the dashing stranger lives in a super creepy haunted house. And most especially in a horror movie.

E: Just as bad in a Victorian novel, actually. The married pair return to Sharpe’s manor house, Allendale, with his charming and sinister sister Lady Lucille (a brunette Jessica Chastain), where the starry eyed bride learns there are places in her new home where she cannot go.

M: So, wait, Crimson Peak isn’t the name of the house?

E: No, which confuses me too. Maybe it’s the original name? It’s certainly covered with enough pointy ornaments to earn the name. And, actually, there do appear to be great vats of blood in the basement. Because the house itself bleeds.

M: Don’t forget what looks like blood-red snowy ground, where the footprints are the only things that are white.

E: I’d be tempted to see this beautifully gothic nightmare if there wasn’t so much else going on this month that I know I’ll need to see for the Oscars. If you like ghost stories that give you chills rather than gore, this one looks pretty great.

M: Really? This doesn’t look up your alley at all. I know I’m going to pass.

Goosebumps (wide)

E: None of my kids have been into the books or the television series Goosebumps.

M: Mine either, actually.

E: I think none of our kids are the right age? Or maybe they just don’t like being scared. I wonder where they get that? However, even without that draw, I think this movie looks pretty darn fun. Instead of adapting a single book from this series, they’ve Jumanji-ed the idea of them all.

M: Maybe it’s because I have kids (though I don’t think so), but I have to agree. If you give me a choice between a movie like Crimson Tide… er, Peak and this, I’ll watch this on Halloween night every time.

E: Yeah, me too. The idea of it is that the author of the Goosebumps series of books, R.L. Stine (Jack Black), has a basement full of locked books, which each contain the monster talked about in the corresponding novel. His new neighbor Zach Cooper (Dylan Minette) makes eyes at Stine’s daughter Hannah (Odeya Rush), and then accidentally free the monsters; the teens have to stop them from running rampant over the town. Although, let’s be honest. They’re going to stop them only AFTER they’ve run rampant over the town.

M: Agreed. Watching the trailer I thought “I know how this is going to end, but I’m actually interested in seeing how it gets there.” Plus, I liked Minette a lot on the short-live Jason Isaacs show Awake, so I’m rooting for him.

E: Me too!  I’ll be curious to see the reviews, but it just feel exuberant and entertaining.  And it’s nice to have family options out there.

October 23

Burnt (wide)

E: “Adam Jones,” Uma Thurman says to start the preview I saw for this, “one hoped you were dead.”

M: Which is almost as cheery as Daniel Bruhl’s “I know at least 10 people who will try to kill you.” Are we sure this a movie about a chef?

E: It does seem extreme, yes. The story of chef Jones (Bradley Cooper) and his post-breakdown quest for redemption and desire to create the best restaurant in the world (no pressure or anything) boasts rather an impressive slate of international costars: Thurman, Emma Thompson, this year’s It Girl Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, Testament of Youth, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Oscar vehicle The Danish Girl), Matthew Rhys, Lily James, Sienna Miller and Bruhl.

M: Joking aside, it looks intense, and like another awards opportunity for Cooper. I won’t see it in the theater, but I’m definitely interested to see it at some point. After The Martian, this might be the best movie that comes out this month.

Jem and the Hollograms (wide)

E: I was pretty excited when I heard that they were making a live action movie out of the beloved 80s/90s cartoon about an all girl rock band. The trailer? Not loving that so much.

M: Yeah, I more remember there was a cartoon than remember it specifically, but was interested. Like you the trailer turned me off.

E: Nashville’s Aubrey Peeples stars as Jericha, living with her sister, Aunt Bailey (Molly Ringwald), and her aunt’s foster daughters. She becomes an internet sensation and then has to decide between ditching her foster sisters/bandmates for solo stardom, as evil record company exec Juliette Lewis wants, or stay true to herself.

M: The take-away, again, from every major Hollywood studio? That every major company that’s not a Hollywood studio is evil and will exploit you and steal your soul. All the movie companies, though, they totally let you be who you are.

E: Bah.  Peeples can definitely sing, but she uses her flattest, most emotionless voice for the voice overs where she tells us the moral of the story (as if we hadn’t already been smashed over the head with it).

M: I think they did that to try to make her singing voice sound like such a contrast that you’ll be totally blown away.

E: I’m not entirely sure whom this movie is made for; the media-savvy adults who loved the show as a child, or children who’s never seen the VH1 Behind the Music cliches of the trailer.

M: My guess is they weren’t sure, or that the studio tampered, which is why it looks like a muddled mess that misses any audience.

The Last Witch Hunter (wide)

E: Now this is exactly the movie that you expect to come out a week before Halloween. Vin Diesel, kissing women as fiercely as he battles witches as an undying warrior of the Axe and Cross, engaged in a centuries (or, who knows, millenia) old battle between the human world and the supernatural one.

M: Remember the Jeff Bridges movie Seventh Son that came out last year? This looks an awful lot like that to me. Not in specifics, but in overall tone, style, and in how bad it’s going to be.

E: One thing is certain: if you have enough money, you can get Michael Caine to act in anything.

M: Another thing’s for sure. Caine’s about as believable playing a priest as Will Ferrell was playing a professional athlete.

E: Elijah Wood also costars as Diesel’s new priest apprentice/sidekick and Rose Leslie as a dreamwalker love interest.

M: Where she gets to utter one of the most cliche lines ever, “If you die in there, you die out here.” Never would have guessed that one, thank you so much random Hollywood script generator!

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (wide)

M: Remember what you just said?

E: What, about The Last Witch Hunter being exactly the movie you expect to come out the week before Halloween?

M: Yes. Care to reconsider that statement?

E: Maybe. It’s certainly one of the movies – an overblown, almost goofily serious adventure – while this is straight up low rent, hand held-camera horror from the masters of that genre. No stars, all jumpy freak out haunted house stuff.

M: Which is why they keep making them. I think it costs more to get the copies of it out to theaters than it does to produce the movie. Almost every dollar it makes is profit.

E: I actually like the bit about the videotaped children talking to the new owners of their house across time; it’s stolen straight out of Doctor Who, but it’s fun.  The possessed daughter’s less original – but anyway, I feel like if you like scary movies, and you’re not looking for fountains of blood,  this would be a really good source for shivers and chills.

M: I feel like I felt trying to preview 60 Minutes in our TV previews. By now you know if you like these or not, and you what you’re going to get, there’s nothing else for me to say.

E: One thing I don’t get, though.  Go stay at hotel, people!  Sell the house!  I mean, seriously.  Ridiculous.

M: Are you seriously still talking about this? Let’s get a move on, sis.

Rock the Kazbah (wide)

E: Guess what? It’s a straight up comedy! Not a lot of these going on this month, let alone this weekend. And you know what else? It’s based on a true story. And you know what else? It looks pretty damn good.

M: I love Murray, and this looks to be written to his strengths.

E: He stars as Rickie Lanz, a down on his luck talent manager who stumbles into a gig taking rising star Zooey Deschanel to Afghanistan.  When she flees, horrified at being taken into a war zone, he looks for a substitute and after a completely creepy dalliance with hooker/friend Kate Hudson, he finds Salima (Leem Lubany) and, completely overwhelmed by her musical gift, tries to take her from the community that would kill her for singing in public and onto Afghan Star, that country’s version of American Idol/Pop Star.

M: Even if it’s comedy, I think it’s appropriate that this is coming out in the same month as Malala. And even though I like the look of this, it’s also kind of good that this is getting less publicity.

E: Agreed. It’s a pleasant surprise.

M: That aside, The supporting cast looks good in this.

E: Agreed. Local entertainment industry vet Danny McBride…

M: …wouldn’t have listed HIM first…

E: …works with Murray, and Bruce Willis and Scott Caan…

M: …that’s more like it…

E: …costar as the mercenaries who help protect them from getting shot at and blown up.  I don’t know how good they are at their jobs, though, because it looks like Murray spends half the movie with soot on his face from explosions anyway.

October 30

Our Brand Is Crisis (wide)

E: I suspect you’ve already seen commercials for this pseudo-comedic story of a crisis manager (Sandra Bullock, in a part famously written for a man) who helps an embattled South American politician hold on to the presidency of Bolivia.

M: Huh, I didn’t know it was written for a man. I saw “based on real life” or something like that mentioned in the trailers, saw political consultant Bullock looking flirty with a funny-looking, bald, political consultant opponent and assumed it was based on Mary Matalin and James Carville.

E: This is political snark at the very least; I hesitate to call it satire, but it might be verging on that territory.  It looks smart and funny, and the advanced word is very good. Especially considering how hard it is to get a woman the leading role in a movie that Hollywood considers Oscar fare (unlike, say, The Hunger Games or The Fault in Our Stars), Bullock has an excellent shot at picking up her third lead actress nomination.

M: At least there are four movies this month that have a female lead, that’s something.

E: I think that’s seven out of the seventeen we’re looking at this month, actually. So that’s something. Also stars Billy Bob Thornton (of course), Zoe Kazan, Anthony Mackie and the latino Jack Ryan, Joachim de Almeida. Don’t you remember him from Clear and Present Danger?

M: Of course, and I love that we’re continuing to call him that! And I love Anthony Mackie, and am glad he’s getting work. Now it’s time for him to get lead roles.

E: Amen.

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (wide)

E: Because we’re not tired of zombies yet!  Oh no. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

M: To be fair, you didn’t like zombies before they were a craze.

E: No, that’s true, but I wasn’t bored by them then either.

M: Oh yes, a very important distinction.

E: They really didn’t leave themselves much time to take advantage of the monster mania, did they?  I think Hotel Transylvania 2 was smarter, opening in late September and raking in big bank. Um, not that those movies have the same audience…

M: What, you wouldn’t take your kids to see a movie about scouts… and zombies… and strippers?

E: Oh, obviously. When the virus arrives, these three Eagle Scouts (and a cocktail waitress) get a chance to prove they’re bad ass and prepared. “Come on, we’re scouts!  We’re trained for this!” Um, not in any of the meetings my son has gone to.

M: Pretty sure that’s the joke, sis.

E: By the way, I had to work hard to find a trailer that didn’t feature zombie boobs, which ought to give you an idea of the style and level of comedy here.

M: On the bright side the cast does include the fabulous Cloris Leechman. And, by the way (though I have no idea in how large or small a role), Patrick Schwarzenegger. My guess is he’s one of the cool kids throwing the part that the titular scouts aren’t invited to, where I’m also guessing everyone becomes zombies. Ultimately, if you like b-grade zombie comedies… this might still be too bad for you to enjoy. Then again, with zombie cats and dialog like the aforementioned “We’re trained for this!” line, it might be a camp classic.

E: And that’s it for this abbreviated month. We’ll be back in a few weeks to really dig into November, when we should get a bevy of both blockbusters and Oscar contenders!

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