E: It’s November, which means it’s time for an intense burst of smart grown-up movies: blockbusters, certainly, but with more depth than many of the summer popcorn flicks. And Oscar contenders through the roof. Just this first weekend bursts at the seams with amazing films. You could probably sit in the theater all weekend watching new, mostly fantastic looking releases.
M: More importantly, it means we’re only one month away from the opening of The Force Awakens! Not that I’m excited or anything.
C: Oh, not at all.
M: That said, E’s right, the release schedule is really heating up, there is some really good stuff to look out for in November.
C: Like, for instance, the killer cast of Suffragette and the total anguish of the final Hunger Games.
M: I am going to go out on a limb and guess that neither of the two of you are particularly excited for this. Well, I am. Bond, when it’s at its best (which does not include Denise Richards playing a nuclear physicist!) is as good as it gets in the spy genre, and about as good as it gets in action-adventure, too.
C: Excited? Nah. But after reading that Daniel Craig interview at least I have a measure of respect.
M: Overall the Craig Bond movies have been good, if a bit mixed. Replacing Judy Dench as M will be tough, but doing it with Ralph Fiennes was a good move. Naomie Harris makes a good, strong re-imagined Moneypenny. Not sold on Ben Winshaw as Q yet, but Christoph Waltz as the head of an evil organization (the titular Spectre)? Awesome. Sam Mendes did a good job directing Skyfall, so round two for him should theoretically be even better. Did I mention I’m excited?
E: Actually, M, I thought Skyfall was terrific.
M: I am surprised by that, though not shocked. Skyfall was awfully good, and a bit more grounded then a typical Bond movie. Though nothing can compete with Quantum of Solace… for the prize of worst title ever!
E: I generally like the Daniel Craig Bond films. I won’t be checking it out in the theater, I don’t think, but you never know. Mr. E is a fan.
M: Okay, I just read the article you linked above, C, and I like both this movie and Daniel Craig more now. Craig was asked about Bond falling for an “older woman” in this one (Monica Bellucci, who is 4 years older than Craig). He shot down the reporter by saying something to the extent of “by older, you mean someone his own age?” Touche! He also spoke of how if you can get Bellucci you do, regardless of age. Suck on that, Russell Crowe!
C: That made me VERY pleased.
E: Oh yes. (Honestly, there’s a picture in Entertainment Weekly of Belluci, Craig and the other Bond girl, Leah Seydoux, and it looks like a family picture where Seydoux’s the daughter and Craig and Belluci the parents. A really hot family, but still.)
M: Haha, fantastic!
The Peanuts Movie (wide)
M: This totally slipped under my radar until I saw a billboard about two weeks ago.
C: My response when I saw the marketing was less surprise than a feeling of resignation to the inevitable. Just when I think Hollywood has retreaded everything old, they remind me of something else.
E: I feel like I’ve gone through an entire arc about this: first, I was offended by the digital rendering, and then I thought it looked true enough to the spirit of the original. So I don’t know.
M: I think the digital rendering is actually quite good. It seems spot on to the look of the originals, while being crisp and colorful.
E: I’ll let our readers in on a little secret: I don’t actually enjoy the Peanuts as much as I connect them to a nostalgic vision of childhood. Everyone’s so beastly to poor Charlie Brown for no reason. I could never understand, as a kid, why that was considered entertainment.
C: It’s a specific kind of pick-on-the-poor-sap humor that a lot of sitcoms also rely on, but that never did much for me.
M: Yeah, while I love the message of the Christmas special, and Snoopy is always entertaining, especially in his imaginary battles with the Red Baron, I always hated Lucy and several of the other characters for how they treated good ol’ Chuck. This movie looks to be right in the vein of the strip and all the past specials, where the kids all make Charlie feel like he’s worthless, so he has no confidence, but has to do something that requires confidence and gets it done in the end. So there’s that.
E: My own kids don’t have as strong a connection (even if we do generally watch the holiday specials) so they’re not clamoring to see it. Unless it ends up nominated for best animated feature, I probably won’t see seek it out. The early reviews are fantastic, though, so it might end up in the mix.
E: I’m dubious about this movie. No, not because it stars a veritable who’s who of “teen” actors mostly from dubious tween-oriented television shows (Victoria Justice and Avan Jogas from Victorious, Peyton List from Jesse, Eden Sher from The Middle, and Ashley Rickards from Awkward)…
M: I have kids the same age as yours, and older, and I don’t recognize half those shows. I consider that a win.
C: And I’ve never heard of any but The Middle.
E: I’m not even dubious because most of these beautiful people are cast as the nerds and margin-dwellers at a fictional high school, all seeking revenge against queen bee Whitney (Claudia Lee from Hart of Dixie).
M: What movie or show has EVER cast ugly people as the ugly people, though? It’s annoying, but nothing that makes this one stand out.
C: Right, that’s just describing every “outcast” who was ever in a movie.
M: So okay, E, what is it that makes you dubious then?
E: It’s because there’s no trailer. What kind of movie doesn’t have a trailer?
M: The kind that’s even worse than the bad, bad movies that aren’t screened for critics (which, so far, this hasn’t been).
E: All online information suggests that the movie really is opening on this date, but I’m doubtful. Very doubtful.
M: Yeah, I can’t imagine it’ll do well if no one knows it’s even coming out. Maybe it’s been advertising on those shows we don’t watch? Not showing clips from the movie, just the usual Disney Channel crap where they say “Be a good little sheep and check me out in my upcoming movie!”
E: Well, like your family, mine don’t watch those shows, but I don’t think any of them are actually on the Disney channel (since we getting Disney advertising when we watch Star Wars Rebels on Disney XD). Still, I take your point. Bonus points of a sort go for casting Married With Children and The Love Boat‘s Ted McGinley as the high school principal. And M’s old fave Frank Whaley in the role of Herb.
C: Oh, as Herb? He’s playing Herb here? Well then I’ll have to see it, just for that, just for Whaley as Herb.
M: Yeah, and um, I’ve definitely seen him in things here and there, like IQ, but I’m searching through his IMDb page trying to figure out why you’re claiming he’s my “old fave,” and I’ve got nothing. I think you’re confusing either me or him with someone else.
E: Definitely you.
C: This right here? This movie looks FIERCE and it looks AWESOME. You want a good cast? Try this on for size. How about Carey Mulligan, who’s been knocking everyone’s socks off on TV since Bleak House and on screen since An Education. How about Helena Bonham Carter, aka Bellatrix Lestrange, also the brilliant star of costume dramas and every Tim Burton movie. How about British geniuses Romola “basically the best” Garai, Brendan “Mad-Eye” Gleeson, Ben “Tubercular Hotness” Whishaw, Anne-Marie “oh yeah, her!” Duff, and Samuel “in everything” West. Oh, and how about MERYL FREAKING STREEP? Yeah. They’ve got it covered.
E: That they do. Carey Mulligan — who’s great and who, let’s not forget, made her first (less remarkable) appearance as Kitty in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice — is on track to score her second Oscar nomination for her role here.
M: Well, to quote my favorite line in The 12 Pains of Christmas, “Oh, I don’t even KNOW half these people!” Seriously, I’ve never heard of Garai, Duff or West. But I’ll assume they are Brit period drama people, and take your word that they are great.
E: Yes and yes. (I bet you’d recognize West, at least.)
C: The film portrays one period in the generations-long struggle for women’s rights, at the turn of the last century. It’s shocking — as it’s intended to be — to watch the abuses in the trailer and think that it all wasn’t actually too long ago.
M: Really, it’s shocking to watch the abuses in the trailer and think that ever happened, period.
C: And happens, present tense, in some places in the world. The central characters are fictional, but based on real women, and Streep cameos as Emmeline Pankhurst, a key figure in the history of women’s suffrage who you might remember from Mrs. Banks’s song in Mary Poppins: “Take heart, for Mrs. Pankhurst has been clapped in irons again!”
E: It’s impossible to think of Emmeline Pankhurst without that song, isn’t it?
M: Votes for women, step in time!
E: I love that there’s a movie about this period: we tend to think of Victorian women as being prim and proper, but British women in pursuit of enfranchisement were rather more like domestic terrorists. It’s really a surprising piece of history.
C: The problematic oversimplification of that prim-and-proper stereotype, yeesh, I could write a book about it! (I am. It’s my dissertation.) But you’re right that it’s all too prevalent. We’ve got talented women behind the camera, too, which I doubt was an accident — relative newcomer Sarah Gavron directing and Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, TV’s The Hour) scripting.
E: Love Abi Morgan, love The Iron Lady, love The Hour.
M: Yeah, I highly doubt that’s accidental. A little surprising, given Hollywood’s reputation, but encouraging, that this got made with as big a budget as it did.
C: The story is bound to be painful; the pun between “suffer” and “suffrage” was, after all, full realized in an era when women were imprisoned, beaten, sexually assaulted, and ostracized for standing up for their rights. The movie looks like an artistic and thoughtful tribute to that history, so my hopes are high that this will rank near my favorite drama of last fall, Selma.
E: The biggest criticism I’ve heard of the film so far is that the indignities the characters (especially Mulligan’s) undergo are so miserable as to feel deliberately heaped on. I hope that’s not a huge flaw, but I’m going to see it either way.
M: It does seem from the trailer like they throw everything the writers could think of at her, and the “inspired by real events” tag always worries me. However, this does seem like it is really well done, and is a topic and period that is far too under-explored.
E: It’s a subject we as Boston-area Catholics have heard and thought quite a lot about: Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe reporters (played by Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, and Mark Ruffalo among others) who dig up the evidence not only of sexual abuse but of a cover-up of said abuse by the Boston Archdiocese, the Catholic Church, and local law enforcement agencies.
M: It played a part in me being a Boston area no-longer-Catholic. Not the reporting, per se, but the actions (and lack there of) of the church.
C: Fortunately it (the reporting) also played a part in some really large, needed reforms in the church since then, but it’s a time no one remembers without gut-level horror.
E: Yes, it’s a big emotional issue for us all (as well as Catholics worldwide) and so aside from enjoying the reporter-thriller as genre, I’m eager to see how this film treats the subject. The advanced word (which has been all over the Oscar-watching and film festival communities, as well as NPR) has been excellent. The film costars Stanley Tucci, last year’s Best Actor runner up Michael Keaton and Billy Crudup, and is said to contain the best performance of Mark Ruffalo’s impressive, Oscar nominated career. Put him solidly in the hunt for Best Supporting Actor.
M: That is certainly saying a lot, Ruffalo made his name as a critical darling long before he started playing Bruce Banner. We’ve discussed this before, but I LOVE Ruffalo’s success. Someone who is “normal” looking (good looking, yes, but not in the classic Hollywood leading-man sense) rising to getting lead roles based on his skill as an actor. I’d much rather see him lead a movie than some of the generic, look-the-part guys that Hollywood as tried to force down our throats.
E: I totally agree that he’s more interesting and just plain better than a lot of other actors, although I’m not sure its in spite of his looks. Who’re we talking about here? Eric Bana or Colin Farrell, our favorite “fetch” actors? Because I don’t see them as being any better looking. But then maybe women have a more elastic definition of good-looking actors than men do for good-looking actresses.
C: Eric Bana and Colin Farrell? Really? E, your list of who’s hot in Hollywood is about as up-to-date as “McDreamy” and “McSteamy.”
E: I was trying to think of whom M would be complaining about.
M: I’m thinking more along the lines of the Ryan Reynoldses, Taylor Kitsches, Aaron Eckharts, Channing Tatums and Josh Hartnetts of the world. McConaughey was in that category for a while before he actually started to be able to act, and heck even the likes of Ben Affleck (as an actor, not writer or director). Pretty boys that got starring roles before they earned it.
C: Gents more like Steve Rogers or Thor than the Bruce Banner, you mean. I absolutely take your point, though I still think Ruffalo is sexy.
E: Indeed. Back to the movie for a sec? Not since All the President’s Men has a real-life newspaper story had so much Oscar buzz. Back in 1977, the Robert Redford/Dustin Hoffman drama was nominated for 8 Oscars and won 4; Spotlight doesn’t have the benefit of being based on a brilliant best seller, but after the way it wowed audiences at the Telluride and Toronto Film festivals (an excellent Oscar indicator) right now it’s considered a top tier contender not merely to be nominated, but to win Best Picture.
M: It’s got a chance, but won’t win. We’ll get to that in a minute, though.
E: Yeah, or not. Director Todd McCarthy’s a bit of a puzzle, mixing well received indie fare (sweet Win Win, deeply moving The Visitor, critical darling The Station Agent) with oddball comic properties like Adam Sandler vehicle The Cobbler. His work often blends humor with drama, and I’m super curious to see how that sensibility works with a child sexual abuse scandal.
M: The only thing I can think in regards to The Cobbler? Everyone needs to pay the bills. We’re digressing, though. This movie looks fantastic.
M: Now, I don’t want to steal E’s thunder, as she’s the Oscar expert, but barring it being a flaming garbage pile of epic, not just regular proportions, this will be your Best Picture Oscar winner.
E: M, this is not your subject area. Please stop making pronouncements about things you don’t understand.
C: Ooooooooooh. Fight! fight! fight!
M: Just because I don’t watch every movie like you do doesn’t mean I haven’t studied my Oscars history. Which I have.
E: Still seems like rocky terrain for you.
M: Continuing the Princess Bride banter, let me ‘splain. No, there is to much. Let me sum up.
C: Taking a rather light tone for a fight there, but okay. Fire ahead.
M: The trend of the past 20 years in Oscar history has been away from movies that anyone other then critics have seen, or liked, with the guise that they’re more “important.” The trend over the past five years has been to movies about movies or actors (Birdman, Argo, The Artist).
C: Calling Argo “a movie about an actor” is just… really missing the whole… but please finish your point.
E: I can’t believe I’m defending him, but Argo legitimately falls into the “movie about making a movie” category. Sort of, in the sense that it’s about pretending to make a movie.
C: OMG, did you watch Argo? It’s about a CIA agent saving people from Tehran. The movie thing is a ruse for getting passports and such!
E: His point is that the subject matter sucks up to Hollywood types, showing them and their craft as worthy, artistic and heroic.
M: Exactly. And this is a very strange fight. Anyway, Trumbo is the perfect combo, a little limited release about screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was a blacklisted communist in the McCarthy era. Hollywood gets to celebrate how wronged one of their own was, and does it with critical darling Bryan Cranston in the lead role. Go ahead, bet the house.
E: Okay, now that’s just crazy talk. Will you stop it, please, before somebody does something foolish and then sues us?
M: No, but I will add the disclaimer that my hyperbole is for entertainment purposes only. Do not *ACTUALLY* bet your house. I’m still right, though.
E: Look, you’re not wrong that it ticks significant boxes. But every year, there are plenty of high prestige movies that tick all the boxes until someone actually sees them, and then they deflate. Sometimes it’s because of smear campaigns, but often it’s because the movie just does not live up to the hype surrounding its cast, director or source material. Think The Crucible, Memoirs of a Geisha, Unbroken, Dreamgirls, Saving Mr. Banks; I could go on like that for days.
M: But how many of those, or of any others you could list, fit the current trends so perfectly? None. Right now Oscar is nothing if not narcissistic and elitist. This gives them everything they want.
C: Even were that true, trends change. That’s what makes them trends.
M: Sure, but this one is still forming. Like the hipster beard, I don’t think this one’s run its course yet.
E: Trust me, M, it’s not going to matter this time. All the movies I listed above had buzz around them before they were seen, and Trumbo doesn’t even have that. Look here at lists of contenders. Look here. What movie don’t you see on the list? You don’t even see Cranston among the top twenty male contenders.
M: Let’s see what those lists look like at the end of November, and then again in late January.
E: The pundits who write the lists are taking stuff that opens late into account, M. Also? Cranston’s a beloved television star, not a movie star, at best analogous to Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, who got a nomination but not a win. The Oscar voting body’s older, and that can matter; partly because there are more of them in leading roles, providing more choices, it matters more for men than women. Director Jay Roach is best known for Meet the Parents and the Austin Powers movies.
M: But see, that’s why it’s not on those lists before people see it. Once the overwhelmingly actor-based voting bloc sees it, and more so once they hear it’s good and not just some TV actor and Meet the Parents director making something, but that it’s “important” and about them, then it’ll be there. Just watch.
E: Exactly. Just watch.
C: He’s going to be absolutely insufferable if he’s right.
M: You know it!
E: Happily we won’t have to find out.
E: This adaptation of Emma Donahue’s best seller hit a limited number of theaters in mid-October, but opens wide today. It puts star Brie Larsen on the top of the Best Actress short list (she was considered near the hunt a few years for her work in well reviewed but little seen indie Short Term 12) and even elevates 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay to best actor talk. And believe me, they do not do that lightly. It’s not likely to happen — maybe if it had been a story about a little girl — but the very fact that there’s sustained talk about it tells you how terrific that performance is. There’s even a fair amount of chatter about Best Picture.
M: Yeah, Best Actor nominations are rarely given to anyone that hasn’t paid their dues for a long time, let alone a 9-year-old!
C: So what’s this actually about?
E: I just had a lengthy conversation about that with our cousin S, who really adores the book and is furious at the marketing of this film. All sort of articles and interviews and reviews give away major plot points, rather than letting the story unfold as it does in the novel, which is told entirely from the point of view of five-year-old Jack (Tremblay). And I agree, I feel like I’ve been pretty thoroughly spoiled (first by a book review and now by the methods that so incensed S.) So I find myself at a bit of a loss about how much we ought to reveal.
M: Well, I wasn’t part of the conversation, and haven’t read the book, so all I have to go on is the trailer. With that, I don’t know how you sell this movie without giving away less than what they gave away.
E: Of course, all you have to do is click on the link to the trailer. Or see one of the TV ads.
M: Which [spoilers ahead] tell the tale of a kidnapped woman who gives birth to a child (presumably fathered by her captor) in her one room prison (hence the title), and then their escape years later and adjustment to the world. Like I said, not sure how you sell it without giving that away, since it appears that most of the story occurs outside the titular room.
C: So kind of like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt but without jokes.
E: And with a little kid, yes. I hear that a lot of the tension in the book comes from the mom having to pretend to her son that their world is peachy, and that she loves his father. Very unsettling.
What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy (limited)
E: In case you’re looking for a documentary, might I offer up this one?
C: Man, I always intend to watch some of these documentaries. Please comment if you, reader, actually do watch documentaries in the theater. Is that a thing?
M: That’s particularly hard now — as if we didn’t have enough movies in this first weekend of November.
E: WW2 has proved to be a pretty fruitful subject area for documentarians…
M: In other news, water is wet!
E: …BUT this is an angle I’ve never seen before, and one that intrigues me: how do you reconcile your family relationship with a mass murderer? How do you live with the shame and the guilt and the confusion? Human rights lawyer Philippe Sands confronts and debates with two sons of Nazi fathers — two of Nazis, in fact, who were responsible for the slaughter of many of Sands’ family members, Hans Frank and Otto van Wachter — on forgiveness, understanding and love. Philippe, Horst van Wachter and Niklas Frank travel through Europe and discuss the complex relationships of fathers and sons.
M: Huh, I read a fascinating long-form article/interview within the last year that explored that, about a woman whose grandfather was a Nazi, but whose other heritage is Jewish, who now lives in Israel and works to promote Jewish causes. It is certainly a fascinating topic.
E: Brooklyn, as opposed to Trumbo, does have quite a lot of Oscar buzz. Irish girl Saorise Ronan comes to America, misses home, falls in love across cultural barriers, and then goes back for a family emergency. Will she stay, back with everything she was used to, with a rich suitor? Will she go? Where’s home now?
M: Looks to be Twilight, but without the vampires or werewolves, just the love triangle. I jest, of course, as we can assume it will be far better written and acted.
C: Ronan actually did star in Twilight author Stephenie Meyers’s sci fi romance The Host, but almost all the rest of her filmography is in the high culture realm (most famously Atonement).
M: I’m just not a fan of love triangles, so to me it looks just as uninteresting.
E: Yeah, the love triangle has been beaten to death lately. I keep hearing great advanced word on this, though, so I’ll be curious to hear and see how it all plays out.
M: Well, I will say this, ever since Hanna, Ronan has been a powder-keg of potential greatness, just waiting to go off and become a star. So, who knows, maybe something like this is the spark?
C: Also, let’s not fail to mention the rest of the cast, which includes Domhnall Gleeson (competing against his dad Brendan in Suffragette), Julie Walters, and Jim Broadbent. Or for those who speak Harry Potter: Bill Weasley, Molly Weasley, and Horace Slughorn.
Miss You Already (limited)
E: Basically, this dramedy about women’s friendship and cancer looks like a version of Beaches I might actually want to see.
M: I’ve never seen Beaches, if that gives you any indication of the regard I hold that movie in.
E: I hate that movie. Good call.
M: Woo-hoo, we agree on something!
C: What’s Beaches?
E: Weepy that spawned Bette Middler’s “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” In other words, be grateful you don’t know.
M: Yes, 80’s schlock. Now, back to 2015 (what’s left of it).
E: Two formerly hard partying friends, Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette, who’ve remained close even as Collette moved on to marriage and motherhood, cope with Collette’s aggressive cancer diagnosis.
M: Oddly enough for Hollywood, Barrymore and Collette are only roughly two years apart in real life! Can you remember a time when in one month we have both life-long best friends being played by actors roughly the same age, and a major action movie with a male lead whose love interest is not only roughly his own age, but actually a few years older? Next thing you know we’ll have teenagers actually portraying teenagers!
C: Now don’t get crazy!
E: The title comes from their ritual goodbye saying. It just seems like it could be a wonderful exploration of female friendship, without all the man stealing and stupidity of the Bette Middler weepy. I mean, how lame is that you have to go back 25 years to find another movie about this kind of topic?
M: Um, 50/50 is from only 2011. Or, despite Hollywood’s seeming advancement, are you being sexist and not counting movies about a man getting cancer and the exploration of his relationship with his male best friend?
E: Calm down your reverse-sexism reflex. It’s not sexist to say that Hollywood makes fewer movies about women, and even fewer about women and their friendships with other women. It’s just the facts. Ones that you yourself repeat all the time.
C: Okay, guys, we’re all on the same side here. But this sounds too sad for me.
By The Sea (wide)
E: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt exude 1970s glamour as they stare at the sea, suffer from writer’s block, cry, and take pills. In other words, a laugh riot.
C: Directed by the former, by the way. Apparently about a couple trying to save their marriage; if they succeed, that will come as a surprise. “Beautiful people have existential crises,” as (unimpressed) critics have put it.
M: 70’s glamour is NOT something I got from watching the trailer. Depression and domestic violence, yes. Glamour, no.
E: It’s a very fancy hotel in a beautiful location. Jolie doesn’t most of her crying and listless staring in full length gowns. That’s my point.
M: Agree to disagree on that being glamour, then.
E: One thing that struck me, other than the lack of actual spoken words, was that the female star was listed as Angelina Jolie Pitt. She changed her name? Not to sound hideously cynical, but can divorce be far behind?
C: What… does that even mean?
M: I think E means that she sees it as a last ditch concession to trying to appear together. Maybe.
E: Not that, exactly; those kind of big steps often seem to happen as a last ditch effort to stay together. Not really a worthy joke on my part, though.
M: However, I’ve heard her referred to as Jolie Pitt before plenty of times. Usually, I think, in reference to her U.N. work, and things like that, though, not her acting. Back to the movie, this doesn’t look like something I’d ever want to subject myself to. It looks like something that when it’s over you’ll want to, to quote a friend of ours, go home and shove a fork around an electrical outlet.
The 33 (wide)
M: True story of the trapped Chilean miners that captivated the world a few years back. Since it’s a “Latin” setting, Antonio Banderas was legally obligated to be part of the cast.
E: I like true stories of heroism and ingenuity. I hope this is good.
M: Well, having watched a couple trailers for it now (the one linked, and another slightly different one, but with Spanish subtitles and text), it looks to me like it will be. My Banderas joke aside, I really like the cast, which also sports NCIS‘s Cote de Pablo, Gabriel Byrne, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Jim Brolin and Lou Diamond Phillips.
E: I can’t quite decide how I feel about the decision to have the actors speak in rather thick, presumably Chilean accents.
M: I agree, that immediately felt weird.
C: You know, the accent question is one of those curious filmmaking problems that I’ve been hyper-aware of ever since reading a funny recap of the 2004 Phantom of the Opera film, which pointed out that exactly one character speaks in a heavy French accent… even though the entire film is set in France. Should she have not? Should they all have? Do accents make sense in a film that is not “really” in English? I’ve seen this effect used purposefully, but most of the time, the use or non-use of accents in movies in English but with a non-Anglophone setting seems very random and lacking internal logic.
M: That’s impressively technical, C. I didn’t understand a word of it. E, anything else stick out to you in the trailer?
E: That is the heart of the mountain. It is broken.
Love The Coopers (wide)
M: A big family is getting together to spend Christmas together. The parents/grandparents want everything to be perfect. Their kids are all screwed up, but are trying to please them. Their grandkids are adorable in inappropriate ways. Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
C: Oh man, yawwwwwn. How many more movies fitting that description can they make? I mean, it’s not like the Inspirational Underdog Sports Movie. I don’t know anyone who’s ever said “I love all movies about dysfunctional privileged families getting together at Christmas!”
M: Seriously, right?!?! Still, the cast is great, Diane Keaton and John Goodman as the elder couple, Marissa Tomei, Ed Helms and Olivia Wilde as their messed up kids, Amanda Seyfriend, Anthony Mackie and Alan Arkin in unspecified other roles. It’s just… well, it looks awful.
E: It pretty much looks exactly like you’d expect a multi-generational family Christmas comedy to look like.
C: So, dull as plain toast. These movies always try to be halfway between biting and uplifting and thus please no one.
E: My very much not-favorite plotline: Olivia Wilde picks up a soldier in the airport and brings him home as her fake boyfriend for the day. Seriously? Why is this plot still out there? Has anyone ever known anyone who has done this in real life?
M: I totally agree! It’s bad enough when they use it in things like intentionally cheesy Enterprise Rental Car commercials, let along major motion pictures.
C: If you want to do the “fake boyfriend for Christmas” thing on a cheesy Hallmark special, you might occasionally get me to tune in if I need to turn my brain off and be aggressively heart-warmed. I recently watched one with Hilarie Burton and Paul “Billy from BSG” Campbell; it wasn’t even Christmas and it was cute as a button. But unlike Love the Coopers, it didn’t attempt to be anything else.
My All American (wide)
M: Speaking of Inspirational Underdog Sports Movies… here’s another one, in the mold of Rudy, about an undersized kid trying to get a scholarship to play college football, making it, and then encountering some physical adversity. Looks pretty solid, kind of like last winter’s MacFarland, USA, which I enjoyed. And, tying back to our Mark Ruffalo conversation, it stars Aaron Eckhart as the tough-guy college coach.
E: I liked McFarland, USA a lot too.
C: Oh, I wanted to see that. Glad it was good!
M: Not a perfect movie by any stretch, but a solid, fun, inspirational film. The kind that I would have expected to see rebroadcast on the Disney Sunday Night movie when you and I were kids, right E?
E: Yes, definitely. I’m down with inspirational stories of all kinds. And Finn Wittrock did pretty good work in Unbroken last year; it remains to be seen whether he’s interesting enough to carry a movie.
M: Eckhart’s line in the trailer “give my hand back now” was pretty funny.
E: After Wittrock’s Freddie shakes his hand too enthusiastically? Yes. Since you’re bringing him up again, I want it on the record that I feel like it’s a bit of a disservice to say that Eckhart’s just a pretty face; he tends to pick smart, unusual movies. I don’t know so much about this one, though; it looks a little stodgy to me.
M: Yeah, we’ll see.
C: Eckhart picks projects that ought be good movies…
E: Here’s an 80s style shoot ’em up, gonzo number starring Robert DeNiro, but this time he’s not the guy pulling the heist, he’s the smug casino boat owner, chosen because he wouldn’t help hero Jeffrey Dean Morgan (newly starring on The Good Wife) pay for his sick daughter’s medical bills. The underdog with the heart of gold, sticking it to the man!
C: Isn’t that the plot of Ocean’s Eleven? I mean, the casino thing specifically; otherwise it’s any heist picture, including Ant Man.
M: Watching the trailer, this looks most to me like a combo of a heist movie, a chase movie, and Speed.
E: Yes, exactly. It’s not content to be just one movie; it’s really two. When the getaway goes south, and Morgan’s pursued by DeNiro’s right hand man Morris Chestnut (starring on new medical crime show Rosewood), he does the obvious. He commandeers a bus and takes everyone on it hostage. Doesn’t everybody?
C: That would be my go-to move. Nothing looks more innocent than taking hostages!
M: Especially hostages on a bus. Seriously, though, the trailer is strange, it looks like he makes it to the bus and gets away, then all of a sudden the bus is being chased by the cops. Odd. I’m also pretty sure the bus driver is played by D.B. Sweeney, but he’s not mentioned in the credits on the trailer.
E: Also stars Guardian’s of the Galaxy‘s Dave Bautista (as one of Morgan’s crew)…
M: THAT’s why he looked familiar!
C: Whoooaaaa. He looks so different when he’s not red and blue paisley!
E: Indeed. Also Kate Bosworth, and Gina Carano as a cop/possible love interest.
E: Paul Bettany’s directorial debut stars his Oscar winning wife, Jennifer Connelly, in perhaps her grittiest looking role since the brilliant and under-appreciated Requiem for a Dream.
M: I’ll definitely agree on gritty. Gritty to the point of looking depressing and not entirely dissimilar to By The Sea in its level of depression.
E: Gee, M, I can’t imagine what makes you say that! Connelly plays a homeless addict living a day at a time, hoping to keep her illegal immigrant lover Anthony Mackie (a Muslim and musician) from being deported back to Nigeria.
C: The movie also seems — though it’s hard to tell from the trailer — to contain a number of dream/fantasy sequences, possibly related to Connelly’s character’s past as a wealthy married mother.
M: I think they are more flashbacks than fantasy sequences, but I could be wrong.
E: And I think they might be drug trips.
C: I suspect the performances in this will be talked about.
E: Yes, could be.
M: How do I hate thee, let me count the ways. Where to start. Oh, how about that this book, and especially the second half of this book, pretty much ruins the series for me. Or that I hate when they split the last book of a series into two movies, not for plot purposes, but solely to make more money off it? Or how about the assumption that the audience is too stupid to know this is a Hunger Games movie without having it explicitly in the title? So we end up with a title that has BOTH as colon AND a hyphen. Good Lord.
E: Yeah. That. I mean, what’s in this chunk of the book except utter devastation?
M: The complete destruction of anything even a tiny bit good that came before it? Or is that covered by “utter devastation?”
E: I would say so, yes.
C: I didn’t read it, after hearing things like this, so I’ll leave you guys to grieve in an informed way.
E: Oh. Well, I mean, you should read it, but the characters definitely pay the price of war. I don’t know if it’s going to sound weird, but I almost feel like this installment could be a better movie than book.
M: That’s an awfully low bar, but please explain, because I don’t know if I see it.
E: Well, this chunk of the book is largely action, and felt frustratingly like the narration to a video game. That might be easier to take in a visual medium.
M: If the violent exploiting of children, murdering of children, and children murdering adults who exploit them can be easier to take in any medium, that is.
E: You can’t start objecting to that as a subject matter now, M. That’s what the whole series has been about.
M: No, it wasn’t what the whole series was about, not all those things. The setting for the first book was children killing each other for entertainment, but that wasn’t really what it was about. It was about hope, and fighting to survive, and the power of the human spirit. But by the third book it became all about killing, abusing and showing how awful everyone and everything is. That’s why I cashed out after the second movie.
The Night Before (wide)
E: Since Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character’s parents died on Christmas Eve 14 years before this story begins, his best friends Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie have taken him out that night to distract him with their rock solid friendship. The three have determined that this is their last hurrah, however, because of Mackie’s increasing celebrity and Rogen’s impending fatherhood. Holiday sweaters and shenanigans ensue.
C: The presence of JGL in this movie baffles me.
M: The presence of everyone but Rogen baffles me.
C: Were it any other people making it, I’d be tempted. Well, okay, not any other filmmakers… but you know.
M: Speaking of that, the trailer hits strong with “From the guys who brought you This is the End, Neighbors… and almost The Interview.” That was a good chuckle.
E: The best one in the trailer! Otherwise, Rogen’s grateful wife gives him an early Christmas present for being so understanding during her pregnancy — a box full of coke and magic mushrooms — and the three find their adventure taking a rather colorful turn. There’s karaoke, Miley Cyrus, and vomiting in church.
M: The back-and-forth between Rogen and the wife (Jillian Bell, though I thought at first that it was Meghan Trainor) about no one having done cocaine in 11 years was also pretty funny.
E: I think this kind of plot makes me a little judgy; I don’t think stoner movies are generally as much fun if you’re not one. Or maybe it’s just my total phobia of embarrassment humor, and the judgement comes in because people aren’t embarrassed by things that horrify me.
M: No, it’s not the embarrassment humor. You have to be REALLY funny to make a stoner movie that funny for a sober audience. Rogen hits and misses with that.
C: Probably because he’s not making it for a sober audience!
M: There is that.
E: There’s something else, too: the rest of the cast, which features Lizzie Caplan and Mindy Kaling.
C: Awww man! Those too plus Gordon-Levitt in a movie makes me want to want to see this so much. And yet, see E’s comment above.
M: Mackie fits that, too. Oh, and also apparently Kanye West and … Michael Shannon? West makes sense in something lowbrow like this, but I can only picture Shannon as the tough-as-nails cop who busts them. Otherwise I’m having trouble figuring out his presence in the cast.
E: Really, the whole thing is a puzzle none of us are interested in solving.
The Secret In Their Eyes (wide)
C: I’m guessing from the title that this is a laugh riot?
E: Oh God. This movie looks like a complete nightmare. Darkness and dread on a platter.
M: You can say that again.
E: In case you were wondering, in this FBI office, you have Michael Kelly, Dean Lawrence, Julia Roberts and her good buddy Chiwetel Ejiofor who’s crushing on their colleague Nicole Kidman. All’s well until the group finds Roberts’ adult daughter’s body in a dumpster.
M: Which goes about as well as you would expect it to go, punctuated by Julia Roberts’ patented scream-crying.
C: I like that she looks awful when she cries. It’s believable. But yes, it has become a trademark.
M: Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying that as a negative. But back to the plot.
E: They have a suspect, whom they’re sure is the murderer. And yet — potentially because of interference on Roberts’ part — they have to let him go. And then he disappears.
M: Really, really disappears.
E: Fast forward to more than a decade later. All of the members of the former team are broken. Ejiofor finally re-locates the killer. Can he and Kidman bring the man in? Can they put him away this time? Or will Roberts exact her own revenge? It looks really well made, I’ll say that. But I don’t think I can handle it. This is definitely one of those films I’m praying won’t end up on the short list for an award.
M: You may be okay there, as it’s not necessarily the type of movie (suspense, cop, thriller) that ends up with awards nominations. Sometimes, things like Mystic River break that trend, but not often. However I agree, it looks very well done, could be really good, and really, really tough to watch. I’d definitely be out if Roberts’s daughter were a kid when killed. I may still be out, but the child part would have sealed it for me. At this stage in my life I just can’t handle that.
E: Beloved indie director Todd Hayes (Safe, Far from Heaven) dips back into his 1950s closet with lesbian love story Carol, starring Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara, and Oscar talk abounds for the performances.
M: Yeah, I was only slightly bored while watching the trailer until it got to “from the author of The Talented Mr Ripley” and then I was completely out.
E: Far From Heaven was one of the most critically-acclaimed films of 2002, but never made it into the best picture race. Carol at least has some buzz in that direction. One thing I expect from Hayes is gorgeous, luxurious period detail, and nothing I’ve seen or heard suggests this will disappoint.
C: You know, Cate Blanchett is 16 years older than Rooney Mara. We might have to keep that in mind the next time we slam Hollywood for pairing middle-aged men with much younger women.
E: Well, but the age difference is part of the story. And when every movie in a weekend has a radical age imbalance between its lesbian lovers, we can talk, but I’m not really ready to call it a trend.
M: I bet you thought that getting past Halloween meant that we were done with horror movies for a while, didn’t you. Well, guess again!
C: I bet you thought hashtag titles were stupid, didn’t you. Guess what, they are!
M: At least this one is, as best I can tell, the first movie title that’s exclusively a hashtag. Yay, progress?
E: Is that what we’re calling it?
M: Oh, it would be. However… I did a little digging, and there was supposedly a 2012 horror movie (shocker!) named #HoldYourBreath. However, I can’t find any sign of it on Boxofficemojo, and their 2012 stats include movies that made as little as $264 total at the box office, and as little as $57 the weekend it supposedly opened.
E: That’s pretty shabby, even for a film with a hashtag in the title.
M: That’s one way of putting it.
C: Maybe it was a student film or something.
E: So on to this creepy-looking disaster. Pouty little rich girl is miserable in her modern glass country home with her father Timothy Hutton and (I presume) chilly stepmother, Chloe Sevigny, so she calls over a gaggle of so-called best friends to try on all of the stepmother’s best clothes and accessories, and then tease, torment and eventually murder each other. Based on true events. Good times.
C: Whoa. That escalated to a place I wasn’t expecting.
C: I was thinking ghost or psycho killer shows up or something.
M: Also, that is a surprisingly recognizable cast for such an atrocious looking movie.
E: Can I just say that this sort of vision of female friendship is exactly why I’m happy to see a movie (Miss You Already) about real supportive friendships? Because these cell phone addicted beasts are not exactly something I want to see more of.
November 25th (Wednesday)
The Good Dinosaur (wide)
E: I feel like this is the least excited I’ve ever been for a Pixar release.
M: It’s weird, right? It doesn’t look bad at all, but it’s so under-marketed. Also, Pixar usually spaces out their releases significantly, and this is coming right on the heels of Inside Out, which makes me wonder.
C: It’s weird, isn’t it? Why aren’t we being hit over the head with ads for this? Especially you two, with your respective gaggles of kids. And why is the timing so close?
M: It definitely makes you think something’s rotten in the state of Pixar.
E: Plus, I just don’t get the feeling of character from the commercials, just a lot of running around and screaming. If it wasn’t Pixar, I would honestly say it was a cute setting for a direct to video release.
M: Or for an animation studio trying to break into big time features.
C: The film, if you haven’t heard about it, takes place in an alternate timeline in which the dinosaurs were never wiped out and now coexist with humans (cave people). The dinosaurs, however, are the protagonists, other than the one boy, Spot. Is it weird to say that the dinosaur protagonist looks too cartoony to me?
M: Maybe the whole Pixar thing didn’t give it away, but…
C: I mean, I know it’s a cartoon… maybe it would be better to say “comic-strippy.” He looks exactly as living and breathing as the T-Rex in Toy Story, which was, you know, supposed to be plastic.
M: Okay, that makes a little more sense.
E: I didn’t think it was weird for her to say — I think the animation quality in general is unimpressive. Very flat. Again, I really wouldn’t think it was Pixar based on the trailer.
C: On the good side of the scale though, the trailer song “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men is excellent.
M: Yes, love that song, and yay for them, as you know I’ve been a big fan since Little Talks.
M: Rocky trains Apollo’s son. Seriously. And believe it or not, it doesn’t look half bad.
E: I don’t believe it.
M: Watch the trailers. Look at the cast. I’m serious, it looks like it could be good.
E: Obviously the best thing about this movie is that they managed to get Michael B. Jordan (Fantastic Four, Chronicle) as Adonis Johnson, son of Apollo. Well, that and the fact that it’s directed by Ryan Coogler, who made the highly acclaimed Fruitvale Station, which gave Jordan his big break. The fact that it costars Sylvester Stallone, not so thrilling — but if you base your impression on the (admittedly intriguing) trailer, he plays a pretty small role despite demanding top billing.
C: Hm. I guess if you’re going to do a Rocky spin-off with actual dramatic potential, all that’s a good way to start.
M: I really like the concept of it: Apollo’s son, who was in utero when his father was killed in Rocky 4, grew up in tough circumstances, ends up in jail, bailed out by Rocky, who tries to help him set his life straight. The female leads, Phylicia Rashad as Apollo’s widow and Veronica Mars‘ Tesse Thompson as Adonis’ love interest, are also a plus.
E: Yes. Despite my scoffing earlier, critics are taking this movie very seriously. I’m pretty fascinated to see how it’ll pan out.
Victor Frankenstein (wide)
E: Here’s another movie you would have expected to open before Halloween. It features blue-eyed boys James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe as Dr. Frankenstein and Igor, respectively. So that part’s good.
M: And the trailer we’ve linked to has a fun little intro from the two of them, which is also good.
C: They are both delightful. And this looks surprisingly madcap, though not quite farcical on the level of Young Frankenstein (which it openly references with a “frahnk-en-shteen” gag!).
M: Loved that!
E: So. Reactions to the trailer. Igor isn’t a hunchback; he seems like more of a conventional sounding board/research assistant. The two men have a very modern-feeling quippy give-and-take.
C: “You have the chance to be a part of something.” “Of what, being electrocuted?” Or, “It’s alive.” “Yes, well, that’s rather obvious.”
E: In fact, it feels very much in the vein of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies — and coincidentally takes for its antagonist, Inspector Turpin, none other than Andrew Scott, Moriarty from the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock.
M: HA! My immediate reaction to the trailer was “So, it’s Victor Frankenstein, action hero — just like Robert Downey, Jr’s Sherlock Holmes, action hero.”
C: My thought exactly, as well! Siblings are all on the same wavelength for once, it seems.
M: And before even getting to that thought, I felt like Igor was being played as Dr Watson. Oh, and this film includes more than just Scott from Sherlock, but also Mark “Mycroft Holmes” Gatiss and Louise “Molly Hooper” Brealey.
E: Good points all, bro! And I really like the smaller players like Scott, Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Findlay Brown, and Game of Thrones‘ Charles Dance.
M: Quick aside, but no matter what else I see him in, he’ll always be the bad guy in Last Action Hero to me.
C: Bleak House‘s Charles Dance to me. But go on, E.
E: Right. (And honestly, I think of Bleak House first too, C, but I thought more people would know GOT.) Well, much as I find the leads very appealing and want for them to do well, from the trailer it doesn’t quite seem like everything fits together. Also, it looks pretty gross. I just don’t get why they didn’t open this in October. Generally, I’m unhappily dubious.
M: I agree, October makes much more sense, and parts of the trailer look like they edited out the middle of a conversation, leaving what we hear not making much sense. Still, it looks like it could be fun. I’m not saying I’m going to see it in the theater, but on video? Definitely.
C: I’m going to wait for reviews to make sure it’s not a misfire, but I would pretty much go to the theater just for the McAvoy/Radcliffe banter. Talk about a dream team!
The Danish Girl (limited)
E: Oscar Oscar Oscar!
M: Because it checks the right boxes.
E: It does, but also because festival audiences have adored it.
C: Could it have a more boring title, though? I saw that title and thought “obviously this is a dull-as-ditchwater languid art film that I will skip.” I looked it up and only then realized it’s the Eddie-Redmayne-in-drag movie that’s been lighting up the internet for months.
M: OK, this is weird semantic ground to be treading… is he considered in drag if he’s playing transgender?
E: Well, he dresses as a woman before the operation, I think.
C: I also said the actor’s name, not the character’s, intentionally. But what E said is also true.
E: Let’s backtrack, though. First, add Oscar winning director Tom Hooper, who brought us The King’s Speech and Les Miserables. Toss in this year’s It girl Alicia Vikander and last year’s Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne, give them glorious costumes, and then finish it off with the hot button subject matter (the first ever sex change operation) and Redmayne’s transformation, and that, my friends, is the recipe for buzz.
M: Can’t argue there. At least in “if it weren’t for the left wing, we’d have no wings at all” Hollywood.
E: Will it win anything? I can’t say. Since Eddie won last year, he’s not so likely to win this year; that hasn’t happened since Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, and Hanks was a far bigger star.
M: No offense to Redmayne, who was remarkable in Les Mis, but… was?
E: I mean at the time that he won twice in a row, Hanks was already a huge star, while Redmayne just doesn’t have the same wattage. I’m not saying that Redmayne is a bigger star than Hanks now; obviously he isn’t that either.
M: Ahhh, gotchya.
E: I’m not saying it can’t happen, but it’s a stretch — even in Best Costume it will have to contend with Carol — but make no mistake that it’s going to be in the mix.
C: If nothing else, this will clearly be a performance from Redmayne that people remember for years to come. The trailer alone makes that obvious.
Janis: Little Girl Blue (limited)
E: A documentary on the first real female rock star, Janis Joplin. The trailer gives us more footage of her life and interview clips with her than the typical voice-over narration, which is rather refreshing. Not to mention lots of her very distinctive, growly voice.
M: Which at least you and I are big fans of. Not sure where C stands.
C: It’s iconic, that’s for sure. As is she.
M: Not much else to say here, but in the same month that brings us the wide release of Suffragette, it seemed appropriate to end with a movie about another trailblazing woman.
E: Which is not a bad way to end. And may the Force be with you until we meet in December!