EDITORIALS

Our Third Annual Thanksgiving Movie Guide is Here!

by
November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Movie Guide

Every year, Hollywood releases a handful of movies on Thanksgiving week. Whether they're movies to take the whole family to or just pure entertainment, there's always a wide variety to choose from. To help tackle this year's line-up, our writer Marco Cerritos has put together a Thanksgiving Movie Guide. He made sure to see every last movie playing in theaters this week, even the bad ones, in order to provide you with a cinematic compass of sorts. If you're struggling to figure out what to see this weekend, then look no further! From Australia to Twilight, and from Bolt to Transporter 3, Marco will tell you which ones to skip and which ones to take the whole family to. Without further ado, let's dive head first into this year's guide.

Marco has his own opinions on each and every movie, so if you felt there was one that you need to suggest more than another, you're more than welcome to leave a comment below. We'd love to hear what you thought about the this year's Thanksgiving line-up. What did you choose to see, if anything, and why?

Australia
Marco's Rating: C

AustraliaDirected by: Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham
Rated: PG-13
Length: 165 minutes
Review: There's something strange that happens halfway into the new Baz Luhrmann adventure Australia, the story of a widowed cattle herder and her feisty companion. Lead actors Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman end their bickering ride across the Australian outback and reach their final destination, even looking into the camera and giving it a confident glance that practically screams for the last title card to read "The End." This happens at the hour and twenty minute mark and then the film does something unexpected - it keeps going. Australia doesn't keep going for another ten or twenty minutes, it literally starts up an entirely different story and goes on for another hour and twenty minutes!

The best way to describe Australia is to call it a very interesting mess. What starts out as a promising tale across the outback turns into a long two hour forty five minute tale that is essentially two movies in one. The first is an adventure story set against the vast Australian landscape and the second is a war epic that is more melodramatic than engaging. Both films involve the English aristocrat Lady Ashley (Kidman) and her buffed up sidekick Drover (Jackman), yet the visual talents of director Baz Luhrmann aren't enough to save this muddled and boring film.

Bolt
Marco's Rating: C

BoltDirected by: Byron Howard / Chris Williams
Starring: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman
Rated: PG
Length: 96 minutes
Review: Before you ask, I saw Bolt in its Disney Digital 3-D presentation and I have to say, I'm one of the few idiots who gets a major headache when I watch a movie in 3-D. I don't know what it is but every time I subject myself to the technology I always regret it. Suffice it to say I had to take off my 3-D glasses a lot and ended up returning to see Bolt in its regular 2-D format. Whether it's in regular dumbass 2-D or headache inducing 3-D, Bolt is a very average family film that is innocuous to kids but mind numbingly dull to adults.

John Travolta voices Bolt, a canine actor who believes he is actually the superhero pup he plays on TV. When he mistakenly believes his human handler Penny (Miley Cyrus) has been kidnapped, Bolt escapes his television studio surroundings to find her in the "real world." Along the way he befriends a bitchy alley cat and a hamster who seems to be on some serious drugs. The animal trio get into all kinds of trouble suitable for a family film but also manage to bore the hell out of the adults in the audience.

Four Christmases
Marco's Rating: B-

Four ChristmasesDirected by: Seth Gordon (The King of Kong)
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Jon Favreau
Rated: PG-13
Length: 82 minutes
Review: The second entry on Vince Vaughn's "Christmas Movie Career Suicide" list is the passable Four Christmases, a flick full of pratfalls and puke jokes that doesn't turn out to be as bad as expected. Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon do their best to create a decent chemistry on screen, which seems like a miracle due to their chaotic relationship on set. I'm not here to gossip about Hollywood stars but instead warn you that Four Christmases at times aims for the lowest common denominator in its sophomoric humor and lame attempt at romance. Yet as a studio film it eventually turns the corner and manages to be something simple and digestible, fast food for film geeks like us. Almost like a McMovie.

Brad (Vaughn) and Kate (Witherspoon) are selfish San Franciscans enjoying their time together but not calling it an actual relationship. Since both of them have serious trust issues, they'd rather keep things light by not using labels like "boyfriend" or "fuck buddy" and just concentrate on themselves instead. After trying to ditch their families on Christmas Eve, they're forced to turn around and visit each of their divorced parents with a half-assed smile. Do you think Brad and Kate will learn things about each other that will question their relationship? Will the sight of babies bring out their parental side? Would you be willing to throw down ten bucks to watch a predictable but mildly enjoyable Christmas flick? I think you already know the answers to these questions.

Milk
Marco's Rating: B

MilkDirected by: Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester)
Starring: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco
Rated: R
Length: 128 minutes
Review: As a Bay Area native, I'm almost forced to put on kid gloves when reviewing Milk, the story of openly gay political rights activist Harvey Milk and his cold-blooded assassination. The good news is that kid gloves aren't necessary because the film isn't a bad one which means I can be honest and not worry about any Bay Area backlash. However, the honesty is that Milk is a good movie but could've been a great one. Director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black frame the film in a by-the-numbers structure which is incredibly annoying for the first twenty minutes. If you're an avid reader of this site, then you are a film geek like me and can probably see most of the plot coming from a mile away. It's hard to structure a biopic in new and creative ways and unfortunately Milk falls into the same A-B-C story structure that has become the boring standard.

The film's saving grace comes in two forms - Sean Penn and Josh Brolin. Everything you've heard about Penn in this film is true, he virtually disappears into the role of Harvey Milk in a nuanced and Oscar-worthy performance. Brolin has less screen time but still makes a great impression as Dan White, Milk's homophobic and confused political adversary. For any Bay Area readers, Milk is a must-see for its San Francisco history and pro-gay rights message. Everyone else will find two great performances amidst a very hollow and by-the-numbers movie.

Slumdog Millionaire
Marco's Rating: A

Slumdog MillionaireDirected by: Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine)
Starring: Dev Patel, Irfan Khan, Freida Pinto
Rated: R
Length: 120 minutes
Review: Director Danny Boyle's career hot streak has covered past hits 28 Days Later, Millions, Sunshine and now Slumdog Millionaire. When I interviewed him recently I asked if this genre hopping between films was a conscious decision and he emphatically proclaimed that it wasn't. He just firmly believes in telling a good story and it just so happens that every new film takes him to a different place.

In Slumdog Millionaire, the destination is India and all the hope and devastation that comes with it. Brothers Jamal and Salim are introduced to us as young boys and put through a grueling hell of obstacles in order to survive the harsh streets of India's slums. The story of the children and their very different life paths are explained in flashbacks through a series of questions on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire." Many critics have given away lots of spoilers regarding the main themes and surprises, but I see things differently. If you're unaware of what this film has in store, I envy your first encounter with this amazing cinematic experience. Then again if you've also read other reviews spoiling the plot, then it's a waste of time for me to do the same here.

Regardless, Slumdog Millionaire is being touted for end of the year awards consideration for good reason. It is currently one of my favorite films of the year and I expect an audience to discover this treasure once it begins further expansion this weekend.

Transporter 3
Marco's Rating: D

Transporter 3Directed by: Olivier Megaton (Exit)
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert Knepper, Natalya Rudakova
Rated: PG-13
Length: 100 minutes
Review: Just when I thought the Transporter series couldn't get any more ridiculous along comes Transporter 3 to prove me wrong. Jason Statham is back to cash another paycheck and prove that he will do just about anything if you leave a bag of money on his doorstep. To be fair, Transporter 3 was co-written by Luc Besson, but then again The Fifth Element was thirteen years ago and the dude hasn't made anything mildly entertaining since. The so-called plot revolves around a chemical shipment that is headed for European shores and the only way for the bad guys to ensure its arrival is to blackmail a Russian politician. Don't ask me to elaborate because the film is full of holes and one of them happens to be why the writers thought any of this would make sense.

So we've got Statham as the ass-kicking transporter Frank Martin, a Russian nympho who is forced to ride shotgun and a tricked-out car that seems to be the staple of the Transporter series. Speaking of the series, there are two things that also return for this third installment. The good is the awesome fight choreography by Cory Yuen, who directed the first film. The bad is the annoying French detective Tarconi, who always seems to be following Frank Martin around even though his French accent is so thick you can't understand anything he says. Add to that the film's disregard for plot, physics and overall common sense, and you're left which a huge piece of shit.

Twilight
Marco's Rating: D

TwilightDirected by: Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Cam Gigandet
Rated: PG-13
Length: 122 minutes
Review: Last weekend millions of tween girls flocked to the overrated adventures of Bella and Edward, star-crossed lovers in a modern day Romeo and Juliet story. I was forced to cover this film at a local press screening so that's my excuse for seeing it. Anyone reading this who's actually seen the movie better have a good excuse for seeing it too, because this ludicrous CW-wannabe flick is a huge waste of time. For those unfamiliar with the story, Bella (Kristen Stewart) is the new girl in Forks, Washington, a small town that seems to only have a diner and a high school for entertainment. When mysterious badass Edward (Robert Pattinson) shows up to taunt our tomboy heroine, it's obvious things aren't what they seem to be. Little does Bella know that she's slowly falling in love with a vampire and all hell is about to break loose.

Anything written about Twilight seemed to focus on one thing - young girls are going apeshit for this movie. They don't even care that the books suck and the movie is a cheap-looking embarrassment, all they care about is drooling over Edward and munching on their popcorn. That's okay because in Hollywood quality doesn't matter and that was proved with Twilight's huge box office results last weekend. It turns out the biggest draws were young girls and pedophiles looking for kicks. Not the best sign of quality if you ask me.

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  • Jay Selis
    you gave Four Christmases a better rating than Bolt. "sigh"
  • SillySil
    I agree with #1.
  • DinoChow
    Jesus dude...you hate everything. Somehow Milk got a similar grade to Four Christmases, which was somehow above Bolt. I mean, you could have summed this whole thing up in one sentance; everything sucks.
  • theotherbluth
    I just saw Australia yesterday and I couldn't disagree more marco. I thought it was a great story, it was long, but not overly. and the whole film was beautifully shot and acted. I knew it was long going in and that may have helped, but I was engrossed in the story and the setting. Loved it
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    This time i actually agree with #3! Marco needs to just ease up and enjoy some movies. I loved Australia and Milk and Bolt! And disliked Four Christmases and Transporter and Twilight. There ARE some good movies out there...
  • Marco
    I hate to sound like a Scrooge but this season's movies have been very disappointing. I gave Australia a "C" which is an average grade, not great but not terrible either. Do a search for national reviews of "Australia" and you'll see that I've been kind compared to most critics. As for "Milk" vs. "Four Christmases," they're two VERY different kinds of movies with almost similar enjoyment levels. Regardless "Slumdog Millionaire" is the best thing to see this weekend as it expands nationally. :)
  • rblitz7
    "The animal trio get into all kinds of trouble suitable for a family film but also manage to bore the hell out of the adults in the audience." umm I don't know what theater you were at but Bolt had everybody laughing in mine...including adults!! I hope you at least got a few laughs out of it.
  • Gloria Mundi
    Today would be an especially apt day to see "Milk" - it's the 30th anniversary of the death of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.
  • http://www.entertainmenttodayandbeyond.com entertainmenttodayandbeyond.com
    I just got back from seeing Australia. I agree its a mess, but I still really enjoyed it. Bottom line -It moved me and that why I go to the movies. I thought Luhrmann's use of The Wizard Of Oz in the film was ballsy filmmaking and it worked. Kidman is always good! Chuck
  • tzarinna
    I never did expect much from "Australia", I plan on seeing it but I'm none too thrilled about it. I'm still super stoked to see "Bolt" and I'm totally in love with "Milk". "Twilight" and "Four Christmases" can both wait for DVD. I liked "Slumdog Millionaire" but I didn't love it, my boyfriend loved the hell out of it. I kept my expectations low for "Transporter 3" so I wasn't completely disappointed. I'll be seeing "Bolt" on Monday.
  • Lady Aerin
    I really loved Bolt. It wasn't perfect, but Disney is trying so hard to get back to what they once were, and they're so very close with this movie. Sure it was predictable, but once you see enough movies, most movies are predictable, and it was fun and very well-paced. I'd love to see Milk or Slumdog, but they're not playing in any theatres close to me, so I'll just have to wait until Oscar buzz expands their releases. Reviews on Australia have been really mixed, and I got a bad vibe about it from the first teaser poster, so I'll probably skip it unless it ends up nominated for an above-the-line Oscar. We've been going to the movies a lot lately, but my fiancé and I have both been sick and nothing that's playing locally really grabs us this weekend that we haven't already seen, so we're probably going to avoid the crowds and stay home.
  • BahHumbug
    I've yet to see Twilight and Four Christmases but based on the other films, I'd go see in this order... 1. Slumdog Millionaire 2. Milk 3. Australia 4. Bolt 5. The Transporter 3 I'm not sure about ranking those last too. I'm in the minority amongst people I've talked to because I didn't like Bolt but it at least has more substance and thought to it than Transporter 3. Both weren't favorites of mine. Australia is an epic vision and is beautifully shot but falls apart in certain places. The only two films that I thought were brilliant were Milk and Slumdog (which was perfect, and I too got to talk to Danny Boyle for my college TV station, I absolutely dig the guy's resume). And as much as I enjoy this site (despite idiotic or disrespectful comments from readers every now and again), I wish Marco posted more than Alex, his thoughts/reviews are more complex ;-). Don't worry Alex, you still rock :-).
  • The_Phantom
    Wasn't there a longer runtime for Australia? Maybe it was a mess cause the film got edited to much and we missed some of the story which made it seem like two stories. I liked it but yes I believe that the movie was too long and slow.
  • Aaron
    Why being so harsh on Bolt? I thought it was really good! Plus I know plenty of adults who enjoyed it. Sheesh talk about a short attention span.
  • http://www.brushstrokesdirect.com Oil Paintings
    Bolt is really a great movie. i really enjoyed watching it.

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