Continuing our annual tradition of posting Thanksgiving and Christmas Movie Guides every holiday season, our San Francisco contributor, Marco Cerritos, has once again put together a holiday movie guide for Thanksgiving 2013, giving a recap and rundown of what's playing and what's worth seeing (or skipping). Marco has seen everything playing, and while you may not always agree with his opinion, he provides the best reviews he can to make it a bit easier for everyone to choose. There are quite a few wonderful films now playing in theaters, so if you're still a bit unsure of what to watch or need extra tips, then look no further!
When a remake of the South Korean film Oldboy was announced, it was a worst-nightmare scenario for fans. The thought that an American director would remake it for English-speaking audiences, shocking twists and all, was too much to handle. Those fears were subdued when Spike Lee signed on to direct. Lee isn't one of the best directors working today, but there's no denying the man has a very strong voice. Oldboy, through his eyes, was sure to be something exciting and fresh, regardless how many twists and/or turns carried over in the screenplay. Unfortunately, "exciting and fresh" turned into "hollow and awkward" somewhere along the way, and the Oldboy remake we're given ends up being an total mess. More below!
Homefront is the latest actioner for Jason Statham, the reigning champ of the action genre, but the role was intended for a former title-holder. Sylvester Stallone adapted the screenplay for himself, and if you're familiar with Sly's work when he puts pen to paper, you'll recognize Homefront for the '80s-style, eye-roller of excitement that it is. The movie is exciting, thanks in large part to a capable director, but that and Statham's charm aside, Homefront fumbles the ball far too many times on hackneyed dialogue, cringe-inducing drama, and a James Franco performance out of the golden era of action. And not in a good way.
When it comes to movie franchises, particularly those of the "three and done" variety, the odds are ever in the second film's favor. These films are typically darker, larger in scale, and the filmmakers behind them jump at the bit to craft a perfect setup for the trilogy's conclusion. These are all aspects The Hunger Games: Catching Fire wears, one badge of honor on its collective chest after another. Based on the novels by Suzanne Collins, the film serves as a smooth, beautiful, and epic transition from the clunky adaptation of the first novel to a hopefully explosive finale in Mockingjay. If nothing else, there will be fire.
Despite being overshadowed by The Avengers, the first Thor is still considered a bit of a misstep in Marvel's universe. Lame humor, a lack of scope, and odd pacing kept the beautiful images and interesting characters at bay from our interests. It's as if the filmmakers behind Thor: The Dark World had a list of items they were determined to get right this time around, because the sequel is everything the first Thor was not and more. It's appropriately funny, has an incredible sense of scope, and a nice pace that goes a long way this time, especially when the imagery and characters are just as strong as before. In fact, they're even stronger.
Nearly 30 years after Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game" began its quest towards sci-fi classic status, the film adaptation has finally been made. It's been an arduous trek for the project, one that's started and stalled a number of times, but it evidently took fans of the novel to grow up and begin making movies before the cinematic version could be done right. Ender's Game may not be a perfect adaptation of Card's novel. It moves with a haste that screams "adaptation of a larger work," but the film as is is quite stunning. Aided by superb performances and some of the very best digital effects seen in recent years, Ender's Game may not be an ideal adaptation, but it's hard in this age of Hollywood product not to admire what they've done.
On paper, The Counselor sounds like an excellent idea. Another story about blood-soaked drug money written by No Country For Old Men novelist Cormac McCarthy, the author's first work written for the screen. Direction from a man who knows how to make violent images pop with stylized beauty, that being Ridley Scott. Add a stellar cast filling extremely eccentric roles, and you have a recipe for a bleak masterpiece. Who knew McCarthy would be the weakest in this package? The style of the images and impact of the acting can only take the film so far, and it ends up being an aimless, often convoluted dumpster fire of ideas that makes one wonder if the author's works aren't best as adaptation when it comes to the cinema.
Like the promise of Godzilla Vs. King Kong or, hell, even Freddy Vs. Jason, Sylvester Stallone teaming up with Arnold Schwarzenegger has been a long-gestating action junkies dream. The Expendables and sequel sated that appetite a bit, but the inevitable, full-throttle, buddy action movie boasting the two of them in dueling lead roles could not have come soon enough. That film is finally here, and Escape Plan, for all of its strengths and weaknesses, is precisely the Stallone/Schwarzenegger tug-of-war is expected to be. Lumbering, heavy on the action in the back-half, and ponderous in the amount of quips these action stars can bounce off of each other, it's the epitome of getting what you wish for, whether you like it or not.
Stephen King's 1974 novel "Carrie," the author's first published, caused an ensuing avalanche in the horror world. The landscapes of horror fiction on both bookshelves and in theaters was forever changed. It was only a matter of time before the senseless remakes began down the assembly line. Coming 37 years after the Brian De Palma-directed debut of King's source material to the big screen, Carrie has once again been adapted to film, and the results are predictable. Despite a strong showing from its two leads, this new version of Carrie is a lazy retread of King's original story, retold without a shred of creativity or new blood refreshing the atmosphere surrounding it. It's now become a thing that just kind of goes "Meh" in the night.
"Falling in love is a crazy thing to do... it's kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity." We all want to fall in love, but it's easier for some than it is for others. In this modern world consumed with technology and the connectivity of the internet, how do we still find love? How do we still find genuine, real love in a world of online dating, pornography, cell phones and YouTube? The closing film of the 51st New York Film Festival is Spike Jonze's latest brilliant creation titled Her, set in the near future, a meditation on the values of love and how one bubbly, charming man learns how to love (again) with the help of his operating system.
I'm a daydreamer. From as early as I can remember I've known myself to get lost in thought, even if it's just some silly fantasy. As a kid, I'd drift during grade school and imagine the patterns of the room's wallpaper as a maze that must be traversed. On the subway here in New York City, I'll space out while gazing at the Manhattan skyline crossing the bridge into or out of Brooklyn. It happens all the time, even to this day. Why am I telling you this seemingly random bit of trivia about my life? Well, because it lies at the heart of why I fell in love with Ben Stiller's new film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty at the New York Film Festival.
At this point you don't need me explaining the awesomeness, beauty, and heart-pounding intensity at work in Gravity. The latest film from masterful director Alfonso Cuarón has been generating tons of buzz, most of it falling into the consensus that Gravity is all of the above, and it's easy to fall into hyperbole with an event picture like this. That isn't keeping the hype from being 100% accurate, as Gravity mesmerizes at every turn in story, development of character, and the impeccably executed shot that makes it not only a most suspenseful and moving experience, but also a visual achievement unlike anything we've seen before.
I love being inspired. I genuinely love watching or hearing stories that inspire me, and inspire everyone else, to pursue their dreams and live their life in a way that continues to inspire others. Many people are familiar with the research facility near Geneva, Switzerland called the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, run by CERN. This gigantic, 18-mile circle of tubes is filled with electromagnets that force the smallest particles in existence to smash into each other. A documentary called Particle Fever, showing at the New York Film Festival, tells the inside story of the LHC following a few of the theoretical/experimental physicists working on the project. It is utterly fascinating and inspiring on many levels. While not a perfect doc, I still loved it.
Keanu Reeves knows Tai Chi, and, as evidenced by the appropriately titled Man of Tai Chi, the man's directorial debut, he knows it well. What a flurry with which to come out swinging right off the bat. Man of Tai Chi suffers, a lot, from the random cheesiness and ankle-deep script at work, and there is so much about the film that simply should not work. All that is easy to discard, however, when you consider just how kickass the action bouncing before your eyes truly is. Reeves has a keen eye for action and not much else, but Man of Tai Chi has a job to do, a very specific job; at what it aims, it absolutely has pinpoint precision. It almost makes you wonder what Reeves might do with the rest of all that Kung Fu he learned so long ago.