2013 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (September – December)
Oscar season! This is when the studios want to release the best films of the year (or so they say). Why? Because they want the films to be fresh in the voters’ minds. Prestige films and the like. Indie dramas, historical period films, war films, controversial films… If it can make you cry, your heartbreak, your spirit lift with joy, make you see things from a new light, this is the season.
It’s also a good time for seasonal holiday films. You’ve got your horror films to cover Halloween, your Christmas films for Christmas, and this year we even got an animated Thanksgiving film (though I’m not certain that all you people looking forward to a big piece of juicy turkey are going to love it). Meanwhile, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa get left out, once again. For some reason, this season was also rife with Christian films, from Kirk Cameron, to Miley Cyrus analogs, to Christmas miracles, the industry that claims to represent my faith has got you covered in that area. Woo.
It’s not all your typical films, though. More and more, Hollywood is figuring out that you should spread your action films and your romantic comedies throughout the year, rather than bunching them all into the middle. Consequently, we got a few Sylvester Stallone-involved flicks this season, a sequel to Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, as well as the latest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: The Dark World.
Nevertheless, as with the first and second entries, I couldn’t see them all, so, as with the last time, here are the films that, as of this writing, I did not see from May– August 2013, in order of release, as noted on Wikipedia. Please note that, as in the past, I still reserve the right to watch any film that is listed here and then re-remark on the film in one of the upcoming articles on films I did see from 2013. So, yes, again, you might see some of these films again, and soon, since this is the last of the films that I haven’t seen from the year. Enjoy!
Man, you’d think after The Time Traveler’s Wife, Rachel McAdams would stay away from the time travel movies, right? Actually, unlike that abysmal (and often creepy) bore, About Time actually kind of looks sweet and amusing. Then again, I thought that other one looked promising, too, but at least I now have the generally warm reviews to back me up on this one.
It seems like 2013 was the revival year for horror movie spoofs. Yes, this is a spoof. I know the title is no longer really a giveaway, but, I mean, it stars Rob Corddry and several other comedians. It’s made by the guys who brought us Reno 911! so, you know… not a serious movie. It kind of looks amusing, but also kind of not. I’m a little neutral on this one and honestly probably won’t be seeing it.
Shuddh Desi Romance
Oh wow. One of the guys in this movie looks a bit like an Indian Ashton Kutcher, and one of the women an Indian Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The Aston Kutcher comparison seems a bit appropriate too, since the synopsis sounds like a remake of No Strings Attached, with friends with benefits (not to be confused with Friends With Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake and Kutcher’s That 70’s Show costar Mila Kunis, oddly enough) struggle with serious feelings toward one another that goes beyond just the physical. Why that journey should take 2.5 hours, as is the case with Shuddh Desi Romance (released internationally as A Random Desi Romance), I have no idea, but there you go.
A popular free spirit / massage therapist suddenly finds herself with a revulsion to human contact, while her reserved dentist brother attempts to make amends with his daughter while his business begins to boom when customers seek out his healing touch. That plot summary pretty much makes the title sound about right, and the actual film itself, currently available for streaming on Netflix, looks like the ultimate in existential fluff.
Released theatrically two years after its Toronto Film Festival debut, Winnie Mandela, a biopic starring Jennifer Hudson about the life and struggles of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was not without its controversies, particularly from the very person whose life the film is based on protesting her lack of involvement. To make matters worse, the film’s long road to theatrical distribution was, I suspect, largely due to the film’s poor reception at the festival. Matters didn’t improve upon its release, with the film being called “superficial” and a “too-earnest made-for-TV movie”
Insidious: Chapter 2
The first movie wasn’t so bad, but I did wait for it to release on Netflix. This second chapter largely didn’t feel 100% necessary to me, but you know, sequels are to be expected from a horror film that did so well at the box office. At least this one had a bit of precedent for existing, but this looks less scary and more like a circus fun show. Meh.
Jayne Mansfield’s Car
Billy Bob Thornton co-wrote, directs, and stars in this film about two families who are united when the Caldwell family in Alabama meets the England-originating Bedfords at the funeral for what turns out to be the mother of both families’ children. The title refers to the car in which actress and Playboy model Jayne Mansfield was killed in back in 1967, which is apparently put on display in a nearby town as a sort of tourist attraction, which sounds incredibly grim and tacky to me, but I’m sure the film makes a good case for naming itself after it. A low number of positive reviews, not necessarily originating from the film’s title of course, tells me this ensemble flick did not exactly impress.
Flashy The Fifth Element director Luc Besson directs this film about a family (duh) who is placed under witness protection after snitching on the mob. Their ineptitude at staying low key, as evidenced by their outrageous lack of self-control in normal everyday situations, inevitably draws the mob’s attention their way, and so they take their protection into their own hands. It kind of looks entertaining, all things considered, even if it did get generally negative reviews.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in one of his final roles) star in this comedy about two older single parents, Eva and Albert, meeting at a party and falling in love. But when Eva finds out that one of her clients is Albert’s ex-wife, who can’t stop gossiping about all of his flaws to the woman she doesn’t know he’s dating. With all this over her head, Eva begins to question whether the man she’s fallen for is truly worth pursuing, despite how wonderful he is towards her. The film has received widespread acclaim for its humor and acting. Definitely something I want to see in the future!
Battle of the Year
Widely derided as one of the worst films of the year, this dance battle flick starring Josh Holloway is at least likely to go down as being one of the year’s best so-bad-it’s-good guilty pleasures. The plot features a washed up alcoholic coach redeeming himself by helping a ragtag team of b-boys in a global breakdancing competition, complete with all the hokey dialog and in-your-face 3D visuals you could expect from the goofiest inspirational sports films. Director Benson Lee received acclaim for his breakdancing documentary Planet B-Boy (which holds an 83%), but clearly his skills as a documentarian did not translate well into directing scripted material, with Battle earning a disastrous 4% approval from critics. Oh, and it co-stars everyone’s favorite singer, Chris Brown.
Naomi Watts is typically a wonderful actress, even when she’s in bad material. Her role in Movie 43 this same year didn’t afford her a very funny script to work with, but she could’ve likely pulled it off if the material were any good. However, when I first saw the trailer for this Princess Diana biopic, which jointly earned Watts her first Golden Raspberry nomination alongside the Farrelly brothers’ anthology, I immediately thought, “… Well that doesn’t look very good at all.” Watts doesn’t even really look like the famed royal, but I guess she’s a good enough match, physically, but she just doesn’t look very invested in the role, either. Rather sleepy-looking, in fact. The film focuses on the relationships Diana held with Hasnat Khan and Dodi Fayed, which kind of feels unjust given that Diana’s humanitarian work is instead overshadowed by typical royal melodrama. Bleh.
The Face of Love
I guess this isn’t technically being released widely in theatres until March 2014, so that would likely explain the lack of buzz, but this does look very interesting. In case it’s something I might accidentally skip over next year, why not cover it now? A widow, played by Annette Bening, falls in love with a man, played by Ed Harris, who looks and acts almost uncannily similarly to her deceased husband. As a result, she struggles with the idea of moving on from the pain of her loss, while at the same time feeling as if she’s fallen in love with him all over again, even though this new man is a completely different person. It’s an intriguing premise, especially given that it’s likely to be more about dealing with falling in love again for those who lost their spouses than the actual strange coincidence that sets up the film’s premise. Should be solid!
I actually really wanted to see this in theatres, but the only showing near me was in IMAX, and I honestly did not want to spend $15 on a ticket to see what I feel is a drastcially overrated (but ultimately still enjoyable) film when I was kind of underwhelmed by the IMAX experience for the Jurassic Park re-release earlier this year, given that neither film was actually shot in 3D nor IMAX. I did like the 3D, however, and I heard that the conversion process for this classic was pretty wonderful, but, yeah, for me, it still wasn’t enough to convince me to spend the money. I only partly regret it.
Kirk Cameron, my mortal enemy. We meet again. I admit – ever since I saw the guy interviewing people and evangelizing by telling them they were going to hell, I’d never really cared for him. (It’s not that I don’t believe in hell – to make a difficult subject simple, it’s that I believe we don’t call those shots and do not agree with his caustic tactics as a result.) Without further getting into the nuances of theology and doctrine and all that, let me just summarize and say that I often feel like he and cohort Ray Comfort perpetuate the image of Christians (among whom I count myself) as being anti-intellectual morons and bigots, and I get frustrated that so many Christians embrace him so willfully and passionately. So when I heard that Cameron’s 2013 film was a documentary that followed him as he attempted to answer the questions “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Where is God in times of grief?” I was pretty skeptical, as I am most people who often claim to know what God says 100% of the time. I’ll likely watch this eventually, but I wasn’t paying for a theatre ticket for this one. I’ll find whichever means I can that gives Cameron the least amount of money possible, barring piracy. (Stealing is wrong, kids.)
Thanks for Sharing
The film follows recovering and struggling sex addicts helping each other out in their personal relationships – with each other, their significant others, and in their families. It has a pretty big ensemble cast – Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Patrick Fugit, Carol Kane, and even singer Pink – but while it looks kind of cute and amusing, the film apparently isn’t nearly as deep as it could be. Oh well.
[Pulls up Rotten Tomatoes profile and reads synopsis…] “Determined to get engaged before her youngest sister’s wedding, flight attendant Montana Moore (Paula Patton) finds herself with only 30 days to find Mr. Right. …” NOPE!
I actually did want to see this, but, you know, money. The first was surprisingly fun, so this might still show up on a future entry in my 2013 in Review series. I mean, how could I resist the ridiculously silly food puns? “TACODILE… SUPREME!”
My stepsister says she and he friend walked out on the movie early on, claiming it to be “filth.” I’m not entirely certain what she was expecting, given the trailers. The concept of romantic comedies being like emotional pornography, however, was something that was introduced to me by my 11th grade English teacher, whom I greatly admired, and Don Jon’s premise, which involves a superficial porn addict falling for a girl way too into her romantic comedies, is the first time I’d heard of a Hollywood film taking a similar sort of examination on the similarities between the two. Joseph Gordon-Levitt pulls a triple threat and proves he’s not just a great actor, but also capable of writing and directing a well-received film, as well, and brings along with him Scarlett Johansson as the lead Jersey girl. Something tells me this isn’t going to be as simple as being “filth.”
Speaking of which… Here’s a film about a corrupt cop with a nasty drug habit and propensity for sleeping around, including with the wives of other cops, as he attempts work his way up through the chain of command while holding on to his bad habits, which begins to work away at his sanity. This does, indeed, look pretty filthy, but not without purpose. And, like Don Jon, this got pretty solid reviews, so probably worth a look if you can handle the content.
I’m not a fan of metal, so, naturally, a 3D IMAX concert film, even one that interweaves concert footage of one of its most famous bands with a narrative about one of the band’s roadies, played by Dane DeHaan, being sent on a mission that sees him facing some pretty fantastical obstacles, is not exactly going to appeal to me, though I’ll give them credit for trying something new with the whole concert film experience. Fans of the band might want to check it out, as it got solid reviews.
A Telugu-language romantic action film that seems to have a pretty elaborate setup involving a man’s lost love, newfound love, and then his vengeance being taken when he is invited to the newfound love’s cousin’s wedding. And that’s apparently just the setup! In looking at all these Indian films this year, I’m really beginning to understand where Scott Pilgrim vs. the World got a lot of its manic inspiration from.
We Are What We Are
A US remake of the 2010 Mexican horror film Somos lo que hay, the film follows an investigation into the reclusive Parker family, which holds on to some pretty fringe customs from the family’s past, enforced by a domineering patriarch who forces his daughters to take over some unusual responsibilities. It was received very well by critics, who praised the atmosphere and acting, but be warned: apparently a prequel and sequel have both been greenlit for production. The horror!
Translated as “Runaway,” this Bengali film follows a bounty hunter who is tracking down a corrupt politician whom he believes to be possessed by an evil spirit and covers the politician’s dark past. It hasn’t been given a wide release, though I could’ve sworn I’d heard its name dropped here and there. I have no frame of reference for how well it was received, but it looks quite pretty and competently made.
I like pretty much most of the people in this cast. Adam Scott. Amy Poehler. Catherine O’Hara. But this film about “Adult Children of Divorce” looks just a bit too lazy and, actually, a bit full of itself.
Fellow Christians, can we please, PLEASE, stop making these mediocre life lesson films that drum up hype by pandering to us through lengthy church showings so popular? Are we that gullible and so willing to forgive quality for mere affirmation of our own beliefs? This film almost seems like a cautionary tale for use by anyone who thinks that their kids will really follow the path of Miley Cyrus, strike it big in Hollywood, and go down the path of godless debauchery. You already know the girl in the film, appropriately named Gracie, is going to learn the life lesson she needs to bring herself back to God, etc. etc. You already know that you agree with the film’s moral message. Where’s the spiritual and personal growth in that? I get it – we need reminders of what it means to be Christians, but that doesn’t have to come at the sacrifice of quality filmmaking and bland storytelling. I’m sure good intentions at least partly went into making this film, but it’s still mostly just a product. There’s nothing wrong with supporting artists, but if you’re going to spend your money, demand better product, for crying out loud!
How I Live Now
How many films did Saoirse Ronan star in that were released this year? Good grief! This one does look pretty good, though – a teenage romance set in a scary war-torn, nuclear-bombed England. Doesn’t come out on DVD until February 11 after its limited theatrical release, unfortunately, but it’s one that I’ll definitely want to keep an eye out for.
A few people I know who saw this Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck-starring thriller about online poker scams and a college student who gets himself caught between the luxurious but dangerous life of a scam artist and the righteous but equally dangerous world of the FBI and claimed that it was “pretty good.” Now, I think everyone I know who knows me that well knows that I’m not one to necessarily always go based on the “pretty good” word of mouth vs. the general critical reception of a film, and I feel comfortable in stating that this kind of mindless, ham-fisted film looks like a flashy but dull mess, and its 9% approval rating seems to concur with that, so… I dunno. I might watch it at some point, but only if they continue to insist.
Just how many of these “jukebox musicals” are there out there? A musical built on the songs of The Proclaimers and based on the 2007 musical stage production, the film follows two British Army servicemen, Davy and Ally, as they return home from serving in Afghanistan and subsequently begin to strike up romantic relationships with two girls, Yvonne and Liz, respectively, as well as the relationship between Davy and Liz’s parents (they’re siblings). The film looks pretty fun and was very well received, so I didn’t read too far into the plot summary on this one.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2)
I’d heard a lot of buzz surrounding this 3 hour 7 minute French import that received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, and not just because the film centers on the lives of two adolescent girls who fall in love with one another. The film received widespread critical acclaim for its composition and acting, but was snubbed at the Oscars for the Foreign Film category, likely due to the film’s rating, which it earned for its frankness in its depictions of the sexually active teens’ relationships. Let it never be said that the Oscars, though an important night for the film medium, is not without its superficial political controversies.
Escape from Tomorrow
Famously filmed within the walls of Disney World and Disneyland without the media conglomorate’s approval or notice, Escape from Tomrorow is a bizarre-looking sci-fi film about a single dad who attempts to distract himself from the pain of losing his job while on a family trip to the Florida theme park. The film doesn’t exactly shine the brightest of lights on the Disney company, complete with stark black and white cinematography, but while paranoia over whether they would take legal action against director Randy Moore for his guerrilla filmmaking tactics, the company has, perhaps commendably, instead chosen to merely acknowledge its existence with no further comment. The film remains obscure, and those who saw it have at least praised the film for its audacity, so perhaps a worthwhile venture for those into surreal experimental films.
Robert Rodriguez knows how to make some compelling trash, and this sequel to his surprisingly well-received 2010 film looks equally appealing in its trashiness, complete with a womanizing President played by Charlie Sheen (using his given name Carlos Estévez), a villain played by Mel Gibson, and a henchwoman with a machine gun bra played by Sofía Vergara. It wasn’t nearly as well received as its predecessor, but, I dunno… While I haven’t seen either one yet, I would probably be compelled to see this follow up anyway.
Romeo and Juliet
Yet another retelling of the forever retold story of Romeo and Juliet, this adaptation, despite using the original script, was criticized for being incredibly bland and poorly acted. This claims to be the 21st century retelling of Shakespeare’s play, but this was already beat out by 2013’s own appropriately adapted version of the story: Warm Bodies. You know – the one with zombies? All the rage these days.
Though English is the primary language spoken throughout the film, this is actually a Pakistani production – “the most anticipated film in the history of Pakistan.” It took three years to complete this film about the war on terror within Pakistan, apparently leading many to believe it would be shelved or forever held up in development hell. Upon release, however, it became the highest grossing film within the history of its country, something that apparently is well deserved according to critics, though many fear that the film just perpetuates already prevalent conspiracy theories and animosity towards India. The film is gradually getting a global release, however, already opening in the UAE and last week in the UK, so, at the very least, maybe we’ll get to have our own say eventually?
Dane DeHaan’s really making a name for himself, isn’t he? This film stars DeHaan and Daniel Radcliffe, who plays poet Allen Ginsberg as a young man, as he befriends Lucien Carr, played by DeHaan. The lifestyles and beliefs of the two men, alongside fellow aspiring authors William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, serve as the basis for what would become the Beat movement, but the mysterious death of one of Columbia University’s instructors, who had become infatuated with Carr, casts a shadow over their lives as Carr becomes a suspect. The film, the directorial debut of John Krokidas, received positive reviews, as did the two leads, so probably worth a watch.
All is Lost
Robert Redford stars as a man who is lost at sea and whose boat is slowly taking on water. I actually find it kind of alarming how little I knew about this film, which has received widespread critical acclaim, from its production values to Redford’s performance, which many declared as Oscar-worthy. (It’s only nominated for Sound Editing.) It looks very good, though.
I considered watching this, but it just didn’t scream to me, “Watch this in the theatre!” I’m not too particularly fond of the Brian De Palma adaptation of Stephen King’s story, but not for any affection for the original, either (haven’t yet read it). The actors in this rendition are all very good, including Chloe Moretz, and it’d certainly be interesting to see the story from the perspective of a female director, Kimberly Peirce, but this was one I could easily wait to see as a rental.
Schwarzenegger and Stallone team up for the first time in leading roles (meaning The Expendables doesn’t count) as two men who put together a plan to escape from the highest security prison ever built. The film costars Jim Caviezel, 50 Cent, Amy Ryan, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Sam Neill, so the cast is about as mixed a bag as one could get, but that’s not exactly a bad thing. Sounds like a solid premise for an action film. It looks quite dumb, as was to be expected, but if you’re really into these guys’ movie, I see no reason why you would want to stay away from this. Heck, I kind of want to see it. Have fun.
I’m in Love with a Church Girl
A former drug dealer falls in love with the titular church girl, who feels the same for him, if only he would move on from his past life. He struggles with faith and the troubled life he knows he should leave in the past, feeling unworthy to go back to church like he knows he should. If you couldn’t tell, it’s a Christian movie production aimed at teaching a lesson. The film stars rapper Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins in a role inspired by screenwriter and producer Galley Molina’s own life, and costars Adrienne Bailon, Stephen Baldwin, Vincent Pastore, Christian musicians Toby Mac and T-Bone, and surprisingly regular Christian film actor/Quentin Tarantino favorite Michael Madsen, so kind of a mix-up cast, really. Regardless of your affections for the stars, however, this looks like yet another in a long line of Christian productions that just can’t understand that it also needs good storytelling.
Translated, the title of this Bengali film means “Full Length Love Story,” which is about as generic sounding as you can get, but is also kind of charming. The film follows a man named Joy who is engaged to his cousin, Mimo. Before marrying her, he makes a promise to his grandfather to find his missing aunt and uncle in Malaysia. There, he is assisted by a woman named Jaya, who, of course, falls in love with him. I gotta say, though, if this is truly the trailer for the film, something about all the singing and violence seems to suggest more may be going on here.
The Fifth Estate
Benedict Cumberbatch is another one of those actors who just showed up everywhere in 2013. Notably, this was the only one that did not receive very good reviews. Perhaps it was just too difficult adapting the ripped from the headlines story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the publication of classified military documents on his site. An exploration of the ethics surrounding the leaks and Assange’s motivations for doing so is intriguing, but many found the execution lacking, despite the talents on screen. Perhaps this will be a template for what not to do when it comes time to adapt the Edward Snowden story to film?
I’ve yet to see a Jackass film in theatres, though I’ve liked all previous films. Hey! No judging! They’re stupid, yes, but they have no pretentions about being anything other than stupidly entertaining, which they’ve always exceeded at. This spinoff, however, took a new route entirely by sticking Johnny Knoxville in old man makeup (earing the film a rather amusing Oscar nomination in the category) and adding a narrative, Borat-style, complete with hidden camera footage of pranks typical of the old man bits they did previously. Like all previous films in the series, Bad Grandpa managed to generate relatively positive reviews from those who like this kind of thing – of which I am one. I just… I dunno… I didn’t want to go see it alone?
Considering its cast (Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt), the director (Ridley Scott), and the author who wrote the screenplay (Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy), you’d kind of expect this one to be a smash hit, right? Not really. For me, the film kind of just came and went.
An adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel which largely replaces Kerouac’s pseudonyms for the real names of the people the characters were based on, it tells the story about Kerouac’s time spent in Big Sur, where he struggled with his success as the leader of the Beatniks, who saw him as a young hero, even though he was middle aged and depressive. Having admittedly no familiarity with the novel nor even that much, really, with its author, this adaptation doesn’t hold much for me one way or another, but responses have been mixed from critics.
Apparently realizing that there was a dearth of Thanksgiving films beyond Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Relativity Media tried to fill in the gap with this time travel film about turkeys who attempt to stop the first Thanksgiving from ever happening, thus stopping the turkey genocide that has happened every fourth Thursday in November since. Or something like that. There are some surprising big names here: Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, Woody Harrelson, and George Takei lead the charge of this embarrassing, PETA-approved turkey.
Third in a now-trilogy of Bollywood sci-fi superhero films, this was a fairly big film and was generally well received, even if it wasn’t all that adored. It doesn’t sound as if those who hadn’t seen the previous two films – Koi… Mil Gaya and Krrish – will be all that put off by any plot developments, if you want to see it but can’t track them down.
I admit it: I chuckled at one of the jokes in the trailer, but this still looked so much like The Geriatric Hangover, I just knew this was not going to be my thing.
Best Man Down
The film has a fairly dark but intriguing premise for a comedy. Two newly weds discover the best man at their wedding has died in his hotel room, and so they decide to use their honeymoon money to take him back home, discovering along the way that the obnoxious best friend of the groom had a daughter, who now wants to come along for the funeral. Not a bad concept for a dark but moving comedy, but any emotional sincerity apparently gets drowned out by boring execution.
Several people I know who’ve seen this absolutely loved this adaptation of the 2006 novel by Markus Zusak, about a little girl who lives with her German foster parents who are harboring a Jewish refugee in their basement during the Nazi regime. Reviews were mixed for this one, but I have no doubt that there are some who will find much to love about it.
The Starving Games
For some reason, I thought this starred Brittany Snow. Watching the trailer again for this Hunger Games parody again, star Maiara Walsh looks nothing like her. Sorry about that, Brittany! Good for you, though. Anyway, it’s from the guys who brought us such gems as Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, but, oddly, not Superhero Movie. That should give you some clue as to the expectations to have for this, though. 2014 will see them release a Fast and Furious spoof. You’ve been warned.
Everyone’s favorite (deserving?) punching bag Shia LaBeouf stars as an American who falls in love with a fellow passenger aboard a transatlantic flight, a Romanian musician who also falls for him, but brings with her a history with a dangerous gangster who still lays claim to her, despite their divorce. LaBeouf haters may enjoy this grimy-looking love story, as it looks like there are many ways in which he gets beaten up and maimed (even though much of it does look to be fairly fantastical). The film itself didn’t find much love.
The fact that this got a decent reception is kind of surprising to me. The fact that the trailer used that obnoxious Robin Thicke song was my first sign of trouble. However, I wasn’t familiar with the first film, The Best Man, released all the way back in 1999 (boy does that feel weird to say), and both films received about the same warm reception. So anyone who enjoyed the first one is likely to enjoy this Christmas-themed sequel.
The Christmas Candle
Christmas movies are rarely ever that good without being outrageous comedies. So many of them recycle material, such as basing its story on A Christmas Carol. Not so, this one, which bases itself on the Max Lucado novel about a young pastor who attempts to modernize a church by bringing it electricity, threatening to undermine the small village of Gladbury’s legend about how, every 25 years, an angel blesses a candle which in turn bless whoever lights it on Christmas Eve, putting him at odds with the local candle maker, as well. Something something something… miracles still happen. As with most of the Christian-targeted movies I’ve covered, this spoonful of treacle was too sweet to swallow for most. Gasp.
I gotta admit, the audacious premise for this film is kind of amusing: a schlub, desperate for money, makes several donations to a sperm bank, only to find out, decades later, that he’s now not only the father of his estranged girlfriend’s baby, he’s also the father of 533 children across the world, a large portion of whom want to know who their biological father is. That should be enough, but there’s something in there about thugs, too? Kind of sounds extraneous for an already high concept film, but it was present in the original Canadian film, Starbuck, of which this film is based – in fact, there’s also a French remake, Fonzy, and a Bollywood remake, Vicky Donor, proving that many people really thought this idea had legs. Deliver Man, ironically, did not deliver. (That just came to me!)
Gori Tere Pyaar Mein
Bollywood films just don’t get very wide releases or publicity here in the States…
Singh Saab the Great
This kind of looks like something Robert Rodriguez or someone of his ilk would’ve made, doesn’t it?
Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”
The 50th Anniversary episode of the longstanding series saw the first crossover featuring the meetings of the Matt Smith and David Tennant incarnations of the Doctor going up against a previously unrevealed version, the War Doctor, played by John Hurt. To be perfectly honest, this series’ history is so extensive, I’m a bit intimidated by it, though I’d certainly accept someone offering to help me through it if they could not just give me a starting point, but also sit through it with me. I’m just too ignorant of the series, though, to have gone and seen this without context. I understand Who fans loved it, though, so good for them!
Though I don’t sit around and listen to it, I love the sound of the gospel music genre (it’s even one of the many reasons why I think Disney’s Hercules is so underrated). Black Nativity is a modernized adaptation of the Langston Hughes play of the same name, featuring a lot of big name players that should’ve helped the film be a pretty big success – Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Hudson all feature – but the framing device about a troubled mother and her son was added to the mix and in fact dominates the trailer, which seems to be where most of the negative reactions have come from. Perhaps a better adaptation would’ve been to just stick to the concept of an all African-American cast portraying the birth of Christ?
Jason Statham stars in a film written and co-produced by Sylvester “Him Again!” Stallone as an ex-DEA agent hellbent on getting his daughter back from the local drug kingpin. Action ensues. Yawn.
I’ve had the original Korean film in my queue for quite some time but continued to not watch it – it’s neither in HD nor, last time I checked, in widescreen, but I keep it there just in case. Maybe I should just go ahead and put the disc in my other queue… Hmm… Anyway, I wasn’t going to watch this Spike Lee remake without seeing the original first.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Idris Elba plays Nelson Mandela in a film based on Mandela’s autobiography. He gets to chew plenty of scenery in the role that follows him through 27 years of his life. Many praised Elba’s performance, but called the film a bit too reverent to its subject matter to be truly considered a masterpiece depiction of the man’s life.
Out of the Furnace
A blue collar worker goes searching for his brother, who goes missing after getting himself involved with a dangerous crime ring after returning home from Iraq. Lots of yelling in gritty scenery is on display in the trailers from its talented cast that includes Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker and Willem Dafoe, but I wasn’t exactly itching to go see this, to be honest.
Hours is the story of a father who struggles to keep himself and his premature daughter alive when they are cut off from the world during Hurricane Katrina and isolated within the hospital with no power, and a battery on his daughter’s incubator that is constantly in need of manual recharging. It’s a very interesting premise, certainly more original than the one in, say Homefront, so perhaps worth a wotch? The film was notably scheduled released to theatres soon after the untimely death of its lead actor, Paul Walker, making this the first of what will unfortunately be three total posthumous releases, including Brick Mansions and Fast & Furious 7, which he had not completed filming for.
Often called India’s answer to Fast & Furious, the Dhoom series has been known for its elaborate, high-stakes, incredible stunts and action sequences, mostly focusing on the villains and antiheroes, with Abhishek Bachchan and Uday Chopra reprising their roles as police officers Jai Dixit and Ali Akbar. This film features a character named Sahir who seeks vengeance on a corrupt banker who ruined his magician father’s business when he was a child, so he’s not without reason to do what he does, thus bringing into question whether he’s truly a villain or more of a vigilante out for justice. The film was the most expensive Bollywood production at the time of its release and the first to be released in IMAX film and with Dolby Atmos sound formats. It’s also the highest-grossing Bollywood film in overseas markets, showing that not even a language barrier could hold in the hype for the latest in the action series. I should look up the others!
My family had a DVD set of the original BBC documentary series, so my expectations for the film adaptation mostly came in the form of expecting higher quality and more updated information on what we know about dinosaurs and their living habits. Instead, what we get is a horrible, narrative-driven, talking animal kids movie that desperately wants to teach us all a lesson in something about overcoming others seeing you as the underdog and stuff other than nature and science – something that this film was uniquely put in the position of being able to do, if not for the studios’ desire to rake in the money. Screw that.
I actually kind of want to see this still and may catch it at some matinee showing, if it’s still playing near me. It looks dumb, to be sure, but it also kind of looks fun. Then again, as I write this, I, Frankenstein is kind of vying for my “so bad it’s good” attention span, so I don’t know which would win out. Hmm…
Stallone, you fiend. How can you seriously make this many movies to be released in one year? Here he takes on Robert De Niro as the two play rival, retired boxers who revive their titular squabble and determine that the best way to sort out their issues is through the geriatric boxing match of the century. Or something. I seriously rolled my eyes when I saw the trailer for it and continued to get irritated with how often it played on TV and just before almost every movie I saw. I get it. It’s Rocky vs. Raging Bull. Ho ho. Novel.
Justin Bieber’s Believe
If you saw this movie, you know you’ve just enabled him in egging his neighbor’s home and getting a DUI, right?
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
The trailers for this movie, which has been in development for freaking forever (I remember reading about it all the way back in 2001 when Jim Carrey was attached to star), had some very promising trailers that hinted at a fun but beautiful experience. It got a mediocre reception from critics, but I still plan on seeing this when it comes out to rent. There were just so many more movies I wanted to see this time of year, particularly the ones that were likely to be nominated for Best Picture, that this just got squeezed out as a result.
The Railway Man
Based on the autobiography of British officer Eric Lomax, The Railway Man tells the story about how Lomax was captured as a POW during WWII and was tortured by the Japanese while building the Thai-Burma Railway. Years after his rescue, Lomax, still hurting from his time as a prisoner, sought closure to his experiences by seeking out one of his tormentors, Takashi Nagase. The film follows his journey through both the original ordeal and how Lomax, with the help of his wife and close friend, built up the courage to find his peace of mind. Reviews have been generally positive, despite some dramatic license being taken, and the story is certainly powerful. It’s definitely something I’d like to see.
Leads Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts each received Oscar nominations for their roles here as mother and daughter in a family of strongly opinionated women and the men who live with them. It’s one of those family reunion films that happens due to one of those proverbial family crises that requires all the adult children to return to the roost, causing culture clashes for those who were determined to leave their pasts behind and such. The cast is packed to the brim with likeable and talented actors, however, and the generally positive response seems to put it above other films of this type.
Described as a “psychological whodunit thriller,” The Insomniac certainly looks quite intense, with the lead character, John Figg, moving back to his childhood home after the death of his father and starting his life renewed. Certain events, however, including the theft of his father’s car and a robbery that resulted in his father’s ashes being dumped on the floor, lead to John becoming paranoid and staying awake for several days in the hopes of catching the perpetrator, but the resulting psychosis leads to erratic and disturbing behavior that puts him and his family and friends at risk for being hurt by his own hands – or worse. Sounds interesting enough!
I actually didn’t expect this to be any good, but it’s received solid reviews. Though it really did only receive a wide release here in 2014, it’s technically still a 2013 film. I may still actually see this, probably as soon as tomorrow – I wasn’t planning on it until the reviews came out, actually.
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