Opening December 7th: This December Has Three Great Weekends Of Movies … This Isn’t One Of Them

Wouldn’t You Think Hollywood Would Have Moved One Of The Good Movies To This Week

And You Thought Last Week
Was Bereft Of Big Movies

Look, December 2012 is going to be a good month of movies. We’re going to have Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Quentin Tarantino’s return to revised history (in a very good way) with Django Unchained, Katherine Bigelow’s return to the conflict in the Middle-East with Zero Dark Thirty, Hugh Jackman’s return to musicals in Les Miserables, Tom Cruise’s return to action with Jack Reacher, Judd Apatow’s return to putting his wife along side Paul Rudd in This Is 40 and Billy Crystal, Better Midler and Barbara Streisand return to comedies in Parental Guidance and Guilt Trip. Will all of those movies be good? Of course not (in fact Parental Guidance and Guilt Trip look painfully bad), but as a collective whole they make for a pretty darn good month of wide releases. And when you add smaller films by David Chase (the guy who brought us The Sopranos) and Gus Van Sant (of Goodwill Hunting fame among many other good movies) and Michael Haneke (if you are a fan of German cinema that means something to you) to bolster the indie cred December is looking like a pretty good month if you are a movie fan. But none of those movies are coming out this weekend. This weekend is not completely devoid of good movies, but it is almost entirely devoid of movies that haven’t been available On Demand for days or even weeks. Only Hyde Park On Hudson (Bill Murray’s FDR movie) and Playing For Keeps (Gerard Butler’s latest sure-to-be romantic comedy flop) would require you to leave the comfort of your couch to watch and one of those is a limited release (Hyde Park on Hudson).

So what happened this weekend? Here are a few theories:

  • Anything released this weekend is sure to be crushed by hobbits and dwarfs next weekend so why waste anything good.
  • An abnormally early Thanksgiving gave hollywood an extra weekend before Christmas and they had no idea what to do with it.
  • The obviously powerful Scottish Hollywood mob is blackmailing studios to do all they can to make Gerard Butler a Rom-Com star.
  • Hollywood execs thought Bill Murray was playing Dr. Peter Venkman not FDR flirting with his cousin.
  • Someone saw Bruce Willis had a movie opening and didn’t realize this was his sixth movie of the year (Nick Cage would be proud Bruce).
  • No one realized that A Werewolf Boy wasn’t a Twilight sequel (or that it hails from South Korea).
  • Or that Deadfall wasn’t the 24th James Bond movie.
Playing For Keeps
Interest Level: 5
I can’t help but wonder if Gerard Butler looked at his co-star, Dennis Quaid, and thought to himself “best case scenario, that is where I end up.” Probably not. He no doubt believes that his string of failures post 300 is sure to come to an end and all he needs is a hit where he is wearing a shirt for him to solidify his status as an A-list star, he likely even believes this Rom-Com about an ex-professional soccer star who is trying to reconnect with his son will be just the movie to do that for him. He’s wrong. Playing For Keeps has a strong supporting cast (Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid, Judy Greer) but is headline by two actors who seem to have the same problem. Both Gerard Butler and the female lead, none other than Mrs. Justin Timberlake a.k.a. Jessica Biel, are the kind of hollywood stars who come across as really likable people in real life but never seem to be able to find the right vehicle to make them as likable in a movie. Couple that with a director that has a penchant for beating you over the head with dramatic elements (Gabriele Muccino also directed Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness) and you have all the makings of a movie that will be perfectly watchable, forgettable and probably not worth the cost of a trip to the theater when you’ll enjoy it every bit as much four months from now in the comfort of your own home.
Hyde Park on Hudson
Interest Level: 4
The story of FDR’s love affair with his distant cousin set against the back drop of a visit by the King and Queen of England that helped lead to America’s involvement in WWII was one of those movies that was receiving all sort of really premature Oscar buzz before anyone saw it. Now that people have seen it, not so much. This is the kind of movie where “tepid” critic response should make you wary because it is tailor made for critics to love it. Bill Murray and Laura Linney are the very definition of “critical darlings” as is a period piece movie that deals with love, social status and political machinations, so critics not loving it is a little bit like a kid saying Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs is just OK (if you’ve seen that movie you know what I mean).
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
Interest Level: 4
A bride frets upstairs in her families country manor on her wedding day, fearful she is about to marry the wrong man, while her fiance and ex-lover are downstairs growing anxious. Everything I said about the tepid critical response of Hyde Park on Hudson applies equally as strongly to this little period flick from England. If this kind of movie isn’t getting rave reviews it is more often than not not worth your time.
Interest Level: 6
Have you been aching to see a biography of a famous Brazilian soccer star who also happened to be a major sex symbol in his country and who died at the age of 39 from syphilis? What if I were to tell you it was done in black and white to give a greater sense of age and gravitas to the project? If the answer is yes than check out your On Demand menu and watch Heleno. If not than feel free to skip this well made film whose subject makes for a movie that is almost universally being hailed as good not great.
In Our Nature
Interest Level: 6
A scheduling snafu lands an estranged father and son at their family cabin for what was to be a romantic weekend alone with their respective girlfriends and turns into the exact kind of father-son drama you’d expect from this set-up when the stars aren’t comedians (if this is Zack Galifinakis as the son and Robin Williams as the father we are probably talking about a very different movie). Movies like these always hinge on casting and while Zach Gilford (best known for his stint on Friday Night Lights playing the son), Jenna Malone (one of the Sucker Punch girls playing the son’s girlfriend), John Slattery (Roger Sterling from Mad Men in the house!) and Gabrielle Union (every time I see Bring It On I remember how much I like her) are all very talented I’m not sure any posses the charisma necessary to really carry a movie.
Lay The Favorite
Interest Level: 4
I wish this Stephen Frears (director of High Fidelity, The Queen and Dangerous Liaisons) flick based on the memoirs of a sports gambler was everything it should be, but apparently it lacks spark or charm or charisma or any of the things you would want and frankly expect. I mean, look at this cast! Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jone, Rebecca Hall, Vince Vaughn, Joshua Jackson, Laura Prepon, Corbin Bernson. How does a movie starring those actors lack charm? This is one of those flicks that has been completed for some time, has bounced around festivals in a vain attempt to recast itself as an art-house flick and is now being tossed to the masses with the thought that that many big names on the marquee will no doubt return some of the investment.
A Werewolf Boy
Interest Level: 5
A HUGE hit in it’s home country of South Korea this story of an older woman whose return to her childhood home brings back memories of the orphan boy she knew 60 years ago comes to America with almost no fan fare. Why? Because it is a South Korean movie about an old woman who returns to her childhood home and is reminded of the orphan boy she knew 60 years ago.
Interest Level: 5
Olivia Wilde or Jessica Biel? Gerard Butler or Eric Bana? Talk about your mirror image careers. Deadfall brings us the Wilde/Bana combo in a thriller about siblings who decide to fend for themselves after a botched casino heist and their unlikely reunion during another families Thanksgiving. Yeah, maybe giving this one a 5 was a bit high.
So, we have had two weeks of, at best, blah. That all changes when Bilbo, Gandalf, take over the world next week (at least that is the plan). We’re still waiting for the holiday, small movie, surprise hit to roll in, but none of these movies, or last weekend’s for that matter, look likely to be this year’s The Artist or The King’s Speech or pick you eventual Oscar winning movie. Maybe we’ll see something unexpected in the coming weeks.
But hey, what do I know? I’m fat.