Holly Hunter is a woman who goes home for Thanksgiving (Baltimore, which doesn't technically count as New England, making it our only non-New England set movie this week), and has to deal with her constantly arguing and dysfunctional family. Jodie Foster directed this film, and before Robert Downey Jr. was the big star that he is today, his turn here as Hunter's gay brother was actually one of his best performances. Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft play the parents of the clan, making this another star-studded cast with some great acting on display. It's a comedy drama, with a little more comedy to it than our last couple of movies, and it's entirely set around Thanksgiving, so I'd say it's the most appropriate choice for the day itself. Have fun with this one, and Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
The final trailer for The Interview still makes it look pretty funny to me. I hope it's good but it's hard to tell with comedies (although I did love This is the End, which was the last Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg movie). It's coming out on Christmas, and let's just hope the rumor that the movie underwent edits after the freak out response from North Korea isn't true. Would undermine the whole thing, wouldn't it?
Jennifer Aniston takes on a dramatic role here- very dramatic, as a woman with drug addiction and depression. The movie hasn't gotten great reviews yet, but she herself has been out there promoting it like crazy, campaigning for an Oscar nomination, even. Frankly, after spending the last ten years in the tabloids and in bad movies, it's a little tough to buy Jennifer Aniston of all people as such a seriously troubled person. I bought it once in 2002's The Good Girl, but her image since then has been a very specific thing, and the awful comedies haven't helped.
Once again we have another New England Thanksgiving celebration, but I like to think of this movie as a kind of precursor to Mad Men, which takes a look at a time from the past, but with a cynical eye. It's 1973 and the free love attitudes of the 1960's are finally seeping into the upper class, and Kevin Kline and Joan Allen are an unsatisfied married couple who are attempting to brave the new waters. It examines the way gender roles were changing, but it also looks at how the kids (played by Toby Maguire and Christina Ricci) of these repressed parents are dealing with the cultural shift. It's a very well acted and directed movie by Ang Lee, who shows off his versatility by exploring a completely different genre, and it's perfect for this holiday because it all takes place over Thanksgiving weekend.
Whereas the Pan trailer actually looked surprisingly intriguing, this looks just as dumb as I expected. Aside from maybe Chris Pratt's likeability, but the premise of this seems really weird. Ok, so the park is open and running smoothly, ala John Hammond's original vision, but because of that they have to create a weird hybrid monster dinosaur that's going to terrorize everyone instead. As if there isn't plenty of actual dinosaurs already in existence here. And why do the robots they created in 1993 still look better than the CG ones they're using now? That makes no sense.
I was thinking that the new Peter Pan origin story would probably be awful, but I have to say, this trailer gets me interested. The production sure looks amazing, but I guess that should be no surprise, given that Atonement and Anna Karenina director Joe Wright is at the helm of this film. Maybe that will mean this one has some promise, unlike the annual Disney live action films that come out every year now. I still object to Rooney Mara being cast as Tiger Lily though. I mean, come on, really?
A veteran cast of television and film actors fills out our next Thanksgiving movie, which is actually one of the handful of films entirely centered around the holiday. Noah Wyle is the youngest son of an upper class family who's estranged from his dad but finally goes home to Maine after a three year absence (New England is a very popular setting for Thanksgiving movies). His siblings also show up, including sister Julianne Moore and brother Michael Vartan, both bringing their obnoxious significant others, and the whole clan has a sometimes fun, sometimes agonizing holiday break together, leading to various revelations and awkward interactions. The acting is really good in this one, especially from the parents, Blythe Danner and Roy Scheider as the longtime couple guarding somewhat repressed but casually unspoken secrets. This is one of those movies that alternates between amusing dialogue and heavy drama, a relic of director Bart Freundlich's indies (fun fact- he also happens to be Julianne Moore's husband). It's a pretty good and underrated film for this particular holiday, although I'll warn you it doesn't exactly have the most feelgood ending.
This week's pick is a classic from the 70's, an adaptation of Philip Marlowe's novel but in Robert Altman's style, which as any Altman fan can tell you is a pretty inimitable, unique vision (although many have tried to imitate it over the years). This is a moody, atmospheric noir that takes place in the present day rather than Marlowe's world of the 1950's, and that pretty much changes everything- this isn't Humphrey Bogart's Marlowe from The Big Sleep. No, it's Elliot Gould, who's infinitely cooler and more relaxed as the private eye who practically stumbles on to the case, making his way through the Los Angeles hippie crime scene of the early 70's. Personally, it's my favorite adaptation of a Marlowe story by far, topping even the classic 40's and 50's noirs. There's nothing else like it.
Original 1973 Trailer:
So, the Indie Spirits were announced this morning! This year, their big favorites were Birdman, Boyhood and Selma, with the latter in particular picking up a significant boost from this group, since it's such a late release, not coming out until Christmas. This awards body doesn't necessarily mean a lot for the Oscars, since there are always weird rules about what is and isn't eligible, what does and doesn't count as "independent," etc. But there is some overlap most of the time, and the three that led the pack are probably the most likely to cross over with the Academy down the line as well.
- Love is Strange
- Damien Chazelle, Whiplash
- Ava Duvernay, Selma
- Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman
- Richard Linklater, Boyhood
- David Zellner, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
- Big Eyes
- A Most Violent Year
- Only Lovers Left Alive
- Love is Strange
BEST FIRST FEATURE
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
- Dear White People
- Obvious Child
- She's Lost Control
- Appropriate Behavior
- Little Accidents
- The One I Love
- She's Lost Control
- Dear White People
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to best feature made for under $500,000)
- Blue Ruin
- It Felt Like Love
- Land Ho!
- Man From Reno
- Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant
- Rinko Kikuchi, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
- Julianne Moore, Still Alice
- Jenny Slate, Obvious Child
- Tilda Swinton, Only Lovers Left Alive
- Andre Benjamin, Jimi: All is By My Side
- Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
- Michael Keaton, Birdman
- John Lithgow, Love is Strange
- David Oyelowo, Selma
- Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
- Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
- Carmen Ejogo, Selma
- Andre Suarez Paz, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
- Emma Stone, Birdman
- Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler
- Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
- Alfred Molina, Love is Strange
- Edward Norton, Birdman
- J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
- The Immigrant
- It Felt Like Love
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
- A Most Violent Year
- The Guest
- 20,000 Days on Earth
- Stray Dog
- The Salt of the Earth
- Force Majeure
- Norte, the End of History
- Under the Skin
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (Given to ensemble): Inherent Vice
SPECIAL DISTINCTION AWARD: Foxcatcher
Glancing over these nominations, it's interesting to not that both the Gothams and the Indie Spirits essentially snubbed Foxcatcher. That film may have a hard time of it going forward, with no acting nods for either Steve Carell or Mark Ruffalo widely rumored to be in consideration for Oscars. Honestly it looks to me like the Spirits wanted to go really indie this year- the last few years have seen their reputation take a hit from nominating too many "big" Oscar movies, like The Artist and Silver Linings Playbook, so perhaps they were trying to restore some integrity this time with more outside the box choices. But mostly, this is a boost for those three films mentioned above, and may not mean much for anything else in the long run. My favorite noms here are Jenny Slate and Tilda Swinton for two of my favorite movies of the year that are unlikely to get any more attention than from this group, so good for them. As for the wins here, I honestly don't know. My gut says Boyhood, but Selma sure is coming on strong at the last minute and could be a real threat, not just here but at the Oscars as well. I guess we'll see.
So, our Movie of the Day series is back for Thanksgiving week with a handful of movies about the holiday (or it's at least part of a significant scene in the film), and this one is a counterculture classic from the late 60's that joins a bunch of genuine hippies in their communal Thanksgiving celebration. It stars Arlo Guthrie (son of Woody) as himself, a wannabe folk singer looking to escape the draft who hitches his way across the country and joins his pals for a New England Turkey Day. There's very little plot to speak of, we just kind of drift along with Arlo as he wanders from place to place, checking out various scenes of late 1960's dropout culture. But it's kind of cool just for that, since it was such a singular and relatively short-lived time in American history that you don't see a whole lot of in movies that were actually made at the time (most looks at hippiedom come from nostalgic re-creations, which often tend to glorify or exaggerate the period). But this one, along with a few others, like Easy Rider and Woodstock, are probably the most accurate and true to life examinations of the culture you're ever likely to see.
Original 1969 Trailer:
I can be a pretty big pushover for period romance costume dramas, so you can count me in for this one, which is another version of the classic Thomas Hardy novel (it was filmed before in 1967 with Julie Christie). It's also from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, who made The Hunt, which was a really good movie with Mads Mikkelson just a couple of years ago, so I think this looks pretty good. It's coming out in May of next year.
As expected, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 opened big this weekend, pulling in $123 million since the Thursday midnight shows, but this actually is a fairly significant drop from Catching Fire, which opened to $150 million last year. It's also well below the "Part 1" installments of the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises as well. What does that mean? Hopefully that people have caught on to this incredibly lame, purely financially motivated tactic of splitting the last part of a trilogy into two unnecessary pieces. Mockingjay's reviews suffered for that too, which may have lessened the must-see factor for a series that until this point had shown some crossover appeal to non-book fans than those previous franchises did. But it doesn't really matter, because it's still a huge hit, still opened massively overseas (bigger than the last one even), and will still be at least the second highest grossing movie of the year, behind Guardians of the Galaxy.
In second place was Big Hero 6, which fell just 20% and is holding strong, adding $20 million for a $135 million total, well on its way to grossing $200 million, while Interstellar also held fairly well, for a new total of $120 million. Unfortunately, perception of Interstellar is being based on the performance of Christopher Nolan's other films, so it's being seen as a relatively soft success compared to Inception and The Dark Knight. Meanwhile, Dumb and Dumber To fell hard, dropping 62% for fourth place, but Thanksgiving weekend is likely to give every movie a boost this coming week, as one of the busier moviegoing holiday breaks of the year.
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1- $123 million
- Big Hero 6- $20 million
- Interstellar- $15 million
- Dumb and Dumber To- $13.8 million
- Gone Girl- $2.8 million
Things are heating up in limited release as well, with several Oscar season movies set to open or expand in the coming weeks. The Theory of Everything and Birdman seem to be doing fairly well as they platform out (Birdman is coming up on $15 million total), while Foxcatcher maintained its high PTA in its second weekend. A bigger success is The Weinstein Co.'s St. Vincent, which has done extremely well, amassing $36 million so far to become the second biggest indie hit of the year, behind Grand Budapest Hotel. Next weekend is the kid friendly Penguins of Madagascar and the limited bow of The Imitation Game on two screens, while everything else tries to boost its earnings over Thanksgiving weekend. See you next Sunday, where we find out how they did, and have a happy Turkey Day everyone!