Better Effects, Less Fun
The first thing fans might notice about the 2014 RoboCop reboot is that it seems to be missing something that was prevalent in the 1987 original: blood. Whereas the original film made no effort to hold back on the violence, the new film aims for a broader audience with a PG-13 rating. What it lacks in blood and violence it tries to make up for with a topical political agenda, addressing the ideas of drone use and automated law enforcement in our modern society with a look at a possible near future.
The Monuments Men was originally considered to be one of the leading Oscar contenders coming down the stretch in 2013, and why not? A war movie based on a fascinating untold true story starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and John Goodman: how could it not be a contender? Now the question is not whether it will be nominated for Oscars, but whether it will be able to find an audience at all.
A Dull Holiday Weekend
Director Jason Reitman’s first feature-length film Thank You for Smoking was released in 2005 and followed by Juno two years later. Each of these films was told in a hip, unique, and fresh way that boldly announced that a new talent had arrived. Up in the Air followed and although it was somewhat more traditional, it still had a certain level of freshness to it. Now, following 2011’s polarizing Young Adult, Reitman releases what is by far his most traditional film. Unfortunately, whereas his earlier films were fresh and exciting, Labor Day is just bland and dull.
Pine Reboots Another Action Hero
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the second attempt to reboot the Jack Ryan franchise, based on characters created by spy novelist Tom Clancy. The first was The Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck, which was released fourteen years ago. Obviously, that one failed to reinvigorate the franchise and Shadow Recruit hopes to succeed where Sum failed. Whether it will remains to be seen, but the movie definitely proves to be more entertaining than your average January release.
Operation: War Movie
War movies are not as easy to sell these days as they were back in John Wayne’s time. This is especially true when the war in question is the modern war, one so many people are outspokenly against. Perhaps that is why director Peter Berg struggled for over five years to get Lone Survivor made. The story, based on the ill-fated “Operation Red Wings” in 2005, is one that is definitely worth telling and Berg tells it in a way that is at the same time entertaining, tragic, and hopeful.
Get Busy Living
Directed by its star Ben Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is actually a remake of a 1947 film of the same name. Few people might remember that Danny Kaye vehicle and even fewer are likely to remember the James Thurber short story that inspired both films, which was originally published in 1939. Fortunately, that’s one of the reasons we have remakes and Stiller’s version thrusts the daydreaming hero into a modern-day setting… well, almost modern day.
After taking on the Wild West in their last film, True Grit, the Coen brothers are now tackling the 1960s folk music scene in their new film, Inside Llewyn Davis. No matter what era or environment they are exploring, the directing duo always seems to nail the atmosphere right on the head and this latest film is definitely no exception. Like most of the Coen brothers’ films, the focus is more on the atmosphere and the characters than on the actual story.
Human Interest Story
Every year come awards season, there are those movies that are universally appraised for the Oscar-worthy performances of their leads, while the quality of the film itself tends to be nothing but an afterthought. Although star Judi Dench certainly deserves the praise she has been receiving for her performance in Philomena, the movie itself should not be forgotten. With a good mix of laugh-out-loud humor and tear-inducing drama, this movie is quality entertainment that will hopefully be able to find its audience.
There are a lot of big movies scheduled for release this holiday season, but not many of them are actual holiday movies. There is also a surprising lack of musicals. Sweeping in to fill the void is Black Nativity, a holiday-themed musical that is based on the play by Langston Hughes. The film’s timing may be good, but unfortunately the movie comes off more like a television special than a big-screen musical.
He’ll Bring the Thunder
Thor: The Dark World is a continuation of not one but two franchises. Mainly, it is the second film in the Thor franchise, but it is also the seventh chapter in what you might call the Marvel franchise. Like Iron Man 3, The Dark World limits the tie-in to The Avengers to a mention here and a cameo there, keeping the focus on its title character and what is going on in his universe. What is going on in Thor’s world is that an ancient and not-very-clearly-explained weapon that was hidden ages ago has recently been uncovered.
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