Film

The PopMatters Fall Movie Preview - November 2013

This month we move further away from the popcorn summer towards the prestige titles as Award Season heats up. This month alone will see Matthew McConaughey and Alexander Payne vying for Oscar glory, as well as the return of The Hunger Games.

Director: John Turteltaub

Film: Last Vegas

Cast: Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen

MPAA rating: PG-13

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1 November
Last Vegas

They have six Oscars between them and dozens of definitive performances. At one time or another they were considered the cream of our Best Actor crop. So how is it that Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman find themselves in this sloppy, Wild Hogs-like non-erotic older male bonding misstep? Perhaps someone has blackmail material on all four men and threatened to use it unless they starred in this take on The Ha-AARP-ngover. Yes, Douglas is getting married and his "boyz" decide to throw him a bachelor party in Sin City. Geritol inspired hilarity ensues. Groan.

 
Director: Richard Curtis

Film: About Time

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie

MPAA rating: PG-13

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1 November
About Time

Richard Curtis has a very unique place in British comedy. In collaboration with pal Rowan Atkinson, he helped bring Blackadder and Mr. Bean to life. As a screenwriter, he's penned The Tall Man, Four Weddings and a Funeral, both Bridget Jones films, and Notting Hill. Now, in the tradition of his beloved Love Actually, Curtis is taking on the story of a young man whose inherited his family's ability to travel in time. Apparently, this leads to all manner of romantic misadventures. While we have full faith and credit in Curtis and his work, the appearance of cinematic kryptonite Rachel McAdams gives us pause indeed.

 
Director: Gavin Hood

Film: Ender's Game

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin

MPAA rating: PG

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1 November
Ender's Game

How do you thwart a potential Harry Potter like box office bonanza, especially when you've got a Star Wars styled fledgling franchise on your hands. Well, if you're Orson Scott Card, you go on several disgusting anti-gay tirades, telling potential audience members how biased and bigoted you really are. Add in grassroots protests and professional complaints and you're guaranteeing that turnstile receipts need to be huge before any sequels are discussed. The film itself is a decent bit of speculative entertainment, a video game mentality made into a movie. Sadly, Card's callous remarks reduce his own output to a joke.

 
Director: Jimmy Hayward

Film: Free Birds

Cast: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler, Dan Fogler, George Takei

MPAA rating: PG

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/f/freebirdsposter.jpg

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1 November
Free Birds

It's a kid's film with an agenda, a chance to practice a few PETA positions before sending the kiddies over the river and through the woods. Yes, this weird little family effort wants to teach children that Thanksgiving's favorite foul is actually the member of some Native American like "tribe" that needs to avoid a kind of comestible genocide. So a pair of modern birds, voiced by Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, travel back in time to teach the pilgrims about the value in red meats and veggies. All of this might work had the film been funny or inventive. It's not.

 
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Film: Dallas Buyers Club

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts

MPAA rating: R

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1 November
Dallas Buyers Club

2012 was supposed to be the year of Matthew McConaughey. He starred in five films, with Mud and Magic Mike making the most noise. But it looks like we need to extend his winning streak to 2013 as well. Buzz is building over the laid back actor's turn as true-life AIDS activist Ron Woodroof who championed the use of non-FDA approved drugs to treat his disease. The twist is that this man was a party boy homophobic who had to learn tolerance in order to take on this dire death sentence. With Jared Leto in drag, early reviews suggest strong acting, so-so storyline.

 
Director: Keanu Reeves

Film: Man of Tai Chi

Cast: Tiger Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, Iko Uwais

MPAA rating: R

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1 November
Man of Tai Chi

Keanu Reeves has been absent from the big screen from quite a while. Sure, he's made a few smaller independent films in the last couple of years, but it's been over five since he starred in The Day the Earth Stood Still remake and a decade since the last installment of The Matrix movies. Since then, it appears Reeves has become enamored of martial arts, and martial arts movies in general. Next year, he'll costar in 47 Ronin and then there is this film, which he actually directed. Rumors have swirled around this project since it was announced. Some say it's unwatchable. Others think it's terrific. That's the enigma that is Reeves.

 
Director: Jaco Van Dormael

Film: Mr. Nobody

Cast: Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh Dan Pham

MPAA rating: R

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1 November
Mr. Nobody

Jared Leto again, this time playing the last mortal on Earth. Apparently, the rest of the world is able to regenerate their cells, and are therefore unable to die. As a novelty, many want to experience life through his dying eyes. So Leto's character is hypnotized, resulting in a series of fragmented, often contradictory memories. Originally released way back in 2009, this is finally getting a serious theatrical release before disappearing to Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray. Past reviews suggest something experimental and weird. With Leto involved, and the length of time this spent sitting on a shelf somewhere, we'd expect nothing less.

 
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Film: Diana

Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Cas Anvar, Laurence Belcher

MPAA rating: R

Image: http://www.popmatters.com/images/blog_art/d/dianaposter.jpg

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1 November
Diana

Naomi Watts seems like a nice person. She is an accomplished actress and -- we assume -- a decent wife to her husband and attentive mother to her kids. She may even nursemaid kittens in her spare time. But one thing she's not is Princess Diana. Ever since we first saw the trailer for this tacky retelling of the late Royal's last years, we've been struck by how Un-Diana she really is. She barely looks the part, and according to those who've seen the film, fails to capture the People's Princess' personality. While it's getting a cursory awards season dump, direct to DVD would have been a better option.








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Music

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(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

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(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

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(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

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