Fall Movie Guide: November 2011 – Week 4 (Thanksgiving Special)

The Muppets

Written by Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller

Directed by James Bobin

Starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams

“With the help of three fans, The Muppets must reunite to save their old theater from a greedy oil tycoon.”

Jim Henson became a household name with The Muppets and Sesame Street, and years after his death, his characters seem to be enjoying a great resurgence.  With production coming along on Christopher Weekes’ The Muppet Man, and this, Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s (the guys behind Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek) love letter to Henson’s creations, Henson has proven yet again that his characters are both ageless and timeless.

With an infusion of meta attitude, Segel inserts himself into the film as a fan that finds out he can help the Muppets save their long lost theater, which is in danger of being destroyed by a greedy oil tycoon.  Obviously, Segel is a fan, otherwise he wouldn’t have written the script.  To explain what the Muppets have been up to the past few years, they go on a journey to find the felt friends that have disbanded since we last saw them together.

Like real life, they are picking up the pieces of their existence, until they can band together to do something meaningful.  With a proven track record of success, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a Muppet reunion before now.  With Brian Henson running his father’s creations, they have kept the authenticity that Jim intended, and now, like many other past properties with timeless shelf lives, the Muppets return with a vengeance to delight fans young and old, and it’s sure to make a big splash, especially over the Thanksgiving holiday and into the weekend.  A sure bet for anyone that is remotely interested.

Rated PG.

Arthur Christmas

Written by Peter Baynham & Sarah Smith

Directed by Sarah Smith

Starring James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy

“On Christmas night at the North Pole, Santa’s youngest son looks to use his father’s high-tech operation for an urgent mission.”

There seem to be two classes of animated films:  Those made purely for profit, with little thought or care put into the production (outside of the animation, of course) and then those that have care and talent injected at every turn.  Unfortunately for fans, Arthur Christmas seems to be the former, with a small advertising campaign, and heavy reliance on the Christmas holiday season to draw box office dollars.  Unlike the works of Pixar and Dreamworks Animation’s that have become big hits, Arthur Christmas doesn’t seem to have the same type of push behind it, or fan interest.

Still, it will make some money based on the fact that it is indeed a Christmas film, and it’s animated, so parents will see it as automatically safe. However, it has the already-proven Happy Feet Two to go against, but again, the market for these films is so big, that even Happy Feet Two overflow audiences will give it enough business to make it a moneymaker.

Will it be any good?  That, really, is the ultimate question, and will speak to the full life of the movie in theaters.  Could be one of those Christmas movies that is gone before Christmas even comes around.  We’ll see.

Rated PG.
Hugo

Based on the novel by Brian Selznick

Screenplay by John Logan

Starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, and Christopher Lee

“Set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.”

Based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabaret, this is a rare step outside the usual box for Scorsese.  Now, Scorsese is a very versatile filmmaker, but as far as I can remember, he has never ventured into children’s fantasy adventure films.

Complete with a well rounded cast, magnificent photography, and the sure-handed filmmaking that has made Scorsese who he is, the only trouble Hugo might run into is an already stacked release line-up of family oriented films, and a slightly strange subject matter.  While it is geared towards kids and families, it doesn’t have the open invitation that The Muppets or Arthur Christmas seems to have.

However, Scorsese has overcome a stacked deck before, and the quality of his films will always stand head and shoulders above anything else that may be working against it.  We shall see.

Rated PG.

IN LIMITED RELEASE

A Dangerous Method

Based on the book by John Kerr

Written by Christopher Hampton

Directed by David Cronenberg

Starring Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, and Viggo Mortensen

“A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.”

David Cronenberg has always had a severe fascination with human sexuality, and one could argue many of his works are in one way or another based on the discoveries made by Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, so I suppose it’s fitting that he make a movie on the two men, their meeting, and how it led to the field of psychoanalysis.

Michael Fassbender has been eating roles left and right, transforming completely to become the characters he portrays.  Viggo Mortensen is Cronenberg’s latest muse it seems, and I’m not sure his casting as Freud was the wisest decision, but then again, I didn’t get the choice.

For fans of psychoanalysis, it is the story of the start of the field, but at the same time, people who know the story really have nothing new to discover, rather, they just get to watch it happen.  My review will be up shortly.

Rated R.  Expanding beyond New York and Los Angeles in the coming weeks.

Rampart

 

 

Written by James Ellroy & Oren Moverman

Directed by Oren Moverman

Starring Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, & Sigourney Weaver

“Set in early 1990s Los Angeles, veteran police officer Dave Brown, the last of the renegade cops, works to take care of his family, and struggles for his own survival.”

Oren Moverman  burst onto the scene with his debut feature film The Messenger starring Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, getting nominated for Academy Awards and garnering huge praise.  Now, he is re-teaming with the two actors to tell the story of a corrupt Los Angeles police officer in the Rampart division, which was famous for its all-out corruption and ties to Los Angeles street gang activity.

The film is getting a very small limited release, which means one of two things:  The film isn’t very good, or they just simply don’t know how to sell it.  The latter was the case with The Messenger, a powerful and moving film that never found its audience due to its touchy subject matter.

In the coming weeks, we’ll see how it expands, but unfortunately, early word on the flick is that it’s a mess, whether Moverman is to blame or not is irrelevant, I just hope we get to see for ourselves, and aren’t walking into an re-edited mess of a film like I hear it is.

Rated R.  Expanding further in coming weeks based on per-screen averages.

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