Just like that, the year is ending, and the last-minute releases are crammed in like shipping containers on an overloaded cargo ship. And by this point, from where I stand, most of the good stuff is already behind us. But not all of it.
And just like that, we start off with the Coen brothers’ news movie, Inside Llewyn Davis. Along with many people, I tend to regard any new Coen film as a Major Cinema Event, and after four consecutive years with the brothers releasing new films, the three year gap has been particularly rough. Even rougher: it only opens today in New York and Los Angeles, and the rest of the country has to hang on another two weeks.
In terms of wide releases, just the one: Out of the Furnace, a film with way too many great people in the cast: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana. The last of whom is the odd one out for at least two reasons, but even if it’s just a well-done thriller, that’s reason enough to be excited.
The gulf between Oscarbait and mainstream holiday fare is especially pronounced: in limited release, we find American Hustle, David O. Russell’s crime dramedy, Saving Mr. Banks, which will almost certainly be an heroic act of self-fellation by the Walt Disney Company, but oh my God, you guys, Emma Thompson! and Claude Lanzmann’s glorious masterpiece of a documentary, The Last of the Unjust. In wide release, it’s Tyler Perry’s hugely dubious-looking A Madea Christmas and part 2 of the little trilogy that couldn’t, The Hobbit: The Smaugening. It’s got the most cinematic parts of the book in it, so it’ll probably be the best of the films, but any enthusiasm I had died when that subtitle was announced.
More of the same: the limited release of Her, a weird and fascinating-looking romantic fantasy by Spike Jonze gets swallowed up by the wide debut of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, sequel to a generationally beloved comedy that, I’m sorry, I just don’t like.
Clearly because nobody had any idea what else to do with it, this odd 3-D, narrative adaptation of the speculative documentary Walking with Dinosaurs is happening all over movie screens. I kind of don’t even understand what this is.
Ah, Christmas Day! A perfect time to go out and watch a great family-friendly movie like the three-hour, just-under-NC-17 Scorsese hedonism epic The Wolf of Wall Street! Or the prestigious theater adaption of legendarily scabrous, hate-fueled domestic drama August: Osage County! Or the bloody Afghanistan war movie Lone Survivor!
We could keep going, but the point is simple: it feels like a whole lot of counter-programming that isn’t actually countering anything. The closest that anything comes to feeling like it’s targeting a family audience is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and even that feels more like the kind of family outing where the youngest member of the family is home on break from college. Meanwhile, the unnecessary “Rocky vs. Raging Bull” pairing Grudge Match and the gaudy-looking fantasy 47 Ronin fill out the ranks of movies for parents to see while the tweens are busy with Justin Bieber’s Believe, a title that I do not know how to diagram. Does it mean Justin Bieber Is Believe? Because I desperately hope it does.
I do not quite understand why the exceedingly minor-looking British heartwarming story about following your dreams and making it in showbiz One Chance is being exported to other countries in the first place, but at least the distributors have the decency to hide it away in the most misbegotten corner of the calendar.