Is this the biggest movie weekend of the year? Possibly! You’ll never get to all these openings in a couple of days, but two sure-fire Oscar contenders - All is Lost and 12 Years a Slave - should be at the top of your must-see list.
12 Years a Slave
Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery leads a powerful cast. Movies from Roots to Django Unchained have shown us the evils of slavery: 12 Years a Slave makes us feel the lash. FULL REVIEW
All Is Lost
Robert Redford has been a movie star for so long it’s easy to forget he’s also a great screen actor. Here it’s all Redford, all the time, wordlessly battling the elements as a lone sailor on an endless sea. He may well win his first acting Oscar for this one.
Birth of the Living Dead
In 1968 George A. Romero made Night of the Living Dead, and changed the way movies scare us. This entertaining documentary retraces Romero’s shuffling footsteps to midnight movie immortality.
Arnold Swarzenegger continues his post-politics rehab in Sylvester Stallone‘s latest action flick. Sly plays an architect of escape-proof prisons who somehow finds himself trying to break out of a penitentiary he designed. Arnold’s a grizzled inmate who helps him out. Here’s a slideshow about Sly and Arnold’s 40 years of Hollywood ups and downs.
Check out what’s new in theaters and on DVD and Video On Demand on this week’s Movies for Grownups YouTube Show!
Still Out There . . .
It stands for “Adult Children of Divorce,” and in this comedy Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) is at peace with the long-ago bust-up of his parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara)-until he reunites them for his brother’s wedding. Jane Lynch nearly steals the show as an opportunistic social researcher .
If you’re an actress, get yourself directed by Woody Allen: Here he casts Cate Blanchett as a latter-day Blanche DuBois, depending on the kindness of strangers in San Francisco. Smart, tragic, and funny, it’s Woody and Cate at their best. FULL REVIEW
Tom Hanks gives his best performance in years as the captain of a cargo ship overrun by Somali pirates-but the real revelation is Somali actor Barkhad Abdi. He stands toe-to-toe with Oscar-winner Hanks, who generously allows his unknown costar to unfold a complex, surprisingly vulnerable character. FULL REVIEW
Writer/director Joseph Gordon-Levitt also stars, but see the story of Jon, a guy whose addiction to online porn is ruining his real-life relationships, for the superb supporting grownups, including Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, and Glenne Headly. Unfortunately, the film seems a tad too comfortable wallowing in the sexual excesses of the Web. FULL REVIEW
We’ll never forget the late James Gandolfini as the conflicted mobster of The Sopranos, but in this romantic comedy he’s positively cuddly. Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a woman who discovers that the man of her dreams (Gandolfini) is the ex-hubby of her new close friend.
Neither comedy nor nail-biting action flick, this story of a mobster and his family relocated to France under the Witness Protection Program catches stars Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer in the crossfire. Director Luc Besson seems to be going for something new: cruel whimsy. As the French would say, c’est tres terrible. FULL REVIEW
Stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are fine and the film’s visual recreation of a space voyage is breathtaking (especially in 3-D), but co-writer/director Alfonso Cuaron should have launched with a decent script. FULL REVIEW
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
The title might have worked better as Forest Whitaker Is the Butler, or maybe Oprah Winfrey Is the Wife of the Butler. No matter; audiences are flocking to see Whitaker as White House butler Cecil Gaines, Robin Williams as President Eisenhower, and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. FULL REVIEW
Metallica Through the Never
If Boomers don’t turn out for this extended music video from the quintessential ’80s Heavy Metal band, who will? Go for the music, stay for Kirk Hammett’s hair.
One Direction: This is Us
This movie puts you in the place of your parents, rolling their eyes as they accompanied you to a matinee of “A Hard Day’s Night.” The British boy band One Direction will never be another Fab Four, but they are the hottest thing on the planet right now, so if your kids or grandkids need a grownup companion for this concert/documentary flick, feel free to volunteer for 90 minutes of harmless, well-scrubbed pop.
This docudrama follows a slew of Dallas folks-famous and infamous-on the day JFK was shot. Marcia Gay Harden and Zac Efron play staff at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where the President was rushed; Paul Giamatti is Abraham Zapruder, creator of the most famous home movie of all time; Jacki Weaver plays the mother of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
This gritty crime drama stars Hugh Jackman as a distraught Georgia dad who kidnaps the guy he believes abducted his 6-year-old daughter. It’s the old vigilante dad story, all right, but get a load of the rest of the cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, and Paul Dano.
Director David Twohy (The Fugitive) has helmed all three Riddick movies, starring Vin Diesel as the gravel-voiced interplanetary convict/adventurer. Here we go again with Riddick, well into middle age, still kicking butt like a muscle-bound, bald-pated pro.
Romeo and Juliet
Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes adapts Shakespeare’s tale of star-crossed lovers, and Italian director Carlo Carlei borrows heavily from Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 version. The question is: Why bother?
Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl are great fun as James Hunt and Niki Lauda, rival kings of Formula 1 racing in the 1970s. Ron Howard, who cut his directing teeth with Grand Theft Auto in 1977, seems right at home depicting the brutal beauty of high-octane racing.
Almost everyone has to read The Catcher in the Rye in high school, and in 1965 all those kids buying all those books enabled its author, J.D. Salinger, to retire to his New Hampshire home and hide from view for the rest of his life. This documentary studies the enigma of Salinger – and the obsession of those who insisted on following him into his solitude. FULL REVIEW
James Cromwell (Babe, L.A. Confidential, The Artist) gives the performance of a lifetime as an 87-year-old man who builds a small house for his ailing wife (a radiant Genevieve Bujold) with his own two hands. That is, until local bureaucrats start butting in. FULL REVIEW
One one day in 2008, 11 adventurers died on the slopes of K2. Using the team’s own videos and new footage, director Nick Ryan takes us along on one harrowing hike.
The Way, Way Back
It’s a coming-of-age comedy starring Liam James as a confused 14-year-old kid, but he’s surrounded by one of the great grownup casts of the year: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, and Sam Rockwell.
We Are What We Are
Director Jim Mickle’s gothic tale of a family steeped in secret cannibalism is one harrowing voyage, save for one bright spot: As a sweet-natured neighbor, the rarely seen Kelly McGillis brings a measure of pleasant humanity to the family’s otherwise impenetrable darkness.
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