It’s the slowest movie weekend of the year, and as the cops like to say at a crime scene, “Nothing to see here, folks.” We will give a little shoutout to I, Frankenstein-in which the studio has so little faith they won’t let critics see it-because it features one of our favorite grownup actors, Bill Nighy. But really, this is the perfect weekend to catch up on the Oscar hopefuls you’ve missed.
The New Stuff:
Turns out all that shuffling and mumbling the Frankenstein monster did back in the 1800s was just a matter of growing pains. These days he looks just like Aaron Eckhart, and he runs and does flips like a zipper-necked gymnast. This update has the monster surviving to the present day, when he must do battle with an army of demonic invaders. Best part: Bill Nighy’s on hand.
The Movies for Grownups YouTube Show
On this week’s show, get a free copy of Tom Hanks’ Oscar-nominated Captain Phillips-and see a sizzling deleted scene from the 1980s Nastassja Kinski horror classic Cat People.
Still Out There . . .
12 Years a Slave
Winner: Best Movie for Grownups 2014; Nominated for 9 Oscars
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
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Time Capsule; Nominated for 10 Oscars
You won’t have more fun at the movies than you’ll find here with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Louis C.K. and Jennifer Lawrence as assorted con artists and Feds conspiring to bring down crooked politicians. It’s based on the 1980s Abscam scandal, but we have a feeling writer/director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) made up all the more hilarious stuff. FULL REVIEW
Director Adam McCay and star Will Ferrell swore that the sequel to their 2004 comedy wouldn’t recycle any old gags; the only problem with that Pompous idiot/news anchor Ron Burgundy IS the gag.
August: Osage County
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Supporting Actor (Chris Cooper); Nominated for 2 Oscars
Fried Green Tomatoes meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in this densely scripted, superbly acted screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ award-winning play. Essentially a fly-on-the-wall look at a monumentally dysfunctional Oklahoma family gathered for a funeral, the film offers megadoses of Meryl Streep as a matriarch who has no filters whatsoever. But the best performances are the more restrained ones from Julia Roberts as her embittered daughter and, especially, Oscar nominees Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper as a long-married couple living under the shadow of a very dark secret.
The Best Offer
Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech, Shine) is superb as an eccentric art expert who accepts a job appraising the collection of a reclusive woman (Sylvia Hoeks) who refuses to be seen; she speaks with him from behind a closed door in her ornate home.
Nominated for 6 Oscars
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
Dallas Buyers Club
Nominated for 6 Oscars
At the height of the 1980s AIDS epidemic, a tough heterosexual Texas electrician (Matthew McConaughey) gets the dread diagnosis – then sets up a lucrative business smuggling alternative anti-AIDS drugs into the state. McConaughey, who has been rising from beefcake idol to accomplished actor, may nab his first Oscar nomination for his compelling performance.
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Grownup Love Story
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.
Nominated for 2 Oscars (Plus 1 nomination for Get a Horse!)
By now the animation wizards at Disney have this spunky-young-woman-defeats-evil thing down pat, but the real reason to duck into this film is the Oscar-nominated cartoon short that precedes it. Get a Horse! is a hand-drawn Mickey Mouse cartoon done in the early Disney style circa Steamboat Willie. Director Dorothy McKim even uses archival recordings of Walt Disney himself providing the voice of the world’s favorite rodent.
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Director (Alfonso Cuaron); Nominated for 10 Oscars
Stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are fine and the film’s visual re-creation of a space voyage is breathtaking (especially in 3-D), but cowriter/director Alfonso Cuaron should have launched with a decent script. FULL REVIEW
Nominated for 5 Oscars
What happens if you love your technology just a tad too much? Joaquin Phoenix finds out when he falls hard for the seductive female voice (Scarlett Johansson) in his computer operating system. Writer/director Spike Jonze creates a compelling portrait of a near future when people would rather interact with their machines than each other.
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nominated for 2 Oscars
Writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s most balanced movie ever is a fond look at the early 1960s Greenwich Villlage folk music scene. Oscar Isaac is irresistibly mopey as the title character, but the real treat comes when Llewlyn hitches a ride to Chicago with a blustery, bloated blues musician played with great aplomb by John Goodman. FULL REVIEW
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Tom Clancy’s true-blue CIA agent returns to the screen for a fifth go-round, this time starring Chris Pine in the title role (following in the footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck). Pine plays a younger version of Ryan, recruited into the spy biz by a charmingly convincing Kevin Costner. Soon he’s neck-deep in an adventure that takes him from Moscow to New York, going mano-a-mano with an oily villain played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs. The action is superb, the story moves right along, and it’s all softened nicely by the romance between Ryan and his fiancee (Keira Knightley)-the woman Ryan can’t tell what he does for a living. FULL REVIEW
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Nominated for 1 Oscar
In any other year, Idris Elba’s towering performance as Nelson Mandela would have landed him on anyone’s Best Actor Oscar shortlist. Naomie Harris is at times chillingly intense as his wife Winnie, and director Justin Chadwick (The First Grader) continues his love affair with inspiring, true African stories.
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Actor (Bruce Dern), Best Intergenerational Movie; Nominated for 6 Oscars
In a career-defining performance, Bruce Dern is a slightly befuddled fellow who’s convinced he’s won $1 million in a sweepstakes. Will Forte is the good son who offers to drive him from Montana to Nebraska to claim the dubious prize. Amazing performances all around, directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, About Schmidt). FULL REVIEW
Winner: Movies for Grownups Best Actress (Judi Dench); Nominated for 4 Oscars
In a season of extraordinary acting accomplishments, Judi Dench gives the performance of a lifetime as the title character, a woman seeking the son she gave up as a child. Steve Coogan, who also wrote the film’s moving and disarmingly funny script, costars as the investigative reporter who helps unravel a tangle of deceit and corruption. Based on a true story. FULL REVIEW
Saving Mr. Banks
Winner: Best Movie for Grownups Who Refuse to Grow Up; Nominated for 1 Oscar
Tom Hanks is Walt Disney and Emma Thompson is Mary Poppins creator P.L. Travers in this magical (and allegedly true) story of how Uncle Walt convinced P.L. to let him bring her creation to the screen. If Thompson lays the prim-and-proper schtick on a bit thick, and if Hanks plays Disney as something of a homespun cartoon of the real mogul, it only adds to the film’s mythical quality. FULL REVIEW
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Director/star Ben Stiller celebrates the mystery of imagination, the wonder of real-life, and the point at which they intersect in this spectacular comedy adventure loosely based on the classic James Thurber short story. Kristin Wiig plays the adorable object of Mitty’s affection, Shirley MacLaine cameos as the hero’s loving mom, and Sean Penn pops up in a brief but pivotal role as a globetrotting photographer. FULL REVIEW
The Wolf of Wall Street
Teaming for the fifth time with Leonardo DiCaprio, director Martin Scorsese lets loose a cannonade of sex, drugs, and no-holds-barred avarice in telling the mostly true story of a New York stockbroker who made an outrageous fortune by swindling investors in the 1980s and ’90s. Like his central character, Scorsese once again proves that nothing succeeds like excess. FULL REVIEW