Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Wknd Box Office: Homefront, Nebraska, Philomena, Black Nativity

Here is an interesting article from reviewing some of the movies that came out over the past weekend. This follows this post about some of the movies from last week and THIS POST about some movies that have been released over the past few years that you might have missed! This all follows this post about guidelines to choosing good movies to watch yourself!

Thanksgiving Wknd Box Office: Homefront, Nebraska, Philomena, Black Nativity

By Debbie Schlussel

These movies debuted in theaters on Wednesday, just ahead of Thanksgiving, but I chose to put up my reviews for the weekend. Nothing to write home about here. I’m beginning with the relative best first–the term, “relative,” being very key here. (I did not see “Frozen.”)

* “Homefront“: As a fan of Jason Statham, I generally like his movies a lot because they are almost always what you expect when you pay to see a Statham movie: stark good versus evil, lots of action, and the good guy (usually Statham) wins in the end. While those are all at play in this movie and it was entertaining, I found it slightly schlocky and cheesy in comparison to Statham’s usual fare. It’s not that tightly written (which could have something to do with the fact that Sylvester Stallone wrote the script) and less believable than even the usual Statham stuff. Still, it will do. But it is extremely violent and not at all for kids. Don’t bring them with you to see it.

I found James Franco as a “scary” drug dealer to be absurd. The guy is very doofus-istic in this movie and seems no match for the taller, tougher, more sophisticated Statham. And some of the movie feels like it was weirdly edited and left on the “cutting room floor.” For example, the movie twice foreshadows the appearance of poisonous snakes and, more than once, hints at alligators, but then we never see any (not that I minded this). The only “gator” is the nickname of the meth kingpin played by Franco.

The story: Statham is a retired DEA agent and widower, who has moved with his young daughter to a small Florida Everglades-area town. They never explain why he has an English accent. Several years earlier, he successfully infiltrated a major drug ring and helped the feds bust it. Now, he’s had a run-in with the low-class parents of a kid who bullied his daughter in school, after the daughter punches him out. The parents, including a very low-glam Kate Bosworth as a meth addict, vow revenge. And although they later make a truce, it is too late because they’ve already sicced their meth dealer kingpin relative (Franco) on Statham. He and his junkie girlfriend (Winona Ryder) plot to turn Statham in to the drug gang he burned oh so many years ago.

There are some silly things: Statham stores many government files in his “basement” which is under the porch and almost completely exposed to the outside and its weather elements. And, ridiculously, the bad guys discover a file that is bright red and hidden, as if they knew the color and location.

But who ever expected a Jason Statham film to be entirely believable. That’s not why Americans go to see it. They go to see it because they hunger for ’80s-style action movies, in which we Westerners are the good guys fighting evil and defeating it. These days, it’s more the norm that we’re the bad guys–especially a masculine White male in law enforcement, like Statham.

So, for that reason alone, I liked this movie. And, like I said, if you go to a Jason Statham movie, you get what you are expecting, and this doesn’t veer away from those expectations.


* “Nebraska“: I had mixed feelings about this movie. I loved the way it was shot (in black and white only), but it was so damned depressing and sad. The best thing about this movie is that the son who figures in most of the movie should get the “Son of the Year” award. Overall, it’s about the love of a son for his dad and the lengths he will go to comfort his dad in old age and dementia. But it’s also a very elitist, negative look at middle American life in fly-over, “red state” country–the kind that typically emanates from Hollywood.

Bruce Dern is an old man who is in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s and lives in Billings, Montana with his fed-up wife. He is constantly being picked up by the police for walking on the shoulder of the freeway or elsewhere, walking on his way to Lincoln, Nebraska. Dern believes he is the winner of a million-dollar sweepstakes, a la Publishers Clearing House, based on one of those scam letters he receives, saying he “may” be the winner or that his numbers have been “chosen” to be among those winning the million bucks.

The wife and one of their sons, a local news anchor played by Bob Odenkirk (lawyer Saul Goodman on “Breaking Bad”), want the dad put in a home. But the other son (Will Forte), who sells stereo equipment and was dumped by his overweight girlfriend, is opposed. He wants to humor his dad, and volunteers to take sick days from work and drive his dad to Lincoln. Along the way, they have various mishaps (his father loses his false teeth when he wanders out of their motel room and onto a railroad track), and so on. And, then, most of the rest of the movie is spent in their home town, as various people from Dern’s life, including old family and friends, demand money from him. Of course, they are all “hicks” and losers with no life, and the movie has a very condescending view of life in “Main Street America” and its residents (that it’s depressing, boring, lifeless, and full of idiots, criminals, and losers).

Like I said, it’s an incredibly depressing movie, made more so by the black and white film. But Will Forte is really terrific as a devoted son who goes well beyond the call of duty to comfort his father. And that was the worthy aspect of this film, perhaps the only one.


* “Philomena“: This is another condescending look at the working class, except in this case, the woman being mocked and ridiculed is a working-class Catholic woman from Ireland. Oh, and the movie–”based on a true story”–is anti-Catholic, anti-Religion, anti-Reagan, anti-Republican, and pro-single motherhood. Many of the things that happen in this movie are so predictable (and I easily predicted them before they happened).

Judi Dench plays Philomena, an Irish woman who is left by her father at a very young age at a Catholic convent by her father. Instead of “raising” her, the nuns essentially make her work in slave labor for most of her young life. One night, as a teen, Philomena is at a local fair and has sex with some guy who meets and charms her. She becomes pregnant, like many of the other girls at the convent (and insists she “loves” this guy she barely knows). The nuns take her and the others’ babies and sell them for adoption to Americans.

For the rest of her life, Philomena looks for her son and what happened to him. Steve Coogan plays a journalist (and atheist) who has recently been fired as a spokesman for the British Prime Minister and is looking to write a book. He eventually writes Philomena’s story and accompanies her on a journey to the United States to find and meet her son. **** SPOILER ALERT ****: It was inevitable (and predictable), of course, that Philomena’s long-lost son is dead and was gay (and died of AIDS). The son was a lawyer for President Reagan and the first President Bush and was angry that he “had to” keep his homosexuality a secret. The movie takes off from there on its non-stop tirade against Reagan and the Republican Party and how they allegedly “cut AIDS funding” and were “anti-gay.” And, of course, the movie is a non-stop attack on the Catholic Church and how evil these nuns were.

While I have no doubt that there were evil nuns (I had a former one as a teacher, and she was openly anti-Semitic and hateful of me, no matter what I did–Miss Mullaly, I know you are rotting in hell right now), and I don’t doubt that the convent in question and its nuns were in the baby-snatching and -selling biz, the movie fails greatly in painting them as evil for looking down upon these slutty single mothers and giving their kids a better shot at life with a nuclear family. I mean, are we soooo much better off as a country with the gazillions of babymamas (barely) raising their kids without a dad. How many of them would have become a White House lawyer and counselor to two Presidents? As we know, study after study shows that the kids of single moms are more likely to end up as criminals, drug addicts, losers, and/or unwed parents themselves.

How unfortunate that the movie fails to see that. Or that it fails to show that any “cuts” in funding for AIDS research were only relative to the fact that AIDS had and continues to have multi-millions more dollars thrown at it, as opposed to cancers–such as pancreatic cancer–that are nearly always quickly fatal and strike people who are not gay, drug addicts, or sluts (whereas few, if any, people die of AIDS anymore).

What troubles me about this movie is that it is such well done propaganda for all things leftist. It is warm, poignant, and touching. And it’s hard to watch it to the end with a dry eye (though I did because it was so predictable and I felt like I was being imprisoned and sentenced to a non-stop left-wing diatribe).

It would be nice to see a touching film without all that political instruction I never asked for. One thing that would also be nice would be to watch a movie that doesn’t look down on regular working-class (or middle-class) people. And this movie had no shortage of attacks on Philomena for not being familiar with, for instance, the comforts of Business Class flying or the free breakfasts typical at many American hotels.

But that’s how Hollywood (and UKwood–or whatever you call the British film industry) is: they sneer at everyone who doesn’t drive at least a Lexus, do yoga, or regularly vacation in Dubai. And this movie was more of that, heavily peppered with left-wing shrieking.

No thanks.

Oh, and by the way, when are they going to do a movie on the evils of Muslim religious institutions and imams? Don’t hold your breath. Ain’t gonna happen.


* “Black Nativity“: Based on a Langston Hughes play, this was much better than I expected, but in keeping with today’s movie review theme, all things are relative, as I didn’t expect much at all. I could have done without the quick instance of race-baiting, practiced by some of the few White people in this movie. The movie was very slow-moving, and kinda boring, but I liked the message and the belief in G-d that happens in this largely predictable, musical movie.

Jennifer Hudson is a poor, single mother who gets evicted from her Baltimore apartment and sends her son to live with her wealthier, estranged parents in Harlem for the Christmas season. Hudson’s father (Forest Whitaker) is a pastor/minister. After being falsely accused of stealing money, Hudson’s son is briefly in jail. Later, at his grandparents, he tries to rob the pastor/his grandfather of his prized possession and to sell it at a pawnshop. A man (Tyrese Gibson) who works at the pawn shop was in jail with him and has more than just a passing connection to the boy.

In the end, everything is explained and forgiven and everyone gets back together, including the boy’s father. And they are all one big happy family.

While I appreciated that the single mother in this movie gets back together with the reformed father of her son, I had to lament that they never marry in the movie. This characteristic is rampant in Black America and the overwhelming illegitimacy rate a big cause of many of its ills (with that ill now also coming to dominate White America). And the movie could have sent a better message. Its star, Jennifer Hudson, is also the mother of a young son, but declines to marry the kid’s father.

While many in this movie have excellent singing voices (and some–see Forest Whitaker–do not), I found the movie to be kind of amateurish. But it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t for me.


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