What I’d Watch 11/21/12

You’ve got plenty of options this Thanksgiving if you’re looking to escape from the endless stream of parades and football games and annoying relatives and artery-clogging culinary choices.  In fact, this week’s offerings make up a sort of Thanksgiving meal of their own.

First, there’s the turkey.  A remake of Red Dawn might have seemed like a good idea at some point, but the original is such a product of its time, when the idea of the Soviets suddenly appearing over the horizon wasn’t too far-fetched of an idea.  We really don’t have that kind of threat these days, unless you want to count terrorists, in which case you’d be remaking Invasion U.S.A., and let’s just not go there.  China might have fit the bill, and was actually set to be the bad guy here, but the producers blinked at possibly alienating billions of potential customers and switched to the military juggernaut that is North Korea.  Yeah, so much for the “Red” in the title.  So what we’ve ended up with is a bunch of pretty young performers going through the motions in a retread that lacks any of the resonance of the original film, empty calories that will likely have you ready to fall asleep when it’s done.

Next up, a serving of corn.  Silver Linings Playbook looks like a typical corny romantic comedy, except it’s got David O. Russell pulling the strings, so I can’t completely write it off.  But some of the moments in the trailers have come across as pretty broad and typically “meet cute.”  Of course, that may be just to get people in the door, since it seems like there are some deeper things going on, especially with Russell involved.  The critics have been generally impressed with it, so maybe it’s the really good corn on the cob and not the cheap creamed stuff.  And hey, Jennifer Lawrence. Can’t go wrong with that.

Then we have the stuffing.  Life of Pi looks absolutely packed with gorgeous imagery, particularly the trailer money shot of that whale leaping from a phosphorescent ocean.  Ang Lee doesn’t know how to make an ugly-looking film, and he definitely seems to be firing on all cylinders here in that regard.  What’s got me a little concerned is that the more recent TV spots feature what sounds like some pretty on-the-nose narration, coming right out and explaining the themes instead of letting the story develop them on its own.  Maybe they’re trying to retain the feel of the novel on which the film is based, maybe they felt a need for something familiar in what can appear to be a bizarre story, but every time I hear Pi talk about “what was once my enemy was now my only hope,” I get a tiny sense of dread.

Finally, there’s dessert, the big slice of apple pie with the heaping dollop of whipped cream that is Rise of the Guardians.  It’s got a killer concept — it’s basically The Avengers of childhood mythological figures — a great voice cast, and an absolutely fantastic look.  I’ve been particularly taken with the brief glimpses of the Sandman’s dream creations, like the shot of glimmering sandy dinosaurs strolling through a neighborhood.  Just the right touch of whimsy with which to kick off the holiday season.  I mean, if you’re going to the movies on a holiday, why not see something that’s going to make you feel like a kid again?

And if you want the cinematic equivalent of getting up at 3am and braving a Black Friday sale, I suppose you could go see Twilight.


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