The last week of the year, a time for the final Oscar bait films to see the light of day and plenty of holiday crap.
Opening on Christmas day in New York was The Wolf of Wall Street (76) the long awaited Martin Scorsese film, his fifth team-up with Leonardo DiCaprio, who likens his character, a hedonistic crook, to Caligula. Plenty of sex and drugs, so I’ll be there. Mostly good reviews, but some pans, too. Joe Neumaier: “A delirious, manic, push-the-limits comedy of gaudy amorality that tests the audience’s taste. But it’s a gamble that works, since you leave this adrenaline trip wasted, but invigorated.” Is it too debauched for Academy tastes?
Also opening on Christmas was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (54), directed by and starring Ben Stiller, that has mostly gotten shrugs from critics and audiences. This is the second film of a two-page short story by James Thurber about a chronic daydreamer. Eric Kohn: “Shows none of the edgy storytelling looniness present in Stiller’s finest work. Instead, every element seems calculated to service an easygoing commercial product that plays up the sentimentality of the scenario while rendering it inoffensively bland.”
In the crapola category, take your pick. Grudge Match (37) is the result of someone somewhere saying, “Rocky vs. Raging Bull!” This is par the course for Sylvester Stallone, who has to eat, after all, but another chapter in the long, sad decline of Robert De Niro. Bill Goodykoontz: “This is a wretched movie, trading on characters we revere, yet doing nothing to honor them. Director Peter Segal tries everything he can to recapture the magic of the earlier movies, but to no avail. It’s all rather sad.”
Getting even worse reviews is 47 Ronin (24), which is on course to lose $175 million dollars. Ouch! Nathan Rabin: “47 Ronin is elephantine and lumbering, a wobbly, would-be epic that aspires to the scope and majesty of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but comes up woefully short.”
For the tweens in your house, there’s Justin Bieber’s Believe (tbd), obviously not for anyone who is old enough to drive.
Opening on Friday is August: Osage County (58), based on a great play about a family full of secrets in Oklahoma, but apparently it’s not a great movie. The reviews means it probably has no shot at a Best Picture nomination–we’ll see if Streep or Roberts can snag acting nominations. Kevin Jagernauth: “August: Osage County is a film of big, wild gestures, plate smashing, screaming and tears, but not nuance, and it all has the effect of leaving one deadened, not moved.”
Also opening is Labor Day (66), Jason Reitman’s latest, with lonely Kate Winslet following for escaped con Josh Brolin. R. Kurt Osenland: “A better film would have had the gumption to maintain the poetic bleakness, rather than steer toward what ultimately feels like safe compromise.”
Lone Survivor (53) is a war film starring Mark Wahlberg, directed by Peter Berg, who still gets jobs even after Battleship. Noel Murray: “The simplicity of Lone Survivor eventually becomes a handicap, because after a certain point, the film becomes just one long battle sequence, lacking narrative ebb and flow.”
Finally there’s The Invisible Woman (78), a film directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens, and Felicity Jones as his longtime mistress. Eric Kohn: “Though suffering from dry patches and a fairly mannered approach, The Invisible Woman eventually makes its way to a powerful final third documenting an ultimately tragic romance in deeply felt terms.”