Welcome to the second week of Redbox Ready! I apologize for this being so late. It’s been a crazy time of teaching these days, and so I’ve fallen behind the pace. This edition will be until the next edition on May 5th comes up. Enjoy!
The I Actually Just Saw This And Make It The Pick of the Week Award:
Beyond the Lights – directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
Tomatometer: 81%; Audience Score: 79%
I can’t say enough good things about this film. You know it’s a great movie when the opening scene is referred to later in the movie, and you go, “Oh man, this is so good.” That’s the kind of movie Beyond the Lights is. On the surface, it sounds rather predictable. But under the surface and everywhere else? It’s a great story of trust and really seeing someone for who they are. Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Kaz (Nate Parker) are two great characters played by great actors. Kaz, in particular, is one of the first leading male characters in a long time that I’ve not only liked a great deal, but had deep respect for. The man has his stuff together. He’s got quotes all over his apartment. He means well and treats his women as respectfully as you expect. You’re actively rooting for him the whole movie just as you’re rooting for Noni to give him a chance. And when they both escape to get away from the facades they live with and see their real selves? That’s where the magic and the beauty and all that wonderful stuff happens.
This is a deeply felt movie with care and love spread all over it. I truly believe it will get it’s day in the sun years from now, and you’ll be able to nod emphatically and say, “Yes. Yes. Oh, yes. That’s a good one.”
Blush Factor: The movie is PG-13 for some sexual content and suggestive language/gestures – understand that Noni is a pop star. You won’t see anything in the movie you haven’t seen on MTV or your average music awards show a hundred times. Don’t be deterred by the early imagery – the movie allows Noni the chance to see all the sexual imagery for what it really is and how it’s negatively impacted her life. And yes, she makes a change for the better.
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies – Directed by Peter Jackson
Tomatometer: 61%; Audience Score: 76%
When it was first announced The Hobbit would be adapted into 2 films, with the second being a bridge film into Lord of the Rings, the hook seemed simple enough. We all liked our Lord of the Rings movies, and why not spend a little more time with those cool hobbits and their terrible ability to stay out of trouble? But then Peter Jackson, slumping through Hollywood after beating his last two films (King Kong and The Lovely Bones) to death with too much CGI, backed his back into Middle Earth. I had hope that maybe this would be a nice return to form for Jackson. The Lord of the Rings trilogy showed a great affinity for merging practical effects with the necessary CGI to make it all work. Middle Earth felt tangible and lived in. The threats felt real.
But I should have known better. Two Hobbit films quickly became 3, with each one veering dangerously close to 3 hours. It made sense for the Lord of the Rings films to be as dense as they were. But a much smaller book like The Hobbit? You could hear the bloat before you even saw it. I completely skipped on the first Hobbit film, assuming it would be 3 hours of walking and eating (turns out I wasn’t too far off), and then gave the second, The Desolation of Smog a try. But here’s a hint: if you make your audience sit through 2 1/2 hours of a barely-there story only to hear “Oh, no, what have we done?!” and CUT TO BLACK? You have failed in your job to tell a complete, worthwhile story. I gave up after that ending. I didn’t care what they had done and I didn’t care to see anything more.
So here’s where it’s entirely up to you: this is the last of the Hobbit trilogy. It’s a trilogy that’s almost 90% made by a computer, 5% taken up by actors, and the remaining 5% a product of the New Zealand Board of Tourism. The subtitle, however, is The Battle of Five Armies. You are guaranteed to see a lot of action. Most of it will probably be CGI, which means that some of it will look great and a lot of it will look like a video game. If this is the kind of thing that hits your sweet spot, then look no further. The best part? You can pause the movie as often as you want to for those necessary potty breaks.
The Plot: It’s in the subtitle. There’s a battle involving five armies, one of which may or may not be a bunch of hobbits.
Blush Factor: PG-13 for “extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence” and “frightening images”. Basically, one violent, slightly frightening video game.
Unbroken – Directed by Angelina Jolie
Tomatometer: 51%; Audience Score: 71%
Every year, Hollywood loves to preordain films they know will be Oscar contenders. All you have to do is look at the people involved and if it was based on a bestselling book. There are important actors and directors taking it on and the sentiment seems to be, “Well, as long as they don’t completely screw it up…” as if they could take a checklist to Oscar Night and trade it in. But the thing about these preordained films is that while many of them do indeed roll into Oscar season with all the PR buzz to power a small town, many of them completely fall away.
I can’t think of a film that came with more pedigree than Unbroken. It’s based on an incredible true story. Angelina Jolie is directing it. The Coen Brothers co-wrote the script. The cinematography is being taken care of by none other than one of the very best in the game: Roger Deakins. And yet once the film started to screen for those around town, the buzz never materialized. What does that say about the film? It’s highly possible you will enjoy it a great deal. There seems to be a something certain missing from this film that makes the whole thing snap together in an unmistakably award-winning way.
If nothing else, you’ll see an inspiring story draped in the some of the most beautiful imagery you’ll ever see in a film. If that’s how you like your movies, then Unbroken is here for you.
The Short Story: After nearly dying in a WWII plane crash, Louis Zamperini spends 47 days in a life raft before being sent to a Japanese POW camp. He also does some other really inspiring things.
Blush Factor: The film is PG-13 for “intense sequences of brutality” (the POW camp) and some brief language. The torturing at the POW camp is supposed to be pretty intense, so be aware of that.
Accidental Love – directed by David O. Russell (sorta)
Tomatometer: 6%; Audience Score: 22%
Before David O. Russell become a perennial awards contender with The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, he was a tough, neurotic director that Hollywood didn’t quite know how to handle. You don’t have to go far on Youtube to find videos of Russell having epic blow-ups with his actors. Accidental Love – formely Nailed – is the last film Russell filmed before his pre-Oscar-streak exile. He didn’t even really finish it, actually, with the film being suspended multiple times due to completely running out of money. If you’re the kind of completist film fan who loves to see all those train wrecks that great directors sometimes make, then this is the film for you.
The Short Story: a small-town waitress gets accidentally shot in the head with a nail. This causes unpredictable behavior of which the entire movie is based upon.
Blush Factor: some swearing, some brief sex scenes with no nudity, and the scene in which the waitress gets the nail in her head – might be a bit much for viewers.
Paddington – Directed and Written by Paul King
Tomatometer: 98%; Audience Score: 83%
Back in Fall of 2014, the Paddington teaser seemed to be at the front of every movie I saw in a theater (of course, that might say more about my taste in movies than anything else). And you know what? I hated it. The CGI bear kinda creeped me out a little; the gross-out humor with the ear wax just seemed completely out of place. It all just felt wrong.
So guess what happens? Turns out the teaser is not at all representative of the rest of the film! I’ve never heard of that one before! Snark aside, I’ve heard some amazing things about this film. It’s supposed to be utterly delightful and delightfully heartwarming. Colin Firth is the voice of the bear, for crying out loud. You know the film will survive on pure charm alone. Check it out. I know I will, too.
The Short Story: a young Peruvian bear somehow travels to London in search of a home. A family takes him in and takes a liking to him.
Blush Factor: PG for some mild humor and some scary moments, including whatever villianous character Nicole Kidman is playing (Kidman herself said her character was scary enough she wasn’t going to show her kids the movie for a while).
The Wedding Ringer – Directed by Jeremy Garelick
Tomatometer: 28%; Audience Score: 71%
This looks to me less like a movie and more like the logical conclusion of How Many Movies Can We Put Kevin Hart and Josh Gad In? Of course, you gotta have a movie with them together! And of course you have to make a bunch of gay-panic jokes! Gotta get those 13-year-old boys laughing!
I don’t know what to say about this film other than it’s been in development hell for a long time. Anytime a film has been cooking this long and comes out looking this lame, you gotta give it a moment of respect. If Kevin Hart somehow tickles your funny bone (I have yet to see him say a line that isn’t full-on yelling) or Josh Gad is the lovable loser you’ve grown to love, then this is the film for you.
The Short Story: The groom needs some groomsmen, but is too socially awkward to have any real male friends (this is Hollywood, people). He hires a man to help him fill out the Groomsmen Lineup.
The Blush Factor: Rated R for topless women, a brief scene of a dog licking peanut butter off a penis, physical comedy and slapstick violence, lots and lots of profanity – basically the kind of stuff added to a movie script when the filmmakers feel a PG-13 isn’t enough and they need to make it more ‘R’. None of this adds to the story.
Wild – Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
Tomatometer: 90%; Audience Score: 78%
This is one of the best films I saw of all last year. I can’t recommend it enough. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll find something in it that will stick with you for a while. Stop reading this. Go watch it.
The Short Story: A woman loses her mother and her marriage, setting her off on a mission to hike the entire Pacific Coast Trial.
Blush Factor: Rated R for some “sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language”.
See you guys next week with more Redbox Ready picks!