As temperatures chill the movie business heats up and this year is no exception. This is “actor and Oscar season,” when better films feed into theaters across the nation. These seven films are all playing now and one in particular — Whiplash — is outstanding.
I use a “5 finger” scoring system, with 5 being a superb film that earns a HIGH FIVE. Four fingers equate to an excellent movie, 3 is just a movie, a 2 is suitable only for free viewing and, since decorum prevents the use of a single digit, a film rated a complete zero is described as the “Dreaded Fist of Badness.” Since it is almost impossible to make a truly awful film that manages to get released, the Dreaded Fist of Badness means the movie so bad that a paying audience should be allowed to pummel everyone involved in selling such a worthless effort senseless.
Here, reviewed in a single sentence, are seven of November’s most popular films:
Nightcrawler – 4 fingers. Jake Gyllenhaal is outstanding as a slimy freelance police radio news videographer in this behind the scenes glimpse at the sellout reality of ratings starved news TV stations.
Force Majeure – 3 fingers. This Swedish film about a husband’s cowardly choice when his family faced a sudden avalanche ruins a family ski vacation and threatens to split the family apart (and won a 2014 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize and features one of my favorite funny scenes of the year).
Interstellar – 4 fingers. Nearly 3 hours long and imperfect in spots, Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster space drama about a world in jeopardy is pure, beautifully crafted entertainment that makes Gravity look like Happy Days.
Whiplash – 5 fingers. A superb screenplay and film about the all consuming intensity of a competitive New York music college with J. K. Simmons playing the best bad guy in years.
The Theory of Everything – 4 fingers. An outstanding performance by Eddie Redmayne as ALS-afflicted science genius Steven Hawking carries this well made British biopic way beyond what you’d expect.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 – 2 fingers. This plodding, drawn out yawner of nothing serves one major purpose for this cash cow franchise: siphoning money out of innocent viewers.
St. Vincent – 3 fingers. Watching Bill Murray act is like listening to Charles Barkley speak – always worthwhile – and his performance as a defeated slacker saves an otherwise blandly executed film.
With more great films on tap for December, pick one you like and give it a look. There are a lot of great performances waiting to be enjoyed.
Happy holidays! I’ll see you at the theater, fifth row center.
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