If we make it through December ...
Not to make you jealous, but we have an awful lot of movies to see between now and mid-December. I'm just catching up on "Oppenheimer" and "Killers of the Flower Moon" and "Anatomy of a Fall" -- which was one of the best films that didn't get a theatrical run here. If we can figure out how to mirror "Fallen Leaves" from the iPad to our big screen TV we'll probably watch that tonight.
This is the best time to be a film critic -- if we didn't have other responsibilities we could spend the next two weeks watching four or five movies a day and we'd probably still not get through the virtual pile of screeners. Not to mention the movies opening in theaters.
This week probably belongs to Beyoncé, whose concert film "Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé" is opening everywhere. While we might not expect it to do as well as "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" -- which will be available to rent or buy on streaming services starting on TayTay's birthday, Dec. 13 -- the 2 hour, 30 minute doc is expected to do very well with audiences and has already received some critical acclaim. In Variety, Steven J. Horowitz writes, "It's satisfying without being indulgent, but most of all, it's a monument to Beyoncé's status as one of pop's most enduring figures, and everything it takes to get there."
We've also got the 2023 Japanese kaiju film "Godzilla Minus One" opening. Written, directed and with visual effects by Takashi Yamazaki, it's probably the best Godzilla film this century (not that that's a terribly high bar). Gareth Edwards, director of 2014's "Godzilla," told Screen Rant: "There were a lot of things that I felt were very new for Godzilla, and I felt jealous the whole time I was watching the movie. This is what a Godzilla movie should be. It must be mentioned as a candidate for the best Godzilla movie of all time."
And there's "The Shift," a faith-based sci-fi story that takes a lot of its cues from the Book of Job. It follows a man named Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha) who finds himself in a dystopian world confronted by a mysterious stranger known as "The Benefactor" (Neal McDonough) as he fights to return to his wife.
Finally, we have the prosaic-ly titled John Woo thriller "Silent Night." Normally we wouldn't hold out much hope for a movie with a synopsis that reads: "A grieving father enacts his long-awaited revenge against a ruthless gang on Christmas Eve" but in this case the father is played by Joel Kinnaman, who's kind of a low-key Alexander Skarsgård. Kid Cudi co-stars.
We would also be remiss if we didn't mention that Todd Haynes' "May December" begins streaming on Netflix today. We concur with Philip Martin, whose review runs elsewhere in this section: It's one of the best movies of 2024.
And if you were waiting to watch Christopher Nolan's 3-hour "Oppenheimer" in the comfort of your living room, it hit streaming services this week. The UHD streaming version can be bought for $19.99, and there are 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray options with more than 3 hours of extras available wherever DVDs are sold.
Also out on streaming this week is the answer to a question I actually asked out loud last week: "Whatever happened to Adam Sandler?"
Turns out in his latest film for Netflix, he's playing the titular 74-year-old lizard who has spent his entire life as a caged class mascot in the animated "Leo." Wracked by fear of missing out, Leo plots his escape when a kid takes him home. The comedic voice cast in this one includes Bill Burr, Cecily Strong, Jason Alexander, Jo Koy and, of course, Rob Schneider.
The documentary "Little Richard: I Am Everything," directed by Lisa Cortés, began streaming on Max this week, making its case for Richard Penniman as a Promethean figure who influenced everyone from Elvis and the Beatles, to David Bowie, Elton John and Mick Jagger and even filmmaker John Waters, whose mustache is a "twisted tribute" to the man himself.
Also available on less than wall-size screens:
"Lakota Nation vs. United States" (PG-13, 2 hours, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV) This powerful, indignant documentary chronicles the Lakota Indians' quest to reclaim the Black Hills, sacred land that was stolen in violation of treaty agreements. By exploring the ways the United States has ignored its debt to Indigenous communities, it suggests what might be done today to repair the wrongs of the past. Directed by Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli.
"Better Days" (not rated, 1 hour, 39 minutes, On Demand) A refreshing, realistic blend of comedy and drama in which, after her husband dies, a woman starts to do whatever she wants. When her three distressed teenage children demand that she return to being her former self, she must decide whose happiness matters most in a delightful comedy about starting over before it's too late. With Sonja Smits, Alix Sideris, Sara Hinding, Gregory Ambrose Calderone; directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin.
"Dashing Through the Snow" (PG, 1 hour, 32 minutes, Disney+) A mediocre entry into the seasonal heart-warmer genre concerns social worker Eddie Garrick (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) who, despite having turned his back on Christmas due to a traumatic childhood experience, takes his 9-year-old daughter Charlotte (Madison Skye Validum) to work with him on Christmas Eve, where they meet a mysterious man in a red suit named Nick (Lil Rel Howery). A magical adventure ensues. With Oscar Nuñez; directed by Tim Story.
"Fireline" (not rated, 1 hour, 21 minutes, On Demand) An enthralling documentary that allows audiences an inside look on what three three Cal Fire firefighters experience while fighting a mega-fire for 36 emotional hours. Directed by Tylor Norwood.
"Thriller 40" (not rated, 1 hour, 30 minutes, Paramount+) Forty years after the release of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" -- the bestselling album of all time worldwide -- director Nelson George takes fans (sure to be the film's primary audience) back in time to experience the making of the record-breaking album and the release of the accompanying short films that forever redefined the music video format. Featuring Usher, Mary J. Blige, Brooke Shields, Paul McCartney, Misty Copeland, Maxwell, John Landis.
"Fast Charlie" (not rated, 1 hour, 30 minutes, On Demand) Based on the novel "Gun Monkeys" by Victor Gischler, this engaging if sometimes silly action thriller concerns Charlie Swift (Pierce Brosnan), aka Fast Charlie, a fixer with a problem: The target he has whacked is missing his head. So he must prove it's the intended target to the prominent New Orleans mobster who paid for the hit (Gbenga Akinnagbe). With Sharon Gless, James Caan; directed by Phillip Noyce.
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