From Langston Hughes adaptation “Black Nativity” to Disney’s animated musical comedy “Frozen,” there is plenty of family fare to see this holiday weekend, unless you want to catch up on awards contenders. Starring an acclaimed Idris Elba, the Nelson Mandela biopic “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” also opens, as does Spike Lee’s beefed up “Oldboy” remake, panned by most critics. Trailers after the jump.
Kasi Lemmons’ exuberant reinvention of the classic holiday musical “Black Nativity” boasts an impressive ensemble, from Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett as old-fashioned Harlem parents to the fabulous Jennifer Hudson as their breakaway child, who sends her son home for the holidays.
Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee’s epic icy adventure “Frozen” marks the glorious return of the Disney princess musical, this time voiced by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel (of Broadway fame), Jonathan Groff and Ciaran Hinds. It looks to be a surefire Oscar nomination in the feature animation and best song categories (hear that track here).
Spike Lee’s “Oldboy” revamp, from Chan-wook Park’s 2003 Korean existential horror film, looks to be just as gory and soulless as the original. This revenge tale, which critics say lacks passion, stars Josh Brolin as a man locked and tortured in a cell for two decades who is now out for blood upon his release. Not exactly a holiday family treat.
At last, after a long tour through the festival circuit, arrives “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” whose actors Elba and Naomie Harris have enjoyed plaudits all season. While critics are chalking this up to be a bit of a granola movie, Elba clearly inhabits the role gloriously.
Frozen Dir. Chris Buck, USA | Disney | Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Ciaran Hinds, Alan Tudyk | 87% Fresh | Rolling Stone: “In a year of weak animated features, ‘Frozen’ — loosely based on ‘The Snow Queen’ — takes the lead by default.” | Our Immersed in Movies interview with animator Lino DiSalvo
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Dir. Justin Chadwick, USA, UK | TWC | Cast: Idris Eba, Naomie Harris, Robert Hobbs | 65% Fresh | Entertainment Weekly: “All of the highlights are dutifully hit, as in a made-for-TV movie (albeit a lavish, gorgeously photographed one). Unfortunately, they’re hit with a sledgehammer.” | Our NOFF review and review roundup
Black Nativity Dir. Kasi Lemmons, USA | Fox Searchlight | Cast: Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige, Tyrese Gibson | 52% Fresh | Washington Post: “By the time the film reaches its biblically inspired dreamscape of a climax, “Black Nativity” qualifies as equal parts surreal and stirring.” | Susan Wloszczyna looks at a rash of holiday films from black filmmakers.
Oldboy Dir. Spike Lee, USA | Universal | Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Imperioli | 46% Fresh | The Dissolve: “Technically, it’s amazing… But it’s so excessively long, and so rigorously composed, that it becomes less about Joe’s drive to find his target, and more about Lee’s drive to outdo Park.”