Happy almost new year, cinephiles! To ring in the last week of 2012 the studios are releasing films that feature the most wretched, bloody, depraved, licentious, gruesome characters imaginable. To ensure you don’t forget how extreme these storylines are, the roles are filled by Hollywood’s most beautiful and talented people. The irony, in addition to the movies, is excellent. Dig in, and enjoy! And let us know what you’re seeing below.
“Django Unchained” opened Tuesday. Directed by Quentin Tarantino. Starring Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, and Samuel L. Jackson. Reviews from three different Playlist writers offer a variety of opinions on the film. Review 1: “‘Django Unchained’ is an insane mess in several ways, showing one of our great filmmakers unfocused and chaotic, attempting racial and political insight while also satiating his own cinephila.” Review 2: “It’s funny as hell and full of glorious waves of ultra-violence, yet a little unwieldy. The misgivings I have about the final product never come close to sinking this ship. It probably won’t be the awards horse that ‘Inglourious Basterds‘ was, but who cares when you’re having this good a time at the cinema. This is the most flat-out entertaining film of 2012.” Review 3: “As a picture ostensibly about love, revenge and the ugliness of slavery, ‘Django Unchained’ has almost zero subtext and is a largely soulless bloodbath, in which the history of pain and retribution is coupled carelessly with a cool soundtrack and some verbose dialogue.” Metacritic: 80 Rotten Tomatoes: 88% The Playlist: B / B+ / C-
“Les Misérables” opened Tuesday. Directed by Tom Hooper. Starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Helena Bonham Carter, and Sacha Baron Cohen. Our review: “While ‘Les Mis’ ends terrifically, it cannot make up for the largely uneven experience that comes before it. There is no doubt an abundance of passion and commitment in ‘Les Misérables’ but when the musical isn’t connecting emotionally — which is at least half the time — it’s a lot of blustering sound and fury that could either use a dialogue break or an edit.” MC: 64 RT: 73% PL: C
“Parental Guidance” opened Tuesday. Directed by Andy Fickman. Starring Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marisa Tomei. Reliably strong performances from the three leads carry this silly, schmaltzy comedy. MC: 36 RT: 17%
“Promised Land.” Directed by Gus Van Sant. Starring Matt Damon, Jon Krasinski, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Hal Holbrook. Our review: ” ‘Promised Land’ just can’t quite convince; it’s a story about a man who takes an unexpected detour when too many ugly truths break the illusion and facade he has built up for himself, but it often hits contrived and disingenuous notes that leave blemishes on a picture so well-intentioned and earnest about exploring the heart of a people.” MC: 52 RT: 53% PL: C
“West of Memphis” opened Tuesday. Directed by Amy Berg. Our review: “For all of its thorny concerns, ‘West of Memphis’ is more often than not an emotionally effective investigation into how real-life villainy may be more insidiously present than commonly assumed, how persistently elusive the truth can be and how a genuine sense of hope can persevere after years and years of trials and other tribulations.” MC: 75 RT: 96% PL: B+
“Tabu” opened Wednesday. Directed by Miguel Gomes. Starring Ana Moreira, Carloto Cotta, Teresa Madruga, Henrique Espírito Santo, and Laura Soveral. Our review: “Charming, witty, beautifully shot and inexplicably captivating,” this film is “one of those rarities when too many compliments are not enough and the recommendation to see it as soon as it’s near you cannot be stressed enough.” MC: 74 RT: 86% PL: A
“Allegiance.” Directed by Michael Connors. Starring Aiden Quinn, Seth Gabel, Bow Wow, and Pablo Schreiber. This story of Bush administration era soldiers aims high but falls flat, featuring weak characters and cringe-worthy dialogue. MC: no score yet RT: no score yet