It’s that time of year again: relatives come in from out of town, the scent of pumpkin and turkey fill the air, and watching a series of giant balloons travel slowly down a street doesn’t seem so bad. Thanksgiving! America’s oldest tradition. Thanksgiving is a time for familial love and appreciation, stuffing one’s face, and taking some time to be thankful for everything we have. Thanksgiving only comes once a year, and as soon the bird hits the table every television commercial and store window is telling you that it’s already Christmas, you have to celebrate while you can. In honor of this great holiday we’re counting down the top ten best Thanksgiving movies (or at least movies that feature Thanksgiving). Happy Turkey Day!
This review would just be a gigantic cliche if the first thing I mentioned was how insane James Franco is. Due to his current status of being a renaissance man of sorts, it seems that upon mentioning his name that’s all anyone ever talks about. But mentioning his ability to completely transform himself as a person and as an actor on a consistent basis is necessary, as that was the only positive to Homefront, a trainwreck of a movie. To put things into perspective: the film stars action star Jason Statham, features Winona Ryder, and Sylvester Stallone wrote the film’s plot hole-filled screenplay which is as follows:
Disney is back, this time for real. The sparkling you see around the name of this new movie is the golden aura of an Academy Award for best animated movie. A well deserved one. Frozen is a winner. When I set down in the movie theatre with a bunch of extremely excited young boys and girls, I was not expecting an opening short film to the main feature. Surprised, I wore my 3D glasses and waited to see what Disney had come up with. The characters are the original first black and white Mickey and Minnie, along with – among others – Horace Horsecollar and their old antagonist Pete. The idea is simple but genius, constructed to play with the transition from a vintage black and white word to a 3D stage in Technicolor. You realize only at the very end that you have been holding your breath all the while. There’s no comparison possible here, even with the adorable The Blue Umbrella that opened Pixar’s latest Monster University. This short reminds us why there is an Academy Award dedicated to the category and why it can be regarded as a filmmaking art on its own. Now the audience is prepared for what will come next. The bar is set so high that everybody is thinking it’s going to be hard for Frozen to jump over it. But it does. Perfectly.
No one exposes the humor in heartbreak more effectively than Alexander Payne. Over his four features – Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), and The Descendants (2011) – Payne has proven himself a master of the comedy-drama, using satirical depictions of contemporary American society to strip back the guards of his main characters who are plagued by existential crises. Nebraska, Payne’s latest masterpiece of moral poignancy, is yet another example of his adroit ability to dig deep and find meaning in regrets and failed dreams. Starring Will Forte and sure-fire Oscar nominee Bruce Dern, the film focuses on Woody Grant, a cantankerous old grump who believes he has won a million dollars after receiving one of those obvious, eye-rolling spam emails that tout a cash prize but really only function to sell magazine subscriptions. Stubborn and blinded by a lack of meaning in his own life, Woody takes the offer to heart and indirectly forces his son, loner David (a subtle Forte), to drive him all the way to the titular state from Montana to receive the prize.
Have you ever experienced the incredibly fulfilling sensation of sitting in your comfy red velvet armchair for two hours, just watching your movie, not being distracted by any other thought? I know what you are thinking. It is not easy these days. So many movies just make you want to take out your phone, talk to your friends, or simply just keep checking the time. Delivery Man is not one of them. The story is as simple as it is absurd: a man discovers that the sperm he had donated for money in his youth has been used so many times that he now has 533 biological children. It wouldn’t even be too bad if these now young adults didn’t want to meet him and if he wasn’t the most unreliable person on the planet.
I’ve never read Markus Zusak’s 2006 historical-fiction novel The Book Thief, though I’ve seen and heard many a classmate obsesses over the World War II-set coming of age drama, which spent more than 230 weeks atop The New York Time’s bestseller list. Narrated by Death, Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German foster child who is taken in by Hans and Rosa Hubermann, a lovingly aged couple who end up hiding a Jew in their basement as the Nazi regime takes control of the country. My mom was a passionate fan of the book this past summer and I remember her reading it in tiny chunks, stopping after a chapter or two and taking a few deep breathes to clear her mind from the dark subject matter. Anytime I would ask how she was enjoying the story she would look at me and sigh, “It’s heavy.” It was obvious she was fan of Zusak’s work since she couldn’t stop returning to Liesel’s journey, but it was also clear the novel was taking quite an emotional toll on her, which may be the reason die-hard fans end up dissatisfied with the film adaptation. It’s simply too nice. As adapted by Michael Petroni and directed by frequent Downtown Abby-helmer Brian Percival, the film version of The Book Thief forgoes the extreme severity of the historical situation in favor of a neatly-packaged drama that’s perfect for the entire family due to the vibrant work of its talented cast.
You know a blockbuster means business when it opens not with an eye-popping destruction of an alien planet, not with a high-octane car race, and not with a charismatic billionaire experimenting with his mechanical suit, but instead with a bleak image of cold, grey mountains and a close-up of its protagonist in a state of paranoid distress. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the sequel to last year’s global phenomenon that grossed a staggering $408 million domestically (more than any single Harry Potter or Twilight film), is the best blockbuster of the year because it’s the most personal. Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough razzle-dazzle spectacle here to feed even Zach Snyder’s CGI appetite, but screenwriters Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) never lose sight of the beating heart of this stirring franchise – Katniss Everdeen, played with relatable, emotional vibrancy by Jennifer Lawrence, more than proving why she is a newly crowned Oscar-winner at age 23. When the original was released I wrote, “In Katniss, we finally get a female action heroine worth lauding,” and in the sequel Lawrence takes this character to new complex heights. Simply put, Lawrence is on fire, as is the rest of this head-spinning second installment, no pun intended.