Once the calendar switches to December it becomes difficult to convince me to see anything other than the weekly Oscar contending releases that swarm theaters nationwide. Yet, for movie watchers trying to avoid venturing to the big screen and who prefer relaxing and enjoying a new flick in the comfort of their homes, December has some worthwhile options arriving this month (November's suggestions). Here's what's on tap for the upcoming month:
Don't Think Twice - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read my rapid review here)
Mike Birbiglia writes, directs and co-stars in this brilliantly handled indie comedy. It's so rare for a comedic endeavor to combine legitimate laughs with a soulful story, yet Don't Think Twice achieves this and so much more. The film follows a popular New York City improv group called The Commune who aren't just talented performers, they've become so close that they're basically a family. But when scouts from a major sketch comedy show called "Weekend Live" set their focus on the group, bitter competition begins to tear apart the fabric of this on-stage family. Don't Think Twice is emboldened by phenomenal performances that build multi-layered characters. Each member of the improv group becomes developed enough to earn a vested interest from the audience. While an emotional supporting turn is offered by Gillian Jacobs, the rest of the cast also pull you into their competitive world of comedy where not everyone can make it big. (December 6th)
Sully - 3 stars out of 4 - (Read full review here)
It's no easy task releasing a film before all of the other labeled Oscar contenders and remaining in contention as the year comes to a close, but Clint Eastwood has achieved just that with his latest biopic, Sully. Tom Hanks stars as Chelsey Sullenberger, a pilot who became an overnight American hero after successfully executing and emergency landing on the Hudson River and saving the lives of all crew and passengers on board the plane. However, upon an investigation of the flight by the NTSB, Sully is forced to ponder whether or not he responded correctly and if he put all of these lives in an unnecessary danger. The inner turmoil of the title character is captured magnificently by acting legend Tom Hanks. Both he and co-star Aaron Eckhart provide exceptional performances that may (and probably should) be recognized by the Academy Awards. My only issue with Sully, however, is the narrow scope of the film's story. There isn't much meat to it and, consequently, Eastwood consumes his running time with countless perspectives of that fateful plane landing. But either way, the film is an entertaining awards season contender that you should catch if you haven't already. (December 20th)
The Magnificent Seven - 2 and a half stars out of 4 - (Read my rapid review here)
Admittedly, I have a soft spot for Westerns. And while Antoine Fuqua's remake, The Magnificent Seven, has its fair share of blemishes, it also entertains the audience with an unfettered ease. Industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) overruns the small town of Rose Creek with deadly force and it prompts a widow (Haley Bennett) and other townsfolk to summon the assistant of a bounty hunter (Denzel Washington) who recruits a team of misfits to take on Bogue's militant army. This modern interpretation of a classic story is paced extremely well considering its running time pushes towards 135 minutes. Vincent D'Onofrio and Denzel Washington provide the most notable work, while co-star Chris Pratt feels awfully out of place. Nothing groundbreaking resides in The Magnificent Seven but it's compelling enough to enjoy on a more superficial level. (December 20th)
Honorable Mention: Also arriving to DVD and Blu-Ray this month are action films Suicide Squad (12/13) and the latest franchise installment, Jason Bourne (12/6). Oscar rumblings still follow Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant for their work in the overrated film Florence Foster Jenkins (12/13), and Oliver Stone's long-winded biopic Snowden (12/27) also finds a release this month. Animated films The Secret Life of Pets (12/6) and Storks (12/20) are available, as well as Tim Burton's imaginative new work Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (12/13) and rom-com Bridget Jones's Baby (12/13).