Annie Christmas

Some Movies to See This Weekend, December 19, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014 Rob Samuelson

It's the weekend before Christmas, so there are a few big releases before the even bigger releases next Thursday on the main event of families coming after their big holiday dinners to digest for a couple hours, or for non-Christians to take a respite from the bombardment of Christmas. But you don't have to wait for some okay viewing options. So if you're home from school or taking a full week to visit family, you may as well hide from them with some of these options.

Director: Will Gluck
Writers: Will Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz

Little Orphan Annie gets the modernization treatment, with Beasts of the Southern Wild's Wallis in the lead role. She already has one of the finest child performances ever under her belt, and it's interesting to see her heading into a big, mainstream role. Jamie Foxx plays her surrogate father figure, a New York mayoral candidate who uses her for publicity at first but then they begin to bond. 

Director Will Gluck has done funny, all (most?) ages work before with Easy A. That's the only one of his filmography I've seen, although Friends with Benefits comes recommended by my girlfriend. I trust her on these things. Plus The Lego Movie's co-directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, did a bit for Annie that parodies the Twilight series, and has received all kinds of praise for being hilarious. This is seemingly the pre-holiday family picture to see.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott

The final part of The Hobbit trilogy has actually been out since early in the week, but give me a break. I do these for Fridays. McKellen's Gandalf and Freeman's Bilbo return along with their multi-species traveling companions from the first two films, having desolated Smaug, I assume – I still need to catch up with part two. There is a battle among armies you need a fully equipped hand to count in this one.

This is most notable for (probably) being Peter Jackson's final go 'round in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, following his Lord of the Rings films a decade ago. He's inserted himself into the conversation for most important epic directors because of his work on the first trilogy, and while The Hobbit films haven't been nearly as critically successful, the first one at least remains a spectacle of the highest order and a technological achievement for its use of a 48 frames per second rate, doubling the normal 24 fps of normal films. It'll take some getting used to – everything looks a little sped up when movement is involved – but that seems to be the way things are going with movies, and this trilogy is notable for that at the very least.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Director: Shawn Levy
Writers: David Guion, Michael Handelman, Mark Friedman
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Rebel Wilson

I work in a movie theater for my “day” job (hence why I write about movies so often here), and I must admit I am prejudiced against this movie. If you think you see the same commercials all the time watching TV, try spending most of your time in a place where there's a mandate to push the same four or five ads on a constant rotation. For the last few weeks, a trailer for this latest Night at the Museum has played hundreds of times. I've heard the same clunky joke about how Rebel Wilson's security guard character “could be a model if she didn't love pizza so much” enough times to turn my brain to mush. I have eagerly awaited this release for the simple reason that it will remove the trailer from the rotation and I can breathe easily until the next set arrives to bore itself into my mind.

But it is among us, and I can hopefully look at it soberly. Following this week's pattern, I have only seen the second Night at the Museum movie, which made me laugh enough. Amy Adams was a good Amelia Earhart, but unfortunately she's not around for this installment. Everyone else is, including the recently departed Robin Williams in one of his final screen roles, reprising his turn as President Teddy Roosevelt. That sad fact alone makes this movie worth seeing for posterity's sake, although I cannot vouch for its quality one way or another. I felt a lot of shrugs toward part two, although it was humorous at times, plus I'm a sucker for monkeys. The monkey's here again, too. I guess I will be, as well.

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