Yesterday, The A.V. Club led a guided tour of all the dope and whack movies opening between now and Halloween, noting with great care whether each would be a better fit for upstanding moviegoer Right-On or the lowest common denominator personified, Dumbass. Today, we do the same for November and December, when Hollywood finally makes up for the Dumbass-worthy popcorn fare of the summer with some primo, Right-On-courting awards bait. Read on to find out if there’s anything coming out that might excite both of these fresh dudes. (Hint: Space travel is universally all that and a bag of chips.)
The basics: Frederick Wiseman—arguably this country’s greatest documentary filmmaker—continues his late-career tour of the world’s foremost cultural institutions with this three-hour profile of Britain’s National Gallery and the curators, scholars, and restoration experts who work there.
Why it’s perfect for Right-On: Right-On felt that Wiseman’s most recent film, the four-hour At Berkeley, was a high point in a career full of them—an exhaustive, though hardly exhausting, exploration of how a university runs itself, and how an institution of higher learning relates to the world. A world-class museum sounds like the subject for a perfect follow-up.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass watched Wiseman’s 2011 behind-the-scenes burlesque doc, Crazy Horse, when it was available on Netflix Instant. Plus, as everyone knows, museums are a great way to look at boobs in public.
The basics: With Batman behind him, Christopher Nolan looks to the stars for inspiration. His latest heady blockbuster, co-written with brother Jonathan, is a science-fiction saga about the discovery of a wormhole and the team of scientists who plot a course through it in search of a hospitable new home for humankind. Matthew McConaughey, in his first performance since winning the Oscar, is the engineer who makes the tough call to leave behind his family when astronautical duty calls.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On only likes hard science-fiction, and Interstellar might just meet his high standards. After all, Jonathan Nolan supposedly spent four years at Caltech studying relativity as research for the screenplay. And Christopher has cited 2001: A Space Odyssey as an influence.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass, the oldest kid on his block who still goes trick-or-treating, dressed as The Joker four Halloweens in a row, once tried to recreate the hallway scene from Inception using Parkour movies he “learned” on YouTube. (It could have gone better.) The point is, Dumbass is a pretty big Nolan fan, even if he still hasn’t figured out Memento.
The basics: Disney’s latest animated offering, about a robotics wunderkind who forms a superhero group, comes stamped with the obscenely profitable Marvel logo. But the branding is a bit misleading: Not only is this all-ages adventure a very loose adaptation of its obscure Marvel source material, it also doesn’t take place within the same cinematic universe as Guardians Of The Galaxy and the various Avengers tie-in franchises. The vibe seems to be more Wreck-It Ralph—not that that’s a bad thing.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Have you seen the hero’s sidekick Baymax, that bulbous balloon robot guy? Dumbass may be a stone-cold badass (at least in this comic book he drew one time), but he’s not made of stone!
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On also likes the robot, but mainly just because he detects a serious My Neighbor Totoro influence. Right-On never turns down an opportunity to tell someone how much better than Disney Studio Ghibli is.
The basics: The holidays reunite the far-flung members of the Mitchler family—much to the chagrin of Mitchler son Boyd (Joel McHale). The family gathering goes from bad to worse when Boyd realizes he left his kids’ presents back at home, requiring a Hail Mary Santa Claus road trip, co-piloted by his father (Robin Williams).
Why it’s right for Right-On: At last, Right-On’s correct opinions about television are vindicated, with a Christmas comedy starring McHale and helmed by McHale’s frequent Community director Tristram Shapeero. And with representatives of Arrested Development (Jeffrey Tambor), Breaking Bad (Matt Jones), Gilmore Girls (Lauren Graham), Fargo (Oliver Platt), and this cult Adult Swim series (you probably haven’t heard of it) called Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (Tim Heidecker), staying caught up with those shows will finally be worth it. Besides, he’s been seeking a way to pay proper respects to Robin Williams beyond his reverent “RIP Robin Williams” tweet.
Why Dumbass might like it too: It does say “friggin’” in the title, doesn’t it?
The basics: James Marsh (Man On Wire) gives Stephen Hawking the Beautiful Mind biopic treatment, tracing his arc from horny college student to revered big-thinker to motor neurone disease survivor. Eddie Redmayne (Les Misérables, My Week With Marilyn) plays the famous physicist. Felicity Jones, of Like Crazy fame, plays the gravitational singularity of his love life.
Why it’s perfect for Right-On: Right-On has had a copy of A Brief History Of Time sitting on his coffee table for years. If he finally gets around to reading it, he can scoff at how this transparent awards bait fails to do Hawking’s legacy justice.
Why Dumbass might like it too: That dude in the wheelchair with the robot voice? He was hilarious on The Simpsons, yo.
The basics: Nearly a decade after The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones steps behind the camera to direct his second feature—a more traditional Western, this time. Hilary Swank’s tough-minded Mary Bee Cuddy agrees to transport three mentally disturbed women from Nebraska to Iowa, where they can be treated. Unfortunately, she’ll need the assistance of an ornery claim jumper (Jones), whom she blackmails into helping her when she finds him dangling at the end of a noose.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Adapted from a novel by Glendon Swarthout, The Homesman is essentially a feminist essay in shoot-’em-up drag, exploring the various ways in which the Old West—and, by implicit extension, the modern world—was (and is) an inhospitable place for women.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Thoughtful subtext notwithstanding, The Homesman features all the hallmarks of its genre: gunfights, explosions, hangings, unexpected deaths, and the traditional climactic act of violent revenge.
The basics: Being released the week after Halloween doesn’t necessarily bode well for a horror movie, but hopefully a belated release date doesn’t put a curse on Jessabelle. Elements of the swampy Southern occultism made popular by True Detective combine with a traditional ghost story as Jessie (Sleeping Beauty’s Sarah Snook) returns to her Louisiana hometown to recover from a dramatic car accident. Wheelchair-bound and frequently home alone, Jessie discovers a video tape made by her deceased mother that revives a dark magic from her past and awakens a jealous spirit determined not to let her go a second time.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Director Kevin Greutert’s resume consists mostly of Saw movies (Saw VI and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter to be precise), and Dumbass loves a good predicament-based torture-porn sequel.
Why Right-On might like it too: Former The State cast member and Reno 911! co-creator Robert Ben Garant wrote the screenplay, and Right-On has a soft spot for poorly-rated ’90s sketch shows. (He’s also a big Mr. Show fan).
The basics: Jon Stewart makes his directorial debut with Rosewater, based on the true story of journalist Maziar Bahari (Gael García Bernal), who was arrested and charged with espionage by the Iranian government while covering the country’s presidential election in 2009. An interview Bahari did with The Daily Show’s Jason Jones was submitted as evidence in his trial; after his release Bahari appeared again on The Daily Show to talk about his experience, at which time Stewart decided to adapt his book, Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity And Survival, into a film.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Stewart’s signature arch political commentary is very popular among Right-On’s circle of friends, and The Daily Show sketches often pop up on his feed between links from NPR and The New York Times. (Right-On hardly ever logs on to social media, of course, except when he’s just finished a particularly interesting The New Yorker longread.)
Why Dumbass might like it too: What if you found out the “on weed” guy from Half Baked went on to direct a serious political drama… on weed?
The basics: Timecrimes director and unofficial Fantastic Fest mascot Nacho Vigalondo swings for the fences with his new film, a super high-concept suspense thriller that’s part Rear Window, part Win A Date With Tad Hamilton, and part webcam smut show. Elijah Wood plays Nick, an unctuous nerd who’s won a contest “date” with his favorite B-grade movie star, Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). But when Jill cancels on him, Nick is offered something that might be even better, as a mysterious hacker offers him the chance to tap into the cameras on all of his favorite actress’ devices. The entire film unfolds in the open windows (hey!) of the character’s computer screen.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass spends most of his nights streaming Sasha Grey movies for free, so he may not be too keen on paying for one that strives to replicate the sensation of streaming Sasha Grey movies for free. But if Open Windows isn’t perfect for Dumbass, it isn’t perfect for anybody.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On is always game for some formal experimentation, and he enjoys seeing Elijah Wood have such a good time after punching his ticket with The Lord Of The Rings.
The basics: Just when you think Hollywood couldn’t get any more desperate, it goes and does a thing like this… and completely redeems itself! For the 20th anniversary of their odyssey to Aspen, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) embark on another road trip, this time to meet a man who one of them may have fathered. Also returning are writer-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, and also (somehow) the ’78 sheepdog Harry traded in the original. No word yet on whether Petey or Seabass show up for a little overdue payback.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass more or less is the long lost love child of these two characters. Furthermore, he’s excited that someone finally made a sequel to one of his all-time favorite comedies, Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On detects a note of Preston Sturges in the road-trip structure of—oh, who are we kidding? It’s Dumb And Dumber. Even a voracious snob like Right-On laughs his ass off at Dumb And Dumber.
The basics: Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) turns his attention to an amazing real-life story: the 1996 murder of champion wrestler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) by eccentric billionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carell), who’d spent years grooming Schultz and his brother, Mark (Channing Tatum), for the Olympics. The film premiered at Cannes last May and was instantly deemed a frontrunner for major awards, with Carell, nearly unrecognizable in a purely dramatic role (and a big fake nose), now the Supporting Actor to beat.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Everything about Foxcatcher screams “prestige.” Look for it on every other top 10 list at year’s end, and expect multiple Oscar nominations.
Why Dumbass might like it too: I just want to say one word to you, Dumbass. Just one word. Are you listening? “Wrestlers.”
The basics: After a series of reunion concerts that supposedly put a period at the end of English rock band Pulp’s storied career comes the inevitable documentary about Jarvis Cocker and his music, complete with cutesy subtitle. The music gets some context from interviews with residents of Cocker’s hometown of Sheffield.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On loves Pulp, although he maintains an insufferable preference for His ‘N Hers over all the band’s other records. Pulp: The Movie may give him pleasingly anguished flashbacks to the part of his wistfully misspent youth that followed the Belle And Sebastian portion of his wistfully misspent youth.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Though Dumbass doesn’t usually care much for documentaries, he does prefer that they at least be about a rock band.
The basics: Revolution comes to Panem in this penultimate installment of the Hunger Games film franchise, based on the first half of the last book in Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy. Having escaped the Third Quarter Quell, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) heads for the fabled District 13. Along for the ride are her competing love interests and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), as well as some new characters played by Julianne Moore and Game Of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass doesn’t read much; when he does, it’s almost always books he stole from the Target by his job. Despite the “sappy romance,” he’s quite enjoying the Hunger Games series.
Why Right-On might like it too: Capote superfan Right-On is still having a hard time getting over the death of one of his favorite actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Mockingjay—Part 1 will be one of his final opportunities to see the man in a new movie—albeit with the assistance of a little CGI.
The basics: Having presumably learned nothing from their first brush with criminal behavior, reluctant miscreants Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis reunite in order to visit painful retribution upon the investor (Christoph Waltz) who submarined the trio’s business venture. They’re once again seeking help from Jamie Foxx in the guise of Dean “Motherfuckah” Jones; Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston are back as well, because the movie isn’t called The Guys Who Used To Have Horrible Bosses 2.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: The only thing that could’ve made Dumbass laugh harder than the original Horrible Bosses is a similar story with the same characters in a basically analogous situation. In all likelihood, he’ll look right past the fact that Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon didn’t return for the sequel, while original screenwriters John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have been replaced by the guys who wrote We’re The Millers.
Why Right-On might like it too: With season three of House Of Cards several months off, where else is Right-On going to get his fix of manipulative Kevin Spacey?
The basics: Not the epic Milton poem or the true-life child murders in West Memphis, this Paradise Lost (a.k.a. Escobar: Paradise Lost) tells the story of a young man (The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson) who falls in love with a girl who turns out to have a very powerful, very criminal uncle, Pablo Escobar.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: What Dumbass hasn’t fantasized about a life of crime? This movie has both a girl and the giant estate of a cocaine billionaire—played by Benicio Del Toro, no less.
Why Right-On might like it too: Del Toro surely gives a bravura performance as the real-life drug lord. He’s been good in just about everything since we first saw him in that movie where he mumbles.
The basics: “BAAAAABBBBAAAADOOOOOK.” That guttural refrain will echo through the nightmares of any moviegoer brave enough to watch this Aussie horror import, about a widow (Essie Davis) dealing with both her troubled son and the storybook bogeyman who’s started creeping across the ceiling of their home. The film raised plenty of hairs at Sundance. It should have no problem freaking out more people in general release.
Why it’s right for Right-On: The best horror movies being made today are from countries other than America. Or so Right-On has been told. It’s hard for him to confirm that notion while peering through his fingers, petrified.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Except for maybe kung-fu, horror is the only kind of foreign film Dumbass is willing to watch. Bonus points to The Babadook for being in English, albeit with Crocodile Dundee accents.
The basics: After the death of her mother and a brutal divorce, a woman (Reese Witherspoon) decides on a whim to hike the entire thousand-mile Pacific Crest Trail, learning about herself in the process. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) and written by novelist Nick Hornby.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Rock-bottom characters. Substance abuse. The great outdoors. Total redemption. These things are right for Right-On.
Why Dumbass might like it too: A character in the trailer says this to Witherspoon: “You’re using heroin, and you’re having sex with anyone who asks.” Also, there appears to be lots of voiceover, which always helps Dumbass follow along.
The basics: Paul Thomas Anderson reunites with Joaquin Phoenix, masterful lead of his The Master, for an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 detective yarn. Phoenix plays the story’s pothead gumshoe; the pretty amazing cast also includes Josh Brolin, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Martin Short, Michael K. Williams, and PT’s longtime squeeze, Maya Rudolph.
Why it’s right for Right-On: The director of There Will Be Blood, the star of Her, the guitarist from Radiohead, and the author of Gravity’s Rainbow come together for a single movie. Has there ever been a project more right for Right-On?
Why Dumbass might like it too: The film is about a weed-smoking detective. Also, it’s set in the 1970s, just like the last Anderson movie Dumbass liked, Boogie Nights.
The basics: Ridley Scott tackles the story of Moses (Christian Bale), who leads the Israelites out of Egypt, forcing scowling, brow-furrowing pharaoh Ramses II (Joel Edgerton) to raise an army. Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, and various other actors who don’t really look like either Hebrews or ancient Egyptians co-star.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: There are few things Dumbass likes more than watching guys in armor stab each other with swords and spears, and Exodus’ trailer promises plenty of that, plus a wall of water, funnel-shaped whirlwinds, and assorted other righteous Old Testament disasters.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On thinks that, for all of its flaws, the director’s cut of Kingdom Of Heaven might be the best movie of the latter part of Scott’s career, and Exodus seems to be operating in the same vein.
The basics: James Wan struck horror gold with Insidious and The Conjuring, ushering in the period of his career when even movies “based on an idea by” him make it to theaters. Like Wan’s other recent successes, Demonic is about a haunted house, only it’s more of a post-mortem (no pun intended) as psychiatrist Maria Bello and detective Frank Grillo question the college-aged survivors of a bloody massacre. As they investigate further, the two find that the dead students were all amateur ghost hunters, and the house where they died was a reported hotspot for supernatural activity.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass doesn’t get why everyone is so down on Paranormal Activity 4, and DVRs all of the ghost-hunting shows—even Psychic Kids: Children Of The Paranormal.
Why Right-On might like it too: Because Maria Bello also starred in NBC’s Prime Suspect, which was based on a very highly regarded British series starring Helen Mirren. Right-On adores British crime procedurals.
The basics: The final installment of Peter Jackson’s unnecessarily trifurcated Tolkien adaptation marches into theaters. Originally subtitled There And Back Again, this trilogy capper will presumably involve five armies doing battle. Also, the dragon Smaug has a date with an arrow, the dwarves have a mountain to reclaim, and Bilbo (Martin Freeman, MVP of the prequel franchise) has a warm hobbit hole to crawl back into. Cost of admission says there will be more than one ending tacked onto the tail of the thing.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: A fire-breathing monster. Orcs. Massive CGI armies. That lady from Lost as an ass-kicking elf. There’s plenty here to keep Dumbass stimulated for three long hours.
Why it’s Right-On might like it too: If nothing else, Right-On can pass the doubtlessly hefty running time cataloging all the “unforgivable” liberties Jackson has taken with the text. He can also pretend he’s watching a very special episode of Masterpiece’s Sherlock in which the great detective dreams he’s a giant dragon and Watson is a short fellow with a magic ring.
The basics: The epic conclusion (or not) to the star-studded series of holiday family blockbusters, Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb reunites audiences with all of their favorite characters after five long years of painful separation. When museum security guard Larry Daley (Ben Stiller, always Ben Stiller) learns the magic that brings the historical exhibits to life every night is beginning to fade, he and his miniature friends go gallivanting all over the world in order to get it back. So there may not be much in the way of “nights” or “museums” in this one, but there will be the chance to see late greats Mickey Rooney and Robin Williams sharing the screen together.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Shawn Levy is Dumbass’ favorite auteur (and he’s pulling a Spielberg with two films coming out this awards season!), so this was always guaranteed to be a major event for him.
Why Right-On might like it too: Because Right-On has a family, and movies make the holidays two hours shorter.
The basics: The movie of the musical of the old comic strip gets an update, with Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis taking over the role of irrepressible orphan Annie, who meets rich New York City mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) and runs afoul of cruel foster parent Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). The trailer doesn’t make it exactly clear, but Annie and the rest of the cast also sing songs—both updated versions of the old soundtrack and some new tunes, presumably for Oscar and/or radio consideration.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass prefers not to watch old movies or, if at all possible, movies that take place in olden times, like the 1982 depression-set Annie. This version will have all of the unpredictable twists and turns of the original material, but with movie stars Dumbass already knows and tolerates—and no confusing appearances from Franklin Roosevelt.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On despises the original Annie movie as treacly, cloying garbage, so it can only get better from there. Plus, director Will Gluck made the surprisingly enjoyable Easy A.
The basics: The great Mike Leigh takes his second stab at a biopic of sorts, following 1999’s sublime portrait of Gilbert & Sullivan, Topsy-Turvy. Mr. Turner would be J.M.W. Turner (indelibly embodied by Leigh regular Timothy Spall), the Romantic-era painter who pushed landscapes toward abstraction in a way that prefigured the Expressionist movement. As usual with Leigh, however, the emphasis is less on biographical highlights (no Wiki-summary this) than on the mysteries of human behavior and culture.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Leigh is justly beloved by eggheads everywhere, who admire his unusually immersive filmmaking method. Even for a period piece like this, populated with historical figures, he devises the script via months of improvisation with his cast. Plus, of course, it’s British. Points right there.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Turner, as portrayed by Spall, is kind of a Dumbass himself. When he’s not painting, he’s mostly grunting, having desultory sex with his servants, or just generally being a dick. And the film depicts him doing those things much more frequently than it shows him at the canvas.
The basics: BFFs Seth Rogen and James Franco re-team yet again for another surefire hit, this essentially a fictionalization of how everyone thought that Vice trip to North Korea would turn out. Rogen (who directed and wrote the film with Evan Goldberg) and Franco play bumbling TV journalists who somehow manage to land an interview with Kim Jong-un—an exclusive so juicy that the CIA immediately conscripts the two entertainers into a plot to assassinate the supreme leader. High jinks (and possibly a real-world nuclear holocaust) ensue.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: If there’s one thing that Dumbass loves more than weed jokes, it’s weed jokes made at the expense of foreigners in the middle of an intensifying nuclear crisis. The Interview could be Dumbass’ Dr. Strangelove.
Why Right-On might like it to: Right-On lives for subversive political comedy, and with Armando Iannucci tied up in television, these stoners might be his best hope.
The basics: Three of the four guys who traveled back to the ’80s in the original Hot Tub Time Machine (Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke) must travel through time again, this time to save one of their own from a terrible fate. No word on whether the film ends with a cliffhanger placing Hot Tub Time Machine 3 in the old West. But it has been confirmed that Adam Scott makes the subtext of his career into full-on text by costarring as the son of John Cusack’s character from the first film.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: It’s a sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine.
Why Right-On might like it too: Hot Tub Time Machine was self-aware about the stupidity of making a movie about a hot tub that serves as a time machine, so maybe the second one will be self-aware about the potentially greater stupidity of making a sequel to a movie about a hot tub serving as a time machine.
The basics: The Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine stage musical heads to movie theaters via Disney, director Rob Marshall, and an all-star cast of intersecting fairy tale characters and actors playing them. A baker and his wife (James Corden and Emily Blunt) fight the curse of a witch (Meryl Streep) as their stories criss-cross with, among others, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as her prince, and Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Finally, another Sondheim musical receives a lavish cinematic adaptation! Even though he resents the continued presence of Johnny Depp for his crimes of becoming a popular and well-liked movie star, Right-On will nonetheless get psyched for a movie musical that isn’t based on a demon jukebox from kitsch hell.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Dumbass is always up for a round of late-period Meryl Streep mugging, and casting her as a witch certainly has potential for that.
The basics: The now-Colin Firth-less adaptation of the classic children’s book series follows a marmalade-loving, anthropomorphic Peruvian bear as he tries to navigate life among the humans of London. Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, and Nicole Kidman play various characters who are only referred to by their surnames; Ben Whishaw voices the creepily polite, hat-wearing ursid.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: The first trailer has it all: a CGI bear, earwax jokes, a toilet-bowl POV shot. It seems as though someone has finally combined two perennial Dumbass favorites—talking cartoon animals and Mr. Bean—into a single feature-film experience.
Why Right-On might like it too: Right-On has fond memories of the Michael Bond-penned children’s books. And, frankly, the idea of a talking-animal movie with Mr. Bean-style shenanigans doesn’t sound that bad to him, either.
The basics: Nothing says “Christmas Day” like a funereal, late-period Clint Eastwood movie about killing. Based on the bestselling (uncorroborated) autobiography of the late ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the movie stars Bradley Cooper as the self-described deadliest sniper in American military history. Eastwood is famous for his tendency to rigidly follow screenplays; this one was penned by Jason Dean Hall, who wrote David Mackenzie’s bleak and very underrated Spread.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Right-On knows that Eastwood—this country’s last real-deal classical filmmaker—will efficiently direct the hell out of American Sniper. Even if the movie gets bogged down by a wonky structure, Eastwood’s style—a mixture of purposeful, shadowy compositions and first-take performances—is bound to make it interesting, at least intermittently.
Why Dumbass might like it too: This is a movie about a guy who claims to have shot 160 people, directed by the guy who played Dirty Harry. Sure, it’s probably more Flags Of Our Fathers than The Gauntlet, but don’t tell Dumbass that.
The basics: Taking a much-needed vacation from fairytale land, Tim Burton directs a biopic about Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), painter of saucer-eyed moppets, whose sham of a husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), claimed credit for her work. It’s probably too early to say, but chances are good this will earn Burton his best reviews since that other drama with “big” in the title.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Burton has hooked back up with Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, the screenwriters of his best and most highbrow movie, Ed Wood. The glimpse into mid-20th century art culture is just the icing on Right-On’s cake.
Why Dumbass might like it too: Ed Wood is probably the only Burton movie that Dumbass has ever disliked, which doesn’t bode well for the probability of him digging this creative reunion. On the other hand, the score is by perennial Burton collaborator Danny Elfman; a familiar swell of ghostly voices on the soundtrack might be all it takes to provoke a Pavlovian pleasure high in Dumbass.
The basics: Angelina Jolie directs this biopic about Louie Zamperini, a distance runner at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics who later served as a bombardier in the Pacific during World War II. After Zamperini’s plane went down, he survived 47 days adrift at sea in a life raft, only to end up trapped at a brutal Japanese POW camp for over two years. So that was a rather rough patch.
Why Dumbass would be dumb to miss it: Dumbass has always felt that Chariots Of Fire would have been a great film if it just featured more punching and plane crashes.
Why Right On might like it too: Joel and Ethan Coen did a late rewrite on the Unbroken script, which Right-On presumes will bring a Barton Fink-esque touch of class to this otherwise by-the-numbers inspirational story.
The basics: Ava DuVernay (Middle Of Nowhere) uses the lead-up to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to present a large-canvas, character-packed view of the American civil rights movement. David Oyelowo—who’s been attached since the project began as a Lee Daniels movie, years ago—will star as Martin Luther King Jr., leading a cast that includes his fellow Englishmen Tim Roth (as George Wallace) and Tom Wilkinson (as Lyndon B. Johnson).
Why it’s right for Right-On: As a regular follower of the American ultra-low-budget indie scene, Right-On is happy to see DuVernay—whose last feature cost just short of $200,000—move up to the big leagues. Plus, it’ll be fun to see what rising cinematographer Bradford Young (Mother Of George, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pariah) will do with all of the camera and lighting gear that Plan B and Harpo Films can rent.
Why Dumbass might like it too: A lot of Dumbass’ favorite entertainment features Brits snarling at each other while doing Southern accents.
The basics: No relation to last year’s fishing-boat documentary of the same title (or to the 1989 Peter Weller flick, recently released on Blu-ray), this Cannes prizewinner (Best Screenplay) from Russia tells the story of a man who’s pushed to the brink when his city government, headed by a corrupt mayor, insists on seizing the land where he makes his home. His efforts to fight City Hall lead only to tragedy.
Why it’s right for Right-On: Director Andrei Zvyagintsev is a cinephile favorite, though his previous films—The Banishment, Elena, and Venice Golden Lion winner The Return—have barely made a dent in the U.S., even by arthouse standards. This latest effort conforms to his imposing, controlled aesthetic.
Why Dumbass might like it too: People do get killed, albeit mostly offscreen. Also, the title refers in part to the giant skeleton of a beached whale, which is an undeniably cool image.
The basics: Chinese director Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise The Red Lantern), who’s bounced around from genre to genre over the course of his long career, makes an unabashed weepie this time, working with former muse Gong Li for the first time since 2006. She plays a victim of the Cultural Revolution who’s so traumatized that she develops amnesia, failing to recognize her beloved husband (Chen Daoming) when he’s finally released from a labor camp. He pretends to be various menial workers to stay close to her.
Why it’s perfect for Dumbass: Though it features a much older couple and some brutal historical context, Coming Home is otherwise the Chinese equivalent of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation—utterly shameless about milking tears by dog-piling its characters with personal tragedy. Despite his wannabe-gangster leanings, Dumbass is susceptible to such tactics.
Why Right-On might like it too: It’s still a Zhang Yimou joint, which means there will be plenty of opportunities to contemplate how it reflects Chinese society as a whole—in this case, with the protagonist’s amnesia potentially representing the country’s collective desire to forget past trauma.