All of a sudden, with the Thanksgiving Day weekend, there's more than enough good movies to see.
Red Cliff: For action fans and cinephiles of every persuasion, don't miss this one. Bravura, epic, period war movie, brilliantly executed. Woo's career best. Tomatometer: 86%. Metascore: 74.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: Werner Herzog and Nic Cage are never boring. Put them together and the combustion is exhilarating. On a Telluride panel, Cage bristled at my description of his performance of a drug-addled cop as "over-the-top." "Look around. You can go to New York City, you can go to New Orleans," he retorted. "You can look at somebody in a market, and they're doing something that is so impossibly - as you call it - 'over the top' that it would never survive any movie and never make it into any movie. I see things in life that are completely 'over the top.' So it just doesn't work for me." But isn't that his defining signature? As far as he was concerned, he was in complete control. OK. Check out this movie, and you will be mightily entertained. Here's Manohla Dargis's feature on Cage. Tomatometer: 85%. Metascore: 69.
The Blind Side: The surprise hit is a solid double for the under-appreciated writer-director John Lee Hancock, who is in recovery from the misfire The Alamo. I prefer to remember his script for A Perfect World and the excellent baseball film The Rookie. The Blind Side, based on the Michael Lewis non-fiction bio, is about homeless high school student Michael Oher, who is taken in by a wealthy family and given the support he needs to become a major football star. Sandra Bullock is well-cast as force-of-nature Leigh Anne Yuohy. The Blind Side is unpretentious, naturalistic filmmaking at its best and Bullock shines. She's having a good year--she was a sexy spitfire opposite Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal. (Most folks passed on seeing her badly-reviewed third film, All About Steve.) By an accident of timing, she probably won't get an Oscar nomination, though. Because this movie dwells more on the good doings of the white family who care for a needy, under-educated overweight black kid (sweet but inexpressive newcomer Quinton Aaron), the movie suffers a tad in comparison with Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire. (A.O. Scott contrasts the two films.) Tomatometer: 73%. Metascore: 53.
The Road: This tough movie adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's dystopian novel is elegantly filmed by John Hillcoat, and movingly acted by Viggo Mortensen. It's a father-son love story that pushes into uncomfortable places. It's not escapist destructive fun like 2012. This movie really is about the end. Tomatometer: 70%. Metascore: 64.
Me and Orson Welles boasts a tour-de-force impersonation of Orson Welles by Chris McKay, and Zac Efron and Claire Danes as two budding theatre talents are fine. But the movie, shot by Richard Linklater on the Isle of Man, is one of those period evocations that never comes to life. It's all fake costumes and sets: it's not real. Tomatometer: 79%. Metascore: 69.
Old Dogs. A follow-up to Walt Becker's Disney sleeper hit Wild Hogs, this slapstick comedy was so painfully depressing that I walked out, something I rarely do. But the sight of two gifted actors like John Travolta and Robin Williams making fun of their age and mugging hopelessly just made me sad. Why demean themselves? Do they really need the money? Tomatometer: 7%. Metascore: 21.