Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Must Sees: Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Messenger

by Anne Thompson
November 14, 2009 1:12 AM
3 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood

The movie most likely to succeed this weekend is Roland Emmerich's 2012, which I look forward to seeing with a crowd. The critic-proof doomsday movie is expected to do $40-50 million on over 3400 screens. I just want to see the VFX. That's what Emmerich is good at. Even in the trailer John Cusack looks embarrassed.

Must See: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson's adaptation of the Roald Dahl tale of wily foxes (Americans) vs. nasty farmers (Brits) is charming until it runs out of steam in the last third (the script is by Anderson and Noah Baumbach). But the stop-motion animation is gorgeous and voice actors George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are superb. The movie has already performed well in the UK; it opens in NY and LA before going wide on Thanksgiving. The critics adore it: Tomatometer: 92%; Metascore: 88.

To counteract press about Anderson directing long distance from Paris to London, Fox is trying to showcase his involvement, which will also be a factor in whether the animation branch of the Academy takes Anderson seriously. Check out the clip on the jump.

Must See: The Messenger
Israeli screenwriter and rookie director Oren Moverman's military service informs this thoughtful, painful movie, which is beautifully acted by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson (in his second juicy role this year, after Zombieland) as two casualty notification officers delivering terrible news to families. Steve Buscemi pops in a small role as an angry man who lashes out at the messengers; Samantha Morton portrays a widow conflicted by grief for her dead husband and attraction to Foster. Like The Hurt Locker, this movie is more personal than political: a close-up view of how people feel in the face of war. I look forward to seeing more of Moverman's work. The movie played well at Sneak Previews; during the Q & A, Harrelson and Morton made a point of stressing how important it is for them to accept low-paying assignments on indie movies like this (even with first-time directors) which give them robust characters to play. Harrelson twisted his schedule into a pretzel to do this movie. When they choose a film, neither of them considers whether it will score with audiences.

Tomatometer 91%; Metascore 73

Must to Avoid: Pirate Radio
I am Richard Curtis's biggest fan. He's the witty Brit behind Working Title's success (he wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones Diary and wrote and directed Love Actually), which is why WT co-chiefs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner allowed him to make this 60s period stinker about a gaggle of djs marooned on a boat in the Atlantic. Philip Seymour Hoffman can't salvage this; neither can Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost or Curtis stalwart Bill Nighy. Originally titled The Boat That Rocked, the comedy plays almost like a Curtis parody, flopped in the UK, and was recut for stateside release by Focus Features rather than Universal. (I saw the Brit version on a plane.)

Tomatometer 57%; Metascore 57%

3 Comments

  • Anne Thompson | November 14, 2009 5:51 AMReply

    True confession: I saw The Boat that Rocked, not the new edit.

    Everyone gets worked up about opening weekends. The reason I provide a link to the aggregate numbers is so that people will go and read the reviews. I hope.

    You're right. it's movies like M. Hulot's Holiday that stand the test of time.

  • Michael Hughes | November 14, 2009 4:12 AMReply

    Also, distilling film's into numbers, be it a tomatometer score or a box office take, is handy, certainly, but also hardly representative of quality. "Dark Knight" did quite well with the critics and enormously well at the box office, but that movie is seven kinds of ridiculous upon any sort of further reflection, even if I too enjoyed the heck out of it the first time I saw it in theaters. Hard not to get swept up by Ledger's performance the first time. Commercial and critical success are only relevant for an extremely small window of time in a film's life, but I suppose it is that window that this blog cares about, so I can't really fault you.

  • Michael Hughes | November 14, 2009 4:08 AMReply

    I've seen "The Boat That Rocked" (the title for the original UK version of "Pirate Radio"), and while it is too long (the conceit doesn't hold up for 2 hours), I am interested in seeing the cut US version. All of the actor's give great performances, not just Nighy and Hoffman (who are just brilliant), and it was a really amusing film. Light-hearted, whimsical, and very enjoyable. I can see why some critics may not enjoy, but I can also see it going on to enjoy cult status and do reasonably well in DVD sales. It's quite a charming film. You should reconsider seeing it, if you get the chance.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Career Watch: Will 'Hit Girl' Chloe ...
  • Trailers From Hell on 'Requiem For A ...
  • Rolling Stone Names 40 Greatest Rock ...
  • WATCH: Rare Behind-the-Scenes Footage ...
  • Chris Moore Creates 'The Chair' Indie ...
  • Best of the Week: Remembering Robin ...
  • This Weekend, Avoid 'Expendables,' See ...
  • Keanu Reeves Is Latest Movie Star to ...
  • WATCH: Four Clips from Amos Gitai's ...
  • Top Ten Takeaways: What Went Wrong with ...