Hope you got some time off for Thanksgiving because the past 2 weeks have gifted us with a cornucopia of highly anticipated flicks. Not all of them are worth the hefty ticket price, though. I’ve seen all of the new releases (OK, most of them) and can tell you which ones to see with your family, which ones to see with your drunk, adult friends, and which ones you should dodge like a bullet. Here are the Julie Says So Movies to See Over Thanksgiving (and which ones to AVOID). I even put them into nifty categories to make it easy for you.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald feels like a J.K. Rowling fever dream. She packed it with everything she thinks we want to see in a Fantastic Beasts follow-up (loving shots of Hogwarts, surprising family trees and, of course, fantastic beasts), but she also had to tell about 20 other stories in the process. You’re left with a four-hour-long mess (OK, it’s just 2-hours-long but it FEELS so much longer). My 11-year-old looked at me as the Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald credits rolled and said, “What? I’m so confused.” And that sums the whole movie up in 4 words. (D)
Best Part: Jude Law’s young Dumbledore is simply delicious.
Worst Part: Johnny Depp. Just any scene he’s in.
Ralph Breaks the Internet (Wreck It Ralph 2) has got some big shoes to fill because Wreck it Ralph is considered a classic in our house. My daughters watched it on repeat as toddlers and, last time I checked, it’s still in regular rotation in our car’s DVD player. That’s a tough act to follow and Ralph Breaks the Internet doesn’t quite pull it off. It’s still fast-paced, funny and crazy clever, but WR2 loses focus in it’s climax. You’ll probably be having too much fun to care though, and Ralph Breaks the Internet is worth the ticket price JUST to see all the fun it has with Disney. Yes, definitely take your kids to see this one (and click HERE if you want to see my interview with directors Phil Johnston & Rich Moore)! (B+)
Best Part: The Disney Princesses!!! They used almost all of the original voice actresses AND most of them showed up for the movie premiere (see that HERE)!
Worst Part: It gets awkward when Ralph turns into an Insecurity Monster, made up of millions of little Ralphs. My 14-year-old made some veiled but clearly inappropriate comments about all of them writhing around together. You’ll see what she means.
Creed 2 is best when Adonis Creed is either in the ring or training to be in the ring. Everything in between feels like filler, but those fight scenes are so fantastic, you’ll find yourself thinking, “MAN, I wonder who’s gonna WIN!”
Best Part: Listening to the all the grown men in the theater around me cry like they were late for nap-time. (B)
Worst Part: Rocky takes Adonis to train at some weird Mad Max-looking facility in the middle of the desert. What IS that place? I mean, why would a bunch of tough-looking tattoo’d dudes drive all the way out there and screw up their transmissions, just to train? I kept waiting for an explanation and never got one.
I’m not sure why critics hate The Front Runner so much. Yes, this film about Gary Hart’s 1988 Presidential run lands with a thud once he gets caught in a scandal, and there are no important lessons to be learned from it (other than “keep it in your pants, son”). The Front Runner also feels like a film (albeit a good film) you’ve seen before and J.K. Simmons doesn’t seen convinced that he hasn’t played this role before. Despite all of this, I enjoyed The Front Runner. It even led to some inspired post-movie discussion/debate about politics, journalism and how the public truly drives both. (B)
Best Part: J.K. Simmons makes profanity sound like tasty bourbon. Listening to him tear into someone could be a form of therapy.
Worst Part: That awful Gary Hart hairpiece. I bet it smells like a wet dog.
There has been some unfortunate scandal around Green Book (you can read about that HERE), which is such a disappointment because the movie is FANTASTIC! Viggo Mortensen plays Tony Lip, a New York doorman who became good friends with accomplished African-American pianist, Don Shirley (played by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali) after driving him through the deep South. Shirley was performing concerts for wealthy southerners during the 1960’s and Lip was his driver-security guard, but the trip changed both of their lives. Green Book is inspiring and funny, and sometimes even leans towards magical. I saw it with my 11-year-old (it IS rated PG-13) and we were literally hugging each other through the whole movie. That’s how much we loved Green Book. (A)
Best Part: The fact that several members of Tony Lip’s real family are used in the movie.
Worst Part: The scandal. Just please, don’t use the N-word. Ever.
Can You Ever Forgive Me has been in theaters for a while but I’m including it anyway because you really need to see this movie! If you don’t believe me, read the blog I wrote 2 weeks ago called “Why You NEED to See Can You Ever Forgive Me.” (A)
Best Part: Melissa McCarthy will still make you laugh, even though she’s playing the saddest role of her career.
Worst Part: The cat-poop scene. My movie buddy almost barfed in her lap.
Instant Family doesn’t seem like it belongs in this category but I’m including it because A) it IS based on actual events and B) it’s an exceptional movie that you don’t want to miss. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne play a couple who adopt 3 children from the same family and how it changes their lives. It’s based on writer-director Sean Ander’s real experiences in adoption and just know that it’s FAR better than the trailer. In fact, read my earlier Mommy Movie Review HERE and maybe even throw me a bone and watch my interview with Sean Anders (he was really nice). Or skip all of that and just go see the movie. (A)
THE MOVIE TO SEE WITH DRUNK FRIENDS WHEN YOUR FAMILY’S MAKING YOU CRAZY
Widows is written by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl, Sharp Objects) and directed by Oscar winner Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Shame), so you already know some intense “angry woman” stuff is going to go down. Viola Davis leads the cast as a wife who takes on her husband’s “debt” after he dies in a heist-gone-wrong. She joins the wives and girlfriends of the other men killed in the incident, and together they plan a heist of their own. Look, I know we’ve all seen too many “heist” movies, but it’s a whole other animal in the hands of Flynn and McQueen. There’s a slow-burn tension, and dirty surprises but it’s Widows strong cast that makes the real difference (Viola Davis is joined by Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriquez, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry and my favorite Robert Duvall role since Sling Blade). See it at a theater that serves drinks because a glass of wine and Widows will be the perfect antidote to any Thanksgiving disaster.
THE MOVIE YOU SHOULD PROBABLY (AND SADLY) AVOID
I didn’t get to see Robin Hood, so I can’t speak to it’s merits or lack thereof. In fact, they didn’t even screen it for critics in Dallas, which is never a good sign. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t have anything good to say about it either (read those reviews HERE). I hate to say it because I adore Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx (and that pairing is just too sexy to miss), but I simply can’t recommend this one. (Opens Nov. 21)
If none of those strike your fancy, A Star is Born is still in theaters and Bohemian Rhapsody is a crowd-pleaser (even if critics didn’t love it). Remember to keep checking my website for Free Movie Passes too, because I know your movie-money needs to be spent on holiday stuff now. And if you ARE heading to the theater, find a movie & help support this website by clicking one of Alamo Drafthouse links. They have some GREAT series planned for the holidays!