Contender #1: Little Fockers
Synopsis: Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) search for a successor meets embarrassing new lows when he considers male nurse and son-in-law Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) to take the job.
In Five Words: Ha, Focker. I get it.
Cast: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, and Barbra Streisand
Crew: Directed by Paul Weitz, Written by John Hamburg and Larry Stuckey
Poison is the first word that comes to mind. As Kyle Smith of the New York Post put it, Little Fockers “Sprints past “unfunny,” is still going strong when it reaches “disaster” and easily reaches “cautionary tale.” What’s the cautionary tale that studios should heed? It’s simple, really: suck less. What a terrible way to usher in Christmas. “We must have been pretty naughty this year for Santa to stuff a lump of coal like Little Fockers into our cinematic stockings.” (Shaun O’ Connell, Washington Post) Yeah… we were pretty bad this year.
Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus: As star-studded as it is heartbreakingly lazy, Little Fockers takes the top-grossing trilogy to embarrassing new lows. (Score: 11% out of 100)
Metacritic: Generally Unfavorable (Score: 27 out of 1oo)
IMDB: 5.5 out of 10
Ha, Focker. Gets me everytime.
The Edge: An impressive cast.
The Sharp End: It’s not funny in the slightest. In fact, it fails at pretty much everything it set out to do. Honestly, how hard is it to make people laugh and be entertained, especially with this caliber of cast?
Cinema Showdown Score: 1 out of 5
Overall: Let me sit down and explain to you the subtlety and complexity of the name Focker. It will blow your mind, man. The movie, on the other hand, will just blow. I award it no points, and may God have mercy on its soul. Little Fockers is not worth seeing.
Contender #2: True Grit
Synopsis: A young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) hires US Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help track down her father’s killer (Josh Brolin)
In Five Words: A Coen’s Western…easy sell.
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and Barry Pepper
Crew: Directed and Written by The Coen Brothers, Based on the book by Charles Portis
In a word, fantastic. People are really loving this film, and for a good reasons. I for one had a chance to see the film over the week, and found it to be fantastic, with some great performances and amazing filmaking. Critics love it as well, it seems. Laremy Legal of Film.com calls it “A great film that will stand the test of time,” and it’s hard to disagree with him. This is a timeless tale, and one that resonates with most people. Mattie’s quest for revenge is an honorable one, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is truly the star of this film. “The big names in the cast all do excellent work, but the biggest surprise is all but unknown Steinfeld.” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times). I’m interested to see where Steinfeld goes from here, because she is truly a star in the making.
Rotten Tomatoes’ Critical Consensus: “Girded by strong performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, and lifted by some of the Coens’ most finely tuned, unaffected work, True Grit is a worthy companion to the Charles Portis book.” (Score: 95% out of 100)
Metacritic: Generally favorable reviews (Score: 80 out of 100)
IMDB: 8.6 out of 10
True Grit is everything I ever wanted in a western and more. The Coen Brothers are fantastic directors, and they do more then a serviceable job with the material. This film will be popping up all over during awards season, and you owe it to yourself to give it a look.
The Edge: Great performances, great direction, great cinematography, great writing, great soundtrack, great greatness.
The Sharp End: It’s too great.
Cinema Showdown Score: 5 out of 5
Overall: Jump on that horse of yours the first chance you get, because The Coen Brother’s True Grit is a must see.
Contestant #2: Gulliver’s Travels
Synopsis: After a mishap during his trip to Bermuda, travel writer Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) crash lands on Liliput, home of some remarkably tiny citizens.
In Five Words: Jack Black…Yeeahhhh, Woooooooo, Skadoooooosh!
Cast: Jack Black, Emily Blunt, Jason Segal, T.J Miller, Amanda Peet
Crew: Directed by Rob Letterman, Screenplay by Joe Stillman and Nicolas Stoller, Based on the book by Jonathon Swift
Even though the film doesn’t come out until Christmas, critics are already giving it a whopping. My favorite has to be Joe Morgenstern’s (of The Wall Street Journal) take, which really points out the capitalistic views of adapting Jonathon Swift’s classic novel. “What were they thinking? What were they smoking? What were they singing on the way to the bank?” Ouch. “Some films are phoned in. The staggeringly awful “Gulliver’s Travels” was texted.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune, Colin Covert). Double Ouch. “I mean – really – do you have a burning desire to see Jack Black’s buttocks? Blown up, in the land of Lilliput, to 12 times their normal size? I didn’t think so.” (Stephan Whitty, New York Star-Leger). That was a low blow. Poor Jack Black’s ass, you hurt its feelings.
Rotten Tomatoes Critics’ Consensus: “Though Jack Black is back doing what he does best, Gulliver’s Travels largely fails to do any justice to its source material, relying instead on juvenile humor and special effects.” (Score: 22% out of 100)
Metacritic Score: Generally unfavorable (Score: 35 out of 100)
IMDB: 5.2 out of 10
Every Christmas gets one crappy family movie filled to the bosom with fart jokes and sexual innuendos. So Merry Christmas, studios. Merry Freaking Christmas.
The Edge: Jack Black has the potential to be very, very funny.
The Sharp End: Jack Black has the potential to be very, very annoying.
Cinema Showdown: 1 out of 5
Overall: Like Jack Black’s ass, Gulliver’s Travels isn’t worth seeing.
And the Pick of the Week is…
A well deserved win for True Grit. It really is a great film, and one of the greatest Westerns of the past decade. From the Coen Brothers, I’d expect nothing more.
So congrats, True Grit. You’re box office loot can go to restoring the Western genre. Because after seeing you film, it reminds me that we could use it back.
Well next week brings us no new films, don’t forget to check back next week to TMP, for we’ll be celebrating the end of the year in style, in addition to looking forward into the next. But until then, have a great holiday season, and may the cinema gods be with you!