As expected this time of year, Hollywood got its movie week off to an early start in order to capitalize on the Thanksgiving weekend, doling out shootouts, singing, and romance both kid-friendly and adults-only in an effort to appease every possible demographic. And I didn't even mention the next big awards juggernaut... (Hint: it's a British period piece.)
Disney took the long-told story of Rapunzel's flowing locks and fit it into their trademark princess-comedy-adventure-musical mold, and yours truly was pleasantly surprised by the end result: "The usual princess pattern has been treated to a visual and verbal polish, and while the end result may not be an instant classic worthy of ranking alongside ['Beauty and the Beast,' 'Aladdin,' 'The Lion King,' etc.], it's certainly a more satisfying showcase of derring-do, sweet romance and musical numbers in-between than we've seen from the Mouse House in quite some time."
'Love and Other Drugs'
Jake Gyllenhaal sells pharmaceuticals, Anne Hathaway needs them, and they just might need each other in Ed Zwick's romantic-dramedy, about which David Ehrlich had mixed feelings: "The funny stuff is funny, the sweet stuff is sweet, and the nudity is frequent. But just when Zwick seems poised to elevate the movie into prestige picture territory, the rom-com formula takes hold and the movie reminds you of its limitations in the most painful of ways."
Dwayne "Don't Call Me 'The Rock'" Johnson has just been released from prison, and he's out to kill the men who killed his brother. Peter Hall felt like he and we have seen this kind of revenge flick before, but that this one's leading man made it a bit easier to sit through: "Even though this is a highly derivative thriller that telegraphs its moves, it's not quite a waste of time. There's a reason Dwayne Johnson has successfully transitioned from being a primetime wrestler to a legitimate movie star, and it's the same reason this otherwise forgettable film is tolerable: charisma."
Wide-eyed Christina Aguilera decides to give stardom a shot, club owner Cher decides to give this Iowa girl her chance to shine, and Jenni Miller enjoyed it as one might enjoy a harlequin romance novel: "The writing is silly -- "I will not be upstaged by some chick with mutant lungs!" fumes Nikki (Kristen Bell) -- but we're not here for the writing. We're here for the spectacle. And it is indeed a glittery, rhinestone-encrusted, red-lipsticked, false-eyelashed spectacle."
'The King's Speech'
When a stammering King George VI (Colin Firth) was faced with leading England into war with Germany, an Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) proved to be his secret weapon. Eugene Novikov saw the film at the Telluride Film Festival back in September and felt then that the film was "essentially a recontextualized iteration of the underdog sports movie, complete with an unconventional coach, a training montage, a big game, and even the scene where someone on the rival team exposes a secret that angers the players... Still, 'The King's Speech' skillfully executes a familiar plot, and the plot itself, it should be said, is nothing to sneeze at. The mechanics of the way Bertie and Logue attack the former's elocution problem are entertaining and often very funny. Rush and Firth are great fun together, Rush's confident Australian irreverence a perfect foil for Firth's aristocratic, prim-and-proper repression."