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Happy Tweener Week

With Thanksgiving last week, Christmas a few away and New Years right on Santa’s heels, this week ends up with a case of middle child syndrome – and the movies reflect that. If you only have a passing interest in what comes out each weekend, then you probably haven’t heard of this week’s entries. We’ve got a music history biopic, a zany dark comedy, and a gore-fest actioner that’s already been made (twice) and only one of them made it over 25% positive.

First up, Cadillac Records (69%). Beyonce Knowles continues to insert herself into music history, following up Dreamgirls with this story of Chess Records, which helped redefine music in the 1950’s and 60’s with artists such as Chuck Berry (Mos Def), Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), and Etta James (Beyonce). Records is the only chart topper out this week, so give us some of the greatest hits.

“Magnificent performances and soul-shaking music make up for some narrative stumbles and dubious fictions in this film about the legendary Chicago record label.” Nell Minow Beliefnet

Soul-shaking music. Sounds good – literally.

“If Cadillac Records had a theme song, it would be Zeppelin’s ‘Communication Breakdown’ or House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around.’” Matt Pais Metromix.com

Hm. Since those songs were picked for narrative commentary rather than tonal accuracy, let’s assume that regardless of historical accuracy, we should enjoy the music.

“Just as in real life, no matter what else is going on in these musicians’ lives, the music temporarily makes everything much better.” Tasha Robinson Chicago Tribune Top Critic Icon Top Critic

Awesome. Anyone want to say something inappropriate/irrelevant?

“The cast all looks and sings the part — and Knowles sure fills out James’ tight dresses — just make sure your theater popcorn is coated with grains of salt.” Amy Nicholson I.E. Weekly

Thanks for the popcorn advice. Moving on to Nobel Son 24% – A dark comedy staring Alan Rickman (the bad guy from Die Hard, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Quigley Down Under, Harry Potter, Sweeny Todd, etc.) who plays an academic who wins the Nobel Prize. Only, as a reward for his fame, someone kidnaps his son and our favorite bad guy decides not to pay the ransom. Despite the rating, Rickman playing a bastard might be the only reason I need to see this movie.

“Although sometimes too self-consciously odd for its own good, the film is at times rollicking good fun, with Alan Rickman having a ball offending everyone within earshot as the brilliant, self-centered Eli Michaelson.” Bill Goodykoontz Arizona Republic Top Critic Icon Top Critic

If you’re a fan, there’s your reason for taking a chance. For everyone else: what went wrong?

“The director, Randall Miller, appears to be trying to cross a bad Elmore Leonard thriller with a bad indie-festival family-angst comedy.” Owen Gleiberman Entertainment Weekly

Any time you have to use two hyphens to describe the genre, you’re already in trouble. So the movie has come confused ideas about its genre. How bad could that be?

“Nobel Son was one of my most unpleasant filmgoing experiences of 2008 (and in a year like this, that’s saying something).” Alonso Duralde MSNBC

Wow. Despite seeing Eliza Dushku acting like a sexed up poet and Alan Rickman hamming it up as an uber-bastard, this one sounds like a stinker.
And speaking of stinkers, last up is Punisher: War Zone 16%, which is aiming for ‘so bad its good’ but ended up closer to ‘pure shit’. But, rather than let negativity win, let’s see if we can put a positive spin on one of the lowest scores of the month.

“Punisher: War Zone is 100 minutes of people getting shot in the face – bad Italian stereotypes, non-existent narrative, and people getting shot in the face.” Bill Gibron PopMatters

Well, ‘Yay!’ for people who like seeing people get shot in the face. It was so impressive it got mentioned twice. What else you got?

“A picture of deliberate stupidity and derivative artistry, Punisher: War Zone is so atrocious it makes professional wrestling look like a whimsical afternoon with Shakespeare in the Park by comparison.” Brian Orndorf BrianOrndorf.com

Yay for people who like professional wrestling enough to compare it Shakespeare!

You’re probably better off with the source material

“Gore-drenched actioner is guaranteed to draw fans of wretched excess like moths to a nuclear holocaust.” John Anderson Variety

Yay for fans of the Holo….hm. Never mind. If I complete that sentence I might end up unhappy with my afterlife vacation plans. But is it fair to criticize a film for being economical. After all, it’s not like this movie is showcasing any big stars/directors.

“You used to be able to depend on a bad film being poorly made. No longer. The Punisher: War Zone is one of the best-made bad movies I’ve seen.” Roger Ebert Chicago Sun-Times

Crap. Okay, but Ray Stevenson was great in Rome. He’s got to be at least passable here too right?

“Junk, pure and simple…Stevenson [is] a beefy, taciturn fellow with all the charisma of Steven Seagal and an emotional range that goes from A to somewhere just shy of A-.” Frank Swietek One Guy’s Opinion

Jeez. Last chance. This Punisher movie can’t be as bad as the other ones…

“This atrocity is even worse than the 2004 version, if such a thing is possible, though I have to grudgingly admit that while it is as foul, vile and stupid as all get out, it is still somewhat better than the Dolph Lundgren version.” Peter Sobczynski eFilmCritic.com

Yay for Thomas Jayne fans and Dolph Lundgren haters! Okay, since almost 2 in 10 people liked it, let’s end with a little bit of sugar in this shit sandwich.

“On the plus side, Punisher: War Zone has one of the all-time great B-movie last lines: ‘Oh, God, now I’ve got brains splattered all over me!’” Clark Collis Entertainment Weekly



This week’s choices – I’ve already decided

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