Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movie Review: “Arthur Christmas”

“Arthur Christmas” deserves to find its legs over the holiday season.

**** out of 5
Rated PG for some mild rude humor
97 minutes
Sony Pictures Animation

Article first published as Movie Review: Arthur Christmas on Blogcritics.

As much as I love watching my annual onslaught of horror movies every October, even more so do I love my Christmas season movies. The standards are obvious (“White Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Scrooged”). But I also love the not so standards (“Gremlins,” the first two “Die Hards,” “Lethal Weapon”). Probably my all time favorite Christmas film would have to be “Love Actually.” Sadly, the last decade has been pretty shoddy with Hollywood's treatment of the genre. Now it appears like Aardman Animation is attempting to save the day with “Arthur Christmas.”

Last year we received the surprise Finnish present, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” but aside from that, our very own Hollywood has been treating us for years with worthless entries. Ranging from “Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” “Four Christmases,” “Fred Claus,” “Deck the Halls,” “The Santa Clause 3,” “Surviving Christmas,” “Christmas with the Kranks,” and “The Polar Express,” it seems as if studio execs have had it in for the holiday – the few exceptions being “Bad Santa,” “Elf,” and the aforementioned “Love Actually.”

Here, Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) is one of Santa’s (voiced by Jim Broadbent) two sons. Arthur bides his time working in the letters department, answering letters addressed to dear old Santa Claus and making sure they believe his bowl full of jelly. Steve (voiced by Hugh Laurie) happens to be Santa’s other son. He runs mission control for old Saint Nick. If you’ve ever wondered how Santa manages to deliver his gifts to all the children of the world, this movie may just take the cake in answering the age-old question. Having just returned from this year’s “mission,” aboard the S-1 (which looks an awful lot like the Starship Enterprise), Steve and Santa are certain that not one child has been missed.

Turns out that Gwen (voiced by Ramona Marquez), in Cornwall, England, has in fact been missed. All she wants is a new bike, found in its wrapping by a giftwrapping elf named Byrony (voiced by Ashley Jensen). While Steve convinces Santa that one child is a miniscule detail, Arthur is convinced that it could mean the end of everything they stand for. Now Arthur embarks on his own mission to deliver the bike himself because no child should be left behind. Along with his Grandsanta (voiced by Bill Nighy) and Byrony stowed away, they break out Grandsanta’s original 150-year-old sleigh, Evie, and they’re off on a series of hilarious misadventures, complete with having the entire world thinking we may be under alien attack.

First time director Sarah Smith and co-writer Peter Baynham (“Borat,” “Big Train,” “I’m Alan Partridge”) bring a wicked sensibility to the film and never forget that there are adults in the audience too. While the film may not be a gut busting good time, there’s still a whole lot of heart and holiday cheer. It would take the coldest of souls to not walk out of the theater in the holiday spirit. A black sense of humor runs through the proceedings and it’s all for the better as it will whiz right over the youngest of heads but give the rest of us just as much to be thankful for. While Aardman may be best known for their brilliant claymation “Wallace & Gromit” adventures, it was only a matter of time before they too jumped on the computer-animated bandwagon. If this is what they’re bringing to the table, then by all means, the more the merrier.

The only misstep happens to come from Sony Pictures themselves. And that just so happens to be the inexplicable inclusion of a ludicrous Justin Bieber music video for his slaying of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” which precedes the film. The video comes complete with Michael Jackson dance styling infusion. While Bieber’s take may be just about one of the worst renditions of a classic song ever, at least the film itself more than makes up for the travesty inflicted upon us an unsuspecting audience. If you show up three minutes late to “Arthur Christmas” you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.

Photos courtesy Sony Pictures Animation

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Movie Review: “The Muppets”

Life's a happy song, now that "The Muppets" have returned.

***** out of 5
Rated PG for some mild rude humor.
98 minutes
Walt Disney Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: The Muppets on Blogcritics.

When I turned one, my parents birthed an obsession. For my birthday they gifted me with my first Kermit the Frog plush and the seed was forever planted. Over the past 31 years apparently I have not been the only one. I just don’t have the means to make a movie about it. Thankfully, a fellow obsessor by the name of Jason Segel does. With the help from his friend Nicholas Stoller, the two have joined forces with “Flight of the Conchords” co-creator James Bobin to finally bring us the film fans have been clamoring for since 1996’s “Muppet Treasure Island” with “The Muppets.”

Segel may not be the first person who comes to mind when you think of someone to rebirth “kid’s” series. Making his way to stardom in R-rated raunch fests such as “Bad Teacher,” “I Love You, Man,” “Knocked Up,” and his own “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” But bare in mind, it was probably “Sarah Marshall” that got him the job. His character Peter Bretter was also just a tad obsessed with puppetry and that film climaxed in one of the funniest puppet plays outside of anything Muppet related. It was no surprise to me when “The Muppets” was announced with Segel co-writing the screenplay alongside Stoller.

“The Muppets” immediately introduces us to brothers Gary (Segel) and Walter (Peter Linz). Walter just may be the Muppets' biggest fan. He owns everything from the Kermit watch to just about every other piece of Muppet memorabilia ever manufactured. Gary has a girlfriend named Mary (Amy Adams). She teaches at Smalltown Elementary and the three are about to embark on a ten year anniversary trip to Los Angeles. Mary isn’t particularly ecstatic to have Walter tagging along but Muppet Studios is in Los Angeles and there’s no way they could not take Walter.

Upon arrival, they find out, much to their dismay that Muppet Studios has been condemned and the group has fallen out. Walter sneaks into Kermit’s (Steve Whitmire) old office where he overhears Waldorf (Dave Goelz) and Statler (Whitmire) explaining to oily Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) that if the Muppets can’t come up with $10 million in two weeks they forfeit the studio lot along with their franchise title. Walter eventually explains the situation to Gary and Mary then it’s off to find Kermit’s “mansion” to enlist the help from the only frog who can rally everyone up.

Soon enough, Gary, Mary, Walter, Kermit, Fozzie (Eric Jacobson), Sam Eagle (Jacobson), Rowlf (Bill Barretta), Beaker (Whitmire), Dr. Bunsen (Goelz), and Electric Mayhem, are together again. The only missing piece of the puzzle, of course, is the inclusion of Miss Piggy (Jacobson). After traveling by map to Paris, where Miss Piggy works at Vogue Paris, she falls for the old Muppet Man gag but she informs everyone that she’s sworn to never rejoin the group after they too had a falling out after getting married.

Back in L.A. the Muppets have decided they need to get that $10 million to take back their studio and keep their name. After CDE Executive (Rashida Jones) informs them that they just aren’t famous anymore, they coincidentally come up with the brilliant idea for a telethon after Junior CDE Executive (Donald Glover) tells her that their hit show “Punch Teacher” has been canceled and now there’s a two-hour black hole of programming to fill. Only catch is, they have to have a celebrity host. While Kermit wrings through his rolodex of celebrities and comes up empty, Miss Piggy stages a “celebrinap” and now it’s Jack Black to the rescue – even if against his will. But Tex Richman has his own nefarious plans to replace them all with Bizarro World versions called “The Moopets.”

Can the Muppets come up with the $10 million in time before the deed to the studio and their namesake expire at midnight? Will Gary finally ask Mary to marry him? Does Walter have what it takes to become a true Muppet himself? Can Chris Cooper rap? All this and more is answered in the most hilarious, heartfelt film of the year. The jokes pile high and everything works. Leave it to the Muppets to make cameos hilarious again. The film stays true to Muppet roots while managing to usher in a new audience. I’m completely convinced that every adult in the audience was probably more excited than their children ever could be for this new entry to the Muppet canon. And let’s not forget the brilliant new songs brought to life by director Bobin co-written by his “Conchords” cohort Bret McKenzie. Instant classics, every last one.

And “The Muppets” isn’t even upstaged by the laugh till you cry “Toy Story Toons” that’s attached. Yes, the toys are back and in “Small Fry” they’re touching on issues even better suited than tricking Barbie and Ken into thinking they’re on a Hawaiian vacation. While Disney and Pixar were lambasted for providing us their official weakest link in “Cars 2” (which coincidentally is prominently featured on several billboards at least twice during the film), they both have completely redeemed themselves here. While “Super 8” had been my favorite film of the year, I was waiting to see if “The Muppets” could beat it. And yes, this is most definitely the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational film of the year, if not years.

Photos courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Review: “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1”

Even a polished turd still stinks.

** ½ out of 5
117 minutes
Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, violence, sexuality/partial nudity and some thematic elements.
Summit Entertainment

It’s that time of the year again. Yes, it is the holidays, but the flavor of the week right now just so happens to be the third sequel and the first part of the so-called “worldwide phenomenon.” Yet again, the age-old drama of one woman’s love will be tested. First it was necrophilia and then it was bestiality, now comes just about the only taboo subject left uncharted: pedophilia. While this may not directly apply to the main characters, it certainly rears its hilarious head in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1.”

When every film in your franchise has a new director, it has to be awfully hard to keep a consistent tone. Director Bill Condon’s resume consists of more adult films (“Dreamgirls,” “Kinsey,” “Gods and Monsters,” “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh”). Parents would gasp if they even thought their tweens were watching at least three of those. What Condon has managed to bring to this installment is a slight sense of maturity. What the series still lacks is a sense of humor. Oh, there are plenty of laughs to be had for sure, but almost all of them are of the unintentional variety. I’m sure largely due to Melissa Rosenberg still not having much to work with from Stephenie Meyer's novel.

Anyone who doesn’t know an ounce of plot for this has either been living under a rock or is, thankfully for them, completely dismissive of the whole series. We begin with a slight recap from “Eclipse” as Jacob (Taylor Lautner) checks his invitation at the door to the wedding of Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) on his way to ripping off his shirt in the rain to transform into a wolf to go into hiding from his emotions out in the wilderness. Then we very briefly see some of the wedding prep, where I guess we’re supposed to be reminded that Bella is something of a tomboy as she gets training in high heels from Alice (Ashley Greene).

Now that Bella and Edward are married, they make a pit stop on their way to their honeymoon destination in Rio de Janeiro. Their final destination happens to be a seemingly deserted tropical island chock full of sunshine. Every vampire’s favorite hideaway these days, right? So even though Jacob gave Bella a stern talking to about the dangers of vampire sex, Bella just wants to get it on now that they’re happily married. After a few (literal) headboard breaking, pillow shredding, bruise inducing sex sessions, it’s only after two weeks that Bella realizes she’s missed her period. Or as the critic sitting next to me pointed out, “Of course, she’s late; otherwise, he’d be all over that.”

The new dilemma this time is finally realized as Bella and Edward must come to terms with the pregnancy. How a dead vampire’s sperm still swims, let alone how he gets an erection, is beyond me. Maybe Edward was turned with a hard on and he just hasn’t called a doctor since it’s been way longer than four hours, but I digress. Anyhow, Bella is taken under the wing of the Cullens’ and even Jacob comes to terms with her being one of them now, and everyone must find a way for Bella to have her little bundle of joy, even if it may kill her. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but if you can’t see where this is headed, you just may be the target audience.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the sex scenes having to be trimmed in order to secure the tween friendly PG-13 rating. However, there’s really just about as much sex in here as anything on TV rated MA. I always thought that was reserved for R-rated deserving programming but apparently so long as you keep the thrusting to a minimum, it’s all good. Yes, the roadrunner effects pop up a few times, but don’t look anywhere near as bad as they did in the first three installments. But props must be given to Condon for his pacing. This is the first “Twilight” film that didn’t have me checking my watch every five minutes. Seriously, how dead paced are those first three? Sheesh.

Maybe the reason being is just how much funnier this one is than the others. Just you wait until you bare witness to one of the most singlehandedly flat out hilarious things ever committed to celluloid. I won’t give everything away, but let’s just say that the wolf effects are funnier than ever. And as if one wolf doesn’t look bad enough trouncing through the woods alone, wait until you see a whole pack of them… in broad daylight... talking to each other telepathically while howling and snarling. Oh man, just thinking back on this scene has me laughing out loud.

Needless to say, Condon has finally managed to bring a, dare I say, watchable “Twilight” film that for the first time didn’t leave me despising it upon leaving the theater. It’s still in no way a good movie and from the beginning, the series needed to tread the R-rated waters I’ve been told it embraces in the books. But alas, at least Summit has finally delivered something that actually looks like a film and not two hours of amateur hour. So if anyone is assuming I am giving this film a recommendation, let’s just say that even a polished turd is still a turd. Just because it’s shiny and new doesn’t make it any less of a stinker. But at least this time the men getting dragged along to “Breaking Dawn” won’t hate themselves the morning after.

Photos courtesy Summit Entertainment

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Movie Review: “J. Edgar”

Performances save what would otherwise be another Eastwood snoozefest.

*** out of 5
Rated R for brief strong language.
137 minutes
Warner Bros. Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: J. Edgar on Blogcritics.

The list of Hollywood biopics is long. Very long. They’ll make a movie about pretty much anyone of any kind of notoriety. Most of the time, they’re pretty great. Giving us either a checklist of historical events or showing us some back-stories we may be unfamiliar with. That is, shedding light on a subject that hasn’t been given as much attention. When it comes to adapting a big production based around the life of one of America’s most influential and public faces, you better come up with something more than we may think we already know. And so is, sort of, the case with Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.”

Writer Dustin Lance Black is no stranger to the subject of biopics. He may have given us the Oscar winning screenplay for “Milk,” but he also wrote the screenplay for “Pedro.” This was the film about the first HIV-positive homosexual reality TV star from MTV’s “The Real World: San Francisco.” I’m sure most people have never heard of “Pedro,” but “Milk” happened to be nominated for Best Picture at the 2009 Academy Awards and I’m certain that Black, along with Eastwood, have their sights set on a similar projection. Given the fact they have Leonardo DiCaprio starring as the titular character looks to only be further trying to seal the deal.

A fellow critic told me that “J. Edgar” featured a “Wikipedia screenplay.” And it’s pretty true. But in the case of the performances, that’s where the film truly shines. It starts with Hoover meeting with a writer (Robert Irwin) to tell his life story in his own words — with events ranging from his earliest job in Mitchell Palmer’s (Geoff Pierson) office to his dead-end attempts to woo Helen Grandy (Naomi Watts). It mostly plays out like an interweaving of skits based on true events. We also get the founding of the Bureau of Investigation, where his forensic science is shunned for its “extreme” nature such as employing wood specialist Arthur Koehler (Stephen Root), along with the transition of gangster films to the G-men heroes of the silver screen after the arrest of “Machine Gun” Kelly, and of course the Lindbergh (Josh Lucas) baby gets its due.

The largest amount of screentime happens to be split between the two biggest relationships in Hoover’s life: his mother Annie (Judi Dench) and Clyde Tolson (“The Social Network’s” Armie Hammer). At first you may be wondering why a man who leads the nation’s FBI still lives at home with his mother, but it makes sense when you take into account how much time he also spends at work and socially with Tolson. Yes, Eastwood and Black make no attempts to hide Hoover’s homosexuality and there’s even one scene with a pretty monumental kiss between the two. However, some of this plays a little too much like “Psycho”-lite and comes across almost as unintentionally funny. Thankfully we have the scenes being handled with the utmost care by DiCaprio, Hammer, and Dench.

The film could also easily have fallen apart in the hands of a lesser director. But Eastwood manages to handle everything as maturely as it deserves. However, the screenplay seems to be trying so hard to piece everything together that without Eastwood and the rest of the cast everything would have been another story altogether. The ending seems be trying to pack a bigger emotional wallop than it can conjure up and also seems oddly out of place. It heads straight down the “Beautiful Mind” route but with the story being about Norman Bates rather than John Nash, or even the film’s own Hoover.

In the end, if the film is nominated for anything, it will surely be for acting and possibly Best Picture. Let’s face it; these are the films that Oscar is prone for. While it in no way deserves the highest honor, the cast may still receive their due, along with the makeup department. That is if they discount the scenes featuring an aged Armie Hammer who looks like he’s stepped off the set of “Saturday Night Live” wearing a Tolson Halloween mask. It’s made even more evident how sketchy his makeup is when he’s filmed standing next to DiCaprio in broad daylight. Even if yet another critic friend hadn’t pointed it out prior to seeing the film it’s still just as blatantly bad. And DiCaprio’s brown contacts are a bit of a distraction. In the darker lit scenes he comes off almost vampiric.

Granted, there are some pacing issues but the length is never as wince inducing as some of Eastwood’s more recent films. The runtime flies by compared to the likes of “Million Dollar Baby,” “Gran Torino,” or even worse, “Hereafter.” “J. Edgar” may owe a large debt to Martin Scorsese’s own DiCaprio starring “Aviator” and maybe even Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies,” but if you’re looking for a big budget Hollywood biopic you could certainly do a lot worse.

Photos courtesy Warner Bros.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Movie Preview: November 2011

I'm as excited as Animal for November. Movies! Movies! Movies!

Article first published as Movie Preview: November 2011 on Blogcritics.

Now that we’ve plundered the bottom of Hollywood’s barrel the last few months, it’s high time for both Oscar bait and yuletide offerings throughout November. While one of the two Christmas flicks will undoubtedly be better than the other, there’s always room for possible guilty pleasures. Let’s take a gander and see what’s being thrown under the tree for cinemagoers this year.

November 4

Maybe giving themselves a little too much room for repeat value comes those loveably bumbling stoners (Kal Penn and John Cho) in “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.” Todd Strauss-Schulson is making his directing debut so we’ll have to see if the series’ creator’s (Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg) have left us some Christmas cheer while they’re off handling directing duties (or would that be doodies?) on the fourth official sequel for Universal’s “American Reunion.” Face-shot Santas, naked nubiles, and claymation all make this ripe for the course of hilarity but we shall see if “Harold & Kumar” can keep the old saying true about the third time being the charm.

While the original idea for “Tower Heist” has been claimed by star Eddie Murphy to have been conceived as a “black ‘Ocean’s Eleven,’” it seems that director Brett Ratner got his hands all over this thing and the end was nigh. Now filled to the brim with the likes of Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, Judd Hirsch, and Téa Leoni, it seems like lead Ben Stiller and Ratner have just called on a few of their friends to pick up the slack. How Alan Alda got culled into this is beyond me.

Featuring a screenplay by Ted Griffin (the man who gloriously updated “Eleven” himself), however, it was co-written by Jeff Nathanson who just so happens to have treated us to the “Indy IV” story, along with the screenplays for “Rush Hour 2” and “3” and “Speed 2: Cruise Control.” Just because he co-wrote Spielberg’s “The Terminal” and “Catch Me If You Can” means nothing with the rest of his credits working so hard against him. But word-of-mouth isn’t horrible and maybe Ratner has finally learned there’s more to making an action film than flashy special effects (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and chop suey editing (the “Rush Hours”) but let’s not hold our breath, nobody likes a funeral.

November 9

There hasn’t been a mid-week opening in a while now (even if limited) so why not let it be for a man of such high acclaim as Clint Eastwood. Sure his last few films have been a mixture of snooze fests (“Gran Torino,” “Changeling,” “Million Dollar Baby”), the inexplicable (“Hereafter”), and occasionally accolade deserving (“Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Invictus”), the man knows what’s he’s doing most of the time. Hopefully “J. Edgar” can liven up his oeuvre with Leonardo DiCaprio as the titular head of the FBI. The trailer makes the film look like a cross between “The Aviator” and “The Departed” which is a huge step up in terms of entertainment value for Eastwood as of late. I hope it lives up to either of those films. Maybe it’s a case of working with a Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) screenplay. All I know is Eastwood’s films could sure use the adrenaline.

November 11

When your marketing campaign consists solely of making sure you know it’s “From the Producers of ‘300’” and features a no-name cast, save for Mickey Rourke, maybe you should also mention that it’s from the director of the cult classic “The Cell,” Tarsem Singh. Oh wait, they used that strategy for his last film, “The Fall,” and attracted absolutely no one. So now they’ve upped the gladiator-esque angle and made it look like a “300”/“Watchmen” hybrid. The R-rating on “Immortals” is just about the only possible saving grace as it could be a guilty pleasure gore fest. Unfortunately, I’m suspecting that writers Charley and Vlas Parlapanides have only conjured up another 3-D borefest.

As if the date 11/11/11 wasn’t ominous enough, the producers of “Grown Ups” are promising to deliver an even worse film with Adam Sandler’s “Jack and Jill.” While he may have spoofed these types of films in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People,” we all know he’s never above actually making them. Now he’s back with director Dennis Dugan (single-handedly responsible for no less than eight Happy Madison efforts since his only good film “Happy Gilmore” back in 1996). Hard to believe that a man can make each film worse than the previous so repeatedly for 15 years and still find work. Must be nice to have friends in Hollywood who keep letting you ruin all of their own endeavors; not that they start out any better in the story stage. Now Sandler is playing his own fatter sister version of himself, making the audience want to puke “oy vey” in the process. Prepare to have your sense of good taste thrown out the window if you’re even considering sitting threw this dreck.

November 16

The second film of the month to get a limited mid-week release falls upon director Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.” While he may not be a household name by any means, you’ve at least heard of his films. Payne is the man behind “Citizen Ruth,” “Election,” “About Schmidt,” “Sideways,” and “Jurassic Park III.” Now he brings us another novel adaptation. This time working from Kaui Hart Hemmings’ book about a father (George Clooney) trying to reconnect with his two daughters. The eldest played by none other than “The Secret Life of the American Teenager’s” own Shailene Woodley. Not my first choice for an Oscar-bait flick, but then again, Payne was able to finagle a hilarious performance out of Chris Klein in “Election” so who knows. With backup from Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, and Matthew Lillard, this surely looks like it’s after at least one of those coveted gold statues.

November 18

As if the end wasn’t already nigh enough with “Jack and Jill” headed our way on 11/11/11, the beginning of the end rears its head with the first part of the “Twilight” saga finale, “Breaking Dawn - Part 1.” I have never, nor will ever, read any of this so-called “worldwide phenomenon” and from what I hear, the books aren’t really that much better. The only reason for attending a “Twilight” film in theaters is to laugh at how ludicrous it all is while being shushed by the “Twi-hards.” If this is what sets a teenage girl’s heart aflutter these days, thank Jeebus I grew up in the ‘80s for these be sad times. The best parts of this pregnancy-induced fourthquel are the prospects of the easiest porn spoof name yet, “Breaking Dong” (unfortunately, even that wouldn’t be anywhere near as hilarious on purpose as this will be unintentionally), and the fact that now there’s only one more film to suffer through.

Speaking of suffering through, another unnecessary computer-animated sequel marches forth with “Happy Feet Two.” Why George Miller thought this was a good idea instead of stepping back into his post-apocalyptic “Mad Max” world we’ll never know. All we know is that now Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) is back, this time bringing with him a tail-feather-shaking chick of his own. The only thing here that sparks my interest is the voice casting of Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as a couple of krill. Maybe if those two had written their own film featuring their characters it would have been worth noting. However, they’re stuck playing second fiddle along with everyone else to Robin Williams continuing to do his voice “acting” that has never reached his own bar set so high in Disney’s “Aladdin.”

November 23

In no particular order, there are three big family films opening today: “Arthur Christmas,” “Hugo,” and “The Muppets.” There’s not a whole lot that can be said to make expectations any higher for each of these films, save for maybe “Arthur Christmas.” What you may not know is that it’s Aardman Animations’ first feature since 2006’s “Flushed Away.” While that one didn’t quite live up to their own reputation for the house that “Wallace & Gromit” built, this one should set them back on track. Featuring an all-star voice cast including James McAvoy as the titular Arthur, along with Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, and Will Sasso playing “American James,” the trailer should help seal the deal. Hilarity will surely ensue.

Speaking of which, leave it to the man behind a brilliant Dracula-musical-within-a-movie (Jason Segel’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) to give us a brand spanking new Muppets movie. Yes, “The Muppets” are finally back on the big screen for the first time since 1999. “Muppets from Space” may not have been their finest achievement but it’s been far too long since the whole gang was together in true form. No one is spared as Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Rowlf, Swedish Chef, Pepe the Prawn, Waldorf, Statler, Animal, Dr. Teeth, and Beaker all gave us something to really laugh about. Segel has a deep understanding and true love for these characters and everyone will undoubtedly be given their due. Along with his “Sarah Marshall” cohort, Nicholas Stoller, and director James Bobin (“Flight of the Conchords”), they’ve even wrangled up Bret McKenzie as music supervisor just to put the icing on the cake. This is the movie I’ve been most excited for all year. Yes, even more so than “Super 8!” Can. Not. Wait!

To round out our Thanksgiving offerings comes the first kid-friendly flick of Martin Scorsese’s four and a half decade career. With John Logan (“Rango”) adapting Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” about a boy who lives in the walls of a train station, and a cast consisting of Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Jude Law, and our heroes Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield as Hugo himself, this thing looks primed and ready. Let alone that Scorsese is also making his first foray into 3-D filmmaking. Will he come back to the format? Only time shall tell, along with how well the film works out. But between these three family offerings, I’m personally excited for all three and I’m 31 years old. That should definitely say something.

So alas, we’ve finally got lots of things to look forward to here, even if none of them are really expected to be tempting Oscar to look their way. While there’s a slight lull mid-month, at least it looks to be going out with a bang. In the meantime, there are more than enough offerings to tide us over as December actually looks pretty barren. But we’ll get to that when it gets here. Now everyone have a safe and happy holiday!

Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Summit Entertainment, Walt Disney Pictures