Be thankful: Leave it to Wes Anderson to rock the boat. We're so used to the slick computer animation of Pixar and Dreamworks that his take on Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox is actually jarring at first. Seriously, you have to acclimate to puppets moving around via stop-motion, all herky-jerky and whatnot. It looks and feels utterly old-school, like Gumby or The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it takes some getting used to. But once you've adapted (or, possibly, regressed), you'll find that Fantastic Mr. Fox is, in fact, fantastic, a clever, creative endeavor that gives Anderson a template to explore the issues of family that he's so interested in while retaining the brilliance of Dahl's book.
People react to Anderson's films in two ways. Either they worship at his hipster altar, appreciating his unique, refined and insightful filmmaking, or they feel he just tells stories about smug, privileged men with daddy issues. Me, I think both are true—his mannered movies actually have something to say, even if the characters he explores are wealthy white guys lacking direction. Of course, Mr. Fox (nicely voiced by George Clooney) is neither wealthy nor white, but he is a dapper dresser and has an appreciation for the finer things in life. A former chicken thief turned newspaperman, he has a lovely wife (Meryl Streep) and a son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), who aspires to be as gallant and awesome as his dad, even though everyone has him pegged as different.
But family life is not enough for Mr. Fox, who eventually recruits his opossum pal Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky) to help him steal a feast from farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean—one fat, one small, one lean. The farmers, in turn, muster their troops and bulldozers and helicopters, and go after the foxes, as well as anything else that stands in their way. That includes all of the other forest creatures, all of whom end up in the local sewer system after their lives have been literally uprooted, forcing them to stand together against the humans because their lives depend on it.
Between Mr. Fox, Up in the Air and The Men Who Stare at Goats, Clooney has hit a trifecta of roles this season. He's so much more enjoyable as a goofy charmer than a schemer, and he's terrifically entertaining in all three. But the real star here is Anderson, who turns this into another examination of families and trust. The herky-jerky nature of the animation makes the film feel less forced than, say, The Life Aquatic or The Darjeeling Limited, but it disguises the level of detail found in every single frame.
On the surface, Fantastic Mr. Fox may not look like a Thanksgiving box-office entry, but it is, in every way. You see, Anderson has been saying the same thing in every one of his films—that we should be thankful for our families and our friends, despite their selfishness and their inherent self-absorption, and especially when we can't stand them. Because if we can't we forgive them their flaws, how can we hope they'll forgive us ours?
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans: Werner Herzog has been making weird and wonderful movies for more than three decades. This revamp of Abel Ferrera's definitive film, starring Nicolas Cage as a drug-addled workaholic New Orleans cop, is no different.
Ninja Assassin: The team that created V for Vendetta eschews a real plot for serious slicing-and-dicing.
Old Dogs: Robin Williams and John Travolta really haven't learned any new tricks.
Red Cliff: John Woo's epic look at Chinese history has been trimmed considerably for international audiences.
The Road: The last time someone made one of Cormac McCarthy's books into a movie, No Country for Old Men won the Best Picture. And this one, about a man and his son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic U.S., won the Pulitzer.
One time only
Planes, Trains and Automobiles: If you're still mourning John Hughes, drown your sorrows over one of his best, poolside. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 25, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Warren Miller's Dynasty: The latest joint from the extreme-snow-sports master. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 2 and 3, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
The Big Lebowski: The dude abides. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 26, through Saturday, Nov. 28, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Whatever Works: The combination of Larry David and Woody Allen should be a comedy slam dunk, but it feels like two old guys kvetching. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, at the Central Library, Downtown. Free.
The Departed: This Damon-DiCaprio-Nicholson gangster flick may not be Scorsese's best, but it is the one for which he finally won his Best Director Oscar. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma. Free.
Antichrist: Thought you'd missed your chance to see Lars von Trier's NC-17 supernatural weird-out? It came and went, but now it's coming back (to the Gaslamp). Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe are a married couple who endure an unspeakable tragedy. And that doesn't include the genital mutilation.
The Blind Side: The book this is based upon is about the economics of football and an enormous, poverty-stricken young black man—adopted by a white family—who has the potential to be a highly paid professional athlete. So, of course, they turned it into a Sandra Bullock movie.
The Maid: Spanish drama about a longtime maid, her war with the household's teenage daughter and the young woman brought in to mediate the situation.
The Messenger: Ben Foster shines as a young veteran assigned to the casualty-notification department after his return from Iraq. The scenes in which he and Woody Harrelson deliver the bad news are devastating.
Planet 51: Animated flick about invading aliens. The catch is that the aliens are us, in the form of Dwayne Johnson.
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire: Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry helped produce this film about an obese Harlem teen in the 1980s, which is being talked up as a Best Picture possibility.
Twilight: New Moon: Either you dismiss the Twilight franchise as being for tweens and their moms or you've been drinking the blood-red Kool-aid.
Yes Men Fix the World: Documentary about the activist hoaxsters who claim to represent the likes of big oil and the State Department, offering up press conferences and then saying the organizations they (don't) represent are going to do the right thing.
Dead Snow: A group of Norwegian medical students on a ski trip learn the hard way that the worst kind of zombie is a Nazi zombie.
2012: The guys who blew up the world in Independence Day take us down again.
Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day: The sequel to the cult classic. This time, with more guys getting shot!
Disgrace: John Malkovich is a South African professor dismissed from his Capetown university for getting busy with one of his students.
Gentlemen Broncos: The latest film from Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite) stars Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) as a novelist who steals the ideas of one of his fans.
The Horse Boy: Unlike the spate of fictional movies about autism, this documentary about a Texas couple who take their autistic son to Mongolia shows how tough it is to have a kid on the spectrum.
Pirate Radio: Even with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this look at DJs spinning tunes from a ship off the English coast during the '60s is all soft rock.
(Untitled): Adam Goldberg is an abrasive, neurotic composer in this satirical look at the modern art world. For once, Vinnie Jones plays a creative type, rather than the guy who kicks ass.
The Box: Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) adapts Richard Matheson's (I Am Legend) story about a couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) who are given an offer: Push a button, get rich, kill someone you don't know.
Disney's A Christmas Carol: Robert Zemeckis gives Dickens' classic the animated, 3-D treatment and hands the lead role to Jim Carrey.
The Fourth Kind: This POV look at alien abduction could be the next Blair Witch—uh, Paranormal Activity.
The Men Who Stare at Goats: Even though it's got all the right ingredients, like George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey, this dark comedy about secret psychic warfare loses track of itself (which means it's not psychic, right?).
Skin: A black girl (Sophie Okonedo) is born to white parents (Sam Neill and Alice Krige) in South Africa during Apartheid.
White on Rice: Fresh off his divorce, Jimmy moves in with his sister and has to share his 10-year-old nephew's room while he hunts for a new wife.
Five Minutes of Heaven: Violence begets violence and terrific performances from Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt in Oliver Hirschbiegel's drama about two men meeting decades after one of them killed the other's brother.
Michael Jackson: This Is It: Over it.
Ong Bak 2: The Beginning: When Tony Jaa burst onto the scene with Thai Warrior, everyone thought he was the second coming of Bruce Lee. Even though it has some cool fighting, the prequel makes it clear that he is not.
Amelia: Hilary Swank plays the famous dominatrix—er, aviatrix. Yeah, aviatrix.
An Education: Nick Hornby of High Fidelity fame wrote the script and does a 180 by writing about a girl who desperately wants to grow up and thinks she may have found a shortcut in a good-looking charmer twice her age.
Astroboy: Animated version of the famous manga about a robot boy who has machine guns coming out of his ass. Oh, yeah, it's for kids.
Law Abiding Citizen: Jamie Foxx is a Philly D.A. trying to stop sociopath Gerard Butler, who is somehow blowing shit up while serving a prison term.
New York, I Love You: The sequel to a similar project about Paris, these 11 short films are about the beast that is New York, all tied together. There are plenty of high-profile actors, but the nature of the project guarantees that the whole is uneven.
Where the Wild Things Are: Let the wild rumpus begin! Scroll down at Lastblogonearth.com to find Anders Wright's review.
A Serious Man: The Coen brothers offer up an examination of faith that moves in mysterious ways.
Couples Retreat: Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell make a dumb romantic comedy.
Paranormal Activity: The buzziest horror film of late, touted as the next Blair Witch Project, was shot in San Diego on a shoestring budget by a first-time director.
Coco Before Chanel: Audrey Tatou plays the famed designer in her pre-fame years. She's pouty, but she lights up the screen when she smiles.
Zombieland: Woody Harrelson. Zombies. Rated R. 'Nuff said.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: Sure, this 3-D adaptation of the beloved children's book looks cheesy. But it's great, and any cheese involved makes it taste even better. Seriously, one of those rare children's films that's equally awesome for adults. And it includes Neil Patrick Harris voicing a monkey.
The Informant!: Steven Soderberg directs a pudgy, mustachioed Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a '90s-era whistleblower with aspirations of greatness and a propensity for bending the truth.
Julie & Julia: Meryl Streep is Julia Child, and Amy Adams is her biggest fan, Julie Powell, who got through life with the help of Child's My Life in France.
The Hangover: They cut a good trailer for Todd Phillips' new film, about three buddies—Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis—who wake up the morning after a brutal bachelor party with no memory of what happened or where the groom is.
Reuben H. Fleet Science Center Space Theater: After undergoing significant renovations, the Fleet is re-opening its dome Imax theater, complete with a kick-ass new screen. Films vary week-to-week. Showtimes and prices can be found at www.rhfleet.org.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: No, it's not a time warp—the love-it-or-hate-it camp classic continues its midnight run in its 37th year of release. When the lead character of the film is a transvestite scientist named Dr. Frank-N-Furter, you know you're in for some seriously trashy viewing. And, of course, this is the one movie where you want the audience shouting at the screen. Screens Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas.