November 21, 2012, - 6:00 pm

Thanksgiving Box Office: Red Dawn, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, The Flat, Rise of the Guardians

By Debbie Schlussel

No MARXES for any of the new movies at theaters today for Thanksgiving. All of them were decent, some of them good.

* “Red Dawn“: While this was better than I expected, it’s still somewhat schlocky and isn’t nearly as good as the original 1984 “Red Dawn”, which was much panned by liberal mainstream media movie critics but was actually a very good movie that stands the test of time, even if the Soviet Union didn’t. As you may know, this was filmed in Michigan and heavily subsidized by the Michigan Film Tax Credit. (A former trainer from my gym, Michael Knight, plays a Russian military figure.) It also sat on the shelves for about two years and wasn’t even going to be released except on video. But that changed, when its stars, particularly Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, became big stars. So, now, it’s a Thanksgiving movie, even though it doesn’t deserve that slot. And, as you’ve probably heard, this originally featured the Chinese invading America, but for international ticket sales reasons was changed to North Koreans (the movie used Detroit-based Asians of all varieties, many of whom look Chinese to me, not Korean).

The story: North Koreans invade America, particularly Spokane, Washington, the setting of this movie. Several teens (Hemsworth, Hutcherson, and several lesser knowns) form “The Wolverines,” a group of rebels who fight the North Koreans.

My reservations with this movie, as I’ve noted before on this site: our major enemies are Muslims and Chi-Coms, NOT the North Koreans, although they are bad. So the plot is absurd. It’s not even plausible that the North Koreans could afford to carry out such a major scale invasion of America. And all of the Wolverines in this movie wear keffiyehs, the Islamic scarf of death. Um, since when did the keffiyeh become the symbol of American freedom? The movie would have been far more credible had the movie been about an invasion of Muslims. But Hollywood would NEVER have the cojones to present Muslims as the invaders. Not politically correct. Plus, they have tickets to sell to Arab and Muslim moviegoers around the wrold. Back in 1984, Soviet Communism was the major threat we faced. Now, it is Islam and the Chinese. And the Chinese are doing it financially, not through a military invasion. So, this movie seems kind of comical.

It’s an entertaining movie with giant holes in it, and silliness, such as plenty of North Korean planes suddenly invading our airspace with zero response from the U.S. military. Then, there are thousands of HumVees, suddenly on the streets of America with North Korean military emblems on them. How did that suddenly happen without anyone knowing.

I liked that it shows a Marine who served in Afghanistan (Hemsworth) in a positive, patriotic light. But this movie is a cubic zirconium imitation of the original “Red Dawn.” Nothing too objectionable about it. But you should see the original, instead. There was absolutely no reason to remake it, other than that Tom Cruise’s son needed a gig, and Hollywood can’t come up with anything new.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Silver Linings Playbook“: This movie is strictly for adults because of language and themes. It’s rated “R” for a reason. But it’s absolutely hilarious. I laughed and laughed. And, while I found it depressing at the beginning, it turned into a very happy, entertaining–if weird–movie.

Bradley Cooper plays a crazy guy who is released from a mental hospital to freedom, after severely beating his then-wife’s lover, after he walks in on the two of them taking a shower together. Cooper is delusional and still thinks his now-ex-wife still loves him and he wants to go see her. But there’s a restraining order out on him. Cooper’s parents are Robert De Niro (who, in a novel role for him, plays an Italian bookie) and Jacki Weaver (who looks and sounds like a dead ringer for Sally Struthers in this movie). Cooper drives his parents crazy, and soon his friends try to set him up with a mysterious woman (Jennifer Lawrence) whose husband cheated on her. She wants Cooper to dance with her in a dancing competition, and she and the dance practice are getting in the way of his obsession with finding his ex-wife.

Like I said, this is very funny, after being extremely depressing at first. But there is a lot of yelling and melodrama, which I could have done without. If you want a movie that is completely relaxing, this isn’t it. But it ends with a relaxing, happy conclusion.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Life of Pi“: After a storm kills most of his family and other passengers on an ocean liner, an Indian teenaged boy gets marooned on a boat in the middle of the ocean. He must endure and survive nearly a year of little food, plus he must find a way to live with a hungry tiger who is also on the tiny boat.

This is a lot like “Castaway,” but set on a boat and with a tiger instead of a volleyball. It was a good adventure and definitely thrilling, but most of it takes place on the boat in the ocean. And the ending is very annoying and a silly attempt to philosophize and play with your mind (which doesn’t work too well). The movie was a little slow and long, but it was entertaining. While it’s aimed at families and also kids, I wondered if kids might be scared by some of the violent animal attacks in a few scenes. It’s not a spectacular movie, but it’s okay.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “The Flat“: It’s difficult to review this documentary without giving away the whole thing and engaging in spoilers. So, I’m limited in what I can say about it. I thought it was a fascinating, interesting movie, which made me think. At first, it blew my mind. But after I saw it and did some research into the object of criticism in the movie, I found that things were a little different than portrayed.

An Israeli Jewish director, Arnon Goldfinger, goes with his mother and other relatives to clean out the apartment of his maternal grandmother’s apartment after she passes away. His grandparents were proud German citizens who left Germany as the Nazis came to power, but despite living in Palestine and then Israel, they still thought of themselves as Germans. But, while going through his grandmother’s things, he notices something odd and disturbing, which he looks into further. And the more he looks, the more disturbing it gets. Goldfinger finds out some disturbing things about his grandparents and their friends, having to do with the Holocaust and the Nazis. With this movie, he’s opened a hornets’ nest. And after the research I did after the movie, I’m not entirely sure that Goldfinger is entirely fair to his grandparents. Plus, they aren’t around to answer.

I believe that part of this documentary was staged because, I wondered, did Goldfinger really have the cameras rolling, just in case they found something interesting in his grandmother’s apartment . . . or did they re-enact that part, once they did find that “something interesting?” It’s something I always wonder with these documentaries in which the cameras are already rolling when something “just comes up” that becomes the basis of the documentary.

Go see this movie and let me know what you think.


Watch the trailer . . .

* “Rise of the Guardians“: This animated movie is aimed at kids and families with kids. The animation and 3D are fabulous and amazing. Can’t say as much for the story, which was fine and not objectionable in any way. It’s just that it was dull, and I felt like I’d seen it a million times before. Also, beware that uber-liberal maniac Alec Baldwin voices the Santa character (called “North” in this movie).

The story: when the bogeyman (called “Pitch”) turns kids’ dreams into nightmares and makes them stop believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and other imaginary characters. Those characters, including Jack Frost, are the “Immortial Guardians” of children, and Jack Frost leads them to stop this and fight off Pitch.

Fine for kids and families.


Watch the trailer . . .

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32 Responses

“Arnon Goldfinger” sounds like a take on “Auric Goldfinger”? 007’s arch nemesis in 1964’s “Goldfinger”…..Hmmm…

ancestral_norman on November 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm

Wilson was a volleyball, not a soccer ball, Deb.

D: Oops. You’re right. Fixing. Thanks. DS

Dave on November 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm

“The Flat” is the only picture that sounds interesting, and I figured out what Goldfinger found without seeing the movie. The rest of the movies, with the possible exception of Silver Lining Playbook, which I will watch on cable, don’t interest me.

I just love to review movies I have not seen. It saves time and money, whereas you, my friend, have to sit through a lot of drek to find a diamond.

Jonathan E. Grant on November 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Jackie Weaver is a great Australian actress. She is the only reason I *MAY* wanna see it but your review has me curious. I am not a Bradley Cooper fan. He’s like a toilet paper roll to me. Not my cuppa but few are.

Chris Hemsworth is Australian too. I’d see it for him alone. Never saw the first movie. Did it have C. Thomas Howell in it? If so, that is prolly why I skipped it (amongst other reasons).

“The Flat” sounds intriguing. Your description reminded me of the complex yet fascinating episode of “This American Life’s” “Searching For Bobby Dunbar”. If I choose any of them THIS one will be my first choice.

S: I don’t like Bradley Cooper, either. But he is good in this movie, and it’s very funny. DS

Skunky on November 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm


The original Red Dawn stands the test of time? You’ve got to be kidding.It’s one of the dumbest movies ever made.

The entire premise of the movie is so absurd it’s hard to believe the film got made at all.It was a preposterous right-wing Cold War paranoid fantasy put to film. And that’s where it failed,because it was presented to the public as something that COULD happen,not as some sort of far fetched escape-from-reality fantasy,which even at that it would be hard to suspend disbelief.

Where was the US Armed Forces? Where was our stockpile of thousands of ICBMs and bombs?

The “message” from John Milius was that the US military had become so weak,that something like this could happen. Only in his foolish head.

Aside from the premise,the acting,the stupid dialogue,and the corny music all stink as well.

Scott on November 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    John Milius wanted the movie to tell Americans what it may be like to live under communist control and to support anti-communist movements in Central and South America. Scott’s comments reveal ignorance of Soviet nuclear military strategy at that time. If the Soviet’s had launched first, it would have been a limited attack to take out Washington and several military targets, not civilian areas. The the Soviets would then threaten a full out strike if America retaliated or tried to position military forces to invade the Soviet Union. That’s why America is occupied through a Soviet “blitzkrieg”in the movie. The threat today is an EMP attack that would knock out most of our electricity and electronics, leading to mass starvation, death, and chaos.

    Concerned Citizen on November 23, 2012 at 11:54 am

I thought “The Flat” was kinda slow- and after sitting through it, I still have no idea why the grandparents acted like they did- although maybe I missed that part when I dozed a bit.

hannah on November 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm

I rewatched the original Red Dawn when they were talking about this new version. I didn’t remember all the whining and crying through out the entire film. Patrick Swayze constantly yelling to man up and stop crying then five more minutes of crying, repeat then roll credits while they cry in to the night. Now I wished I hadn’t rewatched it as I enjoyed the teenage memory of it better.

ender on November 21, 2012 at 10:18 pm

The definitive movie about North Koreans has already been made, and I see no need for another one:

Irving on November 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Okay – allow me to process this thing about “Red Dawn”. Not the remake. The original article.

It was not a great movie. The acting was hokey but my God was Lea Thomson and Jennifer Grey hot. The special effects were cheesy in a mozzarella kind of way but the explosions were wicked (I loved seeing things blown up when I was young).

That said, it was a great time-waster. John Milius simply took the alien invasion movie and scaled it down to a USA-USSR confrontation flick. Bear in mind that 1984 was an Olympic year in which virtually all the Warsaw Pact nations (except Romania) boycotted. Reagan was president and I was training on the est coast with the naval reserve.

So in context, the original “Red Dawn”, with all its flaws and hokeyness, was a likeable movie. Not great, not too plausible, but at least it was entertaing.

Judging by it trailer, the new “Red Dawn” – with all respects – sucks donkey nuts. I agree with Debbie that better, plausible enemies should have been used, although at least the invaders weren’t Canadian.

(Come to think of it – you wouldn’t have much of a movie if Canadians were to invade. “Awright, fine, you Hosers. Come on over, bring your beer, loonies and toonies – we’ll take ’em at par. And when’s Rush coming to play at our town? Take off, eh?” “I hear that their medicare is better than our Obamacare.” “Ugh. There goes my paycheque. I hear that Canadians give away almost half their income to taxes.” etc., etc.)

Right now, I’d feel sorry for Psy if the flick were to take off. The perceived anti-Korean backlash will push “Gangnam” out of style.

The Reverend Jacques on November 22, 2012 at 12:19 am

Having lived in South Korea for two years, I can assure you that North Korea wouldnt have enough in the tank to handle their 5 inches taller, 15 pounds heavier, well fed breatheren south of the DMZ. The idea of North Korea even making it past Japan let alone to Spokane, WA is absurd.

Mr. Lawrence on November 22, 2012 at 1:10 am

Dear Debbie: Just to clarify: Arnon Goldfinger is an actual Israeli doctor, who actually found something suspicious when he was cleaning out his grandmother’s apartmnet, right? He’s not an actor?

MRS: No, he’s an Israeli director. DS

Miranda Rose Smith on November 22, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Arnon Goldfinger is the winner of two Israeli Academy Awards. He has been working as a director, scriptwriter, and producer since 1992. His previous documentary feature The Komediant won numerous awards and was released theatrically in Israel and the United States in 2002

    ebayer on November 22, 2012 at 3:44 am

      Dear Ebayer: That doesn’t tell me if the story is true or not.

      Miranda Rose Smith on November 22, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Dear Debbie: After I re-read the review, it became clear to me.

    Miranda Rose Smith on November 22, 2012 at 8:28 am

One of the lessons I take away from watching the three trailers,is that you may as well dispose of your possessions before you die.
Because all your stuff ends up in a dumpster or resale shop.

Your stuff only matters to you,noone else,not even your kids.
I’m 55 now and I feel like I should just have a few clothes a few pieces of furniture and zero clutter.
And thats basically it.

ebayer on November 22, 2012 at 3:50 am

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Glad to see all good movies today – plan on watching ‘The life of Pi’.

Infidel on November 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm

So Baldwin can only get weighty parts now.

pat on November 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm

The original 1989 Red Dawn was less important for how it underlined our never-say-die will to resist for the American audience, but in the stunned reaction, widely reported, of such Soviet Union audiences as managed to see it, too. It was the first time any of them had ever seen their system portrayed as so conquest-bound as to invoke fear and resistance by the very people they were supposedly “freeing.” Instead of the usual Americans being portrayed, per their pervasive state-operated propaganda machine, as greedy, brutal thugs and murderers of innocent people, it was the Russians & their system who were shown this way, and for young elites over there, it hurt. If there was a bale of hay that broke the Soviet Union’s back, this film was definitely one of the straws in it. Few Americans who grew up back then or since can have any idea what kind of world of justified fear of Russia existed back then in the U.S. And when the bogeyman went away, it was supposedly “the end of history”, where no menacing ideologies, hostile to our future freedom, could ever exist. Hence our willful turning a blind eye to Islamism time & time again ever since.

Ted Gruen on November 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I saw the original “Red Dawn” a few times. Not all the way though but still enough to get what was going on. It’s a shame that the North Korean invaders couldn’t be seen to have had help from China. An NK-Chinese invasion would probably have been more realistic.

Ghostwriter on November 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Oh,and for Mr. Gruen. “Red Dawn” came out in 1984,not 1989.

Ghostwriter on November 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I thought Life of Pi would be a nutty animal rights movie.

The new Red Dawn movie looks good, although I wish it could have been the Chinese.

Joey on November 23, 2012 at 3:56 am

Went and saw Rise of the Guardians with my son, niece and nephew.

Overall it is okay.

The first half is dull and boring – it was a case of too much “show”, but nowhere near enough “tell”. You almost had a feeling the movie was lost – not sure where it was going or what the plot was.

The second half saved it – things basically cleared up and it got a “move on” so to speak to the climax and end.

So if you have to go this weekend, and it has to be a kids movie, then go see it. Just remind yourself that it’ll take about 20-30 minutes of patience before you start to really get into the movie.


mrrabbit on November 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Deb –
I look to you for guidance on viewing Hollywood films.
…Because of your eulogys to both the late Patrick Swayze and Ben Gazzara a couple of years ago, I purchased and watched both ‘Red Dawn’ and ‘Road House’ and saw what you saw.

I don’t expect I will ever watch this new ‘Red Dawn’, however…

Nick Fury on November 23, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Deb –
I look to you for guidance on viewing Hollywood films.
…Because of your eulogies to both the late Patrick Swayze and Ben Gazzara a couple of years ago, I purchased and watched both ‘Red Dawn’ and ‘Road House’ and saw what you saw.

I don’t expect I will ever watch this new ‘Red Dawn’, however…

Nick Fury on November 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm

My sons went to see the new “Red Dawn”. They both felt the original was much better.

Tanstaafl on November 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Your “Silver Linings” review made me think of favorite delusional characters in film: Johnny Barrett “Shock Corridor” (1963), Elisabeth “Don’t Say a Word” (2001), Evelyn “Play Misty for Me” (1971), Francis “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1919), Frances Farmer in 1982’s “Frances”, Hannibal Lecter, Jeffrey Goines “12 Monkeys” (1995), Lisa Rowe “Girl, Interrupted” (1999), Don Juan “Don Juan de Marco” (1995), Scarecrow “Batman Begins (2005), Renfield “Dracula” (1931), Michael Myers, The Joker, Salieri “Amadeus”, Alex “A Clockwork Orange” (1971), Prot “K-Pax” (2001), J.T. Walsh “Slingblade” (1996). My favorite? Marlon Borunki (Dom DeLuise) in “The End”.

AndrewSlater on November 27, 2012 at 3:56 am

Seen Rise of the Guardians and Silver Linings Playbook, both are amazing movies and i’m sure going to buy the dvd when it comes out. the rest of your movie reviews i’ve haven’t seen yet and from you opinion i better not go to see them.

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