As the year approaches its twilight and Christmas movie options begin to avail themselves, two familiar genres have emerged on cue. There is the film-star-doing-acting genre, and there is the penguin genre.
This year we get a double dose of the former from Christian Bale. Next week, he's in David O. Russell's American Hustle, and if you saw what Russell did with Bale as the tattooed, drug-addled black sheep brother of a boxer in The Fighter, then you will be on tenterhooks. But before that there is this weekend's Out of the Furnace, in which Bale is again the tattooed, drink-addled black sheep brother of a bare-knuckle boxer.
Apparently some kind of revenge quest with the fearsome-100-years-ago Woody Harrelson as a big bad hill person crime lord, the trailer is decked out with director Scott "Crazy Heart" Cooper's cherished '70s stylings. These actually take human form at one point in the shape of Sam Shepard as a fellow by the name of Red.
Also demonstrating that no half-decent idea should be unrepeated, Adventures of the Penguin King is not only this year's take on penguins, it is also last year's. The Penguin King was released in 2012 with Sir David Attenborough's mellifluous locutions narrating the story of said regent, while Adventures of the Penguin King is the U.S. version with Tim Allen providing comedy voiceover stylings as though for Antarctica's Funniest Home Videos. Still, astonishing footage for those who haven't already seen it, and if you have a soft spot for Home Improvement or Galaxy Quest, your kids will thank you for taking them along.
Penguins too real for you? Heartbroken there were only three Madagascar movies? Need a cute 'toon zebra in your life? Khumba is your boy. Liam Neeson follows in the paw prints of George Sanders (as Shere Khan in Jungle Book) and Jeremy Irons (in The Lion King) as the villainous big cat Brit.
Another year, another Mars movie, this time with the Magnet seal of approval. As a brief scan of Netflix reveals, Magnet selects and releases an intriguing low-budget genre movie trailer every 20 minutes. Whether it's found footage space horror flick Europa Report or bonkers late '70s homage passion project Beyond the Black Rainbow, Magnet's catalog is the streaming equivalent of that sticky shelf between vintage classics and the area in the rear and behind a curtain in the DVD store. This time, there seems to be an actual budget and not of all of it spent on Liev Schreiber's check. For genre freaks who know just what they like, The Last Days on Mars seemingly offers the added bonus of the exact same plot as Europa Report.
Which leaves the Coen Brothers to provide the only original movie idea of the week, Inside Llewyn Davis. A handsome folk singer in early '60s New York gets a girl pregnant may sound like the stuff of kitchen sink drama, but you know that for Ethan and Joel it's just clay in their hands. Want to see Carey Mulligan used wisely after that Gatsby debacle? Want to see the best John Goodman that there can be? Curious what can be done even with Justin Timberlake? This is the film of the week.