As the entitled scion of Hollywood royalty, Josh Brolin could very easily have devolved into, say, Scott Caan or Jake Busey. But after two decades running the gauntlet of supporting roles in everything from Highway to Heaven to Into the West (and Into the Blue for that matter), Brolin enjoyed overnight success in No Country for Old Men, W, and Milk. His impersonation of a young Tommy Lee Jones was the best thing about Men in Black 3 and he was even forgiven Gangster Squad and Jonah Hex. When you're hot, you're hot.
While we await his turn as Bigfoot Bjornsen in PT Anderson's eagerly awaited take on Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, Brolin shows up this week as the eponymous Old Boy. Why Spike Lee wanted to remake Chan-wook Park's extremely long, existential movie about a nobody locked in a Kafka-esque revenge fantasy is as clear as why he cast Brolin. Which is not to say it's a terrible idea. The trailer certainly promises a slicker tribute to Eastern Neon Noir ultraviolence than Nicholas Winding Refn pulled off in Only God Forgives, and for those who like their revenge fantasies fatally compromised it should pass a happy hour or two. Or three depending on how faithful Lee has been. Plus in this version, the central character is an advertising executive who gets tortured for 20 years, so there's that.
After horribly embarrassing himself in Prometheus and Pacific Rim, where he got to cancel the apocalypse, Stringer Bell, aka Idris Elba, gets to test his chops portraying Nelson Mandela, a role he is quoted as saying he dreamed of playing, in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Of course it's an impossible job. Last year, Terrence Howard had a stab at it, supporting Jennifer Hudson in Winnie; David Harewood from Homeland had a go in the BBC drama Mrs. Mandela; Clarke Peters, another Wire alumnus, had his shot in the UK TV drama Endgame; Dennis Haysbert's version was in 2009's Goodbye Bafana; and among the actors of a previous generation there was Morgan Freeman in Invictus, Sidney Poitier in 1997's Mandela and DeKlerk, and Danny Glover in 1987's Mandela. It is hard to imagine the string sections in the trailers for the previous films were any less heroic than for this. As roles go, getting the Madiba must be a bit like getting Ghandi, Jesus or Captain America. No room for ambiguity. At least for another half century or so.
Former Winnie Mandela Jennifer Hudson is the star of early Christmas movie Black Nativity and while the first line of the trailer is "We've been evicted?" it's delivered with tongue staunchly in cheek. The soaring and bluesy rendition of Silent Night that immediately follows is there to tell us that this will not be the catalog of poverty misery we might be expecting. Rather, it's a complex musical about modern family misery in contemporary America. Best line goes to Forrest Whitaker. Asked what kind of a parent he is he replies, "The broken-hearted kind," but with a grin a so cold it could freeze a reindeer.
Low budget, niche, quirky and apparently crowd-funded documentary of the week is Bettie Page Reveals All. The final revelation, it transpires, is that she recorded an interview shortly before her death and that this is the illuminated version.
Elsewhere, your fears an action movie might never be made that pits James Franco as a white trash scumball against Jason Statham as an ex-special forces widowed single parent may have been allayed. Not only that, there's even a role in Homefront for Winona Ryder. Talk about sweetening the deal. Netflix in a couple months, obviously.