From the Vaults: Reheating Old Dishes

The studios serve up a sequel and a spinoff for Thanksgiving audiences

Horrible Bosses
Horrible Bosses

Planning for a trip to the multiplex this Thanksgiving break? It’s slim pickings. Only three new film releases: a sequel, a spinoff, and a second Western from Tommy Lee Jones.

The most family-friendly option is Penguins of Madagascar, a CG-animated action-comedy about penguin secret agents. It’s a stand-alone picture that pulls from the same universe as the DreamWorks series that started with 2005’s Madagascar, which we called “terrifically silly – in just the right ways” and especially admired for having “a lemur king doing the robot.” That lemur was voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen (before his film breakout in Borat), and he returned for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which the Chronicle called “sweet cartoon candy” and “a decent diversion that's not much worth talking about afterward.” Maybe not, but that didn’t stop studio execs from ordering another sequel, 2012’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – this one set in a traveling circus. The Chronicle’s Marjorie Baumgarten's take: “[It] may not rival the ‘greatest show on earth’ but it’s good enough to pack ‘em in anyway.” It also launched the Afro Circus meme, and that is a gift that keeps on giving... and giving... and giving...

If your inclinations lean more hard R, there’s Horrible Bosses 2, which Chronicle contributor William Goss found to be “agreeably inane” and no better, no worse than its predecessor. That would be 2011’s Horrible Bosses, which starred Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis as three friends who plot to kill their bosses. (All three return for the sequel, as well as Jennifer Aniston in a supporting role.) Of the original, Marjorie Baumgarten wrote: “The film mixes its dark comic theme with extremely raunchy details for an end result that evinces more uncomfortable titters than outright laughs. As for those titters, Aniston almost shows all of hers as a foul-mouthed dentist who sexually harasses her assistant Dale.”

If you’re willing to stray from the path of the studio, your best bet may be arthouse drama The Homesman, a Western starring Tommy Lee Jones. The native Texan also directs, in only his second feature directorial effort. His first was 2005’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada; Marjorie Baumgarten called it “a singular and slightly surreal Tommy Lee Jones scorcher.”

“In his feature directing debut (although 10 years ago he did direct the fine made-for-TV Western The Good Old Boys), Jones has made a modern Western in the culturally askew tradition of Peckinpah, Huston, and Boetticher. Set amid the West Texas landscape with which he is so personally familiar, Jones’ film can be as vast and as harsh as its surroundings, as precise and indelible as a branding iron. ...

“The movie is an account of Pete’s promise to his friend – a Mexican cowboy named Melquiades Estrada, who works for Pete at his ranch – to bury him back in his native soil of Mexico in the event of his death in America. And before you can say Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Pete is off with Melquiades’ rotting corpse to cross the Rio Grande and bring his friend home to his final repose.”

Grim stuff, sure, but a pretty great – and greatly underseen – movie. Not currently available on any streaming service, this one’s well worth a trip to your local video store.

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Horrible Bosses, Madagascar, Tommy Lee Jones, Horrible Bosses 2, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Watnted, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

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