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The Holiday Movie Roundup

December 17, 2009

As this earth continues to spin at a breakneck pace, leaving us hurtling toward our inevitable doom with seasons flying by like feathers from a gull in a hurricane, one thing is clear.

It’s Christmas movie time again!

The holiday season is traditionally a go-to weekend for moviegoers, nearly always posing a “perfect storm” of movie types converging together in the multiplex:

The early Oscar-contending movie that many people will see. This is traditionally a film which is both big-budget and with some sort of emotional resonance (see: Benjamin Button, Sweeney Todd, The Pursuit of Happyness, Blood Diamond).

The critically-lauded “small” film gone worldwide. This film is also, by its very nature,  frequently also an Oscar contender. (see: Juno, The Reader, The Wrestler)

The mainstream, none-too-high-concept comedy for dates or families — usually romantically based — either featuring Christmas prominently or stirring up the same feelings thereof (see: The Holiday, P.S. I Love You, Marley & Me, The Bucket List).

The movie with which the studio didn’t know what to do, so they just plugged it in for December knowing that, based upon probability alone, someone would go see it (see: The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Spirit, Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, Turistas)

So let’s assume, then, that you and your loved ones will be among those flocking to the cinema this very holiday season,  that you don’t have access to a newspaper, that your local movie theater doesn’t have a marquee touting its films, or that your internet only gets this very site. You’re in luck, because this is a great time to take a look at the films coming out tomorrow and on Christmas day.

Friday, December 18:

Avatar: As our very own Paul wrote so expertly yesterday, Avatar is poised to be a bittersweet treat, a feast of 3-D amazingness for your brain but likely a largely uninteresting storyline. If you’re even on the fence about this one, you might as well go see it in the theater, because it’s likely going to blow your ever-loving mind technically, even if the plot does seem like Ferngully 3.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?: What do you get when you combine Hugh Grant, king of the mediocre but relatively pleasant comedies, with Sarah Jessica Parker, the most iconized figure for single women and gay men in America right now? You get an experience which apparently makes Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush the giddiest teenage girl you’ve ever seen and fuels countless diary entries for the host for weeks to come. This comedy, about an urban couple transported to Montana after witnessing a gangland slaying, is probably harmless enough. And you might get to sit next to Billy Bush, who will be attending every screening, because the teaming of Grant and Parker is about to make his over-excited, celeb-loving head explode.

Crazy Heart: Jeff Bridges is being talked about in critics’ circles for his portrayal of an alcoholic, washed-up country music singer who enters into a relationship with a young reporter (Maggie Gyllenhall). So it’s become fortuitous, finally, that Jeff Bridges’ stubborn refusal to shave that giant beard he’s been sporting for four years may net him a trophy of some sort. I guess some things do work themselves out.

Nine: The film adaptation based on a musical about an Italian director in the midst of a midlife crisis stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Dame Judi Dench, among others. But here’s the fishy part — this movie’s been in production for a long, long time and it seems like only in the past week and a half have they been pushing it like crazy. That can mean one of two things — either the movie’s not as good as it probably should be, so they’re just trying to slip it in under the “look at all these movie stars!” banner, or the movie’s better than people think, so they’ve decided to try to get people on board. Those are two drastic differences. For the record, Rolling Stone calls it “flawed but dazzling,” and the Hollywood Reporter says that “the disappointments are many.” Proceed with caution.

Wednesday, December 23:

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel: You see, they call it the Squeakquel because they’re chipmunks! Oh, that’s rich. If you’re the kind of person who finds that hilarious, you probably also saw the first Alvin and the Chipmunks, and if you’re the kind of person who will see the original and see the “squeakquel,” you should email me your address so I can come to your house and hit you in the face with a shovel. Jason Lee, what has happened to you? You were in Mallrats and Chasing Amy, for crissake!

Friday, December 25:

It’ s Complicated: You may not get a lot out of Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated, but guess what? It wasn’t written for you. It was written for your mother, and she will find it delightful. Meyers’, who also wrote Something’s Gotta Give, continues her trend of making fiftysomething divorcees the most alluring creatures in the world. They all live in Pottery Barn-furnished homes and bake marvelous things, because they’re all great cooks and all extremely adorably flustered and witty. This go-round has Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin both angling for Meryl Streep. So, yeah. Tell your mom.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus: This has the potential to not only be the weirdest mainstream film of 2009, but also the most interestingly made, and possibly the most beautiful. It all depends on how much you trust Terry Gilliam, he of 12 Monkeys, Brazil and Fisher King fame. It will likely always be remembered as the movie Heath Ledger was in the midst of making when he died, but it should probably be remembered as how a visionary director rewrote a script to not only replace the deceased star, but replace him with two equally apt actors who look nothing like him. You know you’re intrigued. Plus, Tom Waites plays the devil. Sold yet?

Sherlock Holmes: Guy Ritchie appears to go Snatch and Lock Stock on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed deducer.  Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite literary characters of all time, and I’ve read all the Sherlock Holmes stories. I have yet to see anything in the trailer that I would even believe for a second the character would do on page. It’s like having Silas Marner battle aliens or Oliver Twist hunting ghosts. That said, it is Guy Ritchie, who has a knack for the fun, frenetic and combustible. So I suppose it could be a bit of a lark. But consider this a warning, Guy: keep your hands off Atticus Finch.

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