For the price of a ticket (popcorn money not included) here’s what to watch during the holiday season.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
In the holiday classic A Christmas Story, Ralphie is warned that he will shoot his eye out if he gets his fondest wish – an official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. While that extreme may not happen this year for most children, you may go blind with the smorgasbord of films flying into theaters. December is pre-Oscar time; directors gunning for the little gold statue (and studios looking for huge opening weekends) are looking to get their flicks before a film-going public hungry for relaxation amid the holiday rush.
Release dates, alas, vary. Some flicks open nationally in December (putting them in Academy Award contention) but won’t come to Monterey County until early January – most notably, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. For the most updated movie times, check our website at www.mcweekly.com/movies.
Now, on with the show:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (English-language adaptation) (R)
The Low-Down: Director David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) takes on the first installment of the late Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium trilogy. Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara take the leads as journalist Mikael Blomkvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander.
The Good: Fincher makes good movies. He is known for a unique shooting style with dark tinges around storylines and a moody cloud over his entire productions, i.e. Se7en. From the Red Band trailer – complete with a hard-driving Trent Reznor and Karen O cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” – it looks promising.
The Bad: Mara has some very big shoes to fill after Noomi Rapace’s performance as Salander in the Swedish version. And why must American directors remake a popular foreign movie mere years – two in this case – after it originally came out? And then there is Daniel Craig…
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (PG-13)
The Low-Down: Two years after his first rehashing of Holmes, Guy Ritchie directs the sequel, still with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in tow, but adds Noomi Rapace (the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to the cast as a saucy and sexy fortune teller.
The Good: Ritchie made the first Holmes installment pretty action-packed without being overly cheesy and hopefully, once again, Law’s snarky sidekick will contrast well with Downey Jr.’s faux-bumbling lead.
The Bad: Part two looks far too much like Will Smith’s Wild, Wild West: packing too much neo-technology into a far-gone era.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (PG-13)
The Low-Down: Tom Cruise reprises the roll of Ethan Hunt for the fourth time in the Mission: Impossible series, 15 years after the first film. Now, Hunt and his team are going rogue (didn’t they do that in all the other movies too?) to get their names back in the clear.
The Good: Well there are guns and a lot of explosions and close-calls with death and it’s Tom Cruise in the lead for those women still swooning over him. We also have the comedic brilliance of Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) as a sub-character mixed into the action.
The Bad: It seems like we have seen this movie before. Three times before…
Young Adult (R)
The Low-Down: Charlize Theron is having a crisis all adults in their late 30s seem to have: Is this really my life? Her character, Mavis Gary (yes, that is her name) is a teen-fiction writer who moves from the metro of Minneapolis to the small-town American life where she grew up in the countryside to find herself (and attempt to steal back her high school boyfriend from the throes of marriage and parenthood). Patton Oswalt also stars as the nerdy nice-guy who also crushes on her in their small hometown.
The Good: Theron is really good at playing seemingly-obvious-yet-mysterious leads (Monster, Aeon Flux) and this could be one of those roles.
The Bad: A good-looking woman unsure about her life at 40 moving back home and looking for her stereotypical old boyfriend is a story overdone in film. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn toward the super obvious.
Alvin and The Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked (G)
The Low-Down: The third installment of the rodent trio’s adventures has them stranded on a desert island after a cruise ship mishap. Simon, Theodore and the three female counterparts, the Chipettes, are once again putting up with Alvin’s excitable hijinks, much to the chagrin of their manager Dave Seville (Jason Lee).
The Good: Kids should love this. It’s goofy and two movies with the Chipmunks have already been made, so people know what they are in for. And the trailer does show off a snippet of a Lady Gaga cover.
The Bad: Remakes are remakes are remakes. The filmmakers have found a recipe that works and they’re sticking to it. Again.
The Artist (PG-13)
The Low-Down: As the glamorous 1920s winds down, silent picture movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin of OSS 117 fame) must realize his stardom is starting to wane as a result of talking pictures. His career becomes reinvigorated after an affair with a young, talented dancer named Peppy Miller.
The Good: This is a silent movie and that is really, really cool (and unheard of) for the 21st century. The acting looks superb and the production recreates the days of old black-and-white film.
The Bad: Period pieces are typically enjoyed by certain audiences and for those not interested in art house movies, this may be hard to get into. Did we mention it’s a silent film? Nothing but music.
The Low-Down: Brandon Sullivan (Michael Fassbender of Inglorious Basterds fame) is a suave businessman by day and a suave sex-addict by night. His way with women is disrupted when his sister Cissy (Carrie Mulligan) comes to stay with him indefinitely, bringing up problems in their family life.
The Good: Carey Mulligan. She can just stand there and it would be worth watching.
The Bad: Dysfunctional families may not be the best subject for the holidays, but then again…
The Low-Down: A star-filled cast of Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, again) tells of two families that have a cordial talk after their sons are involved in a schoolyard fight.
The Good: There should be some funny, yet clever acting here due to the level of performers. Unlike Shame (above), this should be a good film to take the in-laws to – and it’s based on a hit Tony Award-winning play, God of Carnage.
The Bad: It might be a bit too over-the-top in pushing good parenting and having adult conversations, but maybe that is on purpose and pushed to the limit for comedic reasons.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (R)
The Low-Down: Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, an expert in espionage who has been around in Cold War Russia. He is pulled back in for one more job to uncover a double-agent spy in the upper ranks of MI6.
The Good: Swedish directer Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) has a way with his movies that is really creepy and lets the darkness slowly seep into the viewer. Gary Oldman heads a fantastic cast of Colin Firth, John Hurt and Tom Hardy.
The Bad: Spy movies are another genre not overly accessible to everyone, especially those wanting a silly holiday retreat flick.
Another Happy Day (R)
The Low-Down: Lynn (Ellen Barkin) is attending a seemingly-perfect wedding at her parent’s exquisite estate in Annapolis, Maryland. Her high-strung nature brings out the interesting and rough family dynamics that were just under the surface in director Sam Levinson’s feature-length debut movie.
The Good: Another solid cast list includes Demi Moore, Ellen Burstyn and Kate Bosworth.
The Bad: Another dysfunctional family film for the holidays.
The Adventures of Tintin (PG)
The Low-Down: Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson produced this children’s animated adventure about a young boy named Tintin and his dog Snowy, who must recover a model ship before the evil Ivanovich Sakharine (voiced by Daniel Craig) gets to it. Assisting Tintin is Captain Haddock (voiced by Andy Serkis) who explains how many centuries before, his ancestors made three models of their ship, the Unicorn, and hid maps for their buried gold treasure, which Sakharine wants.
The Good: This looks like a fun holiday movie for kids, backed by a good cast.
The Bad: Children. You’re probably going to need some to enjoy this movie.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (PG-13)
The Low-Down: Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn) is a nine-year-old amateur inventor and pacifist who sets out into the world to find the lock that fits a key given to him by his late father Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks). With the inspiration of his mother (Sandra Bullock) and the wisdom of his father, who died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, Oskar finds more about his past than he ever expected. Based on the book of the same title by Jonathan Safran Foer.
The Good: Tom Hanks is solid and this could be a good inspirational film for young kids.
The Bad: I think it’s safe to say that we can call out all the positive life lessons cropping up everywhere here. It seems like every few years, Hollywood produces a film in this similar vein.
The Darkest Hour (PG-13)
The Low-Down: Five friends in Moscow survive an alien attack and must fight back against extraterrestrials who want to suck the Earth of all energy.
The Good: Emile Hirsch and Olivia Thirlby are two good-looking people, ’nuff said. The plot seems interesting and relevant to recent concerns about world energy becoming a scarcity.
The Bad: It seems like we are seeing an increasing number of apocalyptic movie plots as 2012 looms nearby…
War Horse (PG-13)
The Low-Down: Steven Spielberg tells the story of a young man named Albert who enlists as a solider during World War I after his beloved family horse is sold to the cavalry. Albert rejoins his horse and travels across Europe as the war rages on.
The Good: We haven’t seen a plot focusing around the animals involved in war, so this is a fresh concept and the visuals are classic feel-good Spielberg-ian in style and color.
The Bad: They really couldn’t think up a more clever title?