Thursday, December 3, 2009

Month Preview: December

December sees the releases of many Oscar movies like always. That means, I will spend a hell of a lot of time at the movies this month, and will hopefully see some great films. There are certainly quite a few I am looking forward to. I am even looking forward to most of the Christmas season audience pleasers as well.

December 4
I quite liked director Nimrod Attal’s last film, the horror beauty Vacancy, and I always like Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne, so I am at least curious about this armored car robbery action thriller. Having said, the preview looks like a direct to DVD level movie, and I wonder at the wisdom of putting this one out in December. Seems like a dump to me. Anticipation Level: 5.

Jim Sheridan has directed some fine films in his day – My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, The Boxer, In America – so I will always see what he does next. I love Natalie Portman, and think it’s been too long since she did a serious drama. Jake Gyllenhaal can also be quite good in the right role. I have my worries about Tobey Maguire however. The Danish original, directed by Susanne Bier, was a brilliant, blistering drama, so this has a lot to live up to. Still, I am looking forward to this one. Anticipation Level: 8.

Everybody's Fine
Robert DeNiro remains my favorite actor in history, even if he has not delivered a truly great performance in more than a decade. I also highly enjoy Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore and Sam Rockwell, who are playing his adult kids in Kirk Jones remake of a highly regarded (although unseen by me) Italian movie from the early 1990s. If this was DeNiro’s bid at another Oscar nomination, he will most likely fail in that regard. Still though, this could be an enjoyable little movie. Anticipation Level: 6.

The Last Station
Michael Hoffman’s latest film centers on the relationship between Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife (Helen Mirren). James McAvoy and Paul Giametti are also along for the ride. The Oscar buzz has begun for veterans Mirren and Plummer, the former coming off a win two years ago, and the later having never been nominated (shockingly). Not sure when this one will hit Canada, but I look forward to it nonetheless. Anticipation Level: 8.

Serious Moonlight
Despite the fact that this one stars Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton and Kristen Bell, I cannot say I have ever heard of it. The plot, about a woman (Ryan) who discovers that her husband (Hutton) is going to leave her for his mistress (Bell), and decides to duct tape him a toilet until they reconcile sounds awful. I don’t envision myself watching this any time soon. Anticipation Level: 2.

Apparently this is actually a sequel to National Lampoon’s Dorm Daze 1 & 2 (am I the only one who didn’t this they existed), that is just too good not to put into theaters. A horror comedy by genre, this is one that I can assure you I have no interest in whatsoever. Anticipation Level: 0.

Up in the Air
I tried to see Jason Reitman’s latest at the Toronto Film Festival, and couldn’t get tickets. Since then, I have heard nothing but great things about this film starring George Clooney as a corporate stooge who travels the country firing people. I love Clooney, and with a strong supporting cast including Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga and Jason Bateman, I am really looking forward to this. Reitman has become the go to guy for intelligent comedy, and according to everything I’ve heard, this could be his best film yet. Anticipation Level: 10.

December 11
You have to give Clint Eastwood credit. At almost 80, he still churns out at least one movie a year. This one, the story of Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) trying to inspire the South African rugby team (led by Matt Damon) to win the World Cup is designed to win Oscar, and please audiences. While I much prefer Eastwood’s darker movies, this one still looks like a winner. Anticipation Level: 9.

The Lovely Bones
I for one have been waiting a long time for Peter Jackson to return to films like this. His big breakthrough film, Heavenly Creatures, is arguably his best one. This one, about a murdered young girl (Saorise Ronan), looking down on her family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon among them), and her murderer (Stanley Tucci) is best on a wonderful bestseller, which will allow Jackson to use special effects, but also plumb the emotional depths he hasn’t gotten into recently. Initial reaction has been mixed, but I still cannot wait for this one. Anticipation Level: 10.

A Single Man
Another Toronto Film Festival holdover, Colin Firth has been collecting rave reviews (and a few early prizes as well), for his performance as a gay man in 1960s California on the day that he is planning his suicide. Julianne Moore is also receiving raves, so I would not be surprised to see them both end up as Oscar nominees in February for this film, even if people like their performances more than the movie. Anticipation Level: 8.

The Slammin’ Salmon
How is it possible that there is a movie called The Slammin’s Salmon, and I haven’t heard of it? This is the latest from the Broken Lizard dudes – makers of Super Troopers, Club Dread and Beer Fest. They have their ardent fans sure, but I have never really been one of them. This strikes me as the type of thing you rent with a bunch of friends, get drunk and watch. Since I can’t do at the movie theater, I’ll pass. Anticipation Level: 3.

December 18
It has been 12 long years since James Cameron last made a feature film. Cameron, one of the best directors of action in history who has always been at the forefront for cutting edge technology, has returned with this sci-fi epic about the battle between militaristic humans and a more primitive local tribe on a distant planet. The plot seems fairly standard – then again Cameron’s plots usually are – and although I have yet to be blown away by the trailers, I still cannot help but get excited to see what he’s going to do this time out. Anticipation Level: 10.

Crazy Heart
As soon as this one was moved from 2010 into 2009, Jeff Bridges leapt to the front of the pack in terms of Oscar chances for this movie about a hard living country music singer looking for redemption, and the reporter who follows him (Maggie Gyllenhaal). This sounds fairly standard, yet the early word has been great on director Scott Cooper’s debut, and several Indie Spirit Award nominations earlier this week back that up. Will Bridges finally win an Oscar? I can’t wait to find out. Anticipation Level: 9.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?
Hugh Grant makes a romantic comedy (shocking I know), this time alongside Sarah Jessica Parker. I cannot help but laugh at pretty much every Hugh Grant movie in the past few years – he is consistently hilarious, even if the movies are not up to snuff. The preview for this one looks like more of the same, but in a month of heavy Oscar contenders, this could be a nice break. Anticipation Level: 6.

Count me as a fan of Rob Marshall’s Chicago, although not of his Memoirs of a Geisha. I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this one all year. I cannot wait to see what Marshall does with this Broadway adaptation of a Fellini film (the great 8 ½), especially because Daniel Day-Lewis, the best actor in the world, is in the lead role. Throw in Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren, and I cannot wait to see what this one will turn out like. Anticipation Level: 10.

The Young Victoria
Saw this one already at the Toronto Film Festival. It is an interesting, albeit at times dull, costume drama starring Emily Blunt about the early years of Queen Victoria, as she goes from a teenager to Queen of England. Blunt is in fine form here, as is Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Mark Strong and Jim Broadbent. I have a feeling it is going to get lost in the awards season shuffle this year.

December 25
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel
I admit I saw the first film, and I will see this film as well. Great art these films aren’t, but I loved Alvin and the Chipmunks as a kid, and so watching these films brings back a piece of that childhood (Theodore was, and remains my favorite). I’m sure it won’t be very good, and I’m also sure I won’t really care. Anticipation Level: 6.

It's Complicated
Nancy Meters knows how to make a fine chick flick. What Women Want, Something’s Gotta Give, The Holiday are all fun times at the movies. This time, with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin playing a recently divorced couple having an affair with each other, she seems to want to get an Oscar nomination or two. Time will tell on that front, but the trailer does look like good, old fashioned chick flick fun. Anticipation Level: 7.

Sherlock Holmes
As a kid, I read pretty much every Sherlock Holmes book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so I cannot wait to see the new big screen adaptation, even if it directed by Guy Ritchie, and seems to have little to nothing in common with the source material. Still, Robert Downey Jr. can do no wrong in my eyes, and he will be ably supported I’m sure by Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and Mark Strong. Hopefully, this one will be an audience pleaser. Anticipation Level: 8.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
I’m still not entirely sure what the hell Terry Gilliam’s latest film is about, except it involves someone making a deal with the devil (Tom Waits), and entering some sort of dream world, where Heath Ledger (in his final performance), Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law are all the same person. Oh, and Christopher Plummer is playing Doctor Parnassus. Gilliam is a hit and miss director to be sure, but even his misses are interesting. Anticipation Level: 9.

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