What To Look Forward To In … December 2009

14 11 2009

What is in my mind the finest month for the movies is almost here!  Let Marshall guide you through the best and steer you away from the worst, but most of all enjoy!  The studios have been holding back their best movies all year to dump them all here, where they can get serious awards consideration.

December 4

A major Oscars wild-card is “Brothers.”  No one really knows what to make of it.  If the movie hits big, it could completely change the game.  But it could just fly under the radar like most expect it to now.  However, the trailer makes it look as if it the movie could be absolutely mind-blowing.  Directed by Jim Sheridan, who has received six Academy Award nominations, “Brothers” follows Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she and her daughters deal with the loss of her husband, Sam (Tobey Maguire), in war.  Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to live with Grace to lend a helping hand.  But romantic sparks fly between the two at precisely the wrong time: the discovery that Sam is alive and coming home.  With the two brothers both tugging Grace’s heart for their share, a different type of sparks fly.

You have heard me say plenty about “Up in the Air.”  If you haven’t read my Oscar Moment on the movie or heard my bliss at the release of the trailer, let me give you one more chance to hope on the bandwagon.

But the movies don’t stop there.  “Armored,” an action-drama that is tooting its own moral horn, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.  “Everybody’s Fine” appears to be a holiday movie, so that might be worth checking out if you’re in the spirit.  The movie, a remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name, stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who reconnects with his estrange children.  And “Transylmania” looks to cash in on the vampire craze sweeping the nation by satirizing it, but I doubt it will be financially viable because it is being released by a no-name studio and without any big names.

December 11

The highlight of the weekend for many will be “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to the traditional animation by hand musical.  The movie looks to capitalize on what we know and love Disney musicals for, adding some catchy tunes to a fairy tale we have known since childhood.  Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as Lorrell in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” lends her talented voice to the princess Tiana.  As a huge fan of “Dreamgirls” during the winter of 2006, I couldn’t think of someone better equipped to handle the sweet, soft Disney music (which isn’t designed for belters like Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson).  That being said, the music won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard from a Disney fairy tale.  It is being scored by Randy Newman, not Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and will have a jazzy feel much like its setting, New Orleans.

This week also boasts the opening of three major Oscar players. Two have been featured in Oscar Moments, “Invictus” and “A Single Man.” The former opens nationwide this Friday, the latter only in limited release. I’ll repost the trailers below because they are worth watching. But read the Oscar Moment if you want to know more about the movies.

According to the people that matter, “The Lovely Bones” has all the pieces to make a great movie. But for summer reading two years ago, I read the source material, Alice Sebold’s acclaimed novel. I found it dreadfully melodramatic and very depressing without any sort of emotional payoff to reward the reader for making it through. But maybe Hollywood will mess up the novel in a good way. If any movie could, it would be this one. With a director like Peter Jackson and a cast including Saiorse Ronan (“Atonement”), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon, it could very well happen.  It opens in limited release on this date and slowly expands until its nationwide release on Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2010.

December 16

Due to the flop of “Amelia,” Fox Searchlight has moved “Crazy Heart” to 2009 in order to milk some awards out of this year (although they should have just pushed “(500) Days of Summer” harder!).  The movie stars Jeff Bridges as an aging alcoholic country singer and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the young journalist that falls for him.  Bridges has been nominated for four Oscars but has never won, so maybe the Academy will feel generous to him this year.

December 18

We will skip the big blockbuster to address what is perhaps my most anticipated movie of the season, “Nine.”  I’ve already devoted an Oscar Moment to it, but it deserves some more talk here.  I’ll just throw out some names.  Daniel Day-Lewis.  Marion Cotillard.  Penelope Cruz.  Nicole Kidman.  Judi Dench.  Sophia Loren.  Kate Hudson.  Fergie.  Director Rob Marshall.  At what name did you start thinking, “Get here now, December 18th, I HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE!”?

Most sites I read think “Avatar” is going to be a huge box office success.  However, I wonder how they can think that when I have not heard a single teenager talk about the movie at all.  That is a critical demographic to the success of this movie.  It is what made “Titanic” the highest grossing movie ever (unadjusted for inflation).  And without them, this movie will flop.  A bomb is something that director James Cameron and the head honchos at 20th Century Fox simply cannot have happen.  Let me hit you with a statistic that will make your jaw drop.  “Avatar” cost nearly $500 million dollars to make.  No, I didn’t tack on an extra zero to that figure.  Half-a-billion dollars have been dropped on this movie, so they need to make a whole lot of money to make it a profitable venture.  I’m sure with worldwide totals and video receipts, they will undoubtedly break even.  But if it is going to be a bonanza, there has to be more to “Avatar” than the coolest visual effects ever.  And I’m not getting the feeling from the trailers that it has all that strong of a story.  But at this point, no one knows.

Guilty confession: I’m actually kind of looking forward to “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” The movie stars Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as married members of the New York elite who loathe each other. However, they are forced to spend a whole lot of time together when they see a murder and enter the Witness Protection Program in Wyoming. Sometimes these “fish out of water” comedies turn out to be quite funny. Plus, Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker usually have good taste when it comes to selecting movies.

And to help out a fledgling production company, Apparition, I’ll plug “The Young Victoria” with an embedded trailer.  If Martin Scorsese is pushing it, how bad can it be?

December 23

In order to get “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel” out of a convoluted Christmas Day openers crowd, they moved it to Wednesday, December 23.  Honestly, who wants to debate if this movie will be good or not?  I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes more money than “Avatar” the way kids ate up the first installment.

December 25

Celebrate Christmas at the movies with your family like everyone else in America!  “Nine” and “Up in the Air” will be opening nationwide today.

Nancy Meyers, the director of “The Holiday” and “The Parent Trap,” makes movies that are just plain enjoyable to watch.  “It’s Complicated” doesn’t look to break that tradition.  I refuse to watch the trailer because I don’t want to ruin it, but the film’s poster shows Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin bearing smug expressions in a bed with the tagline “Divorced…with benefits” written on the sheets.  Featuring a cast that also includes Steve Martin and John Krasinski (“The Office”), this could be the perfect crowd-pleasing Christmas Day movie.

Also opening on Christmas Day is a reimagined “Sherlock Holmes,” directed by Guy Ritchie (yes, Maddona’s ex-husband).  I’m all for the fresh approach, especially because it includes Robert Downey, Jr.  I loved the smug touch he added to Tony Stark in “Iron Man,” and I’m sure he will bring the same energy to the timeless detective.  The movie will no doubt benefit from the presence of Jude Law as sidekick Watson and Rachel McAdams as a love interest for Sherlock.  Although the character has lost respectability over the past few years on the silver screen, this is a version that I am more than willing to get behind.

And it is with great sadness that I have to say that Heath Ledger’s last new movie, “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus,” will be released this day.  He passed while in production of the movie, and Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law stepped into finish the role.  The three stars donated their salary for the film to Ledger’s daughter, Matilda.  The movie seems to be quite a visual spectacle, and the eye-catching visuals could be a great complement to Ledger’s final performance.

December 30

The final release of 2009 is “The White Ribbon,” winner of the prestigious Palme D’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival this spring.  The film, directed by Michael Haeneke, follows a community in pre-World War I Germany as they deal with “the origins of terrorism,” as the director puts it.  It has been selected as Germany’s submission to the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards this year, so it is definitely a player there.  But with quite literal universal acclaim, it could compete in more serious categories.

So, have you started planning how you are going to fit all these movies into your holiday schedules like me?  If not, at least do me the courtesy of telling me what movie you would see if you could only see one.



One response

15 11 2009

Marshall, the $500 million price tag on “Avatar” is a myth and a rumor, and has been debunked by the producers. Now, granted, the ACTUAL price of $230 million isn’t something to sniff at (it’s just under the overall budget for 2005’s “King Kong,” which was $245 million, but over the individual budgets for the “Lord of the Rings” films), but it ain’t half a mil. I’m not getting on your back about it or anything, but I just found this out the other day. Go to IMDb and you’ll find this out in a heartbeat. You’ll also find out that it’s 166 minutes, which has nothing to do with what I just said, but it still excites me, as I love long sci-fi/fantasy movies. 😛

That said, “Avatar” remains my Numero Uno the rest of the year, followed VERY closely by “Nine” and “Up in the Air.” If those were the only three movies coming out, I’d be happy, but luckily, there’s a frickin’ ton of other worthy viewings to be had. I also want to see just about everything else you’ve mentioned, with the exception of “Transylmania” (which looks painful) and “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” (which I’ll see, regardless of how horrid it looks, just for morbid interest purposes). I think that “Invictus” and “The Princess and the Frog” round out my top five anticipated for the rest of the year.

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