Okay…now that you’ve all had a chance to rest your eyes and rehydrate following Part One of this year’s fall/winter movie preview, it’s time to get back to it. So fill up your survival flask with some nice, cold water and settle in for the second half of this year’s award season.
This, my friends, is when things start to get a bit hectic. Oscar hopefuls are scrambling to get their award contenders released at the last minute (so they’re still fresh in everyone’s mind when those all-important ballots are due), and everyone else is scrambling to release the year’s holiday films. It’s a giant traffic jam of releases that turns into one big movie marathon (complete with donuts and lots and lots of coffee) for people of my profession. So while you’re enjoying the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, with all its festive shopping and holiday parties, here’s what I’ll be watching:
Director Robert Zemeckis sure loves those creepy, nearly-but-not-quite-lifelike animated movies (like his most recent, 2008’s Beowulf). This year, he’s giving the creepy animation treatment to Charles Dickens’s classic, A Christmas Carol, starring the already-kinda-creepy Jim Carrey as…well…pretty much everyone.
Maybe this one won’t be as creepy: In the sci-fi thriller The Box, Cameron Diaz and James Marsden play an ordinary ‘70s couple who are given an extraordinary gift: a box that will give them a million dollars—while, at the same time, killing a complete stranger.
In yet another sci-fi thriller, The Fourth Kind, Milla Jovovich stars as a psychologist (stay with me here) who finds herself caught up on a mysterious case of multiple disappearances near Nome, Alaska. The cause? Alien abduction. Though it claims to be based on facts (it even features “archive footage”), several Nome residents have already gone on the record as saying it’s a bunch of hooey. You be the judge.
And, finally, Ewan McGregor and award-season regular George Clooney star in the dark comedy Men Who Stare at Goats, based on the true story of a super-secret experimental military unit tasked with harnessing psychic abilities.
Also this week: an illiterate teen mother gets a chance to turn her life around in Precious
Kristin’s Pick: How can I resist George Clooney and Ewan McGregor? Men Who Stare at Goats gets my pick for this week.
Fantastic Mr. Fox…. Hmmm…What could be quirkier than an animated adventure that was written by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, based on a book by Roald Dahl, and starring the voices of everyone from George Clooney and Willem Dafoe? If you come up with an answer, I’d surely like to know.
Meanwhile, 10,000 B. C. director Roland Emmerich tries another year on for size in 2012, starring John Cusack as a sci-fi writer who’s trying to escape the apocalypse.
And director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking) returns with Up in the Air, also starring George Clooney—this time, as a corporate frequent flyer who meets the woman of his dreams…in the air.
Also this week: Love Actually director Richard Curtis directs Pirate Radio, a British comedy about an illegal radio station in the ‘60s, Emily Blunt takes on a queenly role in The Young Victoria, Emmy Rossum and Zach Gilford team up for Dare, and Carla Gugino, Connie Britton, and Marley Shelton are Women in Trouble.
Kristin’s Pick: Jason Reitman hasn’t let me down yet. Pair him with Clooney, and you’ve got award season gold.
Eeeeeeeeek!!! Rob Pattinson is back in Twilight: New Moon! I guess that means it’s time for me to dust off the book—and prepare to smack swooning teen girls with it as I fight my way into the screening.
Meanwhile, writer/director Pedro Almodóvar reunites with his long-time muse, Penélope Cruz, for Broken Embraces, in which a blind screenwriter who looks back on the accident that lost him his sight, his dreams, and his true love.
For the kids, the animated adventure Planet 51 takes a look at alien life from a whole new perspective. It stars the voice of The Rock as an astronaut who lands on a planet full of little green people who are terrified of aliens.
And The Blind Side tells the story of a homeless African-American teen whose life is changed forever when he’s taken in by a wealthy white family.
Kristin’s Pick: I’m not particularly excited about any of this week’s releases, so I’ll pick the harmless family entertainment of Planet 51.
Buzz, buzz, and more buzz…it’s back-to-back releases for Penélope Cruz, who also stars in Rob Marshall’s romantic musical, Nine. The whole music thing earned Marshall an Oscar nod for Chicago—and early buzz suggests that he (and various members of his cast) can probably start browsing for formalwear.
The same probably can’t be said for the cast of Old Dogs, Disney’s family comedy about a couple of guys (John Travolta and Robin Williams) who suddenly find themselves caring for seven-year-old twins. Award nods or not, though, with Wild Hogs director Walt Becker in charge, it’ll probably be good for some brainless family entertainment anyway.
And, now for my favorite movie title of the season: Ninja Assassin, produced by Joel Silver and the Wachowskis, stars Korean actor Rain as a kind of kung-fu fighting Jason Bourne who’s determined to bring down the secret society that trained him. Ninjas? Count me in!
Kristin’s Pick: Cool movie titles and family entertainment aside, this week’s pick is a no-brainer. I can’t wait to see Nine.
As November rolls into December, the family dramas start heading to theaters. Robert De Niro stars in Everybody’s Fine, the holiday comedy about a lonely widower who sets out on a cross-country road trip to reconnect with his three kids. Meanwhile, in Brothers, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a man who steps in to help his sister-in-law (Natalie Portman) when his older brother (Tobey Maguire) goes missing in Afghanistan.
For something on the lighter side, though, try Serious Moonlight, starring Meg Ryan as a tough attorney who gets revenge on her cheating husband. Written by the late Adrienne Shelly (Waitress), it’s also the directorial debut of Shelly’s Waitress co-star, Cheryl Hines.
Or, for a little action, there’s also Armored, a crime thriller about an armored truck heist gone wrong.
Kristin’s Pick: With all the mall crowds, the frantic shopping, and the awkward family reunions that December always brings, who couldn’t use a good laugh? For that reason, Serious Moonlight gets my pick.
This week, Disney releases their first hand-drawn animated feature since 2004’s Home on the Range. Created by the team behind Aladdin, the jazzy New Orleans fairy tale, The Princess and the Frog, stars Anika Noni Rose as the voice of Princess Tiana.
Clint Eastwood’s award season entry this year is Invictus, based on the true story of the 1995 World Cup rugby championships, for which South African president Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined up with the country’s team captain (Matt Damon) to unify the country.
Meanwhile, director Peter Jackson from hobbits to ghosts with The Lovely Bones, starring Saoirse Ronan as a young murder victim who watches over her family after her death.
Kristin’s Pick: This week is packed with powerhouses, but I’ve got to go with The Princess and the Frog for my pick. I’ve loved Disney’s fairy tales since I was a kid—and I can’t wait to see their long-overdue return to hand-drawn animation.
More than four years in the making, Titanic director James “I’m king of the world” Cameron’s Avatar (not to be confused with M. Night Shyamalan’s [Avatar:] The Last Airbender, which comes out next summer) is a grand 3D sci-fi adventure, starring Terminator Salvation’s Sam Worthington as a disabled vet brought to another planet, to live among an alien race. The trailers look pretty cool—but will the final product live up to the years of hype? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Also this week, in the chick flick Did You Hear About the Morgans?, Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant star as an estranged couple who are forced to move to Wyoming with the witness protection program.
Kristin’s Pick: I’ve got to go with Avatar this week—if only out of curiosity alone. But, so help me, if some alien couple stands, with their arms spread wide in youthful delight, at the front of some space ship, I’m walking out.
This year’s holiday chick flick pick is It’s Complicated by writer/director Nancy Meyers (whose last release was 2006’s The Holiday)—the story of a middle-age love triangle involving Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin. Sounds…complicated.
Also, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn star in The New World director Terrence Malick’s dramatic fantasy, The Tree of Life.
And, finally, perhaps my most anticipated release of the season: Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the famed detective and his loyal sidekick, Watson. It’s supposedly a tougher—and much darker—Holmes than we’ve seen before. And with Ritchie and Downey working together, it’s sure to be a whole lot of fun to watch.
Also opening this week: The Chipmunks battle the Chipettes in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
Kristin’s Pick: Elementary, my dear reader. It’s Sherlock Holmes, of course!
And, with that, we come to the end of another award season. Keep visiting N&W.com throughout the season for the latest reviews—as well as my year in review, which will run in early January. Until then, in the words of my dear friend and colleague, Clay Lowe, See ya at the movies, folks.