Merry Christmas to all my friends in MovieDruid land! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and Santa treats you well. (Though, knowing my readers there are a lot of lifers on the naughty list reading this.) This year’s Christmas releases look to be some of the better ones in the last few years. And, with national release dates for the Oscar contenders that didn’t make it past New York and L.A. in December coming in January and February, things are definitely looking up at the cinema.
So, grab a glass of warm holiday wine and a Christmas cookie and check out what’s coming your way…
“Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel”
Synopsis: “Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” brings back our favorite furry brothers, Alvin, Simon and Theodore. Because of a freak accident involving Alvin and Dave Seville, they go to live with Dave Seville’s cool cousin Toby and must enroll in school just like every other kid. School presents new challenges to these rock stars, like dealing with peer pressure, school sports and of course, girls! By “girls” we mean the Chipettes who are managed by Ian Hawke, the Chipmunks greedy former manager who wants to turn them into the next big thing. At the outset, there is a rivalry between the Chipettes and The Chipmunks but in the end they realize that they make great friends and a great musical team!
MovieDruid’s Comments: I was never a fan of Alvin & the Chipmunks when it was a Saturday morning cartoon. I never saw the original feature film because, quite frankly, it looked fairly inane. This one doesn’t look much better. I understand that it is family friendly entertainment, and that I am not the target audience. But, I truly believe that kids are a bit smarter than this. If we toss low brow entertainment at them at an early age, they will never really appreciate the smarter and deeper pieces that come out amidst the drek like this.
“Up In The Air”
Synopsis: Ryan Bingham, a corporate hatchet man who loves his life on the road, is forced to fight for his job when his company downsizes its travel budget. He is required to spend more time at home just as he is on the cusp of a goal he’s worked toward for years: reaching five million frequent flyer miles and just after he’s met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams.
MovieDruid’s Comments: This film is getting a fair amount of Oscar buzz, and I can understand why. The film has a nicely understated feel to it that should be perfect for the development of a plot that looks to fall somewhere in the middle ground between comedy and drama. And, if this is the feel they are going for, tapping Jason Reitman (“Juno” & “Thank You For Smoking”) is an excellent decision. The casting is also very well thought out. George Clooney (“Ocean’s Eleven” & “Michael Collins”) has, in my opinion, truly come into his own since making the transition from the small to large screen. His charisma and natural manner makes him an excellent choice for the lead in this film. Vera Farmiga (“The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” & “The Departed”) is an actress who has shown the ability to convey great intensity as well as depth that has been very impressive. Overall, this looks to be a well plotted and directed film that is deserving of your attention.
Synopsis: Jane is the mother of three grown kids, owns a thriving Santa Barbara bakery/restaurant and has — after a decade of divorce — an amicable relationship with her ex-husband, attorney Jake. But when Jane and Jake find themselves out of town for their son’s college graduation, things start to get complicated. An innocent meal together turns into the unimaginable — an affair. With Jake remarried to the much younger Agness, Jane is now, of all things, the other woman. Caught in the middle of their renewed romance is Adam, an architect hired to remodel Jane’s kitchen. Healing from a divorce of his own, Adam starts to fall for Jane, but soon realizes he’s become part of a love triangle. Should Jane and Jake move on with their lives, or is love truly lovelier the second time around? It’s — complicated.
MovieDruid’s Comments: I have high hopes for this one, but great fears as well. The cast is where my hopes lie. Meryl Streep (“The Hours” & “The Devil Wears Prada”) seems to be able to turn nearly anything she touches to gold. Actresses of her caliber are a rare treat, and I find it difficult not to take in project she takes on for fear of missing another masterpiece. Likewise, but to a lesser extent, we have Alec Baldwin (“Heaven’s Prisoners” & “The Hunt for Red October”). I have always liked his work, and am happy to see him having something of a career resurgence. The real worry I have is the director, Nancy Meyers (“The Holiday” & “What Women Want”). While I have enjoyed some of her films, they do tend to lack a certain depth that would make them great, instead relying on the “cute” factor of her premises. Here’s hoping that is not the case here.
Synopsis: “Nine” is a vibrant and provocative musical that follows the life of world famous film director Guido Contini as he reaches a creative and personal crisis of epic proportion, while balancing the numerous women in his life including his wife, his mistress, his film star muse, his confidant and costume designer, an American fashion journalist, the whore from his youth and his mother.
MovieDruid’s Comments: This looks to be a lavish musical charged with multiple stars, huge production numbers with extravagant costumes and sets, and the like. Something in the vein of “Moulin Rouge.” In that, it looks like from a music and visual context the film should succeed beautifully. However, the mixing of deep story into that context with character actors like Daniel Day-Lewis (“Gangs of New York” & “In the Name of the Father”) involved seems like they are trying to make two films and crush them together. The result looks somewhat stilted and awkward. Thew real question becomes can director Rob Marshall (“Memoirs of a Geisha” & “Chicago”) successfully weave these two styles together into a cohesive whole? I think the jury is still out on that one.
“Sherlock Holmes” – MovieDruid Pick of the Week
Synopsis: Sherlock Holmes has made his reputation finding the truth at the heart of the most complex mysteries. With the aid of Dr. John Watson, his trusted ally, the renowned “consulting detective” is unequaled in his pursuit of criminals of every stripe, whether relying on his singular powers of observation, his remarkable deductive skills, or the blunt force of his fists. But now a storm is gathering over London, a threat unlike anything that Holmes has ever confronted…and just the challenge he’s looking for. After a string of brutal, ritualistic murders, Holmes and Watson arrive just in time to save the latest victim and uncover the killer: the unrepentant Lord Blackwood. As he approaches his scheduled hanging, Blackwood — who has terrorized inmates and jailers alike with his seeming connection to dark and powerful forces — warns Holmes that death has no power over him and, in fact, his execution plays right into Blackwood’s plans. And when, by all indications, Blackwood makes good on his promise, his apparent resurrection panics London and confounds Scotland Yard. But to Holmes, the game is afoot. Racing to stop Blackwood’s deadly plot, Holmes and Watson plunge into a world of the dark arts and startling new technologies, where logic is sometimes the best crime-fighting weapon…but where a good right hook will often do the job.
MovieDruid’s Comments: I am a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have read most, if not all, of his stories about the inimitable Sherlock Holmes. And, I highly recommend them to anyone. However, here we have the classic characters interpreted by a new voice, and the result is fascinating. After all, what do you expect when you give the creative force for “Sherlock Holmes” to talented people like director Guy Ritchie (“Snatch” & “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) and stars Robert Downey, Jr. (“Iron Man” & “Natural Born Killers”), Jude Law (“Road to Perdition” & “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence”), and Rachel McAdams (“State of Play” & “The Notebook”)? This group have been on the cutting edge of some of the most incredible films of the last few years individually, together, with a new twist on the characters created by Doyle, they look to be on the verge of creating another triumph.