POSTED ON NOVEMBER 30, 2011:
To See or Not To See
Preview chipmunks, a re-hash and a gruesome bio film for December
The Skin I Live In(AMC Southroads only) -- Spanish indie director Pedro Almodóvar, who burst onto the map with 1988's farcical soap opera, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, reunites with that film's star, Antonio Banderas, for what looks to be an artfully shot tale of the biologically macabre. Based on the novel by Thierry Jonquet, Skin revolves around Dr. Robert Ledgard (Banderas), a (mad?) scientist who, driven by the death of his wife in a fiery car crash, endeavors to create synthetic flesh that can withstand injury. Opening Dec. 1.
Take Shelter (AMC Southroads only) -- Michael Shannon owns with his performance as Curtis LaForche in this tense parable of a small-town, Ohio family man afflicted by visions of a personal apocalypse (that's my take, at least). My review for this ran unintentionally early due to an ever shifting release date. While I had issues with the pace and cyclical plotting, Take Shelter establishes an atmosphere and characters that are not easily forgettable and sports lovely visuals that will benefit from the big screen. Opening Dec. 2.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy -- After his legendary adaptation of Let the Right One In, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson's new feature finds him tackling yet another slice of period suspense. Based on the titular 1974 John le Carré novel -- the first of a trilogy -- Gary Oldman plays a spymaster being tapped to root out a long entrenched mole at the highest levels of British Intelligence. I was sold on the trailer, which is soaked in a chilly Cold War atmosphere and which recalls the nostalgic tone of early '80s, Soviet-era espionage thrillers. Opening Dec. 9.
Melancholia(Circle Cinema) -- I've seen most of the movies Lars von Trier has made when he, apparently, wasn't actually depressed. Soul crushing (if manipulative) melodramas from Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark beget a trajectory that leads to the esoteric Dogville and ultimately, the unnervingly bat shit Antichrist. His latest, Melancholia,features already lauded performances by Kirstin Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as two sisters who have to deal with an unknown planet crashing into the Earth -- a plot conceived by von Trier after he finally sought out the help for depression that he so clearly fucking needed. I'm pretty sure it will be amazing. Opening Dec. 9.
The Sitter -- David Gordon Green, after directing the disappointing Your Highness, returns to the mismatched idiots being chased by drug dealers conceit of Pineapple Express. The Sitter substitutes the dopey James Franco with a gaggle of asshole kids, who go on a dangerous, action-packed comedic adventure with Jonah Hill (instead of Seth Rogen; though they're both skinny now) as he endeavors to get laid. That's, ironically, not sarcasm though it seems achingly familiar. See the red-banded trailer on Youtube. You will laugh. Opening Dec. 9.
New Year's Eve -- Why do I hate this, sight unseen? Because I've already seen it. In February 2010 director Garry Marshall, from a script by Katherine Fugate, made Valentine's Day. With a sprawling, ensemble cast it was the number one film that week because girlfriends exist. So Marshall and Fugate decided to change the city and the holiday, while inexplicably keeping Ashton Kutcher in an acting capacity, and went back for seconds. Considering that Valentine's Day was already an unapologetic rip off of Love, Actually...(right down to the promotional art), New Year's Eve immediately feels like a carbon copy of an already lame imitation who's hand needs to be slapped away from the cookie jar. Opening Dec. 9.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked -- Jason Lee continues to cash paychecks on the most annoying film franchise I've only seen in trailers. Lee, however, hasn't actually enjoyed an eclectic legacy of great, subversive comedy, which is why Mr. Show's David Cross' continued presence in this quasi-animated rape hole of a series is more disappointing. Alvin and the crew wind up annoying the once and future Earl (Lee) as they find themselves stranded on a desert island, referencing the shit out of already outdated pop songs, movies and cultural buzz phrases that should have the hack writers who wrote them sentenced to not writing anything ever again. Opening Dec. 16.
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows -- The first Sherlock Holmes film wound up being more entertaining than it's somewhat lumbering script had any right to be -- due mainly to the chemistry of its leads, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The game contemporizing of the story's period setting by director Guy Ritchie made for a crowd pleasing and surprisingly solid first entry to which Game of Shadows is the sequel. And from the trailers it looks like Ritchie and Co. are expanding the visual and narrative scope while delving into canon when the legendary sleuth meets his most famous nemesis, Prof. James Moriarty. Opening Dec. 16.
Le Havre -- Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki (Leningrad Cowboys Go to America) writes and directs this story of a burnout writer, Marcel Marx (André Wilms) who drinks and shines shoes after he washes up in the port city of Le Havre, France to eke out the rest of existence. But, after his wife falls gravely ill, Marcel crosses paths with a young African boy being pursued by the police and finds himself pulled into a strangely dramatic and funny adventure. Opening Dec. 16.
Young Adult -- Diablo Cody returns to writing about quirky chicks under the direction of Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) with Young Adult. Mavis Gary (CharlizeTheron) is the proverbial hometown girl seemingly made good as a successful writer of children's stories. After her divorce she decides to go back to her roots and woo her ex-boyfriend, now a married father. Along the way she finds friendship with a high school classmate (Patton Oswalt) as she tries to right the perceived choices of her past. Reitman seems firm in his element with Cody's script. It'll wind up being praised for being better than it actually will be. But it will be good. Opening Dec. 16.
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn -- Robert Zemekis (ironically nailed for being a Spielberg wannabe) pushed the method of live action motion capture for animated features into the forefront with films like The Polar Express and Beowulf. Now the "Berg," who only a couple of years ago resolutely vowed to shoot all his films on film, has gone where even George Lucas has not -- a full on mo-cap animated film. Even weirder, it's a planned trilogy of the venerated, well-loved European Tintin series of comics (Peter Jackson is directing the second) about a young Belgian reporter and his trusty canine sidekick Snowy, who get into globetrotting adventures rife with action and intrigue. And it looks fucking amazing; already drawing comparisons to the Bergs arguably best film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Opening Dec. 21.
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol -- Brad Bird (director of uniformly great animated films from the stunning The Iron Giant to the exactingly entertaining Ratatouille) makes his first foray into live action filmmaking with the fourth installment in the hit-and-miss Mission Impossible franchise. While the pairing seems odd, Bird's rock solid narrative sensibilities and visual kinetics will hopefully re-invent a series that started out strong under Brain De Palma; whose first film still bests subsequent entries by John Woo and J.J. Abrams. This time out, shit blows up while Ethan Hunt(Tom Cruise) looks intense and goes rouge to vindicate the IMF after the bombing of the Kremlin is blamed on Hunt and his team. Soviets. How retro. Opening Dec. 21.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- Stieg Larsson's first book in the internationally best-selling "Millennium" series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is re-adapted for English-only Americans by cinematic perfectionist David Fincher. Recasting Mikael Blomkvist with Daniel Craig and the iconic Lisbeth Salander with an otherworldly Mara Rooney, Fincher -- with his distinct visual sense (that of near perfection) -- looks to bring a version of Larsson's pulpy mystery -- which finds an investigative reporter and a anarchistic computer hacker joining forces to solve a 40-year old murder -- to audiences that don't like to read subtitles. Or good books. Opening Dec. 21.
In The Land of Blood and Honey -- Angelina Jolie makes her directorial debut with the story of war torn love amidst the backdrop of the Bosnian Conflict. Using local actors, Honey tells the tale of a Serbian soldier who re-discovers a Bosnian love interest after she's been captured and is held prisoner in a camp he guards. Like her erstwhile director, Clint Eastwood, Jolie seems to have decided to jump right into Oscar-baiting with as serious an advocacy film as she could muster. It's not like we expected a slapstick comedy out of her. Still, she may well prove a good directorial fit for the subject. Whether it's a good movie? Hard to tell. Opening Dec. 23.
We Bought a Zoo -- Writer/director Cameron Crowe returns to feature films for the first time since 2005's Elizabethtown with this tale of a single dad (Matt Damon) who moves his family to a rural California property only to find that their perfect home comes with an unexpected extra. A dilapidated zoo full of exotic animals whose existence will no doubt give rise to life-affirming declarations to the wonder of family and the exceptionalism of the American experience. Sorry to sound so cynical. Scarlett Johansson co-stars. Opening Dec. 23.
The Darkest Hour -- Chris Gorak, director of 2006's effective, small scale suspense film Right at Your Door returns with this sci-fi tinged tale of a group of kids in Russia fighting for survival against an invasion of invisible aliens who are made of pure energy. Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) stars with Oliva Thirlby supplying the love interestingness. The trailer looks fine and there's hope for some quality since, on paper, this could very easily be opening in the dumping ground of the post-Oscar January graveyard. Opening Dec. 25.
War Horse -- It's a Holly Bergy Christmas with The Beard releasing his serious film less than a week after his fun one (it's a quid pro quo, one for the audience, one for Oscar). Based on the Michael Morpurgo children's novel, War Horse finds Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) as a kid too young to enlist in the army to fight in World War One. But when his best friend, a horse named Joey is conscripted by the cavalry for combat, Albert takes it upon himself to find him and rescue him from the deadly German and French battlefields. Saving Mr. Ed? Sorry, that was too easy. Opening Dec. 25.
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