There is quite the mixed bag of films this week with the arrival of Christmas. The expectation for Christmastime films is almost exactly the same as the expectation for Christmas presents you had as a little kid. You knew there would a be a fair amount of socks and shirts that you will never wear, but you always knew there would be one gift that would leave you glowing for at least an hour, until its newness wore off. This week there are a couple of socks and shirts (Little Fockers, Gulliver’s Travels), but you know there will at least be some films of real value (i.e. True Grit, The Illusionist).
Starring: Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Barbara Streisand, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Paul Weitz
Synopsis from IMDB: Family-patriarch Jack Byrnes wants to appoint a successor. Does his son-in-law, the “male nurse”, Greg Focker have what it takes?
Chris’ Take: Like all decent (not great) comedies, it is necessary to run them into the ground until their is no ounce of humor, originality or inspiration. Such is the tale of Little Fockers. I don’t think I laughed once during the trailer and it now looks like they are relying most heavily on the word Focker’s relations to a four letter word, and that is all they got. The sad part is that they will run away with a good $75 – $100 M before anyone notices.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin
Director: The Coen Brothers
Synopsis from IMDB: A tough U.S. Marshal helps a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer.
Chris’ Take: When I first heard about this remake, I was disgusted. It seemed like a shameless attempt to capitalize on a great western and spit on The Duke’s iconic role. The more I read about it, saw the cast, and finally that the Coen Brothers were directing, my anticipation started to grow and now it is the film that I most look forward to this Christmas season. I think it will end up being a respectful tribute to the original and a compelling film as a whole.
Starring: Jack Black, Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet
Director: Rob Letterman
Synopsis from IMDB: Travel writer Lemuel Gulliver takes an assignment in Bermuda, but ends up on the island of Liliput, where he towers over its tiny citizens.
Chris’ Take: I miss the days when Jack Black was still a supporting actor. His comedic style is only good in small doses and it is difficult to watch a feature length film with him as the lead. The trailer, like the idea to remake this to begin with, seems bereft of comedy, with the exception of the throw away Kiss gag at the end. I like Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, and hopefully their involvement will bring some spark to the film.
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Benicio Del Toro
Director: Sofia Coppola
Synopsis from IMDB: A hard-living Hollywood actor re-examines his life after his 11-year-old daughter surprises him with a visit.
Chris’ Take: Sofia Coppola returns to the director chair, examining the life of another successful actor in a foreign country. This film already won the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture at the Venice International Film Festival, which bodes well for its critical reception in the States. It looks like it will be an intriguing character study, and a very slow-moving film, that will be worth seeing if you have the patience.
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester
Director: Shana Feste
Synopsis from IMDB: A drama centered on a rising country-music songwriter (Hedlund) who sparks with a fallen star (Paltrow). Together, they mount his ascent and her comeback, which leads to romantic complications involving her husband/manager (McGraw) and a beauty queen-turned-singer (Meester).
Chris’ Take: The Academy Awards love their films about fallen music stars and this film seems like it is trying to bank on the success of another washed up country music star film, Crazy Heart. These films, especially when they involve country music, aren’t usually my cup of tea, but chances are it will at least garner some recognition for performances, and music, come Oscar time.
The Illusionist (L’illusionniste)
Starring: Jean-Claude Donda, Eilidh Rankin, Duncan MacNeil
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Synopsis from IMDB: A French illusionist finds himself out of work and travels to Scotland, where he meets a young woman. Their ensuing adventure changes both their lives forever.
Chris’ Take: This looks like a beautiful animated film, and from the amount of critical acclaim, is going to give the audience favorite, Toy Story 3, a run for its money in the Best Animated Feature category.