2009 Holiday Movie Guide

12/14/2009 Posted by Admin

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

December is a hectic time for everybody--family's reunite for celebration, stores are packed with shoppers taking advantage of their last few days before the holiday, a New Year is slowly on its way--but there's one thing people always can do to relax and celebrate--going to the movies. So, here's a quick guide to what's coming your way this fine holiday season.

"A Single Man" (Release Date: December 11 (limited), Rated R)

The debut film of director Tom Ford is getting a lot of attention for what is being called Colin Firth's career-topping performance. The reception of the film has been generally mixed, but the praise for Firth has been near-unanimous. The film follows Firth as a Los Angeles English professor on the day of his partner's death. It looks beautifully and hypnotically made, and though I know very little about it overall, it definitely looks interesting.

"Crazy Heart" (Release Date: December 16 (limited), Rated R)

This small character drama has garnered some comparison to last year's "The Wrestler," only instead of, well, a wrestler, Jeff Bridges portrays a washed-up country singer who becomes a mentor to a young up-and-comer played by Colin Farrell. Also starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Robert Duvall, "Crazy Heart" is enjoying much praise for Bridges' performance and there's plenty of early Oscar talk as well. It seems a bit too similar to "The Wrestler" to me, but it's hard to turn down seeing Bridges work with such heavy material when it so rarely happens these days.

"Avatar" (Release Date: December 18, Rated PG-13, also in Digital 3D and IMAX)

Without question, "Avatar" is the biggest release this season. If you haven't been talking about it, there's a good chance some of your friends, family or co-workers have. The plot takes place in the near-future and follows Jake Sully, an ex-marine who is brought on by military contractors attempting to obtain resources from the far-off planet of Pandora, but whose work is being hindered by the planet's natives. Director James Cameron made the film by combining live action and the most photo-realistic motion-capture animation yet used in film. Early footage of the film didn't really wow me, but the most recent trailer and the unanimous praise from people who have managed to see it has really got me hyped for it. I don't exactly expect an absolute revolution in filmmaking like Cameron has suggested, but I definitely expect one of the most entertaining action films in recent memory.

"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" (Release Date: December 18, Rated PG-13)

If action or sci-fi isn't your thing, then perhaps this is.  It's "Did You Hear About the Morgans?," a lighthearted romantic comedy in the vein of "For Richer or Poorer" and "City Slickers" that's directed by Marc Lawrence ("Music and Lyrics") and which stars Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker. The film follows a wealthy Manhattan couple (Grant and Parker) who witness a murder and are relocated to a small town in Wyoming. Their relationship was falling apart, but this new environment begins to bring them together again. This really isn't my kind of film, but it may very well be a great date movie for the holidays, and Lawrence has managed to spin gold from middling material before. Definitely worth a look for fans of this type of film or of Grant.

"The Young Victoria" (Release Date: December 18 (limited), Rated PG)

Fans of costume dramas surely will be interested in this, a film about the early life of Queen Victoria. She's portrayed by the wonderful Emily Blunt ("Sunshine Cleaning"). It was directed by Quebecois director Jean-Marc Vallee, whose 2005 film "C.R.A.Z.Y." received significant acclaim. As a pretty huge fan of Blunt and some of the other members of the cast (including Jim Broadbent, Paul Bettany and Mark Strong), I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it, even though costume dramas aren't ordinarily my kind of thing.

"It's Complicated" (Released Date: December 25, Rated R)

Here's another for the romantics out there. Meryl Streep plays a divorcee who begins an affair with her remarried ex-husband (Alec Baldwin). It becomes complicated (pardon the wordplay) when an architect remodeling her kitchen (Steve Martin) falls in love with her. From Nancy Meyers, who also made the romance drama-comedies "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Holiday," there seems to be something for everyone here, regardless of genre. After all, who doesn't love Meryl Streep? And Baldwin and Martin always are great to see balancing drama and comedy.

"The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" (Release Date: December 25 (limited), Rated PG-13)

Fantasy lovers out there will surely be interested in this, the latest effort from master director Terry Gilliam ("Brazil," "Brothers Grimm") and the final film featuring the late Heath Ledger. It follows a theatre troupe led by Doctor Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) as they try to save the soul of his daughter from the Devil (Tom Waits). It looks to have everything typical of a Gilliam film, and the cast is so spectacular (it also includes Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law) that it would really be insane for anyone even remotely interested in the genre to pass it up.

"Nine" (Release Date: December 25, Rated PG-13)

"Nine" is a musical reworking of Federico Fellini's "8 1/2" from "Chicago" director Rob Marshall. Full of the sort of glitz and glam you expect from a musical of this magnitude, the film follows Italian director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he deals with a creative funk and the many relationships he has with the women in his life (portrayed by an all-star cast consisting of Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman and Sophia Loren). It doesn't really seem like my kind of thing, but any fan of glamorous and epic musicals likely will find a lot to like.

"Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" (Release Date: December 25, Rated PG)

This one's pretty self-explanatory. Picking up where the first film left off, "Squeakquel" follows Alvin and his brothers as they begin attending high school. The plot generally follows their attempt at winning the school talent show, but they find themselves facing big competition in The Chipettes. This probably is the only genuinely kid-friendly fare being released this holiday, so for those with kids, this will be your best bet.

"Sherlock Holmes" (Release Date: December 25, Rated PG-13)

This new take on the Sherlock Holmes character by "Snatch" director Guy Ritchie stars Robert Downey Jr. as the misanthropic detective and Jude Law as his partner, Dr. Watson, as they attempt to track down an escaped criminal mystic who intends to destroy the world. The film gives Holmes a whole new style, conveying him not only as a man of intellect and science, but also as a sort of action hero. There's certainly potential here, but all the trailers give me a very "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen"-esque feel, which isn't a good thing. However, the cast is phenomenal, and I'm definitely a Guy Ritchie fan, so this may be worth a look. When else will you get an opportunity to see Downey Jr. portray Holmes? He seems born for the role.

"Up in the Air" (Release Date: December 25, Rated R)

Those seeking more serious fare will certainly find something to like in "Juno" director Jason Reitman's latest movie, a dramedy starring George Clooney as a traveling downsizer. The film already has had a very limited release, but on December 25, 2009, everybody will get a chance to see what all the critics are praising. The film has been named best of the year by multiple critics and the National Board of Review, and Clooney has been getting nothing but acclaim for his performance. As for me, it's probably my most anticipated of the year.

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