There may not be any superheroes, robots, or wizards on the wintry film horizon but we have found five potentially great films that will be in a theater near you before the end of the year.
Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion”, you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.
Five Good* Movies Still to be Released this Month
The stretch of film releases between Thanksgiving and Christmas generally yields a lot more “awards show material” than “popcorn entertainment”. 2009 is a little bit different and I’ve gone ahead and narrowed the surprisingly robust list down to five for you. Consider it a Hannukah gift.
Note: I could have easily slotted A Single Man, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Lovely Bones (limited release this week) and/or Up in the Air (technically already showing in several cities) into this list but ultimately felt the list below represents a better cross-section for all audiences.
(*= no promises.)
Nine [December 25]
Just so we’re clear: I’m not talking about District 9 or 9. This is NINE. And even if you’re not a big musical fan, consider these facts about the most recent directorial effort from Tony Award and Oscar-winning Rob Marshall (Chicago):
- This is a movie based on an award-winning musical based on an awesome movie. That’s pretty wild.
- Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, and Sophia Loren (I don’t care if she’s 75).
- This was one of the final projects to which the late Anthony Minghella contributed (he is a credited screenwriter).
- Daniel Day-Lewis.
If you can’t even get into a musical with all those factors built in… I don’t know, there might be something seriously wrong with you.
Sherlock Holmes [December 25]
While Guy Ritchie may be five movies and nine years away from his last must-see movie (look, Revolver and Rocknrolla were enjoyable but they definitely felt a bit derivative), it’s difficult not to get at least a little bit excited about seeing the man’s hyperkinetic, over-caffeinated take on the world’s most famous detective running around in the 19th century. Also: many bemoan the endless flow of remakes and adaptations and “re-imaginings” coming out of Hollywood but I will stand up and say we were due for a new Sherlock Holmes interpretation and so we should feel no guilt in supporting it.
Oh, and the cast is pretty rocking, too (which I’m sure you’ve gathered from the endless parade of television trailers) – Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams could be trusted to make most any story worth watching.
Invictus [December 11]
Normally, it would be quite difficult to argue against Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon working together but in my experience, there’s always a slight bit of hesitation that must be applied to any historical drama because of the potentially overbearing “creative license” factor. Regardless, even if the movie is exaggerated and just a massive explosion of cheese, I would watch Eastwood direct Freeman and Damon browsing through Barnes & Noble for three hours so… I am on board.
Crazy Heart [December 16]
Biopics are generally even more hit-and-miss than “based on a true story” historical dramas. But movies that seem like biopics without actually being biopics? Those are generally phenomenal (an easy comparison here would be The Wrestler but even flicks like Once really strike a chord with their nearly-real fiction).
On top of that, who doesn’t like Jeff Bridges? Is that even possible? Whether he’s carrying a movie like The Big Lebowski or thriving in smaller, more recent roles like those in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and The Men Who Stare At Goats, the man is always just delightful to watch and his performance in Crazy Heart is getting some serious praise already. I don’t even like country music and I am totally looking forward to this movie.
Avatar [December 18]
Whether it’s the “game-changer” we’ve been unrealistically and repeatedly promised for over a year or the most expensive snoozefest in the history of Earth, Avatar will certainly be a cinematic touchstone worth experiencing for every moviegoer.
Yes, the premature praise and hype being heaped onto its shoulders is practically Phantom Menace-esque (which didn’t work out for many people, you will remember). Yes, there’s reason to be doubtful as to whether or not the Uncanny Valley can ever be conquered. Yes, that Leona Lewis song is pretty rough and seems horribly out of place in a narrative about an alien world at war (I don’t care if there’s a second-act love story or not). Yes, it’s difficult to imagine any movie being worthy of an estimated $500 million budget.
But you know what? You and your friends will remember James Cameron’s return to film whether or not the movie does anything for you – the entire Internet is based on the fact that people generally remember movies they hated more than the ones they loved (read: Ain’t It Cool News talkbacks).
Above all else, consider this: Cameron has made arguably the two greatest action movies ever (Aliens, Terminator 2) and the most successful movie ever (Titanic) and, after a decade hiatus in which he visited the bottom of the ocean and the supposed tomb of Jesus, he is poised to add another huge chapter to his legacy, whether Avatar proves to be the biggest failure ever or the cinematic revolution so many people want it to be. I’m ready and interested, however this shakes out.