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Off The Couch And Into The Theater: December 2008

Here's your monthly guide to the movies, each accompanied with a "Will I See It?" percentage parenthetical. It's a jam-packed month of Oscar bait, would-be summer blockbusters/fizzlers, and tepid holiday-themed fare, and probably the month in which I spend the most money/time at the cinema. What about you?...

Now Playing: After seeing its trailer in all its creepy glory, I really need to see Let The Right One In (89%), much more so than I need to go see Twilight out of sheer curiosity and/or bemusement. A vampire movie made by Swedes with frightening children: could it be this year's The Descent? I hope so. I've Loved You So Long (53%) with Kristin Scott Thomas is also at the indieplex, and while her performance as a woman released from prison is getting touted as a possible Best Actress longshot, I can't help but feel a little bored by the trailer. The premise is intriguing enough on its own, but there's nothing particularly engaging about it either. Finally, the other film that I failed to mention last month is Stranded: I've Come From A Plane That Crashed On The Mountains (34%), a documentary revisiting the site of the 1972 rugby team that plowed into the Andes. The story was also adequately covered in 1993 with Alive, starring Ethan Hawke, so I don't see much reason to see this, unfortunately, but I can imagine more insight being given here. Too bad there's way too much else to see this month.

December 5th: The only possible reasons I might find myself sitting through the biopic Cadillac Records (26%) are a) a certain girlfriend insisting on seeing Beyonce's portrayal of Etta James, or b) my genuine interest in seeing how Mos Def can pull off playing Chuck Berry. Luckily, I think that generic biopic sheen will keep both of us from following through on our curiosities. Frost/Nixon (92%), however, has the Oscar hype that will get me to buy a ticket like a sucker. Everything about it feels done before: Ron Howard hackery, Tricky Dick demonizing/humanizing, but the interview twist (it follows Mark Frost's preparation for the infamous showdown just as much as it does follow the other pivotal titular name) just may make it the jarring jolt to Howard's bland namesake that we've been waiting for since Apollo 13. Punisher: War Zone (11%) is another sad attempt at rebooting a comic book series only a few years after the last try (don't worry, I barely remember the Thomas Jane 2004 vehicle too), although somehow this strategy worked moderately successfully for this year's The Incredible Hulk. Bizarre. Only thing this has going for it is Dominic West (aka McNulty of The Wire) as the villain. Then there's the indie Nobel Son (42%), starring Alan Rickman as a nobel prize winner who done gets his son kidnapped by an amateur chemistry student out to defame the egomaniac. It's supposed to be thrilling and kinetic, and yet, here I go...yawn.

December 12th: For holiday films that don't star Vince Vaughan, you could go with either A Christmas Tale (21%), about a depressing and dysfunctional French family, or Nothing Like The Holidays (7%), about a Puerto Rican family that enjoys hijinks on behalf of the insufferable John Leguizamo. Holiday movies make me go harumph like none other, but I'd go with depressing over annoying anyday. JCVD (69%), with Jean-Claude Van Damme playing a version of himself that gets framed for bank robbery, seems like a fun meta-exercise (especially since I grew up watching his movies), but I don't know how I feel about respecting the dope of a man, especially when reading things like this. The Day The Earth Stood Still (64%) remake will either tank or do moderately well, but either way, I could see myself seeing Keanu do the alien robot thing as a nice mindless respite from Oscar lurchers like Doubt (93%), which I'm psyched for because I think it's the first time I've seen the play (which is a pretty basic plot of possible pedopohilia in the church, but done starkly and with the characters in the forefront rather than the issue) before the movie, The Reader (80%), which is a possible snoozefest about WWII-era lovers and war crimes but has Winslet and Fiennes tearing it up for noms, and Gran Torino (86%), in which Clint Eastwood directs himself as a reformer of violent youths. I haven't liked an Eastwood flick since Unforgiven (I thought I was going to be proven wrong by Changeling, whose first 30 minutes were awesome, but then it immediately started sucking thereafter), but this one is once again being touted as his "most personal film" to date. Whatever; I'm not holding my breath.

December 19th: It would not be the holiday season without a saccharine Will Smith movie, and boy are we getting that in spades with Seven Pounds (73%), whose synopsis is so vague I kind of hope there really isn't a storyline and it's just two hours alternating between the Fresh Prince running in the rain in slow motion and random monologues about redemption. Here's hoping. The Tale Of Despereaux (59%) is a fine children's novel about a big-eared mouse who falls in love with a human princess, and as long as it remains faithful, should make a fine CGI movie, but I don't see myself as either a big proponent or detractor. However, I saw Bolt in 3D and while it was a "just fine" movie, I would totally go see another "just fine" animated movie in 3D in a heartbeat. So gimmicky, yet so enjoyable! Darren Aronofsky is one of maybe six or seven directors whose movies I'll go see no matter what, and with his new self-explanatory The Wrestler (98%) getting buzz for Mickey Rourke's bleak powerhouse performance, I'm itching to witness it firsthand. Especially after the terribly underrated The Fountain from a couple years back. Lastly, of course there needs to be some non-Holiday related comedy. Too bad one of them is a remake of Liar Liar, aka Yes Man (48%), which only receives a double-digit percentage because of the presence of Zooey Deschanel. The other offering is The Brothers Bloom (60%), which I would have been totally on board for if all I knew was Mark Ruffalo plus Rian Johnson (director of Brick), but unfortunately also has the dreadful logline of "con men putting together one last heist." Why must ye be so trite?!

December 26th: Another director on that aforementioned shortlist for me is David Fincher, and The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (100%) seems sure to also be a lock for Best Picture according to many. Add the fact that it's based on a short story by the great F. Scott Fitzgerald and I'm already overhyping it in my head. Bedtime Stories (4%) gives us the gift of barf with Adam Sandler doing another whimsical family friendly shtick, this time ripping off The Princess Bride and The Fall in one fell swoop, except the stories actually come to life (so much for subtlety). Frank Miller's The Spirit (39%) takes out all the remotely interesting bits of his Sin City, but keeps the gimmicky color scheme. Oh well, at least Samuel L. Jackson plays a nazi. Revolutionary Road (84%) is the last of the Oscar bunch, again with Kate Winslet, but this time reunited with Leonardo DiCaprio, who has remarkably grown on me over the years. Hopefully something exciting happens in this movie, though, because otherwise we have another mid-tempo drama that flies under my radar. Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer's much-maligned Valkyrie (76%) also gets released, with zero possibility for awards season, but will at least be miserably entertaining. To top it all off, why not end the year with a dog movie, Marley & Me (2%), starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston. Really? This was a best-seller? And it's about a family and their golden retriever? That's it? 2009 should be a doozy.

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  1. Blogger qualler | 8:29 AM |  

    I'm astounded by the amazing reviews that A Christmas Tale has received -- it literally does look like the foreign language version of The Family Stone, but with Catherine Deneuve instead of Diane Keaton. Weird city.

  2. Blogger Unspar! | 10:31 AM |  

    Don't get too psyched up for Let the Right One In. It's really good, but it's more Milo and Otis than The Descent. That's right, the characters are actually a dog and a cat in disguise.

  3. Blogger Brigitte | 11:48 AM |  

    haha...i wish that milo and otis were vampires. that really would have made the film for me.

    i'm also excited to see let the right one in, but i'm actually hoping that it isn't TOO scary, since i've already been having vampire related nightmares thanks to true blood (which isn't scary at all), so maybe a little milo and otis thrown in there will be a good thing for me. i also want to see Doubt and that mouse one.

  4. Blogger chris | 11:36 AM |  

    Milo & Otis?! Even more awesomer!

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