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Off The Couch And Into The Theater: December 2009

Here we come, cinema. The final month of the year. I officially have my Top 10 in place, but this is the time in which dramatic shifts can happen and year-end upsets boot out films I really liked but don't remember much anymore from the first quarter of 2009. The November releases that surely did not make it into that final list, however, include The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was excruciatingly middling as a comedy, much less political satire or character study, and Antichrist, which despite me thinking I was overhyping the shock value for the film's first half, quickly cursed myself for not entrusting somebody as screwed (literally!) as Von Trier to turn my life into a walking nightmare for a good two weeks after viewing. Effective? Yes. Does it deserve accolades? Probably, but not from me. I'm too much of a wuss. No, the only film I've seen in the past month that squeaked into my faves of 2009 was the divisive The Box, which was a Lynchian paradise of spooky non sequitur scenes and carefully obtrusive over-acting. It's the perfect blend of the brilliant imagery of Kelly's genuinely brilliant Donnie Darko and the kooky absurdism of his more (justly) hated second venture Southland Tales. If you like nonsense cinema that's as gorgeous as it is abstract and loony, go see The Box. Now to our final month of releases before we head into the January dumping grounds...

Dec 4th: Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, and other actors that should no longer work star in Armored (28%), which yes, is indeed about an armored car robbery gone haywire. Looks like somebody must have let their "guard" down! [Foghorn.] My love-hate relationship with melodrama continues with the release of Brothers (80%), where the world finally shares my confusion over the difference between Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. I can only hope that there's a Fight Club-style twist and turns out they're the same person coming back from war and Natalie Portman cheated on her husband WITH HER HUSBAND! You see what they did with the title to the heartwarming family holiday comedy Everybody's Fine (21%)? They tell you Robert De Niro and his grown children, including but not limited to Kate Beckinsale, are fine, but in reality, I bet they're not. I bet there's a dollop of dysfunction gravy with some chunks of peppermint pet peeves bark. And therefore, they're both fine because they love each other, but not fine because being a family is harrrrrd! A quasi-National Lampoon installment called Transylmania (3%) arrives in theaters about five weeks after Halloween for some reason, but oh well, never too late for college babes getting nekkid while studying abroad in Dracula's hood! George Clooney looks solemn and tries once again to cover up his Syriana Oscar with a stab at the airplane-themed Up in the Air (92%), directed by Jason Reitman of Juno and Thank You For Smoking fame. I'm hoping so hard that this is more like the latter and less like the former, even though TYFS is still not that great of a movie. Why must I be part of the Oscar bait crowd?

Dec 11th: Disney gets maybe racist with The Princess and the Frog (64%) and Jerksica and I surely won't be able to resist the allure of a 2D animated feature gettin' back to Walt's roots. Invictus (68%) somehow combines Matt Damon playing soccer and Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela, so I give it largely the benefit of the doubt despite its ambiguous premise, but then again, we all know what happens when a biopic isn't starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Peter Jackson does his first post-LOTR picture with an adaptation of The Lovely Bones (72%), which I haven't read, but I'm sure OHD has and I hope can say good things about, because the cinematography looks stunning and very un-Middle Earth-like, and that gets me excited. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (100%) will almost undoubtedly skyrocket into my top 10 list with Herzog's frenzied yet restrained direction, Nic Cage's zany performance, and iguanas! So many iguanas! The Strip (36%) is an indie comedy in which electronics store manchild employees deal with a co-worker getting married. Yeesh that sounds too much like Judd Apatow directing The Hangover. Yes, even I am tiring of the man after Funny People. Me & Orson Welles (83%) displays the talents of once forgotten thespians such as Ben Chaplin and Claire Danes, but the one who's really getting the buzz in this semi-biopic is...Zac Efron? Yessir. Hey, if it's about Orsy boy, I'm up for anything. ANYTHING.

Dec 18th: The movie that gives me the biggest knot in my stomach this month is Did You Hear About the Morgans? (1%), where Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant are a bickering upper-class married couple forced to live in the boonies via the Witness Protection Program. Hilarity/migraines ensue! I'm kind of ashamed to admit that the latest trailer for Avatar (65%) actually makes the James Cameron monstrosity at least look entertaining with not as glaringly distracting CGI effects as the first teaser. Plus James Cameron gets everyone's money. It's just part of being an American we all have to live with. William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (64%) is a terrible title for a movie if you're interested in not putting people to sleep, especially a documentary, but the subject matter is actually compelling, chronicling the life of the lawyer of MLK, Jr. and Malcolm X. Getting married to a soon-to-be lawyer should make this a strangely perfect date night flick. Also at the arthouse is the foreign comedy The Maid (46%), which I'm sure will contain a lot of cute musical cues as a sad old woman tries to keep her job serving the bourgeoisie. Oh class differences! Young Victoria (4%) is an old clothes movie that reminds me why I put a ban on seeing all old clothes movies in the first place. A young Queen Victoria goes through trials and tribulations of love and power. Barf me into a coma!

Dec 25th: Christmas day releases are always interesting because they're either a) Oscar bait, b) benign family fare, or c) annoying as eff. It's Complicated (20%) falls into category B, because my mom and every other mom in the universe loves Meryl Streep and remembers Steve Martin from Father of the Bride and thinks Alec Baldwin is gruff yet amusing despite his presence in that strange sitcom on Thursday nights. Nine (93%) falls into category A and even though I wasn't a fan of Rob Marshall's minimalist populism in Chicago, I can't deny there was an appeal to it that at least held my attention. The same will happen with his new musical Nine, possibly even more so because it stars Daniel Day-Lewis and is about famed Italian film director Frederico Fellini. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Eep!%) falls into category C of course and I swear to all that is squirrelly that I thought someone from The Blogulator made up that this movie with this specific title existed. I can't believe they're following through with that. Sherlock Holmes (71%) is largely benign family fare, and of course I fall victim to the Robert Downey, Jr. glamour as much as anyone, but it's also pretty annoying I do think. Since when does Sherlock DO KUNG FU?!?! Man that trailer makes it look fun/annoying. Broken Embraces (68%) is Pedro Almodovar's new flick and once again stars Penelope Cruz, and while his constant refusal to cast anyone else in his movies is both annoying and brilliant (because she's gorgeous and a pretty amazing actress, you see), I never have really latched onto a single Almodovar movie yet. They're all good mind you, and this one about a film director and his lost muse sounds cutely meta, but his style always feels at once distant and overly personal, which is tragic. The trailer for A Single Man (89%), however, might be one of my favorites of the year. It's so deliciously pretentious and artful that you'll prolly need a double-wide straw to swallow it all up, but once again, melodrama, especially at the arthouse, is kinda my new love. But I hate it. But so pretty! But grrr so many emotions! But what wonderful scoring! And so on...

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  1. Blogger P. Arty | 8:21 AM |  

    Eep!% Fantastic.

    Is it just me, or is Up in the Air a Joe Pfeiffer bye-ah-pic?

  2. Blogger qualler | 10:16 AM |  

    Can't wait for Bad Lieutenant.

    Kinda/sorta wanna see "Did You Hear About The Morgans" cuz I kinda/sorta love Hugh Grant and SJP in a "I wanna take a nap after shopping for Christmas presents at the mall for too long" sorta way.

    Don't judge "The Princess and the Frog" as racist too early! EW says it's delightful and not too similar to the other Disney stereotypes we've seen in the past.

    "Everything's Fine" makes me wanna hurl.

    Musicals that are also pretentious AND also feature Penelope Cruz AND DD-L don't make me wanna hurl. This'll probably be a much more pleasant nap than the Hugh Grant/SJP screechy-voice-fest.

  3. Blogger chris | 2:10 PM |  

    Haha we should totally make a fake Up in the Air trailer starring Joe Pfeiffer.

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