Your Weekend at the Almost Universally Disappointing Big-Ticket Holiday Movies

12/10/2010 8:58 AM |

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The Fighter: I’m still kind of confused that this is from David O. Russell, who made I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings, and also a movie before this one called Nailed that still hasn’t been technically finished. He and Mark Wahlberg, starring for him for the third time, must function as each other’s homing beacons. Wahlberg calls Russell back from what I imagine to be long jags of screaming into the void at unseen studio executives, actors, and extras, inviting him to feast on his moderate bankability. Russell calls Wahlberg back from making movies like Shooter and Max Payne, reminding him through the power of Huckabees that making movies based on videogames is generally a really shitty idea. (That said, apparently their fourth team-up, Uncharted, will be totally based on a videogame, but apparently it will also star Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci so there you go: a beacon in the wilderness of shitty ideas.) I haven’t seen The Fighter but even though it looks a little like boxer boilerplate from the too-long, verging-on-too-whiny trailers (“I was embarrassed!” exclaims Wahlberg, as if prepping Andy Samberg for a new round of impressions), the very involvement of David O. Russell says to me, ok, even if it’s kinda mainstreamy as MJR’s review says, at least it probably has something else interesting going on. Also: Amy Adams in a movie that doesn’t look flat-out stupid; more and more, it seems like this will be pretty irresistible to Oscar voters.

The Tourist: Advance word on this Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie team-up, slotted into December relatively late-going compared to the year-ahead schedule jockeying December usually sees (coming December 2012: Alvin and the Chipmunks 3!), wasn’t so much negative as nonexistent until just now, as screenings only began in earnest a few days before its opening—a bad sign, sure, although, I don’t know, if it screened three weeks earlier and was the exact same movie, I feel like some faux-insiders would probably give it a pass. As trusty editor Mark pointed out, it seems entirely possible that the floridly named Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director of the extremely dour The Lives of Others, may not have been up to the task of making a modern-day Charade or To Catch a Thief. To Sulk a Glower, maybe. [Thanks, but please: Florian Maria Georg Christian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck. —Ed.] This is pretty clearly aiming for the Ocean’s 11 money: impossibly big and glamorous stars goofing around. It seems like maybe they got Ocean’s 12, which I actually mostly like. If they actually did a bunch of screenings, I could’ve told you more.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: I think I’m willing to make a case for the Narnia movies as being Hollywood’s worst current franchise. I know what you’re thinking: Jesse, what about Shrek and Transformers? Well, look: the Transformers movies are awful, but they are awful in a way that involves fighting robots, John Turturro, and keeping Michael Bay the hell away from other, better franchises. And I haven’t seen Shrek 4, but the first one was ok. I guess if you’re kind, “ok” might be a word you could apply to Narnia 3: Narniharder, but for a series-best, based mainly on a trimmer running time and marginally improved special effects, that’s pretty fucking lame. Also, I still hold a grudge for the first movie somehow winning a Best Visual Effects Oscar over Revenge of the Sith and the Peter Jackson King Kong. Most nerds do not consider those movies worth holding a grudge over, and those nerds deserve to watch Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I sentence thee!

The Tempest: Apparently Julie Taymor can make bonkers Shakespeare adaptations in her sleep, because hasn’t she been toiling on that Spider-Man musical for the past two years? Word on her Tempest, complete with a gender-reversed Prospero (Helen Mirren!), is that it’s actually not really bonkers enough, so I will probably save my thirteen bucks and put it toward the see-Spider-Man-musical-before-it-closes fund. Unfortunately, depending on TKTS and such, I’ll have to pick five to ten other movies to skip to make this plan a reality, and I already have plans to see The King’s Speech. So if anyone wants to weigh in down in the comments about which of the following movies from the next two months I should sacrifice toward seeing the Spider-Man musical, by all means, bring it: How Do You Know; Casino Jack; Gulliver’s Travels; Country Strong; Another Year; Biutiful; Blue Valentine; The Dilemma; Season of the Witch (JK I am totally seeing this opening night); The Green Hornet (a second time, I mean; obviously this will be better than the Spider-Man musical); No Strings Attached; The Way Back; The Company Men.

The Company Men: Speaking of which! I’ve noticed that sometimes when movies play film festivals way early, they garner sort of middling, unenthusiastic responses, and then when they actually make their way to U.S. theaters, suddenly they’re relatively well-regarded. Call it the Vicky Cristina Barcelona effect. That seems to be the case with The Company Men, a downsizing drama that has gone from Up in the Air also-ran to at least a couple of critics calling it as good or better. Even finding Up in the Air a touch overrated, I sort of doubt that to be the case, but Ben Affleck is usually good in beleaguered-white-collar mode a la Changing Lanes.