Starpulse Holiday Movie Preview, Part 3
With every surplus of holiday cheer comes a few Scrooges. Some can't stand all the mushiness, or perhaps they just want to have something blow up to go along with their eggnog. Maybe they just like to sit on the edge of their seats instead of on Santa's lap. Fair enough.
For those people, there have been a few real holiday film gems over the years. Some are disturbing, such as Santa going on a killing spree. Others are entertaining, like Die Hard's Christmas party gone awry.
Part Three - Bah Humbug- Action/Drama/Adventure
But many don't have any holiday thematic link at all, and that suits a lot of December moviegoers just fine. Last year was bursting with action and dramas, with The Departed, The Prestige, Turistas, Blood Diamond, 300, The Good Shepherd, Children of Men, and Babel just to name a few. Included in those were some of the big Oscar pushes for last year, reflecting the violent times the country is facing.
While America is hardly any more at peace this year, there seems to be fewer war themed action pictures. Even so, there will always be some such as Tom Cruise's Lions for Lambs (Nov. 9). It remains to be seen if Cruise will rebound from the "crazy for Coco Puffs" persona that he has been recently sporting. Not only has France barred him from dealing with the government on diplomatic issues (after his lobbying for scientology irritated the country), but most of America seems pretty sick of him as well. Still, what Cruise lacks in sense and psychological stability he makes up for in publicity and sometimes in talent, so maybe "Lambs" will find legs.
All the same, perhaps this year Americans are looking for an escape from the ongoing conflicts overseas. If so, they're finding some of their action on the streets. American Gangster (Nov. 2) kicked off the season and has had some nice acclaim and success. For those looking for an old-fashioned shooter/crime drama, "Gangster" brings that plus the dynamic performances of Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington to the table.
Sweeney Todd (Dec. 21) is another period NY crime drama, and will feature Johnny Depp as the "daemon barber of fleet street" who's got a song in his heart. The success of this musical thriller is harder to place, as it will be trying to appeal to audiences who like action and those who like spontaneous singing- two groups that normally don't mix. However, its successful stint on Broadway suggests "Sweeny Todd" has more than a fair shot, and will be worth checking out.
Hitman (Nov. 21), meanwhile, will satisfy those who can't get enough of political conspiracies and spy drama, and it will perhaps fill the void that was created by last year's Bond flick, Casino Royale. It's made up of a small cast of relatively smaller names, but sometimes that equals big-time talent. Timothy Olyphant gets top billing, and he has shown some real chops in the past. However, most recently he underachieved in Live Free or Die Hard, failing to create a villain we love to hate he became a villain we hated to watch.
Hayden Christensen is Awake (Nov. 30), and it's his first big role since wrapping the Star Wars Saga. We can only hope he leaves his knack for whining, a biological trait of the Skywalker family, in a galaxy far far away. Jessica Alba joins him here, and the plotline is thrilling enough - it centers on a guy who has an out-of-body experience during surgery and finds out his doctors are trying to whack him. It does remain to be seen how this movie can be longer than 10 minutes.
And of course there is the return of the National Treasure series. There are those who cannot call it Christmas without having some Nicolas Cage in their stocking. The first installment of what will probably become a trilogy did surprisingly well, riding the coattails of the successful novel The Da Vinci Code by combining a series of ancient clues too coincidental to be anything but international conspiracy. "National Treasure" was entertaining enough, so National Treasure: The Book of Secrets (Dec. 21) will probably hold its own - although it is unlikely to deviate much from being a different version of the same story.
But Nick Cage isn't the only one returning to the table for seconds. There is also Alien vs. Predator: Requim (Dec. 25). Don't let the artsy name fool you, it's still a movie that probably would have been better off as a video game. Still, Alien vs. Predator gave fans exactly what they wanted, so this one probably won't be any different. Plus, did you ever see Freddy vs. Jason? That movie was hysterical, where's our sequel? Now that's a film to warm your holiday heart.