From Will Ferrell in short shorts and Katie Holmes gettin’ jiggy wit it to the return of Alvin and the Chipmunks (not to mention Joey McIntyre), Hollywood’s piling on those sugary holiday calories.
So, until spring hits, Campus Circle hereby gives you permission to indulge with our annual Holiday Film Preview. Enjoy!
A Sundance darling, The Savages stars Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as siblings who come together when they find out their estranged father is dying. A neurotic dark comedy about family in the vein of 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, which also starred Linney.
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
From arthouse director Julian Schnabel (Before Night Falls, Basquiat) comes the true story of French Elle editor Jean-Dominique (“Jean-Do”) Bauby, who, after suffering a stroke that paralyzed his entire body save for his left eye, blinked out his memoir of life, fashion and love. This was winner of the Best Director Prize at Cannes. THE PROTAGONIST
A hit at Sundance, this is Oscar-winning documentarian Jessica Yu’s look at what it is to be a hero and a man, through the personal stories of four men: a German terrorist, a bank robber, an ex-gay evangelist and a martial arts student.
TONY ’N’ TINA’S WEDDING
A Big Fat Greek Wedding for Italians full of age-old New York stereotypes, this adaptation of the long-running interactive play stars ex-New Kid Joey McIntyre as an Italian Romeo to “That ‘70s Show’s” Mila Kunis. One Italian family from Queens plus one Italian family from Long Island equals one wild ’n’ crazy wedding ceremony. Adrian Grenier co-stars. JUNO
Yay, more Michael Cera! This time he plays Bleeker, a high schooler who gets classmate Juno (Ellen Page) pregnant. With Rainn Wilson, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman rounding out the cast, the latest from Thank You for Smoking director Jason Reitman is a smart and witty treat.
Remember The Full Monty? A group of deadbeat guys looking for fast cash suddenly come upon the thunderbolt idea of creating their own Chippendales show? Swap stripping for porn and you’ve got The Amateurs, in which Andy Sargentee (Jeff Bridges) and co. (Ted Danson, Brad Garrett, Isaiah Washington, Lauren Graham, Patrick Fugit, Judy Greer, Jeanne Tripplehorn) rally their small town together to make a surprisingly successful amateur adult film.
THE BAND’S VISIT
(Sony Pictures Classics)
Having swept the Israeli Film Academy Awards and won the Coup de Coeur Jury Award at Cannes, this small film about an Egyptian Police musical band that gets lost in a small, desolate Israeli town is a surprising treat.
THE GOLDEN COMPASS
The widely anticipated film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials novels, which has just as loyal, if not as large an audience as the Harry Potter series, stars Nicole Kidman, Ian McKellan, Kathy Bates, Daniel Craig and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards in a world in which people’s souls manifest themselves as animals.
GRACE IS GONE
Winner of both the Audience Award and the Screenwriting Award at this year’s Sundance, Grace is Gone sees John Cusack as a young father who grapples with the death of his soldier wife, just killed in Iraq … and with how to tell their two daughters.
Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) returns to his stylized brand of crime caper with this story of three brothers, led by Jason Statham, who are out to escape a hit by a big mob boss (Ray Liotta) with the help of two other brothers (“The Sopranos”’ Vincent Pastore and Outkast’s André ‘3000’ Benjamin; don’t ask me how).
Over a half-century later, American Gigolo director Paul Schrader brings us a different kind of hustler tale. Woody Harrelson plays an escort to society ladies in Washington, D.C. and – dum, da, dum-dum – finds himself involved in a murder. Lily Tomlin, Kristin Scott Thomas, Willem Dafoe and the late Lauren Bacall co-star.
THE KITE RUNNER
The widely – and wildly – anticipated film adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling book is about an Afghani-American’s journey home to the land of his childhood after the fall of the Taliban.
YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH
Based on a novella by Mircea Eliade, Francis Ford Coppola’s latest takes place in pre-WWII Europe and stars Tim Roth as a timid professor whose life changes after a mysterious event occurs.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
Those coming of age in the ’80s will remember the trio of chipmunks known as “Alvin, Simon, Theodore!” Yes, it’s now a movie. Coming out of retirement, the CGI rodents are adopted by Dave (Jason Lee), a wannabe songwriter. David Cross co-stars.
I AM LEGEND
Will Smith is our last hope to save the world. What? We get to see Smith shirtless – again. Count me in.
Two cereal cafés compete with each other from across the street. Weird? But wait … it stars Zooey Deschanel and is directed by Michael Lehman, the mastermind behind such quirky gems as Heathers, Airheads and The Truth About Cats and Dogs.
P.S. I LOVE YOU
Forget a will. In the latest ‘Hilary Swank is more than just an Oscar actress’ engine, Swank plays a young widow whose husband leaves her a posthumous list of tasks to do to get her life up and moving again. Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Gina Gershon and Harry Connick Jr. co-star.
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
Based on the hit Broadway musical, Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp as a man who exacts revenge for being unjustly imprisoned by a lecherous judge. Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter co-star.
THE BUCKET LIST
Rob Reiner directs this feel-good holiday movie about two dying men (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who break out of their cancer ward to fulfill their dying wish list before they, that’s right, kick the bucket.
THE GREAT DEBATERS
Denzel Washington’s first time directing since his directorial debut with Antwone Fisher five years ago, the film is inspired by the true story of a professor (Washington) who shapes an underdog group of black college students in the Deep South into an elite debate team. Forest Whitaker co-stars.
CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
Alcoholic. Womanizer. Texas congressman. Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) was the man behind the war between Afghan freedom fighters and Soviet forces, setting the stage for many of our present Mid-East conflicts. Based on a book of the same name, Mike Nichols directs this powerhouse cast, including Julia Roberts, Om Puri, Emily Blunt, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.
THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP
Based on a novel of the same name, this family film explores the origins of the mythical Loch Ness Monster: a cute, curious Scottish boy (Millions’ Alex Etel) finds a mysterious egg on a wind-swept beach. Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin co-star.
Iranian-French Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel series Persepolis gained fans the world over with its relatable protagonist: an outspoken young Irania girl who comes of age during the Islamic Revolution, outsmarting the newly established “social guardians,” discovering ABBA and punk, surviving the devastating Iran-Iraq War and, ultimately, living a life of friction between the land of her past and the Europe of her future.
The series has now been made into a highly anticipated film, featuring the voices of Catherine Deneuve, Iggy Pop, Sean Penn and Gena Rowlands. Co-directed by Satrapi herself, the film won the highly coveted Jury Prize at Cannes. A must-see.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film since 2002’s mediocre-at-best Punch-Drunk Love, the film is loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s Oil! and follows one man’s (Daniel-Day Lewis) journey from a down-and-out silver miner to oil tycoon during California’s turn-of-the-century petroleum boom.
The latest in Woody Allen’s new London-based dramatist career (see Matchpoint), the film follows two Cockney brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) as their relationship with a young woman (Hayley Atwell) unhinges and destroys them.
Written and directed by the intelligent and underappreciated Campbell Scott, the film is a mockumentary of the reality TV industry, in which a company’s white-collar workers are placed opposite its blue-collar workers in New York’s Adirondack Mountain Range.
AMERICAN MUSIC: OFF THE RECORD
A talking-heads doc in which theorists Noam Chomsky and Douglas Rushkoff weigh the American music industry, from the demise of the privately owned music store to indie distribution’s circumvention of the corporate machine.
While it probably won’t accomplish its Friday aspirations and it’s doubtful there will be a Second Sunday, this story of two petty criminals (Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan) robbing their local church might be worth a lazy afternoon just for the laughs Morgan and comedian Katt Williams are sure to provide.
This is an against-the-odds female-bonding movie that pairs Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah with a clueless Katie Holmes for the trickiest bank heist in crime history. A funny Set It Off? Ted Danson co-stars.
THE AIR I BREATHE
An experimental film with a big-name cast, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Bacon, Andy Garcia, Julie Delpy, Brendan Fraser, Emile Hirsch and Sarah Michelle Gellar explore Chinese philosophy’s four emotional cornerstones of life: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love, through vignettes in which a businessman, pop star, gangster and doctor all face difficult situations.
BE KIND REWIND
Writer/director/god of all things visual, Michel Gondry’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party) latest chronicles two friends (Jack Black and Mos Def) that recreate every movie in a video rental store after one of them (Black) becomes magnetized at the neighborhood power plant and accidentally erases all of the tapes.
Hysterical writing, by the mind behind Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, is combined with the funniest group of guys (Steve Zahn, Jeff Garlin, Jonah Hill) and an animal wildlife show premise in our pick for sleeper comedy of the New Year.
An eccentric teenager (Anton Yelchin) gains popularity by becoming the student supplier of prescription drugs. He avoids getting in trouble by helping the school superintendent (Robert Downey, Jr.) patch up his relationship with his daughter. Hope Davis co-stars.
HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY
Three years ago, Harold and Kumar became unlikely heroes for America’s hyphenated-American youth. They now return to either celebrate or offend us once again with an adventure that leads Kumar, a suspected terrorist, to Guantanamo.
VINCE VAUGHN’S WILD WEST COMEDY SHOW
Thirty days, 30 nights, 30 shows. Vince Vaughn, Jon Favreau, The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour’s Ahmed Ahmed and some of the country’s best comedians take us along for their “Hollywood to the Heartland” tour.
MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS
Acclaimed arthouse director Wong Kar-Wai (Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love) returns with his first English-language, Anglo-cast film that was nominated for a Golden Palm Award at this year’s Cannes. Having chosen singer Norah Jones, who had never acted before, to star based solely on a “gut instinct,” Wong Kar-Wai also directs Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and Jude Law in this story of a girl who waitresses her way through the United States in an effort to mend a broken heart.
A delightful surprise, Clintonesque political consultant (Ryan Reynolds) struggles to explain his impending divorce and past relationships to his 11-year-old daughter (Little Miss Sunshine’s Abigail Breslin). Elizabeth Banks, Kevin Kline and Rachel Weisz co-star.
A big Hollywood twist-and-turn thriller, this film is about an attempted assassination of the president (William Hurt) and is told from five different points of view. Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, Dennis Quaid and Forest Whitaker round out the cast.
THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
Based on the bestselling novel by Philippa Gregory and written for the screen by Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland), the story is about two ambitious 16th Century sisters (Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson) who compete for King Henry VIII (Eric Bana). Kristin Scott Thomas and Across the Universe’s Jim Sturgess round out the cast.
The latest in Will Ferrell sports lampoons (Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights), and brought to you by the writer of such cable-friendly gems as Old School, Starsky & Hutch, Elf and Road Trip, Ferrell plays a benchwarmer from the NBA who returns to the ’70s-era ABA to help his old team make it to the big leagues. In short, Will Ferrell in afro and shorty shorts.