Welcome back, my friends, to the season that never seems to end: the holiday movie season, that is. Hollywood opened the firehose of new releases around Thanksgiving, spraying the multiplex with a torrent of Potters, Burlesques and James Franco's arm blood.
Now it's time for the deluge. The week leading to Christmas has seen the release of at least half-a-dozen potential blockbusters, all vying for your holiday dollars. But which movie is right for you? That depends on your state of mind:
I'm Nutcrackered outGo see: Black Swan
Face it: Sugar plum fairies coming to life and dancing to the classical stylings of Tchaikovsky no longer light your Christmas tree. Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller is the anti-Nutcracker. Stalked by the camera and surrounded by suspicious characters, pale waif Natalie Portman prepares for her star turn in a mod reworking of the ballet Swan Lake, and the rehearsal schedule might be driving her mad. A corrective for the garish holiday-lights overload of the season, Black Swan is a movie almost devoid of color about a woman suppressing her emotions in a cold and competitive world. That is, until the sexy Lily (Mila Kunis) shows up and pushes her out of her comfort zone — maybe a little too far. Black Swan's last 40 minutes are an over-the-top filmmaking display by Aronofsky, but one that's not without its charms. In other words, it's fitting for the season.
I'm high on holiday cheerGo see: I Love You Phillip Morris
There is no more twisted-yet-dizzyingly-romantic movie this holiday season than I Love You Phillip Morris. Based on the impossible to believe yet verified as true story of Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a suburbanite police officer who was married with children and living the American dream when he came out of the closet and vowed to live life to the fullest — even if it meant breaking the law. Naturally, he landed in prison, where he met the gentle Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor) and fell head over heels in love. Russell was an ace con man, repeatedly breaking out of jail without violence and getting re-arrested when his love for Phillip led him to take stupid chances. Made by first-time directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (the pair wrote Bad Santa), Phillip Morris plays like a lighter variation of a Coen Brothers movie, right down to the colorful characters, wacky accents and off-center musical score. Unlikely love story though it may be, it's a perfect complement for anyone already basking in a holiday glow.
Holiday cheer pisses me offGo see: True Grit
"I can do nothing for you, son." There's something about the way Jeff Bridges delivers that line in the trailer for True Grit that lets you know filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen are serious about the Grit part. A remake of the famed 1969 John Wayne Western, Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn, an alcoholic-but-still-badass U.S. Marshall hired by a young girl (Hailee Steinfeld) to track down and kill the man (Josh Brolin) who murdered her father. One wrinkle: She plans to go with him on the hunt. Joined by a rancher (Matt Damon) with his own grudge against the murderer, the trio head into hostile Indian territory and have their personal grit tested while searching for the outlaw. This is the Coens' first Western — though No Country For Old Men certainly flirted with the genre — and you can expect a serious dose of the stylized violence that has peppered their filmography (wood chippers, air cannon cattle killers, etc.). As such, the audience's true grit should be tested almost as much as the character's. Have some stiff eggnog on ice for when you get back from the theater.
I've eaten so much I may explodeGo see: Gulliver's Travels
Assorted appetizers (probably hummus, potato chips, bagel bites and maybe pigs in a blanket), roast turkey, Cornish game hen, baked lasagna, mussels, clams, shrimp, homemade deep-fried mozzarella, fried vegetables, salad, green bean casserole, apple pie, chocolate cake, ice cream, mixed nuts — that's the menu at my parents' house in the 24 hours following the fall of darkness on Christmas Eve. My guess is you've got a similar decathlon of eating in your immediate future. Who better to make you feel better about your rapidly expanding waistline than the tubby Jack Black cast as a hulking Gulliver in the latest Hollywood remake of Gulliver's Travels? Not only is Black porky on his own, here he's cast opposite hundreds of tiny people thanks to the magic of special effects. The visual contrast is sure to make you feel better about the holiday binge you just participated in. One final piece of advice: stick close to home on Sunday. Call it Santa's revenge.
My family laughs at other familiesGo see: Little Fockers
Fockers is rated PG-13 for "mature sexual humor throughout, language and some drug content," so it's not right for parents with small kids. But if your brood all count their ages in the double digits, the latest installment in this Ben Stiller-Robert De Niro comedy series should fit the bill for a Christmas Day outing. The first two films, 2000's Meet The Parents and 2004's Meet The Fockers, were both funny if uninspired comedies that hit a cross-generational sweet spot and made piles of cash. The oldsters love seeing Serious Actors De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand ham it up, those in the middle can associate with Stiller's futile efforts to win the approval of his in-laws, and the kids can now get down with the latest generation of Focker, young Henry and Samantha. Something for everyone — it's a Festivus miracle!
I've given up hopeGo see: Yogi Bear
Hear me out on this one. Yogi Bear looks horrible. The trailer makes me want to start a forest fire. I find myself glad William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are already dead, because this latest adaptation of their classic cartoon from the 1960s seems certain to have suffocated the animators with a Christmas pillow full of dreadful. If you're sure that the world has it in for you, and that 2011 will only offer more of the same fist sandwich, go see Yogi Bear. You'll hate it, but you'll also realize that grown adult human beings spent months and possibly years of their lives — time that they will never ever get back — slaving to produce this steaming pile of bear shit. I predict you'll feel better about yourself before the credits finish rolling.
I got hallucinogens in my Christmas stockingGo see: Tron: Legacy
Shimmering, multicolored streaks of light flying over grid lines in 3D. Dude, are you seeing this?!!?