PopEater's Holiday Movie Roundup
By John Mitchell Posted Dec 23rd 2010 02:04PM
Christmas weekend is one of the biggest of the year, and there's usually something for everyone. Let's take a look:
The whole gang -- Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand -- is back for this third installment of the wildly popular series about a male nurse, Greg Focker (Stiller), and his rocky relationship with his wife Pam's (Polo) parents (DeNiro and Danner). This time around, things get crazy (and hopefully funny) when the family gets together to celebrate the birthday of Greg and Pam's young twins (the titular "Little Fockers"). Jessica Alba and Laura Dern co-star.
The Buzz: By all accounts, this film is review-proof. The first two films in the series grossed $279 million and $166 million, respectively. Expect this one to fall somewhere in the middle of those. Universal has brought acclaimed director Paul Weitz ('About a Boy') into the fold and, at this point, these are roles so familiar to Stiller and DeNiro that they could phone in their performances and still be just fine. There's little doubt 'Fockers' will be a crowd-pleaser just like its two big brothers.
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, who between them have won, ahem, eight Oscars (and been nominated for 12 more), 'Grit' stars Jeff Bridges -- who worked previously with the Coen brothers on the cult classic 'The Big Lebowski' -- as a grizzled lawman who helps a young girl (newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) avenge her father's murder. The Coens insist the film is not a remake of John Wayne's 1969 classic, but rather a second, more-faithful adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel. Matt Damon, Josh Brolin (an Oscar nominee for 2008's 'Milk') and Barry Pepper co-star.
The Buzz: In the lead-up to its release, the Coen brothers have kept a pretty tight lid on 'Grit,' leading many to wonder if it isn't up to snuff. It certainly doesn't help that 'Grit' is unfairly being compared to the Coens' 2007 masterpiece 'No Country for Old Men' simply because it too is a western (albeit of a very different sort). And while early reviews have declared it a strong-but-flawed film, 'Grit' was shut out entirely from the Golden Globes -- though it has landed on a number of "best of 2010" lists, including those of the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review, and earned a Critics Choice Award best picture nomination.
In director Sofia Coppola's ('Lost in Translation,' 'Marie Antoinette') latest softly-lit think piece, a hard-partying actor (a resurgent Stephen Dorff) is forced to reexamine his life after he is tasked with caring for his 11-year-old daughter (played by Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota) when her mother drops her off at the famed Château Marmont hotel, where he is living. The film (somewhat controversially) picked up the best picture prize at this year's Venice Film Festival.
The Buzz: Hear those crickets? Well, that's the buzz on 'Somewhere.' Not that it's a bad movie. In fact, it's supposed to be quite good. BlackBook is calling Dorff's performance a "revelation." (Fanning is receiving similar praise.) Our pals at Vulture perhaps best sum up 'Somewhere' with: "Basically, if you like Sofia Coppola, you will like 'Somewhere.'" But despite the praise, no one is really talking about it.
Big laughs and fun special effects highlight this re-imagining of the classic novel. Set in the present day, travel writer Lemuel Gulliver (Jack Black) is sent on assignment to Bermuda, but ends up -- after a series of mysterious events, natch -- on the island of Liliput, where he towers over its tiny citizens, including Jason Segal and Emily Blunt (so good in 'The Young Victoria'), whom he helps to defeat their rivals, the Blefuscudians.
The Buzz: It's never a good sign when a film is shielded from critics until right before it hits theaters. It's also not encouraging when a big-budget fantasy flick is pushed from its original summer release date, as 'Travels' was (it was set to hit theaters in June before being rescheduled for December). And Jack Black is always a love him-or-hate him prospect. So while early word isn't exactly great, the film also doesn't have much competition for the audience it's after (older children and the parents forced to take them to the movies). This is a very expensive film though, and if bad word of mouth causes parents to leave the kiddies at home and hit up 'Little Fockers' instead, Fox could have a costly misfire on its hands.
Based on the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play of the same name by David Lindsay-Abaire, 'Rabbit Hole' tells the story of a happy couple, Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), whose lives are turned upside down when their young son is killed in a car accident. Unable to deal with her grief amid a sea of well-meaning family, friends and support groups, Becca turns instead to the troubled young man who was driving the car that killed her son, while Howie loses himself in the past. The play was praised for the honesty with which it dealt with the death of a child, and if the trailers and early reviews are any indication, Kidman brings her A-game to the piece.
The Buzz: Like most plays-turned-films ('Doubt,' 'Angels in America'), 'Rabbit Hole' is shaping up to be an actor's showpiece. Kidman is earning career-best reviews for her turn (not to mention Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice Award nominations -- many believe her a shoo-in for an Oscar nod as well) in director John Cameron Mitchell's ('Hedwig and the Angry Inch') first foray into mainstream filmmaking. As her mother, two-time Oscar winner Dianne Wiest is scoring similar raves. Film pundits are positioning 'Rabbit Hole' as the kick-off of a career comeback for Kidman, who hasn't had a solid hit since 2003's 'Cold Mountain.'
Low-budget independent filmmaking at its truest, writer-director Derek Cianfrance spent years trying to get funding for this tiny film, but it wasn't until Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams got their hands on the script and expressed interest that 'Valentine' really got off the ground. Gosling and Williams play a young married couple in crisis, and the story reveals how they fell into and out of love. 'Valentine' isn't a date movie for the faint of heart, and initially earned an NC-17 rating -- which its distributor, The Weinstein Company, successfully appealed -- for its realistically portrayed sexuality.
The Buzz: Beloved on the film festival circuit, 'Valentine' is a very small film with two very big things going for it: the performances of Williams and Gosling, both of whom are expected to be major players this award's season. (They've already scored Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations.) Whether the film's touchy subject matter and content help or hurt its box office prospects remains to be seen.
PopEater also recommends:
►'Black Swan': Yes, Natalie Portman is as good as you've heard and she more than deserves all the praise she's received. But she didn't make 'Swan' one of the year's best films (it's our personal favorite) by herself. Golden Globe/SAG nominee Mila Kunis, Barbra Hershey (who deserves more Best Supporting Actress heat than she is getting), Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder -- in a four-star review, the New York Post calls it the "year's best-cast movie" -- and director Darren Aronofsky are at their absolute best too.
Watch PopEater's own Denise Warner, John Mitchell and Jett Wells join Moviefone's Andy Scott to talk about 'Black Swan,' Natalie Portman and the film's Oscar chances for Moviefone's Movie Club:
►'The King's Speech': One of the most acclaimed movies of the year, the film's leading man, Colin Firth, is far and away the frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar and Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter seem assured nominations in the supporting categories. It's a heartfelt and funny history lesson of a king history sometimes forgets. The film scored a leading seven Golden Globe nominations and four SAG nods.
►'The Fighter': Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo star in director David O. Russell's biopic of boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward. Bale is being hailed as a sure-thing to pick up the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for, once again, dropping many, many pounds to play Dickie Eklund, a one-time champion boxer-turned-crack addict. Leo and Adams, an Oscar favorite after 'Junebug' and 'Doubt,' are earning big buzz for their performances as well -- so much so that EW believes "one of the 'Fighter' gals should take this prize [the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress] home." It's not a perfect film, but the actors, including a never-better Wahlberg, make it a must-see. Wahlberg, Bale, Adams and Leo all earned Golden Globe nominations for their work.
Also opening: 'Biutiful' with Javier Bardem; 'Another Year' with Lesley Manville and Jim Broadbent; 'Country Strong' with Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw and Garrett Hedlund; and 'The Way Back' with Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Jim Sturgess and Saoirse Ronan.
How are stars spending their holidays? Check out our video below!
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