Holiday season on the silver screen

By Hoang-Mai Hong

Like a very welcome and comforting cup of Lady Grey on a cold day, holiday movie season has arrived. Higher quality films are starting to settle in, hoping to pique Academy voter interests as well as rake in the dough from people getting their yearly reprieve from work. Fear not lovers of irony, and those who just don’t know any better, as some crap is also headed straight for your gullets.

Before taking in some of the new stuff, forgo the Cineplex-in-mega-mall-X experience in favour of parking yourself with the Dude in beautiful Kensington when the Plaza Theatre brings back The Big Lebowski until Nov. 27. Better still, for both your wallet and the community, there is a free with a food bank donation showing Nov. 27. The Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers will be presenting Surrealism on Film as well at the Plaza Theatre and the CSIF Sofa Cinema on Nov. 27-29. It features both national and international films, as well as a special presentation of Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou.

Now that you’ve primed your palet with an excellent Cohen brothers creation and surrealist film, get ready for its over-the-top, slightly girly antithesis, Australia, out Nov. 28. The latest Baz Luhrmann confection stars fellow Aussies Nicole Kidman– who’s been getting some early flack for her expressionless, Botox-frozen face– and Hugh Jackman– who’s been getting some flack for being way too dreamy as the newly crowned People magazine’s sexiest man of the year. Also out are some regurgitated films such as the sure-to-be terrible Four Christmases starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon– who apparently bickered horrifically on-set playing a couple who gets saddled down with visiting their families for the holidays– and The Transporter 3, which, though starring the always badass Jason Statham, is unfortunately more of the same badass Jason Statham.

For a reversion back to some of your bilingual childhoods– or for just a laugh seeing legendary French actors like Gerard Depardieu and Alain Delon in cheap gladiator costumes– check out the matinee showing of Asterix aux Olympiques (Asterix goes to the Olympics) at the Uptown Theatre on Dec. 1. If you’d rather partake in some more grown-up films that day, check out Movies That Matter’s latest documentary starring the über cool Patti Smith, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, at the Engineered Air Theatre, as well as Cinemania at University of Calgary, which is presenting the classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

A crop of fine wines movie-wise are out Dec. 5. Frost/Nixon is the Ron Howard directed version of the legendary Sir David Frost interview, post-Watergate, where Nixon lost his nut. Also released are Milk, a highly touted biopic featuring Sean Penn as openly gay politician Harvey Milk, who was murdered by fellow politician Dan White (Josh Brolin) and Nobel Son, with Alan Rickman as a Nobel Prize-winning chemist whose deadbeat son fakes his own kidnapping in order to extort his dad’s prize money.

Not much of anything will be released Dec. 12, with highlights such as the remake of the apocalyptic movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves, dude. Fast forward through finals and that rather blah week to Dec. 19, which will see a cavalcade of movies both good and not-so-good, starting with the perhaps too heart-warming Marley and Me, starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston and centering around a puppy. Seven Pounds is the new Will Smith film with a frustratingly and annoyingly ambiguous trailer, while Yes Man is the new Jim Carrey vehicle whose trailer unveils the movie’s hidden genius: The Flight of the Conchords imbecilic manager, Murray (Rhys Darby). Slumdog Millionaire is a not to be missed and guaranteed to be magical Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) film about a young Indian orphan whose life in the slums of Calcutta has given him the answers to questions on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, where he is about to win 20 million rupees, which he would gladly exchange for exposure that will lead him back to his childhood sweetheart.

On Christmas and Boxing Day, studios will release their big-ticket movies begging for recognition, such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, an adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man (Brad Pitt) who ages backwards, with tragic consequences for his wife (Cate Blanchett). Revolutionary Road will see the reunion of Titanic stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as a young couple struggling in the suburbs at the cusp of the 1950s and the era of social conformity. The long delayed Valkyrie, featuring Tom Cruise taking himself far too seriously as a guilt-filled Nazi with an eye-patch, will finally see the light of day as well, but don’t expect it to get its For Your Consideration label taken at all seriously.

Finally, for less serious fare should you choose to spend your yule in theatres, Frank Miller will debut his first directorial effort in The Spirit, a film that has the same aesthetically pleasing visual style from Sin City and 300 and is similarly a superhero graphic novel adaptation. Also out is Disney’s family comedy Bedtime Stories with Adam Sandler as a father whose magically imaginative children take him to the worlds in his stories. Shield your eyes though, kids, as the film also strangely stars the lewd, androgynous and very funny Russell Brand, who isn’t exactly synonymous with “Disney” and “Family Comedy.” Possible family reactions to Brand should be entertaining enough for Disney’s non-target audience to take them into the new year, when entertainment value in movies will be scarce, save for the re-release of The Dark Knight. So take advantage of the massive amount of movies this time of year or wisely ration them until second runs in cheap movie theatres in January.

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