[ winter's silver screens ]
WINTER'S SILVER SCREENS
It's December, and that means several things: we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; we'll probably spend too much money on things people don't really need (pardon my cynicism); we'll stress out over any and every thing; and the Academy Award competition unofficially begins (these last two items tend to go hand-in-hand, at least for the execs involved). The studios wait until the end of the year to release the movies they feel are worthy of Oscar consideration, following the maxim of "out of sight, out of mind," or, "what have you done for me lately". They also release decent family fare at this time for harried parents wanting to take a break from shopping or to escape the trap of the house.
This season, however, our viewing choices seem to be relatively slim compared to years past. There do not appear to be any standout motion pictures being released that will appeal to a large mass of people. This is not to say there won't be some decent movies; I'm looking forward to many if not most of these. However, with the possible exception of the final chapter in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, great commercial success will probably not find many of these films, and even fewer will meet with critical acclaim.
With that being said, here are some movies recently released and soon-to-be released which piqued my curiosity to some extent that you might enjoy, as well. This list is not all the movies I'm interested in (though it's very nearly all), nor is it an exhaustive list of all the movies being released in the near-future (and near-past in some cases). It is simply a list of movies I think I'll like that I think many readers might also like.
These flicks opened prior to the writing of this article:
Something's Gotta Give: Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton fall in love against their better desires. No apology if this spoiled the movie for you: it's a romantic comedy. No, I have not seen this movie, but I do look forward to seeing it on DVD one day.
The Last Samurai: Please note that Tom Cruise did NOT steal anybody's part for this movie; it's about a Civil war officer who travels to Japan and learns to fight as a Samurai. Cruise has been taking more chances with his roles and films in recent years, and this one proves no different.
Stuck on You: Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon star as psychologically-opposite conjoined twins (they're not Siamese -- they're American) with different goals and dreams, and the movie shows how they learn to cope with living with each other. This is definitely off the beaten path unless you're already a fan of the Farrelly brothers, but it appears to have a warm heart beating underneath.
Gothika: This is an out and out horror film not for the faint of heart or easily spooked. Unless you like being easily spooked. Halle Berry stars as a psychiatrist in a mental institution who awakens one day on the wrong side of the glass wall, unaware of the circumstances that led to her current situation.
Released the week of December 19, 2003:
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: With stars too numerous to name here, the final episode of the Lord of the Rings trilogy opens with great expectations by many world-wide. The final fate of the Hobbits, Man (and one man in particular), Sauron, and the rest will be determined. With a battle dwarfing (no pun intended) the skirmish at Helm's Deep, our collective breath will be held awaiting the outcomes of all our favorite and not-so-favorite characters. Sure to be nominated for Best Picture (for the third time), this particular episode should finally win the grand prize.
Mona Lisa Smile: A potential Oscar-nomination for Julia Roberts and probably a nomination for Best Picture, think Dead Poet's Society at an all-woman college in the mid-1950's as a theme, though hopefully not quite as dark or tragic. This looks like a fun and serious movie, a difficult feat to manage.
Coming out the week of December 26, 2003:
Peter Pan: This is allegedly a darker version of the children's classic. I'll bet he still doesn't want to grow up. Oh, Peter Pan is played by a boy this time. Go figure.
Cold Mountain: Nicole Kidman and Jude Law star in this Civil War drama; Law, an injured soldier, attempts to get back home to Cold Mountain and his fiancée, Kidman. This movie will be heavily touted for Oscar consideration for the big three awards, Best Actor, Actress, and Picture, and most likely Best Director, too.
Cheaper by the Dozen: This Steve Martin remake of the 1950 film of the same name appears to be light family film fodder good for all ages. His wife is out of town, and he must take care of the twelve children and coach his football team at the same time. Hilarity is sure to ensue. This is also the feature debut of Tom Welling from the small screen's Smallville. This flick is sure to not be nominated for any Academy Awards.
Paycheck: Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, Paycheck stars Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman in a story reminiscent of Total Recall, though some are comparing it to Minority Report. Yes, he appears to be being chased in a future society, but the memory manipulation mind games seem to be a much more major story element.
The Young Black Stallion (IMAX): This prequel to 1979's The Black Stallion sounds familiar: a "friendship" develops between a young girl and a horse. This is Disney's first IMAX feature.
Appearing in theaters January 9, 2004:
Big Fish (in wide release on this day): directed by Tim Burton; with Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, and Billy Crudup. A touching story about knowing your father and accepting him for who he is. Billy Crudup pieces together what he knows about his dying father, played by Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor in flashback, to develop a more complete picture of who his father was and is.
January 16, 2004:
Along Came Polly: Ben Stiller, a risk assessor, falls for Jennifer Aniston in a messy romance. I have seen no trailer, but this movie is described as a screwball comedy, my second favorite genre. Hopefully, it will make the cut for me, and everyone else, and not just be a modern love story characterized solely through physical intimacy.
January 23, 2004:
The Butterfly Effect: Ashton Kutcher (yikes!) discovers he can change his past (and consequently, his present and future). It's an interesting premise but there remain two questions: one, will this premise translate well to the big screen, and two, just how horrible will Ashton Kutcher be in the leading role? I hold very little hope for Mr. Kutcher, but I will give him kudos for trying something apart from his so-far typical himbo role. Perhaps the story will be strong enough despite his presence.
January 30, 2004:
The Big Bounce: Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Sinise star in a dark thriller from the same director who gave us Grosse Pointe Blank (my favorite movie).Wilson plays a con artist in Hawaii who lands a job caring for Morgan Freeman. Complexities arise, leading Wilson to a Big Decision about a woman, some money, and something else.
- Jack Curl
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