Fall/Winter Part 4: December

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007). Movie of the year?

This is the fourth and final look at some of what is coming to theaters during the Season of Quality when the studios unveil all of their prestige projects and awards hopefuls. I intended to do this a few weeks ago, but I got sidetracked by the here and now. As always, I’ve starred my picks for the month.

December 5

Juno. I was befuddled by the popularity of Enchanted and Juno might prove to be the second movie in a row I’ve completely missed the boat on. Early buzz on this comedy starring Ellen Page as a pregnant teen who chooses to give her baby up for adoption has been strong, but I was underwhelmed when I saw it at AFI. Some folks are even looking at this as being an Oscar contender. I don’t think it is, but when I’m ultimately proven wrong I’ll be the first to admit it. Of course, if I’m right I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops. That Nelson voice you hear saying “Haw haw, Juno sucks!”? That’ll be me. Also with Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. (Opens in NY & LA) Trailer

December 7

Atonement. #1 on the list of many Oscar prognosticators is this British story of a doomed romance starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland) set during WWI. Directed by Joe Wright of last years’ underseen Pride & Prejudice for which Ms. Knightley received an Oscar nomination. (Limited release. Expands 12/14, 12/21 and 1/4) Trailer

The Golden Compass. Fantasy adventure based on a series of novels a la Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia staring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green and some talking CGI bears. It’s about a 12-year-old girl’s quest to save not only her world where people’s souls manifest themselves as animals, but our world as well. This kind of thing can go both ways, but one thing is for sure: if it’s a hit, there will be sequels. Trailer

Grace is Gone. A shell shocked looking John Cusack loses his wife in Iraq and must now raise his 8 and 12-year-old daughters alone. He’s a loving father, but ill equipped to go it alone and he finds at first he’s not even able to tell his children that their mother isn’t coming home. Lots of good buzz from Sundance on this one. I’ve got to admit the Iraq tie-in gives me the willies a little (isn’t the loss enough? Do we need the ripped from the headlines current events? I’m just asking. (Limited release) Trailer

The Walker. The third part of Paul Schrader’s “lonely man” trilogy following American Gigolo and Light Sleeper. It’s about a professional ‘companion’ to the wives of the rich and powerful in Washington, D.C. who gets himself involved in a scandal. It stars Woody Harrelson and Kristen Scott Thomas. Off hand, I can’t think of anything Schrader has directed that I really like. American Gigolo was wretched. Alas, he wrote Taxi Driver so I’m obligated to sit up and notice. My job here is done. (Opens in NY & LA) UK Website

December 12

The Perfect Holiday. My perfect holiday is a Christmas without stupid Christmas movies. Looks like I’ll strike out again this year. This one’s got Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard. I don’t care what it’s about. In fact I’ve already forgotten about it. I’m too lazy to even look for a link to the trailer.

December 14

Alvin and the Chipmunks. Please god, no. Trailer

I Am Legend. This is at least the third time that Richard Matheson’s novel has been brought to the big screen. The second time was Omega Man starring Charleton Heston. Will the third time be a charm? Not likely. It’s written by Akiva Goldsman the man behind all those awful Ron Howard movies. He’s also a fanboy’s nightmare having written Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Lost in Space and I, Robot. The buzz at AICN can’t be good, can it? Will Smith plays the last man on earth…except he’s not or there wouldn’t be a movie. Trailer

*The Kite Runner. Based on Khaled Hosseini’s best selling novel, this drama tells the story of a pair of fathers and sons in Afghanistan from the fall of the monarchy to the rise of the Taliban. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. (Limited release) Trailer

Francis Ford Coppola Directs Youth Without Youth (2007)

*Youth Without Youth. The latest film from Francis Ford Coppola. I’ve deliberately avoided knowing anything about it, but it stars Tim Roth and takes place prior to WWII. (Opens in NY & LA) Trailer

December 21

Charlie Wilson’s War. Mike Nichol’s directs this funny and enjoyable cautionary tale starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hanks plays Charlie Wilson, the real life Congressman who helps wage a covert war against the Soviet Union in 1980s Afghanistan. Wait, it’s a comedy you say? Well, not exactly. It’s funny, but it’s also got a bite. Written by Aaron Sorkin. Trailer

P.S. I Love You. Romantic drama written and directed by Richard LaGravenese. Hilary Swank plays a woman who loses the love of her life, but finds that before he died he wrote her a series of letters to help guide her through her loss. Trailer

Johnny Depp & Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd (2007)

*Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Tim Burton’s R-rated version of the classic musical about a man unjustly sent to prison seeking his revenge. The film stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Early word is very good. Trailer

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Written by Judd Apatow and Jake Kasdan. Directed by Kasdan. John C. Reilly stars in this mock biopic about a famous musician and songwriter. Trailer

December 25

Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem. This one is for all of you who actually paid money to see the original Alien vs. Predator. Merry Christmas, assholes.

The Bucket List. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman sound like part of a dream cast, but based purely on the concept and the trailer, this movie looks awful. Nicholson is a billionaire, Freeman is a mechanic. They meet in a hospital room, become unlikely friends and decide to spend the time they have left doing all the things they ever wanted to do before kicking ‘the bucket’. I plan on living my life to its fullest by not wasting my time watching another movie about people learning to do just that. Directed by Rob Reiner. (Opens in NY, LA, Toronto. Opens wide 1/11/08) Trailer

The Great Debaters. Inspired by a true story, Denzel Washington is a debate coach at a small black college in the segregated south. I’m guessing he ruffles feathers and makes waves, but shapes his students into winners and we all learn a little something about ourselves. Trailer

Persepolis (2007)

*Persepolis. Animated story from France about a young girl in Iran during the Islamic revolution who discovers punk rock, ABBA and heavy metal. It’s supposed to be very good. Featuring the voice of Catherine Deneuve. (Limited release) Website

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. Fantasy adventure about a Scottish boy and a magical egg. ***Spoiler*** The egg has a horse in it. A legendary water horse. They all live happily ever after. ***End Spoiler*** Trailer

December 26

*There Will Be Blood. Daniel Day-Lewis plays a ruthless oil man over the course of 30 years beginning around the turn of the 20th century. Based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil! Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This is my third most anticipated movie of the year (following No Country For Old Men and The Darjeeling Limited). I don’t want to say too much about it, except movies like this don’t come around very often. If you don’t see it, I’m not sure we can be friends. (Opens in NY & LA) Trailer

December 28

Cassandra’s Dream. Woody Allen’s drama about two brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) who become mortal enemies as a result of a criminal financial scheme they come up with. (Limited release) Trailer

Honeydripper. The new music drama from John Sayles set in rural Alabama at the onset of Rock and Roll. Danny Glover stars as “Pine Top” Purvis, a piano player with a dark past struggling to keep his live blues bar open in the face of changing times. This might not be a major Sayles film, but it’s not bad. Even the minor films from this god among indie directors should be met with excitement. (Opens in NY & LA) Website

The Orphanage. Genuinely creepy looking horror thriller from Spain and Mexico directed by first-timer Juan Antonio Bayona. A woman buys the abandoned orphanage she grew up in with the hope of turning it into a facility for disabled children. Proving once again that no good deed is left unpunished, the place is haunted. Disturbing shit goes down. Produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Can we have a ban on trailers ruined by cheesy narration though? (Limited release) Trailer

And there you have it. That about sums things up for 2007. Stay tuned for a look at some of the new movies planned for 2008.