Holiday Movie Preview, December movies

2007 Holiday Movie Preview: The December Breakdown

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All right, so it isn't perfect -- "Alvin and the Chipmunks" looks to be about as close to coal in the stocking as a movie can get -- but no month is, and all things considered, we have to admit that 2007's December slate looks much more entertaining than last year's. Not only that, but there's something for pretty much everyone here -- you've got "The Golden Compass" for the tweens, "I Am Legend" for the action junkies, "The Bucket List" for Mom and Dad, and "Aliens vs. Predator" for anyone who just doesn't feel like thinking for a couple of hours. And that's just the tip of the list -- read on below for an in-depth look at what's in store at a theater near you this season!


The Golden Compass (New Line, December 7)
: Nicole Kidman, Eva Green, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards, Sam Elliott, Eric Bana, Kevin Bacon, John Hurt
Director: Chris Weitz
Rating: NR

The Pitch: Based on the first installment in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, "The Golden Compass" is aimed at the same crowd that's lapping up the "Chronicles of Narnia" and "Harry Potter" films. The plot details are numerous and fantastical; really, all you need to know is that there's magic, young heroes, and spiritual overtones.
The Buzz: Development was long and torturous -- director Weitz resigned, was replaced, and then replaced his replacement -- but the early signs are encouraging, at least for those not overly attached to the books.
Trailer Highlight: Kidman can sure be scary when she wants to be, huh?
Bottom Line: It'll take some seriously negative word-of-mouth to derail "Compass," and if half the care and attention to detail that went into the website has gone into the film, this thing will be filling seats well into the first quarter of 2008.
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The Perfect Holiday (Yari, December 12)
: Gabrielle Union, Morris Chestnut, Queen Latifah, Terrence Howard, Malik Hammond, Charlie Murphy, Faizon Love, Jeremy Gumbs, Jill Marie Jones, Rachel True
Director: Lance Rivera
Rating: PG

The Pitch: Like you need us to tell you, but okay: Union plays a single mom who doesn't take time for herself and is just looking for a normal guy. Chestnut plays the part-time department store Santa who presents himself as an office-supply salesman in an effort to woo her. Everyone else plays a different wacky stereotype. Stir, add corn for flavor, repeat.
The Buzz: You aren't going to hear any buzz on this because most national publications could care less about "black" films, which is shitty. Then again, all appearances indicate that this film is shitty too.
Trailer Highlight: Nothing beats hearing a honky narrator utter the phrase "ain't havin' it."
Bottom Line: It seems harmless enough, but there are probably better places for your money on December 12.
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Alvin and the Chipmunks (20th Century Fox, December 14)
: Jason Lee, Cameron Richardson
Director: Tim Hill
Rating: PG

The Pitch: Children of the '80s, prepare for an onslaught of movies based on the cartoons of your youth -- aside from "Transformers," the atrocious-looking "Underdog" (also starring Lee), and "Alvin and the Chipmunks," there are plans right now for the Smurfs, He-Man, and G.I. Joe to get their own films. Wanna die yet?
The Buzz: Unsurprisingly, no one seems to care about this; it's seemingly being made because the Chipmunks need a revival every 10-20 years, and since they were on Saturday morning television 20 years ago, the timer's going off.
Trailer Highlight: Alvin eating Theodore's poop. Yeah, that about sums it all up right there.
Bottom Line: Wretched. Your kids might want to see it, but if you love them, don't let them go.
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I Am Legend (Warner Bros., December 14)
Starring: Will Smith, Alice Braga, Salli Richardson
Director: Francis Lawrence
Rating: NR

The Pitch: Robert Neville is the last man on Earth. He's far from alone, however -- his nights are spent battling the vampiric remnants of the human race.
The Buzz: This will be the third trip to the big screen for Richard Matheson's classic 1954 novel. Sadly, neither of the first two adaptations (1964's "The Last Man on Earth" and 1971's "The Omega Man") lived up to the source material; even sadder, "Legion" appears to be more of an "Omega" remake than a true "Legend" film.
Trailer Highlight: Smith and his dog entering a silent, empty New York City.
Bottom Line: Matheson's book was about an ordinary man living a life of quiet, monotonous desperation that just happened to be punctuated by grisly killings. The film has Smith toting an M-16 through the streets of New York. The latter probably sells more popcorn, but it's nowhere near as interesting.
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The Kite Runner (Paramount Vantage, December 14)
: Wali Razaqi, Saïd Taghmaoui, Shaun Toub, Nasser Memarzia
Director: Marc Forster
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: Khaled Hosseini's bestselling novel makes its way to the big screen, bringing his tale of the intertwined lives of two Afghan boys to non-readers. It's the kind of story you don't want to know a whole lot about before you see the film; suffice it to say the movie follows the boys into manhood, and deals with the effects of the Taliban regime on the people of Afghanistan.
The Buzz: The book has been an Oprah-approved phenomenon since it was published roughly five years ago, and if the trailer is anything to go on, the movie has captured much of what people loved about the story on the printed page.
Trailer Highlight: The cinematography. Afghanistan never looked so good.
Bottom Line: One look at the trailer and you'll know if this is your type of film -- but even if it isn't, not seeing it will probably be your loss.
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National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Disney, December 21)
: Nicolas Cage, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Bruce Greenwood, Helen Mirren
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Rating: NR

The Pitch: Critics sniffed at "National Treasure," but it made a ton of money, so Nicolas Cage is back for another round of archaeological action as Ben Gates. This time around, Gates has to clear his great-great-grandfather's name in connection with the Lincoln assassination.
The Buzz: Speaking of Lincoln, it feels like it's been four score and seven since Cage made a movie we were excited about seeing -- but hey, at least he isn't running around in a bear suit in this one. Be grateful for the small things.
Trailer Highlight: Watching Mirren, Voight, and Keitel stroll through the down payments on their new summer homes.
Bottom Line: The December 21 release date practically guarantees that 90% of the families who catch a Christmas Day flick together are going to get tickets to this one. Resistance is futile.
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P.S. I Love You (Warner Bros., December 21)
: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Gina Gershon, Lisa Kudrow, Harry Connick, Jr., Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kathy Bates, James Marsters
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: Swank plays a woman who loses her husband (Butler) to an illness, only to discover that he's left her a series of letters, which begin arriving in the weeks after her 30th birthday. By following his beyond-the-grave instructions, she begins her long journey back to life again. Or something.
The Buzz: Have you heard much about this movie? We haven't either, and from the synopsis to the poster to the trailer, it's easy to see why -- this is a standard chick-flick estro-fest.
Trailer Highlight: It's gotta be Swank in a bra, but only if you're a Swank fan, and only because the rest of the trailer tastes like an orange marmalade Slurpee.
Bottom Line: P.S. See something else on December 21.
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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Paramount, December 21)
: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Tim Burton
Rating: R

The Pitch: Burton and Depp reteam to bring Stephen Sondheim's classic musical to the big screen. Never heard of Sweeney Todd? You're in for a treat -- as long as your definition of "treat" is flexible enough to include blood-spattered musicals about cannibal barbers.
The Buzz: Ten years ago, the words "tentpole musical" would have gotten you laughed out of a studio boardroom; now, on the heels of "Dreamgirls" and "Hairspray," the genre gets its latest shot in the arm from Burton (who knows a thing or two about musicals) and Depp (who, uh, was in a band once.)
Trailer Highlight: This is a Tim Burton production, so all highlights start on the visual end -- did we mention Helena Bonham Carter is wearing a corset for what appears to be the entire movie?
Bottom Line: It doesn't look like our cup of tea, but if it's yours, you probably already know.
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Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (Columbia, December 21)
: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wiig
Director: Jake Kasdan
Rating: NR

The Pitch: The life and times of fictional music legend Dewey Cox (Reilly), whose troubles with women, drugs, and alcohol mirror...well, they mirror those of a number of rock stars, actually.
The Buzz: Kasdan directed it, but Judd Apatow is the movie's producer, so it's Apatow's name you're going to hear a lot of in the weeks leading up to its release. The main question here is whether the highly-regarded comedic talents in the cast will be enough to carry "Walk Hard" at the box office.
Trailer Highlight: There's something perverse about watching Fischer do filthy double entendres, and it makes us feel good.
Bottom Line: It might not be a sure bet like "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," but something tells us "Walk Hard" will rake in its share of Christmas cash.
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Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (20th Century Fox, December 25)
: Reiko Aylesworth, Steven Pasquale, John Ortiz, Shareeka Epps, Johnny Lewis
Director: Greg Strause, Colin Strause
Rating: R

The Pitch: The competing legions of sci-fi baddies duke it out again in this sequel to the underwhelming "Alien vs. Predator," but those who were disappointed by the first installment should take heart in the words of the Strause brothers, who promise a dark, scary return to no-one-can-hear-you-scream roots.
The Buzz: A cool trailer went a long way toward quieting fanboy snickering over the sequel, and for anyone who's looking for action in the theater on Christmas Day, this is as good as it's going to get.
Trailer Highlight: Wall-to-wall action.
Bottom Line: For what it is, it looks pretty damn solid, no?
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Charlie Wilson's War (Universal, December 25)
: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Om Puri, Jud Tylor
Director: Mike Nichols
Rating: NR

The Pitch: The true story of Congressman Charlie Wilson (Hanks) and his (ultimately successful) efforts to secure American funding for the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.
The Buzz: The larger part of the country has proven itself to be more interested in affixing flag decals to its cars and trucks than learning even the most recent history of American involvement in the Middle East, so it's difficult to believe that even Hanks and Roberts will be able to get asses in seats for "Charlie Wilson's War."
Trailer Highlight: Hanks, Roberts, and Hoffman look like they're having a blast -- even if this thing never sells a ticket, it could be a career high point for all of them.
Bottom Line: A drama about how the United States trained and funded Osama and his buddies? On Christmas Day? Sounds like a winner!
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The Bucket List (Warner Bros., December 25)
: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes, Rob Morrow
Director: Rob Reiner
Rating: PG-13

The Pitch: A pair of terminally ill men (Nicholson and Freeman) reach across their cultural divide to discover they both have a list of stuff they'd like to accomplish before they kick the bucket -- hence the bucket list, which propels the duo onto "the road trip of a lifetime."
The Buzz: Nicholson, Freeman, and Reiner! If this was coming out in 1991, it'd be the slam-dunk smash of the season, but like an overripe banana, Reiner's flicks have gotten progressively softer and sweeter over the years. Judging from the trailer, that trend will continue here.
Trailer Highlight: Nicholson and Freeman, of course.
Bottom Line: It'll be a dandy rental, that much is for sure. But is it worth seeing in theaters? Wait for the word of mouth.
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