Christmas Weekend Preview


In case you missed last weekend’s preview, I’ve evolved this weekly post into a more comprehensive movie guide, mostly in anticipation of this huge coming weekend at the movies. Now when you click on these posts, you’ll find a list of the new releases, a brief plot summary and some of the buzz surrounding the film and my recommendation of “Worth Admission,”  “Worth Dismissin'” or “Worth Renting Later.” I’ll end with my usual Top 5 Box Office prediction.

As usual, Christmas weekend is booked this year with a couple films opening wide on Wednesday and the rest Christmas Day (Friday). And as usual, there’s something for everyone — comedy, family films, date/couples films, Oscar hopefuls and overlaps of all those genres. Hopefully this guide will sort out what’s worth your dollar in this ever popular movie weekend.

Now Playing

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Wed. 12/23)

Directed by: Betty Thomas
Written by: Jon Vitti, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Jason Lee (My Name is Earl), Zak Levi (Chuck)


The Word: In Dec. 2007, 20th Century Fox asked us “Chipmunks?” and we said yes to the tune of $44 million domestic opening weekend and more than $365 million worldwide, 60 percent of which was American dollars. Well, would you turn down a sequel if you were Fox, even if the movie was garbage? Not in a million years. So only two later, we have the “Squeakquel” which adds the three Chipettes as competition to the boys’ singing “prowess.” Alvin, Simon and Theodore also have to adjust to high school life, which as you might have guessed, would be tough for a chipmunk, though based on the trailer I think their human schoolmates take it pretty well.

My View: This was my number one flagged movie of the holiday season. Anyone who wants to endure high-pitched chipmunk voice for an hour and half, don’t let me stop you, but unless you have children biting you because they want to see this movie or were an Alvin and the Chipmunks fanatic as a child, you have no reason to see this cash ploy. It’s been horribly received so far with a 22 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a 3.3/10 on imdb, which is worse than “New Moon” in both cases. This was a year of great animation — rent Coraline or Up before seeing this movie.

Recommendation: Worth pissin’ on. That’s right, find a copy of this film and pee on it. Dismissin’ just simply ain’t enough. Discourage others — get companies to stop making kids movies that adults have to painfully endure because studios have brainwashed their children into going.

Up in the Air (Wed. 12/23)

Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner, Walter Kirn (novel)
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga (The Departed), Anna Kendrick (Twilight)


The Word: From the director of Thank You For Smoking and Juno, Jason Reitman, comes the latest comedy with some touching drama and a bit of romance. If you thought those films were good, Up in the Air is getting the best buzz of the holiday season and possibly Oscar season. A 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, “Air” is the story of a man (Clooney) who travels all over the country firing people whose bosses don’t want to take the time or effort. Traveling via the air is his life and that is threatened when a young woman (Kendrick) proposes they cut travel expense and fire through web video conferencing. “Air” received 6 Golden Globe nomination including Best Picture – Drama, Best Actor (Clooney), Best Supporting Actress (Farmiga and Kendrick), Best Director and Best Screenplay.

My View: All you need to do is read my review here to know a.) why I loved this movie and b.) why you should see it. This movie will make you think about important life questions without so much as a confusing plot point. See this now and be the one to tell your friends they have to go see it as Oscar season nears. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best of its kind in 2009, hands down.

Recommendation: Worth admission. Thank me later.

Sherlock Holmes

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Lionel Wigram
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong (Body of Lies)


The Word: The most adapted character of all time, Sherlock Holmes, gets 21st Century treatment in the season’s most anticipated mainstream action flick (yes, probably even more than Avatar). Long-loved cult British action/crime thriller director Guy Ritchie (yes, Madonna’s old Guy Ritchie) gets his shot at the mainstream making what will surely be a grittier Holmes but one with many a quip and a great sense of humor. Sounds perfect for Iron Man star Downey Jr., Hollywood’s hottest commodity right now, who is generating half the buzz by himself.

My View: There’s no doubt that Ritchie’s “Holmes” will be different than most people will expect and it helps to have the style of RDJ to lean on. Expect an entertaining albeit slightly strange Sherlock Holmes that might very well take some time to get used to. Either way, we were way overdue for a new take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved sleuth and Warner Bros. found a great time to give it to us. Definitely the favorite heading into Christmas weekend.

Recommendation: Worth admission. RDJ is a pretty good guarantee of getting one’s money’s worth (and McAdams is always a lovely bonus).

It’s Complicated

Written and Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin


The Word: No filmmaker has nailed the older generation romantic comedy genre like Nancy Meyers. Her breakthrough was Father of the Bride and her most recent successful but so-so reviewed films were Something’s Gotta Give and The Holiday. Armed with the eternally popular Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin hot off of NBC’s 30 Rock, you can bet that this film might be her most successful. Being sold as a hip film showing how middle-aged people can be sexy too, “Complicated” will surely peak the interest of its large adult target audience.

My View: I have little confidence that the critics will find It’s Complicated any better than Meyers’ other films, but she has a lot of fans among the romantics and the film’s success will be undeniable considering other offerings such as the Robert De Niro flop Everybody’s Fine have fallen short at the box office. There haven’t been any date movies in awhile and the talents of Streep, Baldwin and Martin are a promising trio.

Recommendation: Worth renting later. If you’re of the 40 or older demographic, I can’t blame you for being interested, but everyone else should wait if they’re genuinely interested.


Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Michael Tolkin, Anthony Minghella (screenplay), Arthur Kopit, Maury Yeston (musical)
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard


The Word: This cast of the finest actresses ever assembled pretty much sells itself, especially knowing that they’re in a new movie musical from the director of Chicago, Rob Marshall. Nine was a musical adaptation of the famous Federico Fellini film 8 1/2, about a famous Italian film director struggling to put together his next picture and juggling the many inspirational women in his life. The film version screams Oscar-caliber, but reviews have been a mixed bag with a 47 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and a decent but not stellar 7/10 or “B” on most other sites.

My View: I’m a fan of movie musicals, although I’m completely unfamiliar with this one. Having recently watched 8 1/2 to prepare myself, I think that film, as challenging as it is, would translate well into a musical, especially with such talents behind the project. It’s simply loaded and that’s hard to ignore, plus trailers have been rather intriguing.

My Recommendation: Worth admission. Although it might just be okay/good rather than good/great, it should be one of the better offerings of Christmas weekend (if it reaches a theater near you). The other films I’ve recommended this weekend, however, get preference.

Box Office Predictions

If you look back at Christmas weekends at the Box Office in the past, you tend to see very evenly distributed numbers. With so many films out catering to so many different audiences, nobody usually just rises above the pack with ease. That said, I think this Christmas has a clear frontrunner and that’s Sherlock Holmes. With one of the widest releases and a broader appeal than almost any of its competition, it’s safe to say it will take No. 1 not only from other new releases but from a big returner in Avatar as well. I’m going to book it for a healthy $50 million. (Keep in mind i’m predicted the 3-day, not 5-day totals.)

Coming in second I have a feeling will be family friendly representative, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. In 2007, the original made $23 M over Christmas and it came out a whole week earlier where it made in the 40s. Given the horrid reviews, however, I’m going to keep it $38 – 40 million, just enough to beat out Avatar in its second week, a film that will lose a lot due to “Holmes” and finish with about half of last weekend’s total at $35 million.

In fourth place will be the romantic comedy It’s Complicated. With a slightly smaller release and a specific demographic appeal — yet also a profitable star in Meryl Streep — “Complicated” should wind up with around $18 million.

In fifth, looking at how Up in the Air made $3.2 million in fewer than 200 theaters, multiplying that theater total by seven is going to produce impressive results. Look for a cool $10 – 15 million from the Oscar hopeful.

  1. Sherlock Holmes
  2. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
  3. Avatar
  4. It’s Complicated
  5. Up in the Air


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