Holiday Movie Preview: 10 Films Worth Seeing Pt. 2

Here are the top five movies I recommend this coming Holiday season. If you missed numbers 6 – 10, CLICK HERE.

Keep in mind that Oscar-buzz movies got a bit of an advantage over the action blockbusters in this list.

5. Avatar (Dec. 18)avatar-still

The Word: James Cameron, the father of technologically progressive filmmaking, returns with his first notable directorial effort since Titanic – and it’s in 3D. That’s right, live action 3D. Apparently production costs have reached the level of an unheard of $500 million dollars, so Fox is playing this one close to the chest. The film is also banking on star Sam Worthington, the Australian actor who Hollywood has unceremoniously anointed a star (he plays the lead, Perseus, in March’s Clash of the Titans) The film is a sci-fi adventure that takes place on the planet Pandora where Earth’s military is at odds with the native population, the Navi. Wheelchair-bound Lt. Sulley gets a chance to enter an Avatar of himself as a Navi to work his way in with the tall blue aliens. (View trailer)

My View: The anticipation of live-action 3D has always and might just be enough for Avatar to become the hit it absolutely needs to be. It’s a tough time to ask moviegoers to pony up the extra cash for 3D, especially when the premise isn’t based on any kind of source material or familiar concept, but Cameron has earned audiences trust when it comes to groundbreaking action movies. The hope is that even with a geeky sort of premise that Avatar will be remembered as a cinematic milestone. I can say, however, that it doesn’t easily land on my list if it’s not in 3D based on the trailer alone.
4. A Single Man (Ltd. on Dec. 11, Wide on Dec. 25)


The Word: If you have yet to hear about A Single Man, you’ll be as shocked as most people were to hear that Tom Ford, the fashion designer famous for making Gucci what it is today, directed and adapted this film about a gay English professor who suddenly loses his partner and struggles to go about business as usual. Star Colin Firth won best actor at the Venice Film Festival which jumpstarted Oscar talk and the buzz is also strong for co-star Julianne Moore. I probably don’t even need to mention that this ‘60s period drama is a surefire Best Costumes contender if not winner already, especially with the help it received from the Mad Men wardrobe department. (View trailer)

My View: The wordless trailer for this film, a late pick-up for The Weinstein Company, is breathtaking. If the ‘60s haven’t been deemed the pop culture retro fashion of the next decade yet thanks to Mad Men and the coincidentally similarly titled A Serious Man from the Coen brothers, they will be after this film makes some noise. If that’s not enough, A Single Man looks to finally bring homosexuality to the mainstream in a way that’s not too awkwardly forced (Brokeback Mountain) or issue-focused (Milk).

3. The Road (Nov. 25)theroad

The Word: After being pushed around for a year and then scheduled to release in October 2009, The Weinstein Company moved The Road one more time to Thanksgiving week and relocating movie musical Nine to December. It looks like it’s finally staying put. Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel (author of No Country for Old Men), The Roadstars Viggo Mortensen as a father and his son trying to survive after a fiery apocalypse chars the country. Director John Hillcoat’s film has won praise at film festivals, so The Road should be worth the wait.(View trailer)

My View: Finally. Having read the book a few months back followed by the praise at Toronto and other festivals, I’m really curious to see how this adaption of a very bleak novel pans out. This most recent trailer paints it as a feel-good film, which it really isn’t, so don’t go expecting that, please. If it constructs itself in powerful little moments between father and son like the book does, it could gain enough attention to land in the expanded ten-film Best Picture category at the Academy Awards. And we sure know the Weinsteins will try.

2. Invictus (Dec. 11)Invictus-Poster

The Word: For most super-early Oscar scouts, seeing the description “a Clint Eastwood directed biopic about Nelson Mandela starring Morgan Freeman” on the Holiday docket a year ago prompted us all to say “well, good luck to any films trying to compete with that.” If Invictus is anywhere near what critics expect, it could be a runaway Best Picture. The film is about how Mandela worked with a South African rugby team led by Matt Damon in attempt to unite post-Apartheid South Africa. (View trailer)

My View: You can’t challenge a single aspect of this film: Eastwood’s directing, Freeman as Mandela – it’s just not fair. Then again, Warner Bros. and Eastwood are setting their own bar extremely high for Invictus to be amazing (plus they changed the title to a Latin word – that’s badass). With a script from a relatively unknown Anthony Peckham, it will be interesting to see if a film with an unprecedented amount of Oscar hype can live up to the billing. Truthfully, however, we have no reason not to believe it will.

1. Up in the Air (Ltd. on Dec. 4, Wide on Dec. 25)upintheairmash

The Word: Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Juno) returns with his third buzz-generating film, which might be his most-rewarded when all is said and done. Up in the Air performed incredibly at Toronto and George Clooney is as hot (popularity-wise) as he’s ever been. Based on a Walter Kim novel, the every middle-aged woman’s fantasy stars as a corporate downsizing expert who travels all over the country and is about to hit 10 million or so frequent flyer miles when a young hot-shot (Anna Kendrick of Twilight) and the perfect frequent-flyer woman (Vera Fermiga from The Departed) enter the picture. (View trailer)

My View: Reitman’s films have been some of the best I’ve seen in the last five years. Juno is still the reigning indie comedy queen and “Smoking” revived the career of Aaron Eckhart. Toss Reitman a pro like Clooney and this seems like the perfect marriage of talents. Up in the Air promises comedy, romance and some new perspectives on life, a blend that we all dream for come the Holiday season. There are few guarantees in film, but this is one of them.

My honorable mentions will go up probably this weekend. I’m thinking Saturday would be a good time to check back.


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