The action slate for the Holidays this year has only one sequel (“Harry Potter”) unless you could a sequel to a film made 28 years ago. That would be “Tron: Legacy,” perhaps the most intriguing film on this list (and the most daring). The other films are all originals in some way or another, but then there’s the “comfort food” option of the group, a film that combines two of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
6. The Next Three Days (Nov. 19)
The Word: Paul Haggis is a pretty big name in Hollywood. After his film “Crash” won Best Picture on the heels of his screenplay producing the previous Best Picture winner, “Million Dollar Baby,” he became pretty respected. He penned the Daniel Craig James Bond reboots and also Clint Eastwood’s WWII dramas “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.” Now he gets Russell Crowe and Liam Neeson, two highly respected talents who jump between drama, action and thrillers quite often, for “The Next Three Days” about a father who decides to break his life-imprisoned wife out of the slammer.
My Thoughts: It’s hard to get excited about something you feel you’ve seen before. The desperate patriarch is a typical motif, but admittedly one trying to bust his wife (who was accused of murder) out of prison is a tad different. Going up against “Harry Potter” and being challenged less than a week later by the movie two films down this list, it’s possible “Three Days” doesn’t make many waves regardless how good it might end up being. Hard to argue against Crowe, Neeson and Haggis, so keep an eye out even if just for the DVD.
5. The Warrior’s Way (Dec. 3)
The Word: Every so often an Asian martial arts film gets a Hollywood release and makes some waves (notably “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). “The Warrior’s Way” has a stand-alone wide release, so I think Relativity must be pretty high on it and for some reason, other studios have decided to stay away it being so close to the glut of Thanksgiving films I suppose. The film stars Korean superstar Dong-gun Jang and features him in a martial-arts-meets-Spaghetti-Western type film with Hollywood co-stars in Bosworth, Rush and Huston.
My Thoughts: This looks to be more style than substance. The visuals and action could be cool, but a story of an assassin on the run from the people who employed him because he couldn’t commit the heinous act the wanted him to is anything but original. I think there might be a bit too much Hollywood injected in, but damn if it ain’t cool-looking with “ninjas” (as Rush calls them in the trailer) jumping out of the ground in slow motion.
4. Faster (Nov. 24)
The Word: Finally, we get our Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson back. The wrestler-turned-actor has untied himself from Disney’s checkbook and consequently many “Brendan Fraser-type roles” of adult star in kiddie films (such as The Game Plan, Race to Witch Mountain and The Tooth Fairy). Now, in Faster, he’s straight up killing dudes. In the film, his brother is killed and he’s all about not just taking revenge, but swift revenge. The film looks the most promising box-office-wise for slow starter CBS Films – a revenge plot is always a safe bet.
My Thoughts: Johnson, in my opinion, has the chops to become a seriously bankable action star. He’s got the tough-guy look, he’s got a sense of humor and he’s game for stuntwork. His career will simply have to do the inverse of what Schwarzenegger’s did and go from kid films to R-rated thrill rides instead of the other way around. If “Faster” does well at the box office in the absence of any true Thanksgiving contenders, credit belongs solely to him as he is the marketing for this film. All that said, the film will have to separate itself from similarly plotted films.
3. The Tourist (Dec. 10)
Directed Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Christopher McQuarrie and Julian Fellows, Jérôme Salle (film “Anthony Zimmer”)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany
The Word: Your jaw has to drop when you see the words “Depp” and “Jolie” on the same movie poster. The story seems pretty standard: an American meets a beautiful woman on a train and decides to have a fling with her, only to find out he’s been mistaken for her former lover who is most definitely a wanted man and she’s not so un-wanted herself. Depp brings his quirkiness to an otherwise straight role and Jolie plays her usual seductive, ass-kicking self in this film directed by the man behind the Oscar-winning foreign film “The Lives of Others.”
My Thoughts: This looks like a pretty classic case of let’s pair up two huge names and hope that’s all it takes to make a ton of money. Sadly, it’s a very safe bet for Studio Canal, Spyglass Entertainment, GK Films and Paramount. I suppose there’s some hope for the writing: the script team combines frequent Bryan Singer collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects,” “Valkyrie”), Oscar-winning Von Donnersmarck and Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellows (“Gosford Park”).
2. Tron: Legacy (Dec. 17)
Directed by Joseph Kosinski
Written by Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (screenplay), Steve Lisberger and Bonnie MacBird (characters)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Michael Sheen
The Word: It’s been a year of gambles for Disney. “Prince of Persia” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” could not grab a foothold for American audiences and now it’s down to strike three. No, gamble, however, is bigger than this sequel to a cult classic geek movie about a fantasy world inside a computer — a film now 28 years old. The studio has laid it all on the line in hopes of reinvigorating the fan base and inspiring new “Tron” fans by means of 3D and slick visuals. The story follows Flynn’s (Bridges) son Sam (Hedlund) as he gets sucked into the Tron world in search of the father who disappeared when he was young.
My Thoughts: Kosinski’s visuals and the tone set by all the trailers had me sold when the first full trailer hit earlier this year (and after I finally watched the 1982 original). Add in the Daft Punk soundtrack and all that’s left is to hope that the story comes at least somewhat close to matching the production values. Then we can see if “Tron: Legacy” was worth the millions in marketing and the coveted mid-December release date.
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 (Nov. 19)
The Word: In case you were going to have trouble saying goodbye to this mega-franchise, the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has been adapted into two films, the second of which will come out this summer. This film will feel very different as Hogwarts is not part of the mix and Harry and friends are very much on the run the whole time. Yates directs his third of what have been rather dark installments and “Hallows” will certainly be the darkest yet. Bill Nighy as Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour and Rhys Ifans are the most significant British thespian additions to the cast.
My Thoughts: It appears Harry will be getting a heck of a grand finale based on the looks of things. I suppose if you had kids that were young and went to see the original than they’re already 9 years older so they can probably handle the darker themes. Isn’t that simply amazing? It will be 8 films in less than 10 years and all of them have maintained a certain standard of quality. You might not see it now, but when no one accomplishes this feat again for quite some time, you’ll realize how you’ve lived through movie history.