Holiday Movie Preview 2011: Comedy/Drama/Romance

There might be a lot of “Ho, Ho, Ho!” every Holiday Season, but in 2011 there’s not a lot of “Ha, Ha, Ha!” In by far the most ambiguous genre grouping in Movie Muse Movie Preview history. The one pure comedy is December’s “The Sitter” while some of definite Oscar contenders made it on this list instead of drama thanks to comedic leanings. Then there’s “Twilight,” which probably deserves a category of its own.



The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Nov. 18)

Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer (novel)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

Summary: Edward and Bella have committed to each other and tie the knot, but when Bella gets pregnant on their honeymoon, her unborn child causes a stir in the werewolf and vampire worlds.

The Word: As the “Twilight” series taks its bizarre and dramatic final turn, it gets Bill Condon, “Dreamgirls” director and easily the most respected of the previous three directors to take on this franchise. Movie theaters have already sold out certain screenings, so regardless of quality, the saga will make another tremendous dent in movie history.

My Thoughts: Just one more year and we’ll be done with it. I don’t hate the “Twilight” franchise, it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, but based on the first two movies, which I did sit through, this story has no business being the phenomenon it has become. The fact that there will be five times in my lifetime when the movie world stopped for “Twilight” is sad enough. All that can be done is hope Condon managed to make something good out of this finale so that we won’t be talking about the most lucrative yet critically panned franchise of all time.

The Descendants (Nov. 18 – Limited)

Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Kaui Hart Hemmings (novel)
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller

Summary: After his wife ends up in the hospital on life support, Hawaiian land baron Matt King must take care of his two daughters, but when he learns that his wife had been cheating on him before the accident, he takes the girls on a trip to confront the man she had an affair with.

The Word: Alexander Payne has been absent from the movie world since “Sideways” about seven years ago. Although he’s been busy producing (HBO’s “Hung” for example), the director that turned heads with “Election” continues to explore uncomfortable relationship dynamics with this film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to strong reviews. With a mostly unknown cast, the film’s future depends largely on the star power of George Clooney, which in theory should be enough to make its presence known until Oscar Season.

My Thoughts: I strongly liked “Sideways” and “Election” (haven’t seen “About Schmidt”), but it’s hard to get pumped up about this one. I know it will be an enjoyable if not great film, but with an awkward blend of drama and comedy it doesn’t scream a must-see at the moment. If award buzz continues to build for the film, however, which we’ll get a better grasp on shortly, you won’t have to convince me to get out and see this one ASAP.

The Artist (Nov. 23 – Limited)

Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Beho, John Goodman, James Cromwell

Summary: In 1927 Hollywood, silent film star George Valentin confronts the realization that talking pictures might put an end to his career, just as he hits it off with an emerging young dancer named Peppy Miller.

The Word: A silent film (that’s right, no dialogue in this one) in black and white will be a hard sell to audiences, especially without big-name star, but Hazanavicius’ film has won over audiences during its festival circuit and been nominated for the top prize in a couple instances, including the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Dujardin won for Best Actor at Cannes, so as silent as the film might be, its awards run might not. Expect a big fat push from The Weinstein Company as per usual.

My Thoughts: I have little doubt this is a joy of a film. Silent films have an eternal place in cinema and there’s no reason someone couldn’t revisit the genre and make it a hit with modern audiences. At the very least, without any dialogue you’d expect the score to be simply outstanding. Anyway, if the recognition continues to grow this will become more of a must-see, but it still has to escape the art house shadow first, and that’s not small task.

New Year’s Eve (Dec. 9)

Directed by Garry Marshall
Written by Katherine Fugate
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel,  Ashton Kutcher, Robert De Niro, Everyone Else

Summary: The lives of several people in New York City intertwine on New Year’s Eve.

The Word: Garry Marshall follows up “Valentine’s Day” with another giant ensemble multi-subplot romantic comedy about the second most hopelessly romantic holiday, New Year’s Eve. Some of the notable additions to this absurdly large ensemble cast other than your usual Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl are “Glee” star Lea Michele, Zac Efron, Abigail Breslin, Sofia Vergara and even Robert De Niro.

My Thoughts: I left out a lot of stars, but I think you get the point. “Valentine’s Day” opened with $56 million and made over $200 million worldwide, enough to pay off the billions of people starring in it, all because we get all giddy when we see that many recognizable actors in one movie and half to fork out our money to see it. With the holidays bringing out the gooey side of people and “New Year’s Eve” being the first post-Thanksgiving offering, I suspect another runaway hit.

The Sitter (Dec. 9)

Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka
Starring: Jonah Hill, Ari Graynor, Max Records, Landry Bender

Summary: A college graduate unable to find work resorts to babysitting to make cash, but when the girl he’s “seeing” promises him some action he throws the three kids in the minivan and embarks on a night adventure that gets way out of hand.

The Word: David Gordon Green was a respected indie director until 2007 when he decided to forever dedicate himself to raunchy comedy. “Pineapple Express” won a lot of fans a stoner action comedy and TV show “Eastbound & Down” has a huge following, but “Your Highness” disappointed. Now he teams up with Jonah Hill (still fat) in this “Adventures in Babysitting” meets “Superbad” comedy.

My Thoughts: It’s a bit odd that we will have had two R-rated comedies this year focusing on people who work with kids (“Bad Teacher” being the other) yet they are not for kids. “The Sitter” looks to walk the fine line between something we’ve seen a lot of before and a raunchy spin on the babysitting comedy. I suspected something along the lines of “Bad Teacher” in this one where it’s kind of absurd yet admittedly funny.

Young Adult (Dec. 16)

Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt

Summary: A writer of young adult fiction novels gets divorced and her life begins to spin out of control. She decides to return to her small-town Minnesota home and tries to steal her ex-boyfriend from high school away from his wife and kids.

The Word: Reitman and Cody, the director/writer combo behind the runaway hit “Juno”  join forces again with a much more adult film than that Oscar-nominated film and Oscar-winning script. Reitman has been on a tear lately as his last film “Up in the Air” made serious Oscar noise, but Cody could use a rebound after “Jennifer’s Body” and “United States of Tara” underwhelming. Theron hasn’t been in a major role in awhile but Wilson and Oswalt have been on the rise.

My Thoughts: We have no reason to believe Jason Reitman can do any wrong and Theron looks like a real winner as this willfully ignorant former prom queen, so I’m particularly excited for this film. It’s been relatively quiet on the festival circuit, but with a wide release planned that should mean that the goal is to be commercially viable and not necessarily Oscar viable. Either way you have to expect quality from this one.

We Bought A Zoo (Dec. 23)

Directed by Cameron Crowe
Written by Aline Brosh McKenna and Cameron Crowe, Benjamin Mee (book)
Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Elle Fanning, Thomas Haden Church

Summary: A single father decides he and his kids need a change, so they move away and end up buying a home with a zoo attached to it, but the zoo needs upkeep or they risk losing the animals.

The Word: Not unlike Alexander Payne, Cameron Crowe returns to directing after six years off after “Elizabethtown” failed to impress anyone. With a career including “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous,” the man hasn’t messed up very much, so perhaps he gets back on track with this story of a broken family despite a likely predictable outcome of the zoo bringing them closer. Writer Aline Brosh McKenna could also use a boost from something more dramatic as her string of rom-coms have continually fizzled since she became a commodity with “The Devil Wears Prada.”

My Thoughts: This first trailer for “Zoo” doesn’t have that “it” factor that an uplifting drama needs to make it stand amongst the pack of Oscar contenders. Without a festival circuit to boost any awards buzz, this could be one of those pretenders simply looking to make it on Holiday spirit alone. Crowe and Damon are two names not to take lightly, but until we see something somewhat unpredictable or mysterious in this one it could be just your run-of-the-mill feel-good Holiday movie.


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