There aren’t as many bad eggs in the Holiday basket as there are at other times during the year. You can generally find some upside in just about any film.
With that said, I’m only really convinced that the top three movies on this list will be genuinely bad. The other two simply don’t match up to their competition in one way or another.
That’s really what red flags are all about during the holidays. It’s not so much that these films are low in quality, but that they won’t be as good as you might think, especially with the competition they’re up against.
5. Armored (Dec. 4)
The Word: Vacancy director Nimrod Antal (there’s an accent above the “o,” but feel free to giggle anyway) gets a cast full of action badasses such as Lawrence Fishbourne and Jean Reno, but the attention is on Stomp the Yard star Columbus Short who plays the morally conflicted rookie of a group of armored car guards who decide to steal one of their shipments. (View trailer)
My View: This armored car inside-job heist film doesn’t look bad, but it lands on my list for being a tired genre film in a season full of more innovative action movies such as Avatar, Sherlock Holmes and arguably even Ninja Assassin. As free spending as we like to be during the Holiday season, I think a dirty officers heist film is something best reserved for an early summer DVD rental. It could be good, but I doubt good enough.
I debated between flagging this movie and Nicholas Cage dirty cop film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleansbecause I hate colon titles and it reunites the stars of the horrific Ghost Rider (Eva Mendes co-stars), but that film is directed by Werner Herzog and could serve to be a fresh genre twist by backing up a protagonist who enters a spiral of corruption. It’s also going to probably see very limited release, whereas Armored is competing only against dramas and will tempt a lot of filmgoers.
The Word: Robert DeNiro gets in touch with his soft side in a film about reconnecting with family during the Holidays. He has an impressive cast of children (Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale) in a film about a widower whose kids all cancel on coming in for Christmas for the first time who realizes his wife was his only real connection to the kids. The movie, a remake of the 1990 Italian film Stanno Tutti Bene, looks to tap into tear ducts as well as the wallets of senior citizens in the way that it feels very natural and true-to-life. Paul McCartney was also moved by a screening and wrote an original song with the help of Oscar-winning composer Dario Marianelli. (View trailer)
My View: Do me a favor. Watch the trailer and answer me this: where’s the conflict in this story? I’ve no doubt that this movie will reflect real life and showcase DeNiro in a unique role and offer some insight into family relationships, but I think the film will only alive at its title’s conclusion: everybody’s fine. I also think that its audiences will use the same adjective in describing it. I just don’t see the point in spending money on a film that doesn’t appear unique or challenging aka have a conflict. When I see a movie trailer where there appears to be no plot other than the set up itself (widower travels and reconnects with kids), I stay away. Remember last year’s Dustin Hoffman Holida-season film Last Chance Harvey? Few people do, because it was about the same thing. Miramax is just hoping to cash in on DeNiro and they very well could.
3. The Blind Side (Nov. 20)
The Word: Sandra Bullock cuts the klutz but puts on the Southern drawl for the latest inspirational sports story about how real life football player Michael Oher, currently a rookie tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, went from being a neglected teenager to a first-round NFL prospect when the Toughy family, wealthy conservatives, took him in. The film is directed by The Rookie director John Lee Hancock and is based on the book by Michael Lewis. (View trailer)
My View: Sandra Bullock has always been one of my least favorite actresses because she never does a good movie except for her role in Crash. Pretty much after the first time you see Miss Congeniality, you’ve seen all you need to see from her. Adding a Southern accent and having her give motivational speeches is just an extra deterrent. If you like Bullock, then realize this is just another motivational football movie and that there haven’t been any good ones sinceRemember the Titans and that alone was plenty. Considering Tim McGraw is playing the father as well, I’m not sure I can go anywhere near this movie.
2. Old Dogs (Nov. 25)
The Word: Robin Williams and John Travolta star in a comedy from director Walt Becker who made Wild Hogs a major hit a couple years ago and sold America on the idea that aging is funny, henceforth revitalizing the careers of actors like John Travolta. Williams plays an older man who suddenly receives a full-blown family when an old-flame re-enters his life with news that he fathered her children. Of course older people can’t make adjustments after living solo for so long, so he enlists the help of Travolta. Physical hijinks ensue as they try and be parents. (View trailer)
My View: If this were the mid-‘90s, then Robin Williams and John Travolta would be a heck of a duo. But this is 2009 and this is Disney. Sounds perfect if you’re still convinced those two are at the top of their game and have children who you’d like to take to something Thanksgiving weekend or during the day with the kids off school, but not for anyone else. The trailer shows a heavy leaning on physical humor and aging jokes and dogs that put their head down on cue expressing how silly it all is. If you can deal with the contrived formula behind the film or believe that adding Seth Green to the cast legitimately makes a connection to a “younger crowd,” then by all means go, but shopping at 6 a.m. on Black Friday sounds better than this.
1. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Dec. 23)
The Word: The CGI-live action mix version of the chipmunks is back thanks to the commercial success of the original, which was making significant money from December 2007 until the following February, finishing with a $217 million take. (View trailer)
My View: Don’t be fooled by the midget squirrels with the cheesy poofs. The rest of the movies you could make a case for seeing, but this film actually looks absurd. Talk about a movie that doesn’t deserve a sequel or a squeakuel. The trailer actually shows the chipmunks going to high school and playing sports and interacting with more humans than ever before. Could this be any dumber? There couldn’t be any clearer movie to avoid this Holiday season.
Check back tomorrow for the top 5 of my suggestions list and eventually my honorable mention films.