Arts & Entertainment

Holiday Movie Preview

Usually the movies that come out during the holiday season fall into one of two categories: Big budget blockbuster flicks sure to draw in restless crowds emancipated from work and school, or last minute Oscar bids hoping to become critical darlings.

Either way, December is a good month for movies. Whether you’re a casual moviegoer or a proud film buff, a winter trip to the cinema won’t leave you disappointed. 

All this said, some of the most anticipated movies of the 2011 holiday season are breaking tradition. It seems that the ones with the A-list stars, high-profile literary source material, and hefty studio budgets are the ones that in all likelihood will be running for Academy Awards as well. 

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: December 23

Along with an international bestseller for source material, stellar cast, and director extraordinaire, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has one of the best trailers in recent memory (featuring “Immigrant Song” covered by Trent Reznor and Karen O). Based on the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, TGWTDT is a mystery-thriller that follows brilliant hacker and private investigator Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), and jailbird journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) as they investigate a missing person case that’s 40 years old. The book is the ideal source for a gripping movie—it’s dynamic, terse, shocking, and Lisbeth Salander, a fiery, punk, sociopathic biker, is an endlessly intriguing character. We’re in good hands with director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network), a filmmaker known for his stunning yet edgy cinematography, art direction, and editing. If anything, the only worry we could have about this movie is that it sounds too good to be true.

War Horse: December 28

The upcoming film War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg, has taken an odd route from children’s novel, to London and Broadway play, to blockbuster film. Young British stage actor Jeremy Irvine will play protagonist Albert Narracott, who is separated from his beloved horse Joey at the outbreak of World War One. Both Albert and Joey fight on the Western Front, and the equine star for both the British and German armies throughout the war. Along with action sequences that somehow make the trenches and scarred no-man’s land of WWI France look beautiful, War Horse promises an emotional rollercoaster. It appears that Spielberg will return to one of his tried and true themes: the power of friendship against all odds. The play was criticized for having too little plot, but was lauded for its staging and artistic vision, and the cinematic adaptation promises spectacular cinematography and art direction too. Here’s hoping that Spielberg will avoid his recent heavy-handed Aesopian morals and emotional manipulation and flesh out a compelling story. We all know the Saving Private Ryan director can make a spectacular war movie.

Tinker Tailor Solder Spy: December 9

Judging from the trailer alone, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy will be a tense, intriguing, and well-acted thriller. Set at the height of the Cold War, the film, based on the 1974 novel by exceptional espionage writer John LeCarré, follows M16 agents as they investigate their own service in the hunt for a Soviet double agent. Gary Oldman stars as the reserved but brilliant George Smiley, an M16 intelligence agent, and is joined by Oscar winner Colin Firth and fangirl favourite Benedict Cumberbatch as fellow British intelligence officers. The plot travels from England to Turkey to Russia, through shocking revelations, gritty action scenes, and mind-bending battles of wits found only in the spy genre. Plus, it opened to rave reviews earlier this year at the Venice International Film festival. With Oldman’s latest, expect a film that lives up to the name thriller.

Coriolanus: December 2

Coriolanus is a modernized version of the tragedy the Bard wrote after Othello and King Lear, and this latest Shakespearian adaptation promises to be filled with blood and gore galore. The film is directed by Ralph Fiennes who also stars in the lead role—is there anything You Know Who can’t do? The film’s eponymous star is a contentious character. Caius Martius Coriolanus first honours Rome as a heroic general but goes on to stir up a revolution, and leaves the country he loves branded as a traitorous exile. Coriolanus soon joins forces with his sworn enemy, Tullus Aufidius, played by action flick veteran Gerard Butler. Up and coming acting talent Jessica Chastain plays Coriolanus’ wife, Virgilia. The dynamic themes of the play—revenge, betrayal, and revolution—should translate well in a contemporary setting. And for those who still see Shakespeare as synonymous with boring, the trailer promises explosions, and lots of them.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: December 16

Director Guy Ritchie’s 2009 film Sherlock Holmes took Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective stories to a whole new level. Holmes retained his brilliant, brooding, and abrasive personality, but added bare-knuckle boxer and action hero to his resume—and of course Robert Downey Jr. was the ideal choice for the role. Jude Law brought a level of suave to Holmes’ assistant Watson, helping the character step out of the clueless persona he’s been relegated to in many adaptations; Law’s interpretation was quickly nicknamed “Hotson.” Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows promises to amp things up even further when we meet Professor Moriarty, Holmes’ arch nemesis, and Sim, a crime-fighting Roma fortune-teller. Their adventure takes them across Europe as Holmes and Watson investigate the murder of the Crown Prince of Austria and do battle with Holmes’ intellectual double and moral-void mortal enemy. Sound exciting? No doubt. If all bodes well, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows will be the same thrilling blend of boxing brawn and suave Victorian wit that it was two years ago.

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