Winter Movie Preview

    Sherlock Holmes

    Dec. 25 — The same tweedy, weirdo detective with a pipe who made Granny swoon is getting an extreme makeover this holiday season. Thanks to Robert Downey Jr., Holmes is now a major badass.As the murderous cult leader Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) conspires to destroy London, Holmes and Watson team up once again to stop evil from running amuck. But don’t expect the same fingerprinting and clue-sniffing that rocked you to sleep as a wee one. After all, Sherlock 2.0 comes complete with action-packed explosions; a hot, half-naked Rachel McAdams; and Jude Law, the embodiment of everything sexy in Britain, in the passenger seat. Peppered with cheesy quips and shot in picturesque London, director Guy Ritchie’s rendering of this sleuthing superstar will knock this classic on its ancient butt — and we can’t wait to see it go down.
    — Amanda Martinek
    Staff Writer

    Up in the Air

    Dec. 25 — Leaving the theater with the googly-eyed spine tingle you get when a movie’s turned your night upside down — when it’s packaged so tight to perfection that you dread the final credit roll — it was admittedly a little hard for me to believe that “Up in the Air” had been so fucking good. Hard to believe, because it happens to be directed by the same guy who brought America its first Sunny D-chugging hipster hero who (honest to blog) almost made me scratch out my eye sockets.But on the real: Jason Reitman took the best things about “Juno” — its heart-wrenchingly human conflicts, its compassion, its tongue-in-cheeky dialogue (sans the forced quirkiness) — and cherry-topped the whole thing with George Clooney and a handful of other unreasonably good-looking actors. A film this uplifting, this strangely disarming, this relevant and even timeless, is enough to make an audience cry and laugh at the same time (just when you thought happy-sad must be a promotional myth), and sometimes simply stare in a stupefied hush.
    Clooney hits top form as the self-assured, no-strings Ryan Bingham — in essence, corporate America’s dreamy hitman. A “termination specialist,” he’s paid to fire people for bosses too spineless to do the deed; indeed, it takes a steely soul to bear countless tragic pleas of the economically downtrodden.
    But after wrapping up a day of tearful, exasperated, how-could-you-do-this-to-me breakdowns, Bingham clicks his briefcase closed with a little satisfied smile and heads back to the airport, unscathed. Striding through metal detectors like the drill were a cakewalk, he enjoys an in-flight lifestyle 322 days out of the year: To know him is to fly with him.
    Problem is, we’re still half crushed — and that’s what makes the movie brilliant. Reitman’s constant push and pull from devastating reality to a slick utopia of tiny cocktails and V.I.P. cards leaves us vaguely empty and utterly absorbed.
    The casting ultimately makes it work: No one but Clooney could have played white-collar jet-hopper so charmingly, and no one but real people — who really got the boot — could have made those blubbering breakdowns so convincing.
    “We read from a legal form used to fire people,” Reitman said, describing how he prompted reactions from people with no prior acting experience. “The second they would hear it, their eyes would turn red; their postures would change. If someone asked me what the worst part was about getting fired, I would have said, ‘Loss of income.’ But it’s not the money — it’s the lack of purpose. It’s the reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
    But the pink-slip moments of outrage aren’t overwhelming or overly sentimental; instead, they’re just sporadic enough to generate a kind of lingering unrest, framing Bingham’s mildly existential journey and reminding us of catastrophes much greater than a guy in his 40s who can’t commit.
    Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) plays the stunning female counterpart to Bingham’s effortless cool. “Think of me as yourself, only with a vagina,” she purrs, admiring in equal parts his stolen room-key collection and frequent flyer miles. After doing the dirty, both flip open their laptops to arrange another domestic booty call.
    But Bingham’s world of hotel sex and complimentary peanuts comes to a slamming halt when he’s introduced to Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), a fresh-faced graduate with ambitions to fire workers without stepping foot on another plane again. Using videoconferencing, one needs only to sit at his or her computer and read a carefully designed script to break the news, hundreds of miles away.
    Of course, her cost-effective plan threatens Bingham’s rose-tinted universe. Convinced his job is an art form requiring more grace and experience than the equivalent of a text-message breakup, he dares the naive overachiever to do the nasty job herself, face-to-face with a world outside the Ivy League nest. His challenge proves transformative for both — in the end, all our expectations are shot in a wedding scene that shifts the movie from Bingham’s airbrushed, air-conditioned gaze to a softer place where real people live, in all their imperfections and insecurities.
    The perspective shift mirrors Reitman’s own journey while conceiving the film. “When I started making movies seven years ago, I was a single guy living in an apartment in my 20s; I was a contrarian,” he said, chewing a fish taco thoughtfully. “But then I became a father, I got a mortgage … Ryan starts to recognize similar things that I was recognizing.”
    But the movie doesn’t set out to villainize Bingham for shunning his family or refusing a shot at substantial intimacy; if anything, the guy’s just too damn likeable to fault. Nor does “Up” blindly applaud the sanctity of marriage and feed us an easy ending, just in time for the holidays. Instead, it merely suggests that “life’s better with company.” Whether or not you find the right co-pilot or crash and burn, remains, well — you get where I’m going here.

    Nine

    Dec. 25 — It’s a bit asinine, even obscene, how preoccupied Hollywood has been with the number nine this year. Off the heels of “9,” “District 9” and (triple whammy) “$9.99,” Rob Marshall’s latest, “Nine,” loses itself in the fray. To be fair, though, it’s better than that: This grand girl party is a spin-off of a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical first produced in 1982, and the last screenplay of late legend Anthony Minghella.A musical in its own right, “Nine” sings and dances its way through the midlife crisis of world-renowned Italian film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis). Drained of creative juices and racked with personal strife, the midlife-crisis victim juggles the demands of shooting his next film — for which he has no script — and his wife of 20 years (Marion Cotillard), who is tiring of his absence. Schizophrenic tendencies warp Contini’s mind, and his fugitive imagination soon blurs the line between reality and fiction. As if within a mid-‘60s Christmas Carol adaptation, Contini revisits women of his past whilst contending with those of the present: his mistress (Penélope Cruz), costume designer (Judi Dench), film star muse (Nicole Kidman) and an American fashion journalist (Kate Hudson).
    Much in the same vein as Marshall’s 2002 hit “Chicago,” “Nine” leverages from ornate costuming, subdued colors, flashy dance numbers and an ensemble cast that collectively boasts six Oscars.
    — Leila Haghighat
    Senior Staff Writer

    The Lovely Bones

    Jan. 15 — From Peter Jackson, the same epic nerd who brought us “Lord of the Rings,” comes the haunting story of 14-your-old Susie Salmon. After being raped and murdered, the littlest angel observes her greiving family from a personal heaven as they attempt to solve the mystery of her death. Based on Alice Sebold’s best-selling novel, the film follows Susie’s father Jack (Mark Wahlberg) as he pores obsessively over the case, her emotionally unstable mother Abigail (Rachel Weisz) and her younger sister, who is determined to find out the truth even if it means risking her own life. Highlights include Jackson’s psychedelic interpretation of Susie’s heaven with fantastical cinematography, lush colors and the same out-of-this-world vision that made him famous. With Stanley Tucci topping off the creepy as Salmon’s next-door neighbor, we’re bound to get goosebumps — and not the good kind.
    — Neelaab Nasraty
    Staff Writer

    The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

    DEC. 25 — Even if you, for whatever reason, don’t like strip-free acid trips or aren’t fan of midgets, curiosity alone should be enough to pull you into “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” Not to mention, it’s the last movie Heath Ledger — our generation’s James Dean — will ever appear in. After his tragic and untimely death, production was put on hold until three of his buddies (no-big-deal stars Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) took it upon themselves to split the role and finish up the film.
    Dr. P, played by the versatile Christopher Plummer, makes a deal with the devil — an always outrageous Tom Waits — to trade in his daughter for immortality. Mysterious outsider Tony, played by all four sexpots, travels through magical parallel worlds in order to save the girl.
    Written and directed by Terry Gilliam, “Imaginarium” is sure to be the hallucinogenic journey of the year. Come on, even Verne Troyer — yes, the freakish midget from “Austin Powers” — stopped by for a cameo. As if we didn’t have reason enough to see it twice.
    — Amanda Martinek
    Staff Writer

    Serious Moonlight

    DEC. 4 — A romantic comedy with one too many revenge plots for comfort, “Serious Moonlight” takes “All’s fair in love and war” to heart (a la “Intolerable Cruelty”), spelling out all the reasons not to date a high-powered attorney — as if we needed more than one.
    A lip-pumped Meg Ryan plays Louise, superwoman lawyer who finds out her husband Ian is having an affair with a young floozy (Kristen Bell). Instead of flying into hysterics, Louise has a more novel idea: duct-tape him to the toilet and hold him hostage until he loves her.
    Hilarity ensues (or doesn’t) as she-devil attempts to reignite the spark through a parade of old wedding footage and truly horrific a capella. Desperate for freedom, Ian screams for the attention of neighbors — only to realize he has alerted “bad guy” robbers that they’re in the clear.
    While the storyline may be dubious, the cast has potential: Ryan, no longer America’s sweetheart, tries her hand at domineering bitch, while Bell sets aside sass to do dumb blonde. It may not have the merit of screenwriter Adrienne Shelley’s early work (read: “Waitress”), but it does teach a valuable lesson: Before duct-taping your estranged husband to a toilet, lock the door.
    — Angela Chen
    Senior Staff Writer

    Leaves of Grass

    DEC. 25 — Down to spend this year’s break getting high to something other than “Home Alone”? Cue Edward Norton, crossbows, Edward Norton, mistaken identities, Edward Norton talking in a hick accent and um, Edward Norton, and you’ve got Tim Blake Nelson’s “Leaves of Grass.” Norton plays two parts: a brilliantly blazed Oklahoman and an eloquent Ivy League professor who happens to be the pothead’s twin. Enter Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfuss, and it’s the perfect stoner comedy that isn’t.
    “Pineapple Express” may have taken itself a tad too seriously, but the deadpan faces of Norton and Norton on the black-and-white movie poster have us wondering if this comedy truly has a dark side. Sure, the trailer promises hilarious hijinks that only a “pair” of charming twins could cause — using mistaken identities to their advantage; paying the price — but we hope this buddy flick is more than a couple Mary J. jokes and jabs at the intelligentsia and/or corn-crunchin’ farmers. But seriously — two Edward Nortons. Now that’s hot.
    — Hannah Kang
    Senior Staff Writer

    The Young Victoria

    DEC. 18 — Missed out on “The Queen” and “Marie Antoinette”? No need to fret — a new royalty introspective produced by Martin Scorsese is about to be bestowed upon all the girly history buffs and costume-drama lovers of the world (with emphasis on the word costume, not drama). Apparently, Victoria’s life as a young woman lacked any significant degree of substance, although her budding relationship with Prince Albert (the focal point of the film) might allow a somewhat endearing romantic yarn. Mind you, the couple will hardly pose a challenge to “Pirates” heartthrobs Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner, and there will be no convenient vampires to perform neck-piercing love scenes. So don’t get too excited. Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend are sure to steam things up a bit, but it’s rumored to be a show-stealing performance for Paul Bettany, who plays Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. Cheers, mate!
    — Gretchen Wegrich
    Staff Writer

    Brothers

    DEC. 4 — Though the tell-all trailer for director Jim Sheridan’s latest leaves little unanswered, there is something about the idea of a supposedly dead soldier returning home that leaves us itching to know more. The A-list cast doesn’t look half bad either. With Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman and Jake Gyllenhaal leading the way, we find out what happens when a grieving army widow seeks comfort in the arms of her deceased husband’s black-sheep brother.
    But what begins as a post-mortem therapy session quickly transforms into something else entirely, when the apparently “dead” first husband arrives at the front door to discover a blossoming romance between his wife and brother. Sound familiar? That’s probably because it has the same exact plot as “Cider House Rules.” And “Pearl Harbor.” Oh, Hollywood.
    Though hardly groundbreaking, Maguire’s post-traumatic stress meltdown and consequential shoot-out with the cops does look epic, and will undoubtedly earn an Oscar nod or two. To hell with originality.
    — Neelaab Nasraty
    Staff Writer

    A Simple Man

    DEC. 11 — The fashion world’s McSteamy, the sunglassed Tom Ford, steps behind the camera for the first time with “A Single Man,” a film that has already generated significant Oscar buzz for its “great sensitivity” and for leading actor Colin Firth’s “moving performance” as gay and grieving 52-year-old professor George Falconer, suffering in a world that cannot make room for homosexuality. The story begins as Falconer attempts to live out a day of his life as normally as possible, suppressing the fact that his lover of 16 years has just died in a car crash.

    Set in LA in the 1960s, it is the heyday of Hitchcock, Mad Men and Audrey Hepburn. Ford’s world is clean-cut, sophisticated and glossy in the most precise ways. It will be interesting to see if his attempt at poetic sensitivity falls short, however, due to the acclaimed designer’s innate need to sweep all the ugliness away. We’ll certainly be left with something pretty, but the unrealistic ideal may not appeal to everyone.

    Ford and Firth may present some of the most exquisitely tailored misery out there, but hopefully we won’t find ourselves yearning for a fray — after all, it’s in the unraveling that the most real unhappiness dwells.

    — Hannah Kang

    Staff Writer

    It’s Complicated

    DEC. 25 — Alec Baldwin trades in the under-the-breath cynicism of “30 Rock’s” Jack Donaghy for far less abrasive schemes of chivalry in this Christmas day release. Complications arise when Baldwin steps into the middle of a budding relationship between two of Hollywood’s other cash cows, Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, birthing a star-struck love triangle.
    Like all good divorcees with three children, Jane (Streep) and Jack (Baldwin) have separated ways, buried the hatchet and let bygones be bygones. Ten years later though, their son’s graduation reunites the independent-minded baker with her attorney ex-husband, who’s by now remarried a hot thing of his own (Lake Bell). Any other genre would portray the reunion as a highly awkward affair, but this is a romantic comedy — and a Nancy Meyers one, at that. Accordingly, a plot twist of family ties ensues à la director/ producer/ screenwriter’s Nancy Meyers“Something’s Gotta Give” and “The Parent Trap.” And so, as the divorcees’ innocent dinner rekindles romance, it threatens to undermine Jack’s marriage and Jane’s relationship with Adam (Martin), an architect who she’s contracted to remodel her kitchen.
    Undoubtedly, the film will, once again, laud Streep for the acting chameleon she is and exhibit yet more of her recent shift toward less Oscar-worthy, more commercial blockbuster roles. The film will also be a must-see for Academy Awards geeks. With the male leads, Baldwin and Martin, slated to co-host next year’s show, think of “It’s Complicated” as a pocket guide to the jokes likely to be cracked among the silver screen elite, come Oscar night.
    — Leila Haghighat
    Staff Writer

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal