Jingle Bells, yo! Holiday season is all up ons, and you know what that means, right? Yes, it means no more goddamn elections! Now you can shove all that food in your face with the reassuring certainty that when you turn on the TV to avoid being with your family you will see as many It’s a Wonderful Life reruns as you want without worrying that there will be any campaign ads to interrupt Jimmy Stewart when he’s talking like he forgot a hard boiled egg in his cheek!
But if you ever get tired of watching Jimmy Stewart speak like he’s trying to lure some waterfowl into the line of sight of his Remington, you can use all that newly amassed carbohydrate energy to haul yourself up to a theater nearby and watch any of these promising films:
1. Rise of the Guardians (November 21): Like The League of Extraordinary Gentleman of holiday folklore, Rise of the Guardians is a pastiche of storybook staples, revolving around an Avengers-like alliance between Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, the Tooth Fairy and Jack Frost to defeat the Bogeyman, and you know what? It’s looking badass.
Santa Claus, for instance, looks more like the dad dude from American Chopper than the jolly fat guy we are accustomed to – covered in bitchin’-ass tats befitting of a Russian Vor and driving a souped-up sleigh with jet engines and computerized controls.
And Aussie Easter Bunny? Totally works. For some reason, it seems like he should have been Australian from the get-go, even though the origins of the character lie in Germanic mythology.
Like most Dreamworks animations, this has a star-studded cast of voice-actors. Unlike a lot of Dreamworks animations, though, this star-studded cast isn’t freaking lame. Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Jude Law all loan their voices to the mythical beings, ensuring that if the movie isn’t good, you can at least picture them all having sex at the same time and totally gross yourself out.
2. Killing Them Softly (November 30): George V. Higgins + The Guy Who Directed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford = Explosiongasm.
For those not in the know, George V. Higgins is one of the most important American crime writers of all time, and the author of Cogan’s Trade, the novel that inspired this film, and also a really good crime book.
The story concerns two small-time dipshit thieves who hit a clandestine poker game run by a mobster called Mark Trattman. The catch is that Trattman had already ordered a robbery on his own game a while back, in order to keep all the money to himself, and bragged about it afterwards, so now he is a prime suspect for the heist. When he’s cleared of suspicion and things start getting hairy, however, the criminals have to reach out to the number-one enforcer around: Jackie Cogan. Now he’s the one who has to straighten out this mess.
The movie is likely to pad out the plot a little bit, considering the original story is pretty much dialogue-only, but that shouldn’t be difficult, with the rich environment laid down by Higgins, which includes other books set in the same universe – Among them the all-time classic The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
One point of departure in the adaptation, though, is the setting: From George V. Higgins’ seedy Boston streets, the movie will take place in seedy New Orleans streets. The characters all appear to have an East Coast accent, though, so presumably they’re talking Y’at.
The trailer is a pleasure in itself. It’s like trailer-heaven, it has everything a trailer should have and a little more: Snappy dialogue, badass mobsters, Paul Jenkins, and Johnny Cash. Rejoice:
3. Jack Reacher (December 21): I tried. I swear I tried. But I just can’t hate on Tom Cruise. Sure, he seems to be a complete douchebag in person (don’t they all?), but he is a pretty damn … Well, a pretty damn okay actor. If it’s inside his comfort zone, he can pull it off, and his comfort zone isn’t that limited either, considering he pretty much nailed his role in Magnolia. And when we’re talking about American James Bonds, he’s the go-to guy. His Ethan Hunt is already among the higher Pantheon of action heroes, and apparently he is going to double his take with Jack Reacher, after that Knight and Day dude totally phoned it in.
Like Killing Them Softly, Jack Reacher is also based on a crime novel, this one called One Shot, by Lee Child. I have only just started to read that one (I’m big on crime fiction, can you tell?), but I’m digging it so far, and it seems like it could translate into a really awesome action film.
It revolves around an ex-MP detective who gets dragged into a multiple-homicide investigation when the prime suspect, army sniper James Barr, and requests he is involved to clear his name. From there on: Action. Just a bunch of balls-to-the-wall action. So just shut up. Here’s the trailer:
4. Django Unchained (December 25): What will you be doing this Christmas day? Well, if you’re a little goddamn wimp, you will enjoy time with family and friends, unwrap presents, get hammered on egg-nog, and watch Jimmy Stewart talk like there’s another mouth inside his mouth. If, however, you’re muscular and handsome and popular with the ladies, you’ll move your buns of steel straight to the theater and watch some Django Unchained, the latest Tarantino flick.
So there’s a slave guy, and there’s a mercenary guy, and then there’s a guy who is Leonardo DiCaprio, whatever … Plot’s not important. What’s important is: A Spaghetti-Western directed by Quentin Tarantino. Holy shit.
Now, I’m not the biggest Tarantino fan. I mean, I dig his stuff, but not like other people do, like they’re about to canonize the guy and name a hospital after him. But I gotta give it to him: Dude knows his Spaghetti-Westerns, seeing as how there’s always an element of it in pretty much all his films, and taking into account his latest joint, Inglourious Basterds, was pretty much one in its own right (taking its name from a famous movie in the Macaroni Combat genre, which is like Spaghettis meet WWII), and is, incidentally, my favorite film of his, I can’t wait to see what he’ll come up with when he’s helming an all-out, unfiltered Spaghetti Western. Bask in the trailer:
5. Sushi Girl (January 4): It’s a well-known medical fact that an average human being takes about three to four weeks to fully recover from New Year’s Eve hangover. That time-window can be significantly reduced, however, if you bring Mark Hamill into the equation, and guess who is in Sushi Girl, a black-comedy crime thriller to premiere January 4?
It’s fitting that I bring up Tarantino on my last entry, because this movie appears to be riding a wave that seemed to have faded quite a while ago: The Tarantino wave. After Pulp Fiction hit theaters harder than Gallagher hits watermelons, a lot of people got artistically inspired by the truckloads of cash the movie raked and decided to turn it into a formula: Stylish, fragmented, hyper-violent crime thrillers with a lot of dark comedy and a rock-and-roll soundtrack.
Not that Scorsese hadn’t already done that before in Goodfellas, but QT looked slicker than him so there’s that...
The trend brought about some pretty crappy flicks (Domino, Lucky Number Slevin) but some really good ones too (Snatch, Oldboy), and, based on the trailer, Sushi Girl seems to be headed for the latter category. Plenty of Guy Ritchie-esque visuals to go around, cool-looking heists, and gruesome torture. Although I don't think there's a bigger torture than watching Jimmy Stewart talk like he's dipping his face in a pile of corn starch.