Thursday, December 01, 2011

Christmas at the Movies




  • This article was first published on 01/12/11 in VIDA magazine.
  • Release dates are subject to change. All films released locally by KRS Film Distributors Ltd.

film of the month:


Every festive season, magical family films compete for our attention during the holidays. There’s usually one or two with a clear seasonal theme, but often anything spectacular and family-friendly will do the trick. Whether it’s hobbits on quests, children keeping burglars at bay, or green Grinches trying to ruin Christmas, many a box-office hit has made it’s grand entry thanks to that special December feeling.

Martin Scorsese films do not usually fit that bill. One of the most celebrated and respected directors alive, he usually makes visceral and thrilling films that you don’t get to enjoy until you’ve left sixth form. And if you’re not good with bloody violence, maybe not at all. But like many great artists, he tries his hand at different genres, just like he did with the historical biopic The Aviator a few years back. This time, he’s decided to embrace both children’s fiction and 3D filmmaking, in what is being hailed as a glorious fairytale.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret was published back in 2007 by children’s author Brian Selznick. Scorsese acquired the rights, and the screenplay was written by John Logan, who is the man behind such gems as Gladiator, The Aviator and Rango (and who penned the next Bond film). The story is set in 1930s Paris, with the titular character being an orphan who lives in a world of steam engines and clockwork toys, hidden away in a train station. With regard to the 3D, this is apparently no gimmicky afterthought conversion, but rather a full-bodied attempt by Scorsese to use the medium and weave it into his fantasy storytelling.

Asa Butterfield, who had a haunting main role in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, is Hugo. Also responding to Scorsese’s casting call are Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat), Ben Kingsley (Elegy), Jude Law (Closer), Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings) and Emily Mortimer (Shutter Island). This looks like one of those films that can appeal to those of all ages and all tastes in film. It will be fascinating to see how the man behind so many crime and thriller classics can adapt himself to the childlike and magical, and the early response from abroad suggests he’s done so with class.


also released this month:

New Year’s Eve

If you watched Valentine’s Day last year, think of this as the sequel. Same formula - more big names than you would find at the Oscars, each with a small plot that all falls magically into place for the big moment. Love Actually set the high standards for this sort of film, but unfortunately Valentine’s Day sacrificed detail and emotion to try and fit in more people. With a cast list too long to go through, let’s hope this doesn’t do the same mistake. If you want to get festive and see what the likes of Robert DeNiro, Halle Berry, Jon Bon Jovi, Michelle Pfeiffer, the newly single Asthon Kutcher (and many, many more) get up to at the stroke of midnight, this might be fun.


Machine Gun Preacher

Gerald Butler (300) stars as American biker Sam Childers, who gave up his drinking ways when he embraced religion, and now is an active protector of orphans in Sudan. I guess how much you enjoy this depends on whether you go for the preaching or for the machine guns.


Puss in Boots

A spin-off from the now-concluded Shrek storyline, this is all about the feisty ginger cat getting his own back-story and moment in the limelight. Sort of like Wolverine, but with smaller claws. Antonio Banderas is of course at hand to add the sultry accent that makes Puss such a kitty-charmer, and Salma Hayek voices one of the adversaries he encounters. Despite the groans that many elicit when such spin-offs are announced, this one is getting good reviews, mostly in the fun department.


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The first Sherlock Holmes film was incredibly fun, despite what the Arthur Conan Doyle purists might have thought. Guy Ritchie’s dark but crisp directing was a perfect fit for old London and Robert Downey Jr.’s aloof excellence brought Holmes to life in style. So here’s a second helping, and once again Jude Law is dragged along as the reluctant but essential Watson. Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris) also returns, and the new additions include Noomi Rapace (the Swedish Lisbeth Salander) and the inimitable Stephen Fry.



If you thought the Conan Doyle purists were angry, wait till the bard ones see this. A fictional re-imagining of English history, this film stakes the claim that Will Shakespeare didn’t write a single word of his works. Despite the solid cast (including Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jacobi and Rhys Ifans), many are up in arms claiming this is the most silly film Roland Emmerich ever directed. And this is the man who gave us 2012.


Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Despite the up and downs of Tom Cruise’s popularity, there’s no denying that these films are usually fun, in a Bond vs. MacGyver kind of way. But after the excellent first one, the second had too much slow-motion and Cruise self-love, and the third was tarnished by one of the most far-fetched endings ever. So they took a break, but the franchise is now back, and the first promising sign was director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille and The Iron Giant) behind the camera. Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) and Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead) are back in the team, and new additions include Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker). The plot, should you choose to accept it, involves a bubbling war between USA and Russia.


Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Just when you thought they couldn’t come up with a more painful title than ‘The Squeakquel’, they did. Your kids might be excited to see more of our high-pitched friends, but you might want to take them to see Hugo first, for their sake and yours.