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The December 2009 Movie Preview

by Dave Thomas

Brothers-Poster-natalie-portman.jpg
Brothers

While nothing this month stands out as an awards season frontrunner, there's lots of potential Oscar suitors to choose from, and isn't it more interesting that way?

DECEMBER 4

Wide

ARMORED

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Armored truck guard (Columbus Short) agrees to inside heist with his co-workers (Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Skeet Ulrich), but changes his mind when someone (Milo Ventimiglia) gets hurt.

WILL IT SUCK?
All eyes on Kontroll director Nimrod Antal, who failed to impress with his American debut, Vacancy. Also not encouraging, the let's-reveal-everything trailer. A little more pressure added since Antal's directing Predators, until you remember that Predators probably isn't a good idea to begin with.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Not much action to compete with. $57mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Maybe if Sidney Lumet directed.

BROTHERS

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Guy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comforts his recently widowed sister-in-law (Natalie Portman) like, you know, Biblically. Then his brother (Tobey Maguire) returns from the war. Turns out he wasn't dead after all. Awk-ward.

WILL IT SUCK?

Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, In America) gives great movie (Get Rich or Die Tryin' notwithstanding). Writing is a little more iffy. David Benioff wrote The 25th Hour, but he also wrote Wolverine. Maybe he's better with drama? Cast also includes Clifton Collins Jr. and Sam Shepherd.

Early buzz is good.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Sheridan does not usually give good box office. Though this is the biggest cast he's had to work with thus far. $31mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Sheridan's usually good for a few. Look at Actor, Actress, Screenplay, maaaaaybe Director.

transylmania-20091103061920.jpg

TRANSYLMANIA

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Eurotrip meets Transylvania 6-500.

WILL IT SUCK?
Improbably, early buzz is good. I say improbably because this is basically the team that put together National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze and with very few exceptions anything National Lampoon presents these days is crap. Trailer also looks like crap.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Maybe if they called it Vampire Movie. $11mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
No.

Limited

EVERYBODY'S FINE

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Dad (Robert DeNiro) takes a road trip to visit his grown kids at Christmas.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is mostly positive. Writer/director Kirk Jones helmed Nanny McPhee and wrote and directed Waking Ned Devine so you've got a good pedigree there. Based on the 1990 Italian film of the same name (except, you know, in Italian) with Marcello Mastroianni in the lead role. This version co-stars Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, and Melissa Leo.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Seems more like a wide-release kind of film. $11mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Haven't heard that kind of buzz.

104201_trailer-george-cloon.jpg

UP IN THE AIR

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Character study of a downsizing expert (George Clooney) who spends most of his life acquiring frequent flyer miles.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is outstanding. Looks like writer/director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Juno) might go 3 for 3. Cast includes Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, and Anna Kendrick, whom you might remember from such films as Twilight but should remember from such films as Rocket Science. Seriously, go see that movie.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
A lot of product will flood the market by the time this goes wide on Christmas Day, but between now and then buzz should put butts in seats. $50mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
I get the feeling this will be one of the sweep nods: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay (and maybe a supporting nod for Kendrick).

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Woman (Meg Ryan) holds philandering husband (Timothy Hutton) hostage until burglars (led by Justin Long) complicate matters.

WILL IT SUCK?
The directorial debut of Cheryl Hines, who helms the screenplay of her late friend and Waitress co-star Adrienne Shelly. Early buzz is good. Oh, and Kristen Bell plays the mistress.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Has to get over the no-one's-liked-Meg-Ryan-in-anything-for-a-while impediment. $7mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
If they didn't remember Waitress...

THE LAST STATION

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
A year in the life of Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer). The last one, actually.

WILL IT SUCK?
Audiences seem more in love than critics, although it's already managed to tie Precious for Indie Spirit nods. Co-starring Helen Mirren (who won a Best Actress award at the Rome Film Festival), James McAvoy, and Paul Giamatti.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Probably better once it goes into wide release in January. $9mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Look at Plummer for Actor and Mirren for Actress.

DECEMBER 11

Wide

INVICTUS

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
True story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) tried to unite his country after becoming president by convincing a rugby player (Matt Damon) to lead his team to try to win the World Cup for South Africa.

WILL IT SUCK?
Clint Eastwood directs, so you're in good hands. From the writer of Don't Say a Word, so I'm a little nervous (especially because he also wrote Sherlock Holmes). Can't complain about the cast, tho. Early buzz is good.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
With Princess and the Frog opening wide this week after its earlier limited run, don't know that there's room for a movie that on any other day would be a limited release. On the other hand, it's hard to bet against Eastwood when he's got stars. $75mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Would have to actively suck to not make the shortlist for Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor (depending on how Freeman and Damon divvy it up) and Adapted Screenplay.

Limited

bones.jpg

THE LOVELY BONES

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
A murdered young girl watches life unfold without her.

WILL IT SUCK?
My faith in Peter Jackson is pretty unwavering. Co-writing again with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, adapting the best-selling novel by Alice Sebold. I'll be honest, the move from Ryan Gosling to Mark Wahlberg was a bit of a letdown, although it's not like after The Departed I don't think the man can act. Rest of the cast is strong, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Saoirse Ronan, and Michael Imperioli. And original music by Brian Eno (!?)

Early buzz is mixed with passionate proponents and detractors.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Gonna go wide the following week a few days before Avatar comes out. Yeah, we won't be hearing from this movie again. $51mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Even with mixed reviews it's got a shot. Look at all the majors to be in play: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, maybe even FX.

A SINGLE MAN

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
A day in the 1960's Los Angeles life of an English professor (Colin Firth) who's just lost his male lover.

WILL IT SUCK?
The writing/directing debut of designer Tom Ford, who took home the Queer Lion (awarded to best GLBT-themed film) at Venice. Colin Firth also took home an award from that fest, Best Actor, which he also won at Santa Barbara.

Good casting doesn't end there. We've got Julianne Moore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Nicholas Hoult (all grown up from About a Boy), Matthew Goode, Lee Pace, and the uncredited voice of Jon Hamm.

Early buzz is outstanding.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This is where the art house competition gets thick. $7mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Biggest buzz is for Firth, but look for Moore to make a run for Best Supporting Actress. Maybe some love Ford's way if the stars align.

DECEMBER 18

Wide

DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Estranged couple (Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker) witness a murder and are forced to relocate to Wyoming, cos' they're from New York and the FBI thought it would be funnier that way.

WILL IT SUCK?
From the writer/director of Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics. I've actually heard some good things about Music and Lyrics. But he also wrote The Out of Towners remake, Forces of Nature and Miss Congeniality. Now, I've heard good things about Miss Congeniality, but he also wrote Miss Congeniality 2. It's not looking good is what I'm saying.

Nice to see Elisabeth Moss get some exposure, tho.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
On the one hand, this is smart counterprogramming to Avatar. On the other hand, fucking Avatar. $51mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
No, but I'm convinced Grant has an Oscar-worthy performance in him somewhere.

AVATAR

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Dances With Aliens

WILL IT SUCK?
There are two James Camerons. There's the one that made Terminator and Aliens. Vicious little bites of groundbreaking sci-fi that make your heart race. Then there's the one that made The Abyss and Titanic. Big, expensive, and weepy. You can generally track these by whether or not the military are good guys or bad guys. I'm thinking this is going to be more like The Abyss than anything else he's done. You'll be impressed visually, and some scenes will make your heart race, but you'll be left with a distinctly cheesy taste in your mouth by the end.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Will it be a high grosser? Absolutely. I'll be shocked if it makes anything less than $200 million, and expect it to vie for one of the top spots on the year-end top ten. Will it make a profit? A Fox chairman is saying that $500 million is a ridiculous budget estimate, but even if that ain't the production budget, after prints and advertising you bet your ass it's a half-bil spent so far. Will it make a dime over $500 million? Worldwide, probably, especially after home video. Will it make as much pure profit as, say, Paranormal Activity? After you factor in back-end deals and the like, it'll be close. $300mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
We'll know more once it finally screens for critics, but right now it's on the medium list for Picture, Director. Certainly a tech nod favorite.

Limited

A TOWN CALLED PANIC

(DECEMBER 16)

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Wes Anderson's not the only one who can do hip indie stop-motion animation.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. Won the Audience Award at Fantastic Fest 2009 and was the first stop-motion feature selected to Cannes. Looks funny.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Indie animated fare usually has a rough go of it. $3mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
An Animated nod isn't out of the question.

NINE

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Fellini's 81?2, in which an Italian film director (Daniel Day Lewis) goes through a midlife crisis in an apocalyptic hellscape populated by nine robots who, wait, that last part might be off.

WILL IT SUCK?
Director Rob Marshall knows how to do a dark musical with a mostly female cast. He also has the visual flair to at least emulate Fellini's dreamlike aesthetic (which is the interesting challenge of a film adaptation here - how do you avoid simply remaking 81?2 with musical numbers?). From screenwriters Michael Tolkin (The Player, Deep Cover, Changing Lanes) and the late Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain, The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley), so I'd say the odds are good.

Oh, did I mention the rest of the cast? Joining Day Lewis, we have Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Fergie, Kate Hudson (one of those names was not like the others) and a bunch of people who, like Loren, are actually Italian.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
While the waters could get choppy leading up to and during a wide Christmas release, a cast like that makes good box office seem plausible. $75mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Likely. Marshall will shoot for another nod. With ten slots, Best Picture seems reasonable. It's hard for Day Lews to not get nominated. The only problem is how to parse the wealth of female talent among a limited number of Actress and Supporting Actress slots, but expect at least a couple to get in.

THE YOUNG VICTORIA

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
That would be Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt).

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. From the guy who wrote Gosford Park. Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Thomas Kretschmann, Mark Strong, and Julian Glover co-star.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Going to be overshadowed by higher-profile indies. $4mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Blunt is supposed to be outstanding, but I haven't heard any Oscar buzz surrounding her yet. Consider her a dark horse.

CRAZY HEART

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
The Country Singer

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. Jeff Bridges stars with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, and Colin Farrell in supporting roles.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
A little late getting its buzz on, but Fox Searchlight is good at this. $13mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Will be for this year's Oscar race what The Wrestler was for last year's, with Jeff Bridges as Mickey Rourke.

DECEMBER 25

Wide

IT'S COMPLICATED

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Divorcee (Meryl Streep) meets someone new (Steve Martin) but starts sleeping with her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) again.

WILL IT SUCK?
I usually give writer/director Nancy Meyers (What Women Want, Something's Gotta Give) the benefit of the doubt. And the cast doesn't exactly suck. John Krasinski is up in here, too.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
While there's no direct competition, it's going to be hard to get noticed. $64mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Maybe. Depending upon the critical reception, any of the stars could be looking at a nod.

SHERLOCK HOLMES

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Kicky-punchy-bawdy take on the classic detective.

WILL IT SUCK?
Guy Ritchie directs, and while Rocknrolla was good, I'm still wary after Revolver (not to mention Swept Away). On the other hand, he only directs, so it'll look great. Writers are a mixed bag and, on their best day, have stuff like Mr. and Mrs. Smith to their credit which, while not exactly brilliant, was at least entertaining, which is kind of what I expect here. Plus, it's Robert Downey Jr., so I'd be hard pressed not to watch.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
This has been marketed almost as well as Avatar. Mabye better. $111mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
This is getting Oscar buzz. I'm not sure why.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKUEL

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Chipmunks go back to school and meet their female counterparts, the Chipettes.

WILL IT SUCK?
They brought on a couple of writers from Monsters vs. Aliens and Kung Fu Panda, so it might be a little better. And while I'm happy to see Zachary Levi (Chuck) get some work, sigh.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
However much money you think the first one made, it made more. $162mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
There will probably be five nominees this year, not twenty.

Limited

POLICE, ADJECTIVE

(DECEMBER 23)

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Police officer is reluctant to bust a kid he's been tailing for offering weed to a couple of other kids.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. From 12:08 East of Bucharest writer/director Corneliu Porumboiu. Like that film, this is supposed to be fairly Jarmusch-y. Took home the FIPRESCI and Jury Un Certain Regard prizes at Cannes.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Has a little more buzz going for it than 12:08 did. $1mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Romania's official submission for Best Foreign. I can see it making the final five.

the-imaginarium-of-dr-parnassus-image3.jpg

THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Guy makes deal with the Devil, then tries to keep his daughter from paying the price.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is good. The last work of Heath Ledger, supplemented by Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law who each took over his role after he died. Visually, writer/director Terry Gilliam appears to be in full-on Dali mode here.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
One of the most anticipated indie titles of the year. $18mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Hard to say. Academy probably feels it's already given Heath his due, so unless he shows them something completely different here... On the other hand, Christopher Plummer has the lead as Parnassus, and could be up for a career Oscar.

DECEMBER 30

Limited

THE LOSS OF A TEARDROP DIAMOND

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Based on a lost Tennessee Williams screenplay about...wait for it...a strong-willed Southern belle.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is not so good. Trailer looks kind of Lifetime/Hallmark-y.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Gonna get lost. $1mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Gonna get lost here, too.

THE WHITE RIBBON

WHAT'S THE PITCH?
Strange goings on in a small German village just prior to WWI.

WILL IT SUCK?
Early buzz is fantastic. Highest rated film on IMDb by writer/director Michael Haneke, who already has plenty of highly rated films to his credit. Won three awards at Cannes, including the Palme d'Or.

HOW WELL WILL IT DO?
Might have done better to release closer to the announcement of Best Foreign Picture nominees. $3mil.

WILL ANYBODY REMEMBER IT AT OSCAR TIME?
Germany has submitted it for Best Foreign. I'd just about call it a lock for a nod.

Next Month: Three visions of our apocalyptic future. And Mel Gibson returns to the front of the camera. I'm sure that's just a coincidence.

Comments

Saw Up in the Air. Alright movie, partial retread of Thank You for Smoking. Clooney does a good job but sweeping the nods? That is waaaay overdoing it. I'll be shocked if it does get a lot of nods, and if so, I think that's a sign of a weak field (or, er, expanding of the field..)

Saw Up in the Air. Alright movie, partial retread of Thank You for Smoking. Clooney does a good job but sweeping the nods? That is waaaay overdoing it. I'll be shocked if it does get a lot of nods, and if so, I think that's a sign of a weak field (or, er, expanding of the field..)

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