Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter movie preview (December 2010)

“Black Swan”
Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Whether you like director Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream,” “The Wrestler”) or not, the guy’s certainly willing to go out on a limb. This thriller is set in the world of ballet, involving a pair of dancers competing for coveted roles in “Swan Lake.” Natalie Portman has been getting rave reviews in the festival circuit as the obsessed dancer possibly losing her grip on sanity in pursuit of the highly prestigious spot. (Dec. 3, limited)

“The Tourist”
Starring Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Rufus Sewell, Christian De Sica
Directed by Florian Henckel Von Donersmarck

Big-time star power headlines the tale of an American (Depp) in Italy who becomes intrigued with a mysterious woman (Jolie), who happens to be an Interpol agent. He soon finds himself wrapped up in international intrigue. The thriller certainly has elements of a good Alfred Hitchcock film, and will hopefully make good use of its stars and locale. (Dec. 10)

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
Starring Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter, Tilda Swinton
Directed by Michael Apted

The continuing “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise finds itself with a new studio, but many of the same stars, hoping to recapture the box-office magic of the first installment. The last film, “Prince Caspian,” was a box-office disappointment. In this one, Lucy and Edmund are back in Narnia, travelling on the open seas with their cousin, Eustace, aboard the Dawn Treader, encountering a new adventure. (Dec. 10)

“The Company Men”
Starring Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Maria Bello, Rosemarie Dewitt, Craig T. Nelson
Directed by John Wells

A strong cast is on hand for John Wells’ (making his directorial debut) movie about corporate downsizing and the effect it has on executives, young and old alike. It primarily centers around Bobby Walker (Affleck, on a recent hot streak) and his search for an identity beyond what he’s done for work and the privileges it gave him. It’s not what you would call feel-good material, but could strike a chord with audiences. (Dec. 10)

“The Fighter”
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo
Directed by David O. Russell

Reuniting with director Russell for his third film, Wahlberg portrays “Irish” Micky Ward in a true-life story about a down-on-his-luck boxer looking to find success in the ring. He gets support from his once great, but now questionably reliable older brother (Bale) and his strong-willed girlfriend (Adams) to pursue his dream of becoming a champion. Wahlberg has had success in inspirational sports movies before (“Invincible”), but this movie has Oscar aspirations – and just might have the pedigree to pick up some award notices. (Dec. 10, limited)

“Tron: Legacy”
Starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner and Michael Sheen
Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Hardly a big hit when first released to theaters in 1982, “Tron” has become a cult favorite in the years since, and now with special effects in a new era, a sequel has been spawned. It sure doesn’t hurt to have a newly-crowned Oscar winner (Bridges) heading up the cast. But you know people will be going for the special effects, first and foremost. (Dec. 17)

“How Do You Know”
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd and Jack Nicholson
Directed by James L. Brooks

Romantic comedies sure do like to use the love triangle as a linchpin for their stories. This one involves a woman (Witherspoon) caught between her current beau, a baseball player (Wilson) and a corporate executive (Rudd). The pairing of Witherspoon with Brooks, both of whom have a great track record in the genre, could bode well for its prospects with audiences. (Dec. 17)

“Little Fockers”
Starring Robert DeNiro, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern, Harvey Keitel, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand
Directed by Paul Weitz

The third film in what has become an unexpected comedy hit franchise – one of at least two for Stiller – has more domestic hijinks for the Focker and Byrnes families. The busy Owen Wilson joins in the fun, reuniting with his longtime friend and occassional co-star Stiller (“Zoolander”). The pre-Christmas release date should make this comedy a prime target for audiences for the next several weeks. (Dec. 22)

“True Grit”
Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper and Hailee Steinfeld
Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

At first, the thought of remaking what some consider a classic John Wayne movie seems like an ill-advised decision. But the benefit of the doubt has to be given to the Coen brothers, who are sure to give a different spin to the western, but still remain faithful to the genre. Pulling in Bridges (in his second film of the month) is sure to generate Oscar talk. He plays a determined U.S. Marshall looking to track down the killer of a young girl’s father. (Dec. 22)

“Blue Valentine”
Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Ben Shenkman
Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Although most of the publicity this intense drama has received centers around its unwarranted NC-17 rating, Gosling and Williams (as a young couple falling into and out of love) have picked up quite a bit of favorable notice from film critics and audiences in its journey on the film festival circuit during the course of the year. Whether the movie can get a wide release with the unpopular rating (currently under appeal by its releasing studio) remains to be seen. (Dec. 31)

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