Twelve measly days separate us from 2009. Between now and December 31st, a whopping sixteen movies will hit theaters, all of varying pedigree and expectation. Couple those releases with the ever-expanding theater counts for some of the more critically acclaimed films from the last few weeks (Doubt, Gran Torino, Frost/Nixon, etc.), and you’ve got a logjam. Even if you saw three movies a day, from now until New Year’s Eve, you probably still couldn’t get them all in before the ball drops. Five new releases hit theaters this weekend, giving an already weary filmgoer not a moment for respite. Want to prepare yourself before heading into the gaping maw of the local cineplex? Here’s a handy guide to the new releases.
What’s the story: It’s hard to imagine that anything featuring the reigning title holder of "biggest movie star in the world" could fly under the radar, but that is just what has happened with Will Smith’s latest. In Seven Pounds, from Mr. Smith’s Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino, the former Fresh Prince stars as IRS agent Ben Thomas who helps seven strangers… well, that’s just it. We don’t know what he does to help them! However we are sticking by our past speculations. Some early reviews have been vicious (read: hilarious) and the critics are lining up to proclaim this as the end of Will Smith’s box office dominance. If that sounds familiar, it’s because you read the same things over the summer when Hancock was released. Expect Seven Pounds, no matter how bad, to be the big hit of the season.
Who should see it: People still waiting for that Pay It Forward sequel.
What’s the story: Based on the memoir by Danny Wallace, Jim Carrey stars as a man who can’t tell a lie–err, sorry–who decides to say "yes" to everything he’s asked for an entire year. This pastiche and sanitary comedy seems like a relic from a time when high concept star vehicles ruled the roost. ("Here’s the pitch: Jim Carrey finds an ancient mask with special powers!") And while the supporting cast (featuring Zooey Deschanel and Bradley Cooper) is certainly worth taking note of, we’ll pass. If we wanted to watch Liar, Liar again, we’d add it to our Netflix queue.
Who should see it: Jenny McCarthy.
The Tale of Despereaux
What’s the story: It wouldn’t be the holiday season without an animated movie, would it? Despereaux, based on the popular 2003 children’s book from Kate DiCamillo, is a more traditionally animated endeavor than things like Bolt and Wall-E, but it still looks too high tech for people who grew up with An American Tail. Like us! Of note here is the roster of character actors who have been enlisted for voice work. Among them: Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Frank Langella, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins and Tony Hale. Imagine seeing a live-action movie starring that motley crew?
Who should see it: Fievel Mousekewitz.
What’s the story: Whether or not Darren Aronofsky’s latest film is any good might as well be irrelevant. All anyone can talk about when they bring up The Wrestler–all they’ve talked about since the film had its breakout premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September–is Mickey Rourke. The former Hollywood bad-boy-turned-broken-down-punch-line experiences his second career resurrection in the last three years (how soon everyone forgets Sin City) as Randy "the Ram" Robinson, a former wrestling-great now relegated to working part-time in a supermarket as he tries to make a last grasp at glory. Our Rex Reed says that Mr. Rourke exhibits a "raw, naked passion" while giving "the most brutally honest performance of the year". If there is one person who might be able to stop the Sean Penn Express come Oscar time, it’s Mickey.
Who should see it: Hulk Hogan.
Nothing But the Truth
What’s the story: Former film critic Rod Lurie–the "mastermind" behind such self-serious political malapropisms like The Contender and Commander-in-Chief–returns with the story of a female reporter who outs a CIA agent and faces jail time unless she reveals her source. Hey, wait a minute… does that sound familiar to anyone else? The casting here is ripe: Vera Farmiga slides in for Valerie Plame (that could work); Matt Dillon is the screen visage for Patrick Fitzgerald (not terrible); and the Judy Miller role is filled by… Kate Beckinsale (ha!). File this under, "movies we’ll never see."
Who should see it: Scooter Libby.
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