As Canadians, we've been for years at the mercy of the trends and times of the 'cultural' behemoth beneath us.Not to say that we haven't made a great culture of our own, especially in the arts, but for the entertainment of the masses, we flow along with the tides of the US, eh. And these pulsations of the newest and coolest aren't seen anywhere as vividly as they are in the world of cinema... and I use that term in it's loosest possible meaning. There are two times in the year that studios roll out the big guns, and big hugs,as it were. May sees the beginning of the Summer Blockbuster season - where Bruckheimer and Bay, Willis and Will Smith frolic with bullets blazing, explosions blossoming and money falling from our wallets like rain from the heavens. The Summer Blockbuster season lasts usually until the 2nd week of August at which point the movie-going public generally tries to get back to real life for a few months. In the interim, the studios trot out their Lost Dogs and Born Losers - movies that they know aren't great or even good sometimes. This wasteland is a dull, sad and sometimes unintentionally hilarious or terrifying place, but it give audiences a little bit of breathing room between the Summer Blockbuster season, when they expect every red-blooded, oxygen-breathing person with a debit card and at least one good working eye to be in those moderately comfortable theatre seats at least one night of every weekend during the summer (and maybe the odd Tuesday or Wednesday night, if you don't mind), and the next wave. But the wasteland provides a moment's solace, before the next tidal wave of awesomeness hits, around the third week of November, (just in time for the American Thanksgiving), the Holiday Blockbuster season cranks to life. Generally offering less explosive and more family-friendly fare, studios try to cash in on families flocking to the theatres once they've grown tired of each other's company.
That said, finally... here's a quick run-down of some of this years Holiday season options:
Getting an early start, a whole batch of interesting titles are being released Nov.6:
The Box - Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella - A family facing financial frailty finds a mysterious box on their doorstep and is placed on the stage of a very real-life and ultimately terrible reality tv show. And they'll have to do it without the help of Jeff Probst. From Richard Kelly, writer/director of Donnie Darko. (based on a story by Richard Matheson - 'I Am Legend' & 'What Dreams May Come')
Disney's A Christmas Carol - Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Bob Hoskins, Colin Firth - A timeless holiday classic, dusted off and fancied up for the 3D age, it's 21st film adaptation. Carrey stars as the crotchety protagonist of this perennial redemption story, lending his mugging and elasticity to motion capture technology. Directed by Robert Zemekis - Back to The Future, The Polar Express - this animated film also features the on-screening reuniting of Cary Elwes and Robin Wright-Penn, of The Princess Bride.
The Fourth Kind - Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas, Will Patton - Jovovich steps away from the zombie genre for a moment (don't worry - Resident Evil-Afterlife is slated for Aug.2010) to star in this 'fact-based' ficto-docu-something.. is derived from actual case studies from a series of unexplained deaths in a remote Alaskan town. Alien abductions are always exciting fare but we've already had on Blair Witch
Redux with Paranormal Behaviour, so the studios may have been better served offering this one as a straight ahead abduction flick as opposed to fueling the 'is it live or is it memorex' debate which no one will really care about two weeks after they see this. If this was really based on irrefutable evidence of extraterrestrial misdoings, surely Robert Stack or Barbara Walters would be hosting. Nevertheless, supposed to be terrifying so if you don't get all the scares you were hoping for from A Christmas Carol, this would make a great fall-back.
The Men Who Stare at Goats - George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges - with a cast like this, something would have to be terribly wrong and missed by several levels of production staff for this not to be another Three Kings or a clever cross of Coen Bros and David Mamet. McGregor is a journalist looking for a story to make his name. Clooney is a weirdo claiming to be part of a secret 'special' branch of the military trained with psychic powers. When the founder of the unit disappears, Clooney's Cassady makes it his mission to find, McGregor's Bob Wilton senses either a great story or a fun road trip. With Stephen Root in the supporting cast and multiple references to Jedi's with Ewan 'Obi-Wan' McGregor in the room, this should certainly please the more off-beat cinemaphile.
Precious - Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe; produced by Oprah and Tyler Perry. This gritty drama has already been praised endlessly at Sundance and TIFF and may be a Little more reality than some are looking for in the holiday season, but effective performances by Sidibe and Carey make the story of a teenage girl on a long road down to nowhere ultimately offers a positive and life-affirming message. Well, of course it does, or it would have been produced by Quetin Tarantino rather than O.