December Film Recommendations

Traditionally this time of year is the last chance for movie studios to release their films they think have the best shot at winning awards, but for me there are really only has four films coming out that hold much interest for me: Up In The Air, The Lovely Bones, Avatar and Sherlock Holmes.

Up In The Air (limited release Dec. 4th, wide release Dec. 25th) is the third film directed by Jason Reitman, son of the tremendously successful director Ivan Reitman.  Not content to ride on the reputation of his father, Jason Reitman’s first two films Thank You For Smoking and Juno were both outstanding, and he achieve a fair amount of critical and commercial success.  This film stars George Clooney (whose talent is usually under appreciated) as a man whose life takes place while he is constantly in transit.

It is exciting too that the screenplay was also adapted by Jason Reitman, who previously was credit with writing the screenplay for Thank You For Smoking, which was a fantastic adaptation.  Personally, I feel like Jason Reitman packages some of the tightest films in Hollywood.  They are well cast, well acted, entertaining and he does a very judicious job of getting from beginning to end, and does not getting bogged down with filler material.

Avatar (Dec. 17th) is the first feature film from James Cameron since he massacred the Oscars and the box office with Titanic.  Initially, I had wondered if the film could live up to the hype which has been building over the last 15 years since the idea was originally conceived.  For the past decade there has been a lot of buzz about the film, specifically that it was going to be technologically revolutionary.  Finally, the first trailers have been making their way out at San Diego ComiCon and the release is nearing.  I must admit, the visuals look pretty incredible and it looks like a throwback to the action films (particularly Aliens and Terminator 2) that James Cameron set the standard with two decades ago. James Cameron is on a plain few other directors can compare – having achieved virtually unrivaled success both commercially and critically. I can’t imagine this film won’t continue that tradition.

Additionally, thus far with the exception of Coraline, 3D has felt pretty gimmicky – I believe if any film can persuade me, this might be it.

One of the few other directors that can compare with James Cameron is Peter Jackson, and who has directed a film adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel The Lovely Bones (limited release Dec. 11th, wide release Dec. 25th).  Much like Avatar this film looks like it will be amazing.  I had a hard time initially imagining an enjoyable film based upon a novel with the dark premise of a young girl looking down from the afterlife on her family after she was raped and murdered.  After seeing the trailer the acting looks impressive (highlighted by Saoirse Ronan – who received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her work in Atonement and Stanley Tucci), the cinematography looks stunning, and the originality of the source material all lead me to be very excited about this release.

Finally, I’m excited about the release of Sherlock Holmes (Dec. 25th). Some people *cough*John*cough* have been critical of it being a dumbed down version of the character, as well as having concerns about Guy Ritchie as a director.  I have three words in response to that: Robert Downey, Jr.  He has been on an incredible roll the last few years (most notably in Iron Man). He looks like he is giving another fabulous performance.   It certainly isn’t the Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s day, but it looks entertaining. I’m going to reserve judgment about the representation of Sherlock Holmes is until I see the movie. I think Robert Downey Jr will do him fair service as a quick witted detective, and the rest of the cast looks to be very solid as well (Jude Law/Rachel McAdams both look good).

In regards to Guy Ritchie, he is making the kind of movie he does very well – an action movie.  It is certainly fair to be concerned that this might be a change from the source material, but at the very least he should be able to make it a well-paced film with good action.  Not a bad start.

I am a bit perplexed that Moriarty isn’t in this film, but I suppose it is a bit like Batman Begins (where the quintessential Batman villain the Joker didn’t show up until the sequel), and we all know that worked out well.

Those are my top movies for December.  They may not all be award winners, but they should all be entertaining.


Spencer was born and raised in New Mexico. He grew up with the many great films of the 1980’s before having his world rocked after seeing The Usual Suspects. He moved to Washington State to go to the University of Washington, and currently any free time he currently has is split between working on film projects and watching films.

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