As the weather dips down each night and people everywhere are consistently presented with the possibility of snow and foul weather, Hollywood sees fit to grace viewers with its headiest crop of films during the Christmas season. From dark dramas, to inspirational true stories, to the holiday theme comedies: there are no limitations. I hope to fill you in on a few films you may have missed over the break.
Thus far, Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” is my number one film of the year. This taut psychological drama will draw the viewer in and hold on with an iron fist until the very end. Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Nina, a young professional ballerina, will be considered a defining point in her career and may just earn her the much coveted Oscar for best actress. As Portman’s character becomes increasingly more obsessed with her lead role in Swan Lake, her quest for perfection causes her to slip into madness. Be prepared for many difficult moments, but the payoff at the end is tremendous.
Mark Wahlberg’s passion project about welterweight title champion “Irish” Mickey Ward is another film that shouldn’t be missed by viewers. Although Ward is the focus of the story, it is Christian Bale’s performance as Dicky Eklund, his drug addicted brother/trainer, that steals the show. The film follows Ward as he rises from being a “stepping stone” for other boxers, to his eventual shot at the welterweight title. Ward struggles with an unconditional love of a family that is holding him back; especially his brother Dicky whose addiction to drugs and crime eventually sends him to prison. Bale’s work is so spectacular that it leads one to believe that he must have been on drugs while filming to gain an accurate knowledge of his character.
There is no denying that “Tron” was played up to be the best movie of the Christmas season. Although the visuals are stunning and the soundtrack (created by French musical artists “Daft Punk”) is spectacular, this film lacked a clear and concise writing style to present the story. If the viewer isn’t lost after the first hour, they must be seeing something that I didn’t. I found myself groaning incessantly every time the film introduced yet another unneeded plot point, and left the theater scratching my head. This is still a film that is worth seeing, but not more than once.
A remake of the 1969 film starring John Wayne, this Coen Brothers adaptation lived up to every bit of hype that was placed upon it. While simultaneously staying true to the original story and adding some new flair, the Coens were able to put their mark on the tale of the classic character Rooster Cogburn. For those who have not seen the original, the story follows a young girl (played extremely well by newcomer Hailee Stienfeld) and her quest to avenge her father’s death. She hires a drunken US Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), to track down the killer and they set off together to find him. Although I was skeptical of this film at first, it could not have provided more of a pleasant surprise. This is easily one of my top five best for the year.
By far the greatest disappointment for December was the third installment of the Focker/Burns saga. I found a fair amount of humor in the past two films and would easily recommend them to any person. This one, on the other hand, was a train wreck. As I watched, the film seemed like nothing more than a vain attempt to squeeze more money out of the same jokes. The phrase “beating a dead horse” comes to mind. With a star studded cast that is known for its tremendous depth of talent, I still didn’t crack a smile.