By Christopher Bonet
[Photo: Denzel Washington in “The Great Debaters,” MGM, 2007]
A round-up of the best (or worst) $10 you’ll spend this week (and next!).
“Alien vs. Predator: Requiem”
The eternal question of “who would win in a fight, an alien or a predator” wasn’t quite answered the first time around, clearing the way for this second chance to watch our favorite ’80s sci-fi creatures (sorry, gremlins) duke it out at the expense of the human race. We don’t expect gold from a movie about warring franchises, here’s hoping this sequel might be better, since original director Paul W.S. Anderson had no hand in its making.
Opens wide December 25th (official site).
“A Bloody Aria”
This South Korean thriller from director Shin-yeon Won tracks a womanizing college professor who suspects a group of dangerous youths of killing a student he attempted to seduce.
Opens in limited release on January 4th (official site).
“The Bucket List”
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson team up in this geriatric buddy comedy about two terminally ill cancer patients who head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. We’re a little miffed to learn that this film, directed by Rob Reiner (really?), has been receiving a number of strong reviews, even earning a spot on the National Board of Review’s best films of 2007. (Again, really?)
Opens in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto on December 25th (official site).
The late filmmaker Marion Cajori’s final film chronicles the career of painter Chuck Close, popularly known as the re-inventor of portraiture. Close’s subjects family, friends, artists offer insight into his work and Close’s influence on their own. Cajori passed away shortly after completion of the film in 2006.
Opens in New York on December 26th (official site).
“The Great Debaters”
Denzel Washington directs and stars in this inspirational teacher movie about a professor at an all-African-American college in Texas who leads his underdog debate team into a competition with Harvard in 1935. With a strong supporting turn by Forest Whitaker, plus Oprah Winfrey as one of the film’s producers, we’re pretty sure this film will make a whole bunch of noise come Oscar season. Sure, we’ve seen Washington play similar roles recently (we certainly remember the “Titans”), we’ve no problem watching him do it again.
Opens wide on December 25th (official site).
John Sayles’ latest Southern-set drama is about a club owner (Danny Glover) who attempts to pass off a vagrant as a famous guitar player one night in his club in hopes of saving himself from bankruptcy. The film went on to win the best screenplay award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival earlier this year.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 28th (official site).
“The Killing of John Lennon”
It appears that 2008 will feature competing Mark David Chapman projects, as the man who killed John Lennon is the subject of dueling biopics in the new year. First up is this one, an indie from television director Andrew Piddington that features relative newcomer Jonas Bell in the role of the assassin. Much of the film’s dialogue is lifted directly from Chapman’s real-life journal, allowing the viewer to get into the mind of a murderer who killed for fame.
Opens in New York on January 2nd (official site).
“One Missed Call”
2008 starts off slowly with this J-horror remake of the Takashi Miike film “Chakushin ari” featuring Shannyn Sossamon and Edward Burns doing battle against dark forces responsible for victims getting voice mail messages from their future selves detailing the time of their deaths. Our favorite line of 2008 so far? “That’s not my ring tone.” Sounds like a horror masterpiece in the making.
Opens wide on January 4th (official site).
These days we get excited about anything Guillermo del Toro is involved in. The “Pan’s Labyrinth” director had a strong hand in bringing to life this Spanish horror import about a woman who starts to get concerned about her son’s new imaginary friends. Borrowing elements from other “creepy children” horror films such as “The Others” and del Toro’s own “The Devil’s Backbone” certainly should bolster the suspense.
Opens in limited release on December 28th (official site).
Comic book artist Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novels detail life in Iran during the Islamic revolution from the perspective of a young and precocious girl. After winning the Grand Jury Prize earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, her directorial debut made numerous headlines after being banned from both the Bangkok International Film Festival and Satrapi’s homeland of Iran despite being one of the best received movies of the year.
Opens in limited release on December 25th (official site).
“There Will Be Blood”
Daniel Day-Lewis alone has us bubbling with anticipation. But the teaming of our favorite method actor with the not-prolific-enough director Paul Thomas Anderson for a film inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!” leaves us positively verklempt. The film already has won a slew of awards, been on a number of top ten lists and topped this year’s indieWIRE critics’ poll, and while we can’t predict whether Day-Lewis will add a second Oscar to his mantle, we’re sure he’ll at least get a nomination. Kudos to Anderson for stepping out of his comfort zone with what originated as a writing experiment for the director after coming across Sinclair’s novel.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 26th (official site).