New Releases: December 17

1. How Do You Know (Sony/Columbia, 2,483 Theaters, 116 Minutes, Rated PG-13): It was once that having James L. Brooks as a director meant that the film was automatically a quality production. After all, he is the guy who brought us Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News and As Good as It Gets. Oscar favorites one and all.

But he’s also the guy that brought us I’ll Do Anything and Spanglish. So while having his name in the credits might get a lot of people excited, it’s not going to be a home run every time out.

This go around features Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon starring as a professional athlete caught in a love triangle between Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson. Brooks regular Jack Nicholson is back playing the role of Rudd’s father.

2. TRON: Legacy (Disney, 3,451 Theaters, 125 Minutes, Rated PG): In a day and age when almost every film has CGI in it, it is almost unthinkable to consider a time when computer generated graphics were considered cutting edge.

The original Tron was considered a curiosity when it was released in 1982 when what it really was was a sign of what the future of film would be. And now, thanks to Hollywood’s slavish devotion to nostalgia, it is finally getting a sequel.

The action picks up as Flynn’s son Sam has been searching for his lost father. He finds him in the same computer program that the elder Flynn was trapped in 30 years prior. Now, the son must enter the program to rescue the father.

3. Yogi Bear (Warner Brothers, 3,515 Theaters, 80 Minutes, Rated PG): One of the problems with adapting classic cartoons from years past is that most of the older cartoons were basically a collection of skits. In this format, say, a plot about a bear who uses his wits to steal picnic baskets works. But that kind of plot really doesn’t lend itself to a feature that is four times as long.

So, you have to come up with a new plot that can fill that time, like, say, the park where said bear steals its picnic baskets is about to close and said bear has to keep it from closing up. This alienates the old fans of the concept and, really, when the concept has been used in over ten years, the old fans are all that you’ve got.

So, this partially explains why there is a major backlash about this film. That, and the fact that it looks like hell on a screen.

James L. Brooks movies, when they work, are usually Oscar factories. If How Do You Know is a return to greatness for the director, then you can count on multiple nominations to come from this film–and maybe a win or two.

Tron:Legacy should garner some technical nods, but if Jeff Bridges is going to be nominated for any role, it’s probably going to be for True Grit.

And I think it would be a stretch for Yogi Bear to even get a nod in the Best Animated Feature category.

As for films in limited release, Rabbit Hole (Lionsgate, 45 Theaters, 91 Minutes, Rated PG) has the best chance for Oscar nominations. The play the film is based on won the Pulitzer Prize and earned Cynthia Nixon a Tony for Best Actress for her portrayal of Becca.

Playwright David Lindsay-Abaire has adapted his play for the screen, but we have Nicole Kidman stepping in for Nixon and Aaron Eckhart stepping in for John Slattery from the Broadway production. This change in casting is unnecessary because the originators are well known enough to follow the parts to the big screen and Kidman and Eckhart are not that great of an improvement, acting wise.

Nonetheless, the story, of a family coming apart after the tragic death of their young child, is harrowing and just the type of story that could hook Oscar voters.

About William Gatevackes 1967 Articles
William is cursed with the shared love of comic books and of films. Luckily, this is a great time for him to be alive. His writing has been featured on Broken Frontier.com, PopMatters.com and in Comics Foundry magazine.
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