Nine, It’s Complicated, a New Sherlock Holmes and a Final Act from Heath Ledger Arrive in Theatres: This Week’s Big New movies
Let me wish you the best for the festive season. And if your celebrations include a movie you’re in luck. Six more of Hollywood’s best open Christmas day. They’re a mixed bag this year but they do entertain.
NOTE: I’ll take next week off from writing this column because there are no more new films coming by year’s end. But there is one you should know about opening Jan 4. It’s called The Yes Men Fix the World. Please read my recommendation below.
NINE: It’s not the songs that you come to this big glossy musical for. They’re pretty dull even though several disguise that fact by rising to exhilarating crescendos. No, it’s the stars. Look at the list: Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson, a movie-stealing Marion Cotillard and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. The women all figure in the life or memories of an Italian movie director (Day-Lewis) who is suffering a form of writer’s block. He’s under pressure to start his next film but hasn’t written a script yet and doesn’t even have a good idea. It’s based on 8 1/2 , the Fellini film which was later turned into a Broadway show. Somewhere along the way a lot was lost. Not the self-indulgence which is still there, but the director’s high goals. In the old film, he wanted to write an important script about modern attitudes to religion. Now its not clear what he wants. He just hangs out, usually with his women, except when his wife (Cotillard) shows up and calls his fidelity into question. The film is full of energetic and colorful but empty fun. It also has singing by all the stars, with widely varying success. (Ridge, Tinseltown and seven Cineplex theatres). 2 1/2 out of 5
A SINGLE MAN: Hey, Mr. Oscar. You don’t have to look any further to find this year’s best male actor. Colin Firth is my choice. Just study that early scene in which he, as a university professor, gets a phone call that his lover has died. Watch him work to restrain his emotions and slowly, but not completely, succumb to them. That’s great acting, and Firth matches it in smaller incidents throughout this film. He’s playing a gay in the 1960s, but the story could be about anyone who’s suffered a loss and has to adjust to a new life. Scenes with his late partner (Matthew Goode) are all in flashbacks. The film is very agile in bringing them in to illustrate his thoughts. He also has a tender relationship with a long-time woman friend (Julianne Moore), who is quietly devastating in portraying her lonely side. The wonderful script, from a Christopher Isherwood novel, is by Vancouver lawyer David Scearce, although the director, Tom Ford, also wrote in some scenes based on his own life. Ford is a fashion designer who has headed both the Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent houses. As you might imagine, the film is exquisitely designed. (Scotiabank Theatre) 4 out of 5.
IT’S COMPLICATED: Like those screwball comedies back in the 1930s, this film has rich people in fabulous houses and hotels acting loopy. With a few modern touches, of course. It’s a divorce romantic comedy. Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin play former partners who fall into an affair after a drunken evening. He’s now remarried so it is a form of adultery. That makes her friends chirp with delight over lunch and discuss her vagina. In another scene, he reaches over and grabs her crotch. Academy Award and Emmy winners didn’t used to act that way on screen but a little raunchiness is now trendy. Most of the time this is a basic women’s fantasy. Meryl’s ex now notices her hair and wishes he hadn’t left. She has an architect (Steve Martin) who understands exactly what she wants in a renovation to her house. There’s nothing profound here but Nancy Meyers, who has been writing movies about women since Private Benjamin back in 1980 and now also directs, has made a light, well-acted and funny diversion for the older crowd. (5th Avenue, Tinseltown and eight Cineplex theatres). 3 out of 5