Dec. 25 may be an important holiday to many, but it also is a big day for movies.
It’s certainly been big business in the past few years. According to boxofficemojo.com, the second-highest grossing Christmas Day opening at the box office belongs to last year’s big-screen adaptation of “Les Misérables,” which took in $18.1 million. It was an even-bigger Feliz Navidad in 2009, when Robert Downey Jr. debuted as “Sherlock Holmes.” That film still has the top-grossing Christmas debut in history at $24.6 million.
This year, intrepid holiday filmgoers have a whopping seven films to choose from. It’s a daunting task, but I have the breakdown on what you can expect from each picture. (Story summaries are from youtube.com and imdb.com):
The story: “After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Keanu Reeves), a half-breed they once rejected, as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft and wondrous terrors.”
Sasha’s take: “47 Ronin” is poised to be an Asian-flavored “Lord of the Rings”-style action-fest. It also is the first time many of us have seen Reeves in ages. For these reasons, I expect a decent turnout in theaters, although the film has already tanked in Japan, according to latimes.com.
The Secret Life
of Walter Mitty
The story: “A daydreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job, along with that of his co-worker’s, are threatened, he takes action in the real world, embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.”
Sasha’s take: The film’s star, Ben Stiller, really believes in this picture. It’s going to be his “Forrest Gump.” Watching the trailer reveals just how truly ambitious an endeavor this project has been, but despite the incredible effort, my fear is those who like Stiller’s comedies will be confused by the attempt at substance.
The Wolf of Wall Street
The story: “Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.”
Sasha’s take: Director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio are together again. While that’s attention-worthy, are audiences really hungry for another “Greed is good” story? The timing may be off for this type of subject matter.
The story: “A pair of aging boxing rivals are coaxed out of retirement to fight one final bout — 30 years after their last match.”
Sasha’s take: Does anybody really want to see Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone hit each other at their ages? The thought makes me shiver in a bad way. A viewing may be worth the laughs, especially because of the supporting talent delivered by Alan Arkin and Kevin Hart. Arkin is one of the funniest people alive, in my humble opinion, but I’d probably wait for this on DVD. Then again, it is the holidays, and this may be the family friendliest film on our list. This factor will give it an advantage.
The Invisible Woman
The story: “At the height of his career, Charles Dickens meets a younger woman who becomes his secret lover until his death.”
Sasha’s take: Ralph Fiennes is the king of the dramatic romance. It’s no secret that my favorite is “The English Patient.” Speaking of which, this film reunites Fiennes with his “Patient” co-star, Kristen Scott Thomas. Only this time, they are not lovers. I’ll wait for the DVD for this one, too.
The story: “Depressed single mom Adele and her son, Henry, offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.”
Sasha’s take: “Labor Day” is a drama that is going to pack some punch. I have a weakness for a good period romance, but “Labor Day” beckons me much more than “The Invisible Woman” does. I expect some real tension and real passion between lead actors Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. It’s also lovely that Tobey Maguire is narrating.
August: Osage County
The story: “…The dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.”
Sasha’s take: What is a more universal theme than family drama? I expect a few Oscar nominations out of this picture. The cast alone tells us it should garner some interest. Meryl Streep stars with Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale and more. I’m there!