Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

December 15, 2014 at 2:26pm

Nerd Alert! - Movies opening Christmas Day

"The Interview": Seth Rogen and James Franco star in the dirty Hope and Crosby-style film about assassinating Kim Jong-un.

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Dwarves of Erebor, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

With The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies cutting Peter Jackson & Co. loose at long last to work on non-Tolkien projects, this holiday movie season arrives with a vengeance. That's awesome, too, because there's squat-all to watch on TV.

FRIDAY, DEC. 19

If ever I loved the musical Annie, and I'm not sure ever I did, a summer working as a publicist next door to six weeks of "It's the Hard Knock Life" rehearsals drummed it out of me. Still, even I find myself aghast at what Columbia Pictures and director Will Gluck (Friends with Benefits) have done with the popular property. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis are playing Daddy Warbucks and Little Orphan Annie, respectively, but who thought Cameron Diaz would make a great Miss Hannigan? And isn't Annie famously the story of a little girl struggling through the Great Depression? Why is this movie set in the present day?

On the other hand, what're ya gonna do, buy a ticket to Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb instead? Ha! As if! Oh, I crack myself up. But let's be serious for a moment: perhaps now would be a great time to tuck into a fun weekend read! Say, have I mentioned I'm an author?

THURSDAY, DEC. 25

Gentle Reader, I'm confused. (This happens oftener than I'd like to admit.) Specifically, I'm at a loss to comprehend this year's holiday movie releases. In past years, the last two weeks of December saw major prestige releases roll out in the last possible qualifying moments for Oscar consideration. This year, only one serious contender for Best Picture, Angelina Jolie's epic wartime drama Unbroken, premieres Christmas Day. It's the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who ran a 4:08 mile, then served as a bombardier in the Pacific theater before getting shot down by the Japanese. Zamperini survived 47 days on a life raft at sea before reaching the Marshall Islands, only to find himself captured and tormented for months. It's an amazing, true-life story, one richly deserving of cinematic enshrinement.

Unbroken debuts alongside Big Eyes, a Tim Burton biopic about shy Tennessee artist Margaret Keane. Keane's paintings of mutant children were everywhere in the 1950s, but her self-aggrandizing husband Walter became a national celebrity by claiming he painted all of them. The movie stars Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, two actors who've earned multiple nominations over the years and may well coast into awards consideration again. The film itself, however, is having a tough time gathering buzz.

Also opening on Christmas - not that its ubiquitous commercials and trailers have kept this a secret - is Disney's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. If you've ever attended a live musical theater production, this was probably it. In the last few years I've seen two local productions, and passed on seeing yet another at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Early reports suggest the movie (directed by Chicago's Rob Marshall, who should know better) takes liberties with the musical we all know and respect. Sound familiar? Among other changes, it dispenses with the narrator altogether. I wish I could be more optimistic, especially given Woods' undeniably talented cast, but unless the trailers have vastly undersold it I think you may be happier driving to Ashland instead.

Ed. note: Sony pulled the release of The Interview after theaters refused to screen the film due to death threats from the Sony hackers.

One final movie opening Dec. 25 worth mentioning, if only for the damage it may have inspired, is Sony's The Interview. It stars James Franco and Seth Rogen as clueless TV personalities who are commissioned to kill North Korea's "Supreme Leader," Kim Jong-un. Of course, Kim Jong-un is a real person, known more for his purges, human rights violations and nuclear threats than his sense of self-deprecating humor, so this did not go unnoticed. No, it appears Kim got his supreme panties in a bunch about it, a reaction, perhaps, to his father's merciless savaging at the hands of Team America: World Police. Coincidentally or probably not, hackers invaded Sony's corporate network and leaked hundreds of damaging emails, including an exchange in which Sony co-chairman Amy Pascal called Angelina Jolie "a minimally talented spoiled brat." Ooh, or maybe you heard the one about how Sony was planning to sue Bill Murray for declining to costar in Ghostbusters 3? Yeah, this has not been a fun week on the Sony lot, and I have every reason to believe it will not get better soon.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may God bless Bill Murray, amen.

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