Plenty of good entertainment this festive season

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Little holiday fare but a few good flicks

You’ve worked hard all year in this crazy world. At the very end of all of the madness, when you really just want to get away from everything and get away to another world if only for a few hours, there’s a relatively simple solution that doesn’t even require a passport.

The movie theatre is not that far away. Don’t think of the admission price as expensive escapism; tell yourself it’s the cheapest airfare to leave reality behind. And you don’t even have to pack or worry about your flight being cancelled.

But that ticket does have a time limit on it so you have to choose your escape wisely. Right now there is a great diverse playlist of movies at your neighbourhood cinemas with something for everyone. Well, most everyone …

What’s hot right now is what’s new (as it always is) so if you haven’t seen Avatar yet, make sure you book the night off for yourself because it runs close to three hours. It’s the story of a human marine looking to help the planet Pandora and its blue alien denizens called the Na’vi defend their strange, fantastic world against an untoward invasion. It has taken writer/director/emperor James Cameron only 12 years to inject life into this pet project, all because he said that the cinematic technology didn’t exist at the time of Titanic. Anybody remember that one? Overblown epic, extravagant budget, terrible story and no one thought it would come back in the black … all I can say is, don’t doubt him. He does have a pretty good track record for December.

Strangely I would never have expected Sandra Bullock to pull off a critically acclaimed hit like The Blind Side. This kind of generic tug-at-the-heartstrings pap is what I usually avoid at all costs but for some reason this one has found legs, sticking to the top three at the box office and raking in more than $165 million after a solid month in theatres. Bullock plays a rich upper-class woman who helps out a down and out young man, leading him to become a star football player. Honestly it’s so successful that I thought that there had to be a runaway bus in it or her character was an FBI agent.

Of course your kids might be too young for some of the more intense scenes with Ebenezer and any one of four ominous ghosts in Dickensian England. If it’s pure G-rated family fare that you’re after, you still have choices. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel just opened and apart from our three rodent protagonists, there are three Chipettes that come into the picture to help the fellas save a school’s music program through the power of (high pitched) song. The Princess and the Frog is Disney’s newest cartoon, bringing back to work the downtrodden traditional animators and all of their pens and brushes. While the movie itself could have used a few more script revisions, it’s worth rejoicing just because they got it made and it’s not half bad. Planet 51 is the herald trumpet for a new player in the CG arena: Ilion Animation Studios based in Spain. Hopefully their next feature — due in 2011 — is more engaging than this one but my kids still had a great time, mostly because it had aliens in it.

For some strange reason this is also the time of year when the heavy Oscar contenders start to appear on the marquee. Last week the list of Golden Globe nominees was announced, even before some of the titles had hit the silver screen but at least it gives us a good glimpse into what will be taking home some hardware in the next month or two.

Avatar is high on the spectacle meter but seemingly with little substance, all production value with less marrow. Sure sounds like James Cameron. Invictus is Clint Eastwood’s newest directorial effort, a ‘based on real events’ tale of post-Apartheid South Africa with Morgan Freeman as President Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as a rugby player trying to inspire the nation with his sport. It sounds like something Peter Morgan would write but he didn’t, although he is the scribe for Eastwood’s next work.

Up in the Air comes out Friday and, while really good, is also obviously pandering to our current cultural zeitgeist of economic panic. George Clooney could smirk his way through a movie and make it a hit but here he plays kind of a jerk: a travelling fireman, meaning companies contract him to zip in, fire people and zip out. Clooney’s acting bravado keeps him sympathetic to the audience. Now that’s worthy of acclaim.

It’s Complicated stars Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin both vying for the attention and affection of Meryl Streep in one of her two nominated performances. This comes from Nancy Meyers, who also brought the somewhat bland and predictable but still safe and heart-warming The Holiday and Something’s Gotta Give. I expect this one to be the same.

I’m desperate to see Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart but what really has my curiosity piqued is a little film out of left field that has no marketing except for some fantastic word of mouth. Precious (based on the novel Push by Sapphire) just might be the long shot underdog that blows them all away. Currently only playing at two Edmonton theatres, it’s about an overweight, illiterate and pregnant teenager in Harlem looking to turn her life around.

Many of you will choose to venture out onto the snow-driven streets and take a chance on a flick. I hope that this helps you in deciding whether to go see chipmunks or not to see chipmunks. That is the question.

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About Author

Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.