The movies are a way to get away from it all…when you’re getting away from it all.
For instance, the holiday season–with all its friends and family time–offers a chance to reacquaint yourself with your couch. You will come up to it and say “Hello, couch.” It may grumble some profanity back, but otherwise ignore you. So while you’re waiting for your couch to get a grip, you take a sojourn to the movies.
There are plenty of worthy films already theatres (or coming out soon)–some holiday-related, others not.
The much awaited Star Wars: The Force Awakens just hit theatres, but Spectre, the newest James Bond offering, has been out since early November. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
The 24th Bond film makes good on what the Daniel Craig series has made its mark on: reinventing Bond. Craig is Bond as creator Ian Fleming envisioned him–a hard-boiled, cold, womanizing assassin. But in Spectre, Craig takes his role a step further. He pursues Ernst Blofeld, the man whose organization, Spectre, was apparently responsible for Bond’s past troubles. Like the previous Skyfall (2012), this film has an operatic quality and an emotional resonance, providing a look at the choice the Assassin faces a between the life he lives and the life he might have led.
Spectre is different from the previous film in tone—there’s more romance and self-referential comedic relief, but still with plenty of thrills. Sam Smith’s vocals aren’t as penetrating as Adele’s, but the title sequence has a thoughtfulness unlike other Bond films. It’s revisionist without being deconstructionist.
Interestingly, UK critics liked it more than American critics, but I’m not sure if that’s a comment on America’s reoccurring bad taste or because Mission Impossible V of the summer (from last summer; an excellent romantic—in the philosophical sense—thriller) carried a similar lighthearted tone and information-age themes.
Taking a pro-freedom stance on government cyber-information collection, the films pit human agents against the technological world in a competition to see who the better “spies” are. Cruise’s character, interestingly, seems at times stronger that Craig’s. This film thrusts calculated instances of personal vulnerability on Bond. Indeed, it’s good to know that Bond is keeping current again (after the lapse in the 90s when Pierce Brosnan’s Bond didn’t have anyone to fight).
It’s a shame to lose one of the best Bonds yet, but if Craig decides no amount of money would induce him to return, this film was a good way to go.
But to transition to a completely different genre, The Good Dinosaur, one of Pixar’s best films yet, isn’t making money. Set in the odd premise where agricultural dinosaurs dominate the earth (if the species never went extinct), the young, timid dinosaur Arlo wants to be accomplished like the rest of his family—but he can’t get there. After a river accident, Arlo gets lost with a sole companion–a primitive dog-like human, and must make his way home across the hostile terrain. In the end, Arlo proves himself brave and resourceful—a self-animated hero who’s only response to life’s challenges is oh –no-you-don’t.
With The Good Dinosaur, first-time Pixar feature film director Peter Sohn returns Disney to the days when the studio put its name with serious, character-driven adventures. In this film, strong characters, simple American frontier-like music, and absolutely stunning visuals are prominent throughout. Unlike in the majority of animated films today, Sohn departs from the tired formula of celebrating moronic anti-heroes doing mildly funny pratfalls with something about the importance of family in the end.
Arlo is not born a hero, but he makes himself one. His parents don’t coddle him by giving him more than he deserves. It’s this point that critics dislike. Just because it tells an optimistic story about actual character development minus the typical Hollywood touches, it gets labelled “simplistic.”
But even though the film lacks nihilistic humor, it’s not without comedic relief. There are some amusing Pixar-like side characters, including a funny mysticist rhino. But at the end of the day it’s a touching, very American and vintage Disney adventure about friendship, courage, and finding your right path.
But obviously the holidays call for more than just spies and animated dinosaurs. It calls for holiday movies.
Hitting theatres on December 25, Daddy’s Home revolves around new stepdad, Will Ferrell, trying to make things right with his step kids—and attempting to look better than hipper real dad Mark Walhberg. The trailer doesn’t make it look like anything special, but it looks pleasant enough to be watchable.
Meanwhile, The Night Before, which stars Seth Rogen, is already out. But judging from its completely brainless trailer, I don’t think I’ll waste my money.
Once your couch has calmed down, it’s always nice to curl up for the holiday classics. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) is charming if you like really old movies, while Home Alone (1990) is a movie that would be criminal to miss over your break.
One movie chastised from the mainstream holiday movie canon is Christmas with the Kranks from Harry Potter director Chris Columbus. Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis play a married couple who think they’ll be alone on Christmas. So they decide to “skip” Christmas and buy tickets for a Caribbean cruise. When their grown daughter calls to tell them she’s coming home at the last-minute, the two have to scramble to prepare for Christmas.
It’s been called “materialist” and “conformist” just because it doesn’t place religion at the forefront of the movie’s themes. But in reality, it’s a simply a really funny film about the holidays as a life-loving affirmation.