BOP 25 of the Holidays 2007: 15-6

By BOP Staff

November 1, 2007

Keira misunderstood - she was supposed to dress like *slutty* nurse. 15) Atonement

A lot of us here at BOP aren't just about movies. We're voracious readers, as well. Over the years, we've discussed books and authors we love. One author we've discussed quite a bit around the water cooler is Ian McEwan, the British author who has had a successful career with such novels as Enduring Love, Amsterdam, Saturday and his recent On Chesil Beach. His biggest success, though, is probably Atonement, a treasure of a book and a romance that is far from typical.

That novel has now been adapted for the big screen, and needless to say, we're intrigued. The book does rather naturally lend itself to a lush translation, with scenes taking place at British estates, on the battlefield and in an old-time hospital. The story essentially revolves around three people - a young girl named Briony, her sister Cecilia, and Cecilia's lover Robbie. After seeing her sister making love with Robbie, a friend of the family who has almost been adopted as one of their own, she becomes distraught. This leads her to tell a terrible lie, one that has dire consequences for all three of them.

With Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice) at the helm, we were already certain that Atonement had every chance of looking fantastic. Add in performers such as Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave and Brenda Blethyn, and it's clear that great care has been taken to populate the film with talent equal to the material. The film is already generating substantial Academy Awards buzz, and we're hoping against all hope that we agree with such assessments. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Wait, I'm not meant to be a sewer person? 14) Enchanted

At some point or another, every girl has dreamed of being a princess. That's why Disney films such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs have proven to be so successful. The Mouse House will take that notion just a step further as they combine animation and live action for this twisted take on the classic fairy tale.

Amy Adams will play a princess who lives in a magical, enchanted land. When a wicked witch sends her to - horrors! - New York City, she must adapt to the strange new world that is entirely different than the one she is used to. Despite the fact that she's being chased by a Prince Charming (James Marsden), she falls for a man who looks an awful lot like McDreamy.

Anyone who has seen the trailer knows that this has all kinds of comic potential and looks like quality entertainment for the entire family. It's not so geared to children that adults can't find a little fun themselves. We loved Amy Adams in Junebug, and think that she has a chance to really break out as a headlining star. Enchanted might just prove to be the movie that gives her that chance. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
The elves aren't short. Vince Vaughn is just that tall. 13) Fred Claus

If it's early November, it must be time for a Christmas movie. Wait, what? Oh right. As part of the inevitable season creep, early November has proven to be prime real estate for Christmas themed family films trying to take advantage of the holiday double whammy of Thanksgiving and Christmas. And every comedy star wants in on the act. Vince Vaughn stars as the title character in this film, the heretofore unknown black sheep brother of Santa Claus. And really, what sibling could possibly compare to Kris Kringle?

After losing yet another job and another girlfriend, Fred returns home to the North Pole to nurse his wounds and leech off of mom and pop (Santa Claus has parents? Who knew) and generally annoy his perfect brother (played here in a bit of genius casting by Paul Giamatti). As he gets back into the family business, Fred ends up wrecking havoc in Santa's Workshop and endangering Christmas, which of course would be a pretty bad thing.

Vince is essentially playing a PG-rated version of his character from The Wedding Crashers, which makes sense considering these films share a director. The interplay between Vaughn and Giamatti seems pitch perfect, and some of us have fond memories of the last Frat Packer to get a Christmas movie (Will Ferrell's Elf), although this seems a little harder edged. Either you love Vaughn's fast talking personas or you don't, and if you do, well, this is the Vince Vaughn movie you can take your 11-year-old (how old Swingers is) to. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)

This wood plank floor is surprisingly unconfortable. 12) There Will Be Blood

When you think of young(er) directors that BOP loves unreservedly, there are a few names that come to mind. Wes Anderson. Michel Gondry. David Fincher (even though he's not so young anymore). And one who we haven't heard from recently and we're glad to have back – Paul Thomas Anderson.

I bet you thought I was going to say Uwe Boll.

Anyhoo, PT Anderson releases his first feature film in five years this winter, the ominously titled There Will Be Blood. Set at the turn of the century (the one before this one, not just... recently), it stars Daniel Day-Lewis as a blood thirsty Texas oil baron, just as Texas is starting to become the place to make money off the black stuff.

He potentially meets his match in the form of a young preacher, played by Paul Dano, who so impressed us last year as the mute nihilist in Little Miss Sunshine. You see, Dano's character's church is sitting on some prime oil land which Lewis wants to drill under, and he's not the kind to take no for an answer. Mr. Burns would just slant drill and call it a day, but apparently that wasn't an option back in those days. This sets up a battle of wills between the two characters in a fight for God and money. Just a guess, but probably no one ends up too happy.

This is a time period and subject that hasn't been explored too deeply before and Anderson is an interesting choice to take it on. He has of course been known for his epic ensemble films, but he's also made no secret of his idolization of Scorsese, and this film looks in that general neighborhood, to the point of bringing on Day-Lewis, who tore up the screen in Gangs of New York. We're also waiting to see what Dano can do in a bigger, front-and-center role, which makes this film one of the holiday's most beguiling. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Thomas Jane and friends are offended that he could be confused with Aaron Eckhart. 11) The Mist

When it comes to adaptations of Stephen King's books and stories, the final products are extremely hit or miss with regard to quality. As far as the hits go, we've seen The Shining, The Dead Zone, Stand By Me, It, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and 1408. Heavy duty misses include Riding the Bullet, Dreamcatcher, The Lawnmower Man, Thinner and Apt Pupil. One thing you might notice is that a couple of the "good" movies have the same director. Both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile were helmed and written by Frank Darabont, who received Academy Award nominations for both screenplays. The two had a common link in that neither one was of the standard Stephen King horror variety. They were deep, character-driven dramas that translated extremely well both to critical and financial reception.

Darabont is back to direct another King tale, but this time he's going to venture into the realm of terror. The Mist is one of King's more highly regarded novels, and from the looks of the trailer, Darabont has it down cold. The story is simple – a freak storm (King likes those – remember Storm of the Century?) unleashes a strange species of creatures into the midst of a town. The problem is, they're hungry for blood, which forces the citizenry to seek shelter in a supermarket as they fight for their lives. It's a simple tale at its heart, but also one with the potential to scare the bejeebus out of moviegoers. Count us in. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Everyone is always trying to be an armchair murderer. 10) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

We might not remember much about Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, but one thing that has surely stuck with us is young Gertie's love for the musical Sweeney Todd. Surely if a little girl has that much love for a play, it must be lighthearted fare, like Annie. Right? RIGHT?

Well, no. As you might imagine from the title, Sweeney Todd is anything but sweet and fluffy. Director Tim Burton takes a 180 degree turn from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or does he?) as he takes on this macabre story of a barber who is sent away to do time in a penal colony in Australia after being falsely accused and convicted. When the man (Sweeney Todd) returns, he learns that his wife has poisoned herself after being raped by the judge who sentenced him. The judge hasn't stopped there, however. He has also taken on Sweeney's daughter as his ward. Sweeney Todd conspires with a maker of terrible pies named Mrs. Lovett to wreak his revenge. Mass murder, mayhem and booming business for Mrs. Lovett's pie shop are the result.

In the years since Moulin Rouge! was nominated for an Academy Award, musicals have seen a resurgence. None of them have been anything like Sweeney Todd, though. As a Stephen Sondheim creation, its sound is vastly different from anything mainstream audiences are accustomed to. This truly is another example of Johnny Depp marching to the beat of his own drum. He may be beloved for his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, but he stubbornly refuses to stay mainstream. His willingness to play a bloodthirsty barber who bakes his victims into pies is a bold move, but also one that we applaud. Sweeney Todd's difficult subject matter may mean financial success will be hard to find. It's a movie about murder being released over Christmas, after all. Of course, that didn't stop The Talented Mr. Ripley, did it? (Kim Hollis/BOP)
You shine a little light on my life. 9) National Treasure: The Book of Secrets

Each passing year seems to create more and more difficulty for studios to create a new franchise. The past summer full of threequels demonstrates that it's easier to continue to release known commodities than it is to successfully mine new territory. In the action genre in the 2000s, only two franchises have succeeded. One is The Bourne series and the other is Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney owns the latter title and now they are trying to turn their surprise $350 million worldwide hit, National Treasure, into another new franchise.

On the surface, this seems unlikely. After all, the original was the very definition of catching lightning in a bottle. The imaginative premise saw the founding fathers leaving clues to hidden treasure in our most important historical artifacts, and this unexpectedly struck a chord with mainstream audiences. The question becomes whether that was a one time only phenomenon similar to Speed or if the same idea is capable of sustaining (multiple?) sequels.

In order to raise the odds of sequel success, National Treasure: Book of Secrets has adopted the soap opera tactic of promising non-stop twists and turns. The first discovery is that Ben Franklin Gates, the hero of the first movie, is the great-great-great grandchild (I think that's enough greats but I might need a couple more) of one of the conspirators to assassinate President Lincoln. Certain that his ancestor never would have participated in such shenanigans, Gates sets out to prove this allegation untrue. Since it's a National Treasure movie, the way he does so is quite unusual. He kidnaps the president. Yes, our hero kidnaps the president.

The explanation for this is that the person holding the title of POTUS throughout the years has received privileged information. The details are shrouded in mystery with all of the highly privatized data stored in the titular book of secrets. When Gates is denied access to the book, he has two options. The first would be to run for president. This is not that type of movie. So, plan B is to walk into the White House, head to the Oval Office and grab the commander-in-chief. Look, National Treasure movies aren't about realism. They aim to entertain and surprise and from what we have heard of this sequel, we think it stands a strong choice of accomplishing this. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Hmm, a CGI film about bugs. Where have we seen that before? 8) Bee Movie

One has to wonder if Jerry Seinfeld came up with the idea for B Movie while half asleep and watching Flaming Globes of Sigmund on Sci-Fi Channel. Wait, it's not that kind of B Movie? Oh, well.

Bee Movie, co-written by Seinfeld, features the comedian as the key character, a chap named Barry B. Benson. Having just graduated from college, he becomes a little glum when he realizes that as a bee, he doesn't have many career options. There's making honey, making honey, making get the idea. He gets the chance to take a special trip outside his hive, and has his life saved by a human named Vanessa. As he becomes more immersed in the human world, Barry learns that humans eat honey, and decides to sue us.

Though not quite as strong a household brand as Pixar, DreamWorks Animation is becoming a trusted brand when it comes to entertaining family fun. The Shrek films, Shark Tale, Madagascar and Over the Hedge have all found an audience, and the studio may be taking it to a different level here. It's been awhile since audiences adored Seinfeld on his eponymous series, and the time looks to be ripe for his return, albeit in very different form. Those of us who loved the show will be anxious to see how his talent translates to what is essentially kiddie fare. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
I thank God for every f**king day he gives me in the corps. OOHRAH. 7) Lions for Lambs

No, this movie does not chronicle the era of Matt Millen as GM of Detroit, although the potential confusion is understandable. Instead, this release is the latest example of Hollywood giving middle America exactly what they believe we want: heavy-handed preaching. Is it any wonder why Fox News has made a cottage industry out of celebrity political bashing? The industry does rather ask for it.

The position of Lions for Lambs is particularly perilous since it stars the least popular A-List actor right now, Tom Cruise. BOP won't bore you with further regurgitation of the details, but some stuff happened the last couple of years that made the guy seem...well...unabomber nuts. He had become such a negative stigma that even when he starred in a white hot movie, Mission: Impossible 3, audiences refused to support his work. All of this sounds fairly negative. So, why is our staff so excited about the project?

For the first time since 2000, Robert Redford is directing a movie. Given that he has titles such as Ordinary People, Quiz Show, A River Runs Through It and The Milagro Beanfield War on his resume, it is safe to say his track record is quite good. Of course, it is also staunchly liberal, which means that the mere knowledge that he is taking on a movie about middle eastern affairs alienates a certain segment of the population. Since the BOP 25 of Holidays is not focused on box office, we are less concerned with this.

What does worry us is that a movie that explores the political, theoretical and actual aspects of America's military presence in Afghanistan may be too preachy. Given the presence of industry icon Redford behind the camera, however, we believe that Lions for Lambs is an opportunity to see the rare breed of Hollywood cinema. This could be the type of movie that tells a great story and delivers an important message simultaneously. And, if that doesn't work, it affords us an opportunity to add a dozen new Tom Cruise jokes to our repertoire. (David Mumpower/BOP)
I came all this way to find out who's been eating my porridge. 6) The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass has been named as one of the ten most important children's novels of the past 70 years. The Golden Compass movie has been declared a subject of boycott by the Catholic League. Those two statements alone create a fascinating question about this project. Is it an important story for children or is it a dangerous threat to religious believers? The answer is probably both.

Written by avowed atheist Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass is the first story in the His Dark Materials trilogy. During the final installment of the series, a team of children, armored bears and other various allies kill Metatron. He is an agent of God, known in the story as The Authority but also referenced as Yahweh, a more familiar identification of the deity. Needless to say, a lot of religious folks have a problem with the idea of killing Yahweh. Is this enough to make them overlook the otherworldly storytelling of a story that is family friendly in nature? Therein lies the debate.

BOP expects The Golden Compass to be one of the most controversial releases in recent memory, probably the most incendiary one since The Passion of the Christ. We do not, however, expect it to have box office to match Mel Gibson's masterwork. In fact, the budget in excess of $200 million for this production makes us wonder what in the world New Line was thinking spending that much money on a tough sell. Nonetheless, our staff, even the most religious ones, universally regarded the first book as great literature. So, we look forward to seeing how it is adapted to the big screen. (David Mumpower/BOP)

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