BOP 25 Most Anticipated Holiday Movies: 15-6

By BOP Staff

November 2, 2006

I wonder if my players really believe I'm 'just friends' with Lance Armstrong. 15) We Are Marshall

November 14, 1970 is one of the most tragic days in sports history. A plane carrying 75 people related to the Marshall football program crashed in West Virginia, killing all passengers. Forty-five players and coaches were on board. The wreckage did more than claim the lives of so many innocents. It effectively destroyed the entire football program. Fast forward 36 years and Marshall University is known as the place where NFL stars such as Randy Moss and Chad Pennington drew the attention of pro scouts. How did a program left in ruins overcome their adversity and return to prominence?

We Are Marshall connects the dots. It examines how the entire community pulled together after the program was initially discontinued due to the disaster. The movie is already drawing significant awards buzz with its only real concern thus far being the unfortunate timing of the Cory Lidle crash. If Warner Bros. can overcome the negative stigma of another sports-related plane wreck, this could be one of the sleeper hits of the holiday season. Under any circumstance, a couple of BOP staffers have already seen this one and they have confirmed the quality is most assuredly there. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Wanna adopt babies together? 14) The Good Shepherd

Robert De Niro, Matt Damon, Joe Pesci and Angelina Jolie. Let's see. That's 11 Academy Awards nominations and five wins between the three. Damon is the "weak link" of the bunch, because he is the only one without a win in an acting category. Folks, when one of the premiere actors of his generation is the least accomplished one frontlining a project, you know it's special. In the case of The Good Shepherd, we have even more cause for intrigue. De Niro himself is getting behind the camera as a director for the first time since 1993 and only the second time in his career. In short, the appeal here is an acting legend helming a project starring two of the hottest actors of our era and also features the return of a Best Supporting Actor who has been MIA since 1998. That's a lot to love. But the premise is also fantastic. De Niro's tale follows the introduction, development and evolution of the Central Intelligence Agency. Although the $110 million production is fictional, it is based upon James Jesus Angleton, "The Kingfisher". Oddly, the famous CIA chief has never had a movie made about his career to date. So, this is a largely untapped story in the hands of master craftsmen. Like several other titles on the holiday list, The Good Shepherd smells like Oscar bait to BOP. (David Mumpower/BOP)
These royals swing. 13) For Your Consideration

Christopher Guest-directed mockumentaries have almost become a genre unto themselves. Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind all have their supporters, with each one taking a look at very different segments of weird, fanatical human beings. In the case of Guffman, the movie offered a behind the scenes look at a community theater production and a highly memorable line of My Dinner With Andre action figures. Best in Show took viewers to the strange and wacky world of dog shows, with Fred Willard providing one of the best comedic performances of his career. Folk music was the subject matter for A Mighty Wind, which made for plenty of in-jokes and some actual toe-tapping tunes. Many of the scenes in the films wound up being improvised from a simple outline provided by Guest and Eugene Levy, which is a large reason that Guest has stuck with tried and true performers as he moves from project to project. Along with himself and Levy, performers who have appeared in all three films include the aforementioned Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Larry Miller, Michael Hitchcock, Scott Williamson and Don Lake. (Others, like Jennifer Coolidge and Guest's Spinal Tap co-stars Harry Shearer and Michael McKean have been featured in more than one.) That's some remarkable loyalty and chemistry, and every single one of these cast members is also on hand for Guest's newest film, For Your Consideration, as well.

As its title might indicate, For Your Consideration's story takes place around awards season in Hollywood. Of course, in Guest's world, the people attaining recognition are rarely so talented as they are being led to believe. The movie pokes a bit of fun at the indie film industry as it portrays three actors from a small drama called Home for Purim as they learn that their performances have been deemed worthy of awards consideration. Naturally, all of the sharks in the water as well as the innocents will be the butts of jokes. If any of them are close to being as sublime as "I just hate you, and I hate your...ASS...FACE!", For Your Consideration should be another favorite of Guest's followers. And wouldn't it be perfect if the film garnered some awards attention, too? (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Cary Grant already did this in Bringing Up Baby. 12) Night at the Museum

If we were voting for biggest blockbuster of the holiday season, this would be the runaway winner. Nothing says box office gold like an all-star comedy front-lined by the likes of Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, and Owen Wilson. Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney, stars of any number of family classics, are onboard as well. Even better is the fact that the premise is a museum full of exhibits coming to life. Fertile concepts such as this are rare. This is on the level of Liar Liar, Coming to America, and Jumanji. In fact, the latter film based on the Chris Van Allsburg novel is probably the most accurate recent comparison for this project. And if we go even further back, the BOP staff has a fond place in our collective heart for the thematically similar Don Knotts classic, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

So, we should be more fired up about this than we are. What's the problem? We also recall recent big budget comedy misfires such as The Haunted Mansion, Cat in the Hat and Zathura. For whatever reason, comedy oftentimes looks better on paper than it does in execution. BOP wants to believe in A Night at the Museum as a quality slapstick comedy rather than just a surefire blockbuster, but we've been burned before. (David Mumpower/BOP)
I know those Flushed Away rats are supposed to be down here somewhere. 11) Children of Men

As post-apocalyptic scenarios go, the one posited in Children of Men is a doozy because of its chilling simplicity. What if people stopped being able to have babies? An unknown plague or disease causes exactly this problem in the film, which pretty much spells the end for humanity, unless somehow people can figure out what caused it and how to reverse it. Somewhere Brian K. Vaughn is stewing.

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, the film stars Clive Owen as an ex-activist who's called on to protect a woman who might represent salvation for humanity – miraculously, she's pregnant. Now the future of the human race may depend on her survival, with many rival factions trying to take her for their own, or even eliminate her. The cast also includes Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Caine, and promises to be a fascinating look at a frightening potential future. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Less 15-year-old boy, more dragon. 10) Eragon

A few years ago, an ambitious teen imagined a world wherein a 15-year-old boy not unlike himself discovers a dragon egg. Over-achiever that he was, fledgling storyteller Christopher Paolini put pen to paper and wound up creating one of the most popular fantasy novels in recent memory. Eragon tells the story of what happens once the egg hatches and a dragon named Saphira is born. Obviously, a boy owning a dragon is a precarious situation and some pitfalls usually occur. In this instance, some family members are murdered, causing the boy to go on a quest for vengeance. That'll happen.

The specific details are irrelevant, however. What matters is that this is going to be the latest special effects laden action movie to feature dragons. BOP is hopeful that this one will deliver the goods, but as with A Night at the Museum directly above here, we have been burned before with dragon tales. It seems like we see a dragon flick every five years or so, and the last two, Dragonheart and Reign of Fire, were complete busts in terms of quality as well as box office. So, we are approaching Eragon with cautious optimism. Somebody is bound to get it right at some point, and we think/hope this is the one. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Look out for the Whomping Willow. 9) The Fountain

It's been six years since Darren Aronofsky announced his graduation into the realm of groundbreaking (and disturbing) filmmakers with 2000's Requiem For a Dream. His unique style and vision is now applied to The Fountain, an ambitious (to put it lightly) story that covers 1,000 years.

It stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in three parallel stories in the years 1500, 200 and 2500, each covering no less a subject than immortality and the fountain of youth. This could be Aronofsky's 2001, or perhaps just a pretentious over-reach. With Aronofsky, it could be both. In any case, we're intrigued. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Happy Feet and Eight Below have taught us that seals are EVIL. 8) Happy Feet

Two words are all that are needed to describe the reason we voted for Happy Feet. Animated. Penguins. As we've mentioned time and again, penguins are solid gold when it comes to the movies. Madagascar and March of the Penguins are recent examples, and we surely can't forget the villainous Feathers McGraw in the Wallace and Gromit short film The Wrong Trousers. Now, courtesy of Warner Bros., we have some animated penguins so adorable that they have "buy me and I promise to be the bestest Christmas present ever!" written all over them. Seriously, if you don't take your child to see Happy Feet on opening weekend and then immediately journey to Target to buy stuffed versions of the characters they have just seen, you are obviously history's greatest monster.

Happy Feet, directed by George Miller (Babe: Pig in the City), follows a simple and charming premise. It is set in the world of Emperor Penguins, creatures who find and court their mates through song. What would befall a penguin who can't sing, but can tap dance like Gregory Hines? Happy Feet tries to answer that question, and implements some fantastic-looking animation in the process. The voice cast is rather special, too, and includes Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Jackman (who also stars in November's other animated release, Flushed Away), Brittany Murphy, Anthony LaPaglia, and the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.

All that really remains to be seen is whether the movie's story can live up to the promise provided by the cuddly creatures, a terrific cast and a solid director. The one thing that Pixar continues to have over all its competitors - including Warner Bros., the distributor of Happy Feet - is that its writing stands head and shoulders above all over CGI offerings. Our hopes are sky high, so we have fingers crossed that George Miller and friends can follow through. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
The children were traumatized by this game of peek-a-boo. 7) Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro has found success both in foreign films like Cronos and The Devil's Backbone and large budget stuff such as Blade II and Hellboy. He's back to smaller-budget fantasy/horror with his newest film Pan's Labyrinth, and the buzz surrounding its upcoming release is deafening.

Pan's Labyrinth tells the story of a young, book-loving girl named Ofelia who is brought by her pregnant mother to live with her stepfather, Captain Luis. The time is post-civil war Spain, and the captain's job is to seek out a small band of Loyalist guerillas who are hiding out in the hills surrounding the area. Ofelia has many worries - her mother's pregnancy is a difficult one, and she loathes her stepfather. Still, she finds that in her new home, the fairy tales she loves seem to come to life. She follows a fairy to a labyrinth in her backyard, where a faun informs Ofelia that she is in fact a princess. If she will perform three tasks, she can return to her kingdom.

The story is said to masterfully blend the fantastic elements with an exploration of the Spanish Civil War and the fascism that was allowed to prevail in the country even after Hitler was vanquished in Germany. Pan's Labyrinth might be a foreign film that will receive a limited theatrical release, but it has a great opportunity to strike a real chord with movie-goers who miss Terry Gilliam at his best. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Where does a sewer toad find a fitted tie? 6) Flushed Away

Anyone who reads this site with any regularity will know that we have a pretty special place in our hearts for Aardman Animation. Wallace and Gromit charmed us with both their shorts and their Academy Award-winning feature length film of 2005, Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (and our third place finisher in last year's Calvin Awards for Best Picture). Chicken Run is also an utterly charming piece of work that is so clever in its use of movie allusions that it's nearly impossible to spot them all. Up to now, all of these projects have been rendered via intricate clay animation. For their latest project, Aardman has used CGI to take humans to a world totally unknown to us - the sewers. Sure, Futurama can imagine what they might be like a thousand years from now, but what goes on in there today?

Flushed Away's central character is a rat named Roddy (voiced by Hugh Jackman). He lives a posh life in an uptown apartment until one day he is flushed down the toilet and finds himself in the sewers - a world wholly unfamiliar to him and oh so stinky and dirty. It's the classic fish-out-of-water story, where Roddy must adapt to life in a "foreign" land in order to fit in with new friends and avoid confrontation with potential enemies. The all-star British voice cast features (along with Jackman) Kate Winslet, Ian McKellan, Bill Nighy and Andy Serkis, and the animation itself looks sublime.

If there is one thing to give us pause, it's the fact that a movie set in the sewers is simply no easy sell. Pixar has its own rat movie coming in 2007, but it is set in and around a restaurant, which feels a lot less icky. If audiences can accept the quirky surroundings and characters like rats, toads and slugs, it could be a strong player through the holiday season. We're certainly looking forward to seeing how Aardman makes it all come together. (Kim Hollis/BOP)



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