Donnybrook’s 2012 Holiday Movie Guide

Written by  //  December 14, 2012  //  Cinematical, The Theatre  //  No comments

Stuck with the fams this holiday break? Here’s how to escape!

Cinematical - The Donnybrook Writing Academy

From the Desk of Ebeneezer Scrooge…

It’s that time of year… again. It creeps up a little faster every year. You take down your lights only to realize you have to put them back up again. Does it ever end? I’ve learned it is better not to hang your lights up at all. And it saves you money, because you don’t have to get expensive back surgery when you fall off your ladder and hit the driveway with a nauseating smack.

It is also that time of year when we all dress in our warmest clothes and head out for a bit of good old fashioned entertainment. But budgets are tight, and spending that crucial paycheck on a movie ticket is often a mistake we almost always end up regretting. Avoid what Ebert or Rolling Stone says, and let Old Ebeneezer be your guide for the best in holiday entertainment.

Argo

ArgoArgo‘ is one of the best movies of the year” – Richard Roeper
Roger Ebert: 4 Stars
Ebeneezer: 2/5 Jars Of My Own Urine

Argo tells the boring ass story of a CIA operation where the agents have to go undercover in Iran to rescue hostages, but they use a Hollywood production as their cover to infiltrate the country. It is, and I’m quoting the movie here, the “best dumb idea” the CIA has to save these people. It is also the best dumb idea Ben Affleck has had for a movie yet. Usually he pillages the literary works of crime novelist Dennis LeHane, but this time out Affleck is trying to stretch himself as a director to give us the impression he is more than a competent journeyman.

There is surprisingly little to remember from the film. It has the structure of any heist film, but since the characters are based on real people they are less extravagant than ones you might see in Ocean’s Eleven. Ben Affleck is his most subdued character yet as Karl “The Mailman” Malone. He graces us with a dull performance that will make you question if he should act in anything he directs ever again. The supporting cast is bolstered by the appearances of John Goodman and Alan Arkin for some comedy, but even they can’t save this film from its own suffocating charm and self-importance.

The Master

The MasterRolling Stone: 4 Stars
Ebeneezer: 5/5 Flying Fucks

Paul Thomas Anderson – that name used to mean something, didn’t it? Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-drunk Love. These are films that have been lovingly preserved on high definition DVD and thank god for that, because it looks like PTA’s best days are behind him.

His descent into obsequious filmmaking began earnestly with There Will be Blood, a meditation on oil and religion through the prism of a bleak, one dimensional character played by Daniel Day Lewis. He has taken Day Lewis out, and replaced him with another actor who believes his involvement in a project merits some kind of special treatment. And that actor is of course, the brother of the late River Phoenix (it should have been you, Joaquin).

The Master panders to Phoenix in the same way TWBB pandered to Day Lewis. They are actors after all, not filmmakers. It should be within PTA’s fiduciary duty to contain these men instead of letting them run wild. What you see as a result of these toxic filmmaker-actor pairings are mind numbing 2 and a half hour acting reels that test the patience of audiences. It is a nasty trick to suggest what we see is great acting while it fails to emotionally stir us to any degree whatsoever, or connect us in any way to the material.

When The Master is finished, we feel as though a devious con-job has just taken place. We were duped into something and taken for a ride. I wonder if that is how the film’s only financier, Megan Ellison, felt when she saw the first cut of the film. “That’s what I paid $40 million to make?”

Skyfall

SkyfallRoger Ebert: 4 Stars
Ebeneezer: 5/6 Loaded Chambers of a Russian Roulette Pistol

When it comes to James Bond films, audiences tend to be a little myopic. We’ve already forgotten who the last Bond was. Not much of his output was worth remembering, I grant that, but Goldeneye was unarguably great. And it inspired hours of fun on the Nintendo 64.

Nobody is going to rush out to pick up the game adaptation of Skyfall, though. There is very little about it that would make for a great game. In fact, the last battle between Bond and the Villain-of-the-Month takes place on a field between an old church and a burning mansion. There is limited appeal for that kind of a climax.

Those are the sorts of problems I would have to consider if I was tasked with designing the game adaptation. There is not much in the film that felt very classic or inspired. Perhaps I am being harsh; Bond films were never intended to be all-time classics. They generally have a one-year expiration date. They are fresh only until the next Bond film arrives in theaters, and then they are discarded into a Wal-Mart bin and sealed in a 50 Film Classic Collection with all the others.

The film is slickly produced, there are some iconic visuals, but it seems the set-pieces were an after-thought. When the most exciting action sequence takes place on a moving train while two men wrestle on top of it (haven’t seen that before!), then it becomes apparent the film is only doing just enough to get by, but it has no actual intent to surpass what came before it.

Skyfall, despite being the highest grossing Bond film of all time, is an intensely lazy film, made for lazy audiences who don’t have any standards for action films. And good riddance to them.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasRoger Ebert: 4 Stars
“Enormous in length and scope, a film whose purpose doesn’t even begin to come into focus until two hours in.” – SF Chronicle
Ebeneezer: 2/3 Good Hard Hits to the Shin

When you have a very bad injury, it can be an illuminating insight into reality. Sitting in Cloud Atlas for its three or four hour running time put me into some kind of alpha wave trance, a hypnotic state of confusion that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. When I walked back into the theater lobby, with the sights and commotion of real people in a real world, it finally dawned on me what a painful film viewing experience I had just endured.

The Wachowski Starship, which is what the sibling directors have asked to be called, seem to be going through the filmmaker’s equivalent of a mid-life crisis. They made The Matrix and probably acknowledge it was their finest work, the kind of film they will likely be remembered for, so where can they go now?

It seems they intended to create the end-all, be-all science fiction masterpiece. They were so passionately dedicated to making it, they even mortgaged their own homes when their gap financing fell through at the last minute.

As is often the case with passion projects, emotions can cloud objectivity and jeopardize the end product. I think that is what happened here. For awhile I was intrigued by all the different time periods and costumes. But then it became clear that I was seeing multiple storylines without cause-and-effect. I was being transported to different time periods the way a time traveler might be jerked around history. I started to feel disoriented and disconnected. My attention shifted away from the story and onto the terrible makeup effects, trying to spot which actor in the previous timeline was now playing which person in the current timeline.

This ungainly experience was further marred by the odd tonal shifts of the stories. Tom Tykwer is the credited third director of this film, so in a sense this can almost be considered an anthology. And perhaps with some further brain storming that is what this film should have been.

If you were disappointed by the lazy effort from Skyfall‘s creators, look to Cloud Atlas as a counterbalance. Then between the two films you will come back to a neutral state. They cancel each other out, which means that a less costly alternative is not seeing either of these films.

Ebeneezer’s Pick of the Month:

Flight

FlightRoger Ebert: 4 Stars
“Zemeckis reins in the story’s potential for moralizing and melodrama, instead delivering a refreshingly sophisticated, mature human drama” – Washington Post
Ebeneezer: 4/4 Tax Refunds

Yes I admit, I have a certain affinity for A Christmas Carol. But even Old Scrooge knows it was time for Robert Zemeckis to get the fuck out of the Uncanny Valley and come back to the land of the living, with real-life actors who are as much fun to watch as yours truly in a Motion Capture House of Christmas Horrors.

I don’t think Zemeckis could have chosen a better actor than Denzel Washington. He is the raison d’etre for Flight and even took a paycut to make it. Typically he is an actor who commands $20 million paychecks, but he only received 1/10th of his salary. That is how passionate he was about the project. I can tell you I would never leave behind $20 million for anything, or anyone. But that is where I am different from Denzel.

After a convincing and terrifying airline disaster, Flight’s focus shifts to its aftermath as pilot Whip Whitaker (Washington) deals with his struggle to overcome his alcoholism and confront mounting evidence against him that could land him in prison.

Now that is something I can relate to! Finally. But make no mistake, this is not an easy film to sit through. It certainly may not be the most palatable film to bring a first date to see, but I still encourage you to see it with your family during the holidays. It may get a little awkward for a while there, you may have, if I may be so bold – a little turbulence – but at the end of the ride there is a powerful message of hope, about why we must come forward with the truth and stop lying to ourselves to protect our precious egos. Families can relate to this sort of message around this time of the year. I know I can.

And even that made Old Scrooge feel some kind of warmth in the cold cockles of his heart.

About the Author

Hugo Dracula

Richard Karpala, aka Hugo Dracula, is a film maker and critic based in Denver. His first short film, "Deadbox" was an official 2012 selection at the 8th Annual HollyShorts Film Festival, the Gen Con Indy Film Festival and the International Film Fest of the Bizarre. In the hallowed halls of the Manse Richard is known as "Hugo Dracula," a former inmate and current best-selling author of "Life in 2D", a survivalist tale that recounts his harrowing prison sentence inside of the Phantom Zone. He is currently writing the follow-up, "Zoning Out: Life On the Streets." Follow Richard Karpala on Twitter

View all posts by

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

comm comm comm