It's not quite "The Year Without a Santa Claus," but this holiday season seems surprisingly sparse for big, prestigious, award-seeking films. Arts and Entertainment Editor David Lee Simmons and film critic Curt Holman size up the trailers for upcoming films in search of both likely Oscar-bait and family-friendly hits. You can find the trailers at such websites as YouTube and Apple Trailers, and actually hear this conversation, in cutting edge podcast form, by clicking here.
DREAMGIRLS (Dec. 25)
Curt Holman: This is one of the big Oscar contenders that hasn't come out yet. The Departed is probably the Academy Award frontrunner at the moment. There's actually really good buzz around Eddie Murphy, who plays a singing star on a downward spiral.
David Lee Simmons: How many characters does Eddie Murphy play in this?
CH: He plays all the characters. That's how good the makeup is.
DLS: I could have sworn that was Beyoncé and Jamie Foxx. Taylor Hackford didn't direct this, right?
CH: This is based on a stage musical inspired by the Supremes, so it's both a musical and a musical biopic in one. The musical rise-and-fall story follows kind of a formula. The singer grows up, starts playing to bigger crowds, then has drunken scenes where they're yelling at their spouse or their manager.
DLS: I didn't see any heroin in the trailer, so that's good.
CH: This is something that I really want to see and have it be good. And you can pretend like it's not the Diana Ross story, even though it pretty much is.
ROCKY BALBOA (Dec. 22)
CH: This is the sixth Rocky movie, which is in itself amazing to get your mind around. It's like there's one every decade.
David Lee Simmons: Come on, is this really an Academy Award contender?
CH: Rocky's always the underdog, so he might come from behind and be the big Oscar winner. You know, Sylvester Stallone is 60 years old. They should bill this as "Rocky Balboa vs. The Ravages of Age."
DLS: You do ultimately lose that fight.
CH: The amazing thing about the movie will be if he actually makes it to the fight and the training montages don't kill him.
DLS: The catch phrase will be "Oy, my achin' back."
CH: Rocky Balboa: Ass Kicked. This is the movie you need to see at the most crowded theater possible on opening night, because half the fun will be the stuff that people will be shouting at the screen.
THE GOOD GERMAN (Dec. 22)
CH: This is the new George Clooney/Steven Soderbergh collaboration, which I believe is in black and white.
DLS: I smell noir. Do you smell that?
CH: Is that what that is? I thought it was something I ate.
DLS: We've seen Soderbergh slip into film noir before, but this actually looks pretty interesting. It takes place in Germany in 1945, back when wars actually ended.
CH: It looks like we see Tobey Maguire beat up George Clooney. That can't be right.
DLS: Him and what army?
CH: Maybe him and an actual army.
DLS: And there's Cate Blanchett. I smell femme fatale. Wait a minute, that didn't sound right.
CH: I love Cate Blanchett. I'd love to see her in a good movie. She's in Babel and is fine, but she's basically just injured and writhing on the floor her entire performance. Oh, and it looks like the plane from Casablanca makes a cameo.
DLS: This looks like the most intriguing film from Soderbergh since the first Ocean's 11.
CH: Every once in a while he does some film-student type stuff. He and Clooney will do weird stuff like Solaris that nobody really likes. Then do Ocean's 11 in order to get the capital to do movies like this. I think it's from the guy who wrote Quiz Show, so the script should be strong.
APOCALYPTO (Dec. 8)
CH: It's about the Mayans, but I wonder if the title describes director Mel Gibson's recent career?
DLS: It looks like it has cat people in it.
CH: It has that blue-man makeup like in Braveheart. And people with crazy piercings. People will have all kinda stuff sticking out of their faces after this movie.
DLS: Maybe it should be set in Little Five Points.
CH: This is a real obscure type of story, so the movie itself has to be really good to get people's attention. I hear there's actually a lot of chasing and action scenes.
DLS: The point being "It's a jungle out there?" I wonder if Gibson will make a cameo, like he supposedly did in The Passion of the Christ.
CH: Supposedly he was the guy who drove the nails through Jesus's hands, but we never saw his face. Maybe in Apocalypto he'll show up at the end in a conquistador outfit. Unless this is the greatest movie ever, I don't think Oscar voters will support it because of Gibson's anti-Semitism scandal. And the movie just looks so strange.
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