2009’s Vast Holiday Movie Wasteland: For Starters -- 'Avatar' Looks Freakin' Stupid

Have you seen the previews for the movies coming out this holiday season? December movies were once second in quality only to the summer releases, with a raft of comedies, dramas and a few big-budget blockbusters to choose from. You would find three, four, maybe even five movies you really wanted to see around the holidays. It was awesome. Now fast forward to Christmas 2009. The new releases are a cornucopia of suck.

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Let’s get Avatar out of the way since millions of fanboys are drooling over it like a fat kid contemplating a burrito. Look, nobody digs James Cameron movies more than me. I even like Titanic, you haters – and not just because DiCaprio gets deep-sixed. But Avatar looks, well, freaking stupid.

The first problem is that it’s another PC storyline about kind, loving, nature-embracing natives battling the wicked, capitalist-backed militarists coming to bulldoze their bucolic paradise. That cliché was played out back when it was called Cowboys and Indians and it’s just as lame when it’s Space Marines versus the Navii, or whatever the blue dudes are called. I don’t understand the weird need of our artist class to figuratively beg forgiveness for the alleged sins of their ancestors. Cameron, give the damn aliens some casinos and call it a day.

And I just can’t get worked up over visuals with the look of a glorified cartoon. If this the next great leap forward in cinema, I’m going on a long march back to my books. Maybe it’ll look better in a theater in 3-D. I’m sure it’ll look even better after I knock back a couple of Sapphire and tonics. But the trailer makes it look like a comic book and I’m just not a member of the “graphic novel” target demographic. I’m a grown man.

I could discuss another bloated, over-long, overpriced disaster that was recently released for the holidays, but this isn’t about health care reform. Also, 2012 is still in theaters.

Is it too much to ask for a movie that an adult male might be interested in? Oh, well how about Brothers? Tobey Maguire plays a Marine, yet it’s not a comedy. He goes to Afghanistan and, as Hollywood teaches us, he must therefore return a psychotic PTSD-ravaged ticking time bomb. Oh, and the hero’s brother nails his wife while he’s gone. Good times!

Robert De Niro’s back in something called Everybody's Fine. He plays a widower who seeks out his grown children over the holidays to reestablish his relationships with them. Yeah, sounds like a stretch for De Niro. I think I’ll just stretch too, right up to the top shelf of my DVD rack to pull down the coolest damn De Niro movie ever – Heat. A few controlled bursts of fire from Bobby and I can even forgive him Meet the Fockers.

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Let’s look at some of the other movies out there. They say The Blind Side is “inspirational,” the occasional Bush crack aside. I’m rarely “inspired” by modern Hollywood fare. I’m frequently “irritated,” “bored” or “disappointed,” so this one gets a “Maybe.”

I have not seen The Twilight Saga: New Moon, but it’s on my "want to-do" list too - right after the colonoscopy. I’d make fun of this goofy phenomenon but that would be like tripping a guy in a cast – amusing, but hardly sporting. I do love the pretension of the title…it’s a saga, damn it. That perfectly captures the way teenagers not only imagine themselves the first to ever, in all of human history, experience the feelings and emotions they are experiencing but also to believe their routine internal turmoil is of epic significance. Kids, you’re 16 and horny. It’s not The Odyssey. And I’ll just interpose one bit of advice for starlet Kristen Stewart – staring blankly with your mouth half-open does not constitute a performance.

I took the family to see Fantastic Mr. Fox, and it was okay. The climate change hoax has soured me on fantasies lately, but while Mr. Fox started dragging near the end, overall it was relatively painless. The stop-motion animation was interesting and I guess there was a pro-family message, though that message seemed to be that families should bond by engaging in criminal enterprises together. I was puzzled because for some reason the filmmaker made the heavily armed capitalists into the bad guys and the redistributionist looters into the heroes. I didn’t understand that, but I can guess how he voted in ’08.

George Clooney played Mr. Fox and he kept his ridiculous political opinions to himself, which was nice. He is also in Up in the Air, which Big Hollywood’s Carl Kozlowski liked and which I’ll therefore give a shot. The same guy who directed the annoying but not completely horrible Juno did it but, thankfully Juno’s writer, the pop cultural catch-phrase generation machine known as Diablo Cody, did not write it, home skillet. It’s the story of a middle-aged business man without superpowers who stays relatively close to planet Earth. I’m also pretty sure nothing in it explodes. I want to see it for its novelty value.

There are more films coming down the road, including The Road, which is a screwball comedy of some kind, unless I’m mistaken. I’m sure it will cheer me up. And Robert Downey, Jr., will be a new, edgier Sherlock Holmes. I think I could see that. I’m all about edge.

Maybe this season is not so bad after all. Except I have kids, so I think my grim fate is Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squekquel. I heard a very unreliable rumor that De Niro makes a cameo in it – if he brings his assault rifle, I’m so there.

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