Christmas Crackers

Jim Ross 4 December 2011

Jim Ross on the cinematic releases over the festive season

Term may have wound down, but the multiplexes are about to kick into high gear. At first glance, the number of sequels and remakes could be slightly dispiriting. If the best Christmas gifts are the brilliant but unexpected ones then some of the films slated for a festive release could be put alongside the packs of socks and underpants. Potentially, though, many of these films could be some of the most interesting and surprising releases in 2011.

In the more immediate future, there will be the release of Moneyball this weekend – based on the book of the same name which covers the Oakland A’s baseball team’s (controversial at the time) attempts to build a team based on a statistical approach. Tipped for Oscar recognition, the film starring Brad Pitt faces a harder job in the baseball-averse UK but should prove an interesting sports drama.

Martin Scorsese will turn his hand to shooting a family film in 3D with Hugo. Yes, that Martin Scorsese. Despite the apparent disconnect, Scorsese’s mastery of the technical aspects of film-making mean if anyone can utilise 3D beyond ironically pointless pointiness, it is him. An unfinished version at the New York Film Festival in October was well received, so keep an eye out.

Guy Ritchie then brings us the sequel to his surprise 2009 hit Sherlock Holmes. Focusing on the character dynamic between Jude Law’s Watson and Robert Downey Jnr’s Sherlock, and augmenting Holmes’ genius with bare-fist fighting, Ritchie achieved an extremely enjoyable incarnation of Conan Doyle’s classic character whilst maintaining a veneer of authenticity. He returns with an expanded cast including Stephen Fry and Noomi Rapace, the latter most famous for portraying Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

On Boxing Day, David Fincher’s English language version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo arrives with Rooney Mara taking the central role. Having developed a reputation for edgy and dark modern thrillers, Fincher has arguably produced his best work with male characters (The Social Network) or exploring largely masculine themes and viewpoints (Se7en, Fight Club). However, nearly 20 years after his critically panned debut with Alien 3, a franchise with the quintessential female protagonist in Ellen Ripley, he again has the chance to prove he can direct films about women.

Also on Boxing Day release is the latest Tom-Cruise-running-around-and-looking-stressed vehicle, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (it seems two colons is one too many). The impossible mission in this case may be getting cinema audiences to raise interest in the aging franchise any higher than the lifts in Cruise’s shoes. However, the 3rd instalment was surprisingly good and with Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) directing his first live-action feature; we could get a good action film.

No matter your cinematic tastes, there will be more than enough to keep you fixed in your seat between now and when you need to hit the books hard again.

Jim Ross