We are in a unique position this week. We have a bevy of new releases out on Friday and then some more on Christmas Day, which is Tuesday. It might be a good time to stuff the stockings with theater gift certificates. Last week’s lone major release “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” had a bigger opening than any of the three “Lord of the Rings” movies, but didn’t top the $100 million mark over its opening weekend. I’m sure it will pickup steam, but the competition is about to get fierce.
The semi-sequel to “Knocked Up” brings Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann back together as a married couple dealing with the big 4-0 and the brood of children they have spawned. I liked “Knocked Up” and in general enjoy most of Judd Apatow’s work. This looks to be a bit more mature while also maintaining that edge of man-childishness Apatow is famous for. This is also a good time for us to all agree that Paul Rudd is in fact, the funniest actor working today. Whether in supporting roles as he was in “Knocked Up” and “Anchorman” or taking the lead as in “I Love You, Man” and “Role Models,” Rudd steals scenes like Rickey Henderson stole bases. For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, that’s a lot.
“This is Forty” will replace “Twilight” this week at the 21-and-over theater, The Orion. For a review of the new theater, click here.
Lee Child created one of the most complex hardboiled characters ever with Jack Reacher in novels such as “Killing Floor,” “One Shot,” and “61 Hours.” Reacher is an ex-member of the Military Police and in his role as private investigator/wanderer is not afraid to pull the trigger. So naturally, Tom Cruise was chosen to play him. This hurts my head. I’m hearing that it turns out better than I’m afraid it would be, so that’s good. Christopher McQuarrie (writer of the amazing “The Usual Suspects”) was behind the camera and cast director Warner Herzog as the villain. So it might be worth watching just for that. Then again, this did land a PG-13 rating, so much of the awesomeness of the novels won’t appear on screen.
Seth Rogen is a funny guy. I’d see just about anything with him in it. So why ruin that by casting Barbra Streisand as his mother? This is a road trip movie with Streisand and Rogen as a mother and son traveling across the U.S. as Rogen tries to pitch his inventions to potential investors. Interesting premise. If they are like me and my mom, this would be a hoot. Like “Jack Reacher” this is PG-13, so it couldn’t be about my mom and me. We swear and fart too much.
One of my favorite Pixar films gets the 3-D treatment. The last one of these was “Finding Nemo” and in the words of my 3-year-old nephew, “I have this at home.”
Opening Christmas Day
Jamie Foxx plays Django, a former slave who hooks up with a bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz to do battle against a corrupt plantation owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the newest flick from Quentin Tarantino. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself. I’m a huge Tarantino fan and while he may have hit his mainstream peak with “Kill Bill,” his focus as a director is getting better. “Inglourious Basterds” was, frankly, a masterpiece and has yet to achieve its full due. Yes, Tarantino has become an awards darling, but he’s been relegated to being a famous bridesmaid instead of the one walking down the aisle. While I question the release date — Tarantino on Christmas? — I hope to see this as soon as possible.
Recent movie musicals have been very satisfying. This should be well-beyond satisfying. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham-Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are the big names in this cast. We’ve seen Seyfried in “Mamma Mia!” and Baron Cohen and Bonham-Carter in “Sweeney Todd,” but did you know that Jackman was a musical theater guy before he was cast as Wolverine in the “X-Men” films? And Crowe has a band. I’m most excited for Jackman and his chance to prove he’s more than an effects-loaded action star. Goosebumps, to say the least.
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents babysitting the grandkids for their excessively politically correct and type A children. Sounds good, but feels more like a DVD treat once the snow melts.
T.J.’s Pick of the Week:
If I’m going to the movies by myself, it’s “Django Unchained.” If my wife gets to go with me, we’re seeing “Les Miserables.” Tough choice but if you need to get some stylized violence for your holiday, hit the Tarantino picture. If you can control yourself from singing along in the theater, “Les Miserables” is for you.
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• Backstage Pass is a new blog on www.yakima-herald.com covering pop culture from Hollywood to your backyard. T.J. Tranchell, a freelance journalist and Herald-Republic customer service clerk, can be reached at email@example.com. You can visit his horror-themed blog at www.warning-signs.net.