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What to Expect in Oxford for Film the rest of the year

December 18, 2008

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By Melanie Addington
(as published in the Oxford Town)

It’s Oscar release season, joy! Oh wait, no. 75% of the films that will be a must-see will not make it anywhere near Mississippi. Most are on limited release with a Los Angeles-New York run only in order to gain a nod for the coveted Oscar. Much of what you will hear about the next month or two in entertainment magazines, we will not see here until February-March of 2009. Several of these, like Milk starring Sean Penn are now playing in Memphis though and I highly recommend making a day of it and catching up on these.
But there may be hope for us yet.
The big exciting news for Oxonians for 2009 is that not only will the Lyric Oxford begin showing independent films, but now The Amp is coming back thanks to Nova Cinemas, a mid-western theater corporation whose goal is to make going to the movies affordable again. The Amp has plans to open before the end of the year. Stay tuned for more about the second run studio films and independent films they will bring to Oxford. Perhaps between the Lyric and Amp, we may see some of these films on the big screen!
However, for now, there are a few treats to enjoy before the end of 2008.
Tomorrow’s Theatrical Releases
– “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey is just what the title says, a story about a man that says YES! or JA! in the German release of the film. Much like most of Carrey’s roles, the main character is someone who is negative about life but learns valuable lessons after much humor ensues. It should make for a delightful romp but I would rather see “The Year of Yes,” Maria Headley’s tragi-comic memoir, turned into a film. Imagine “Sex and the City” meets “Yes Man.” That would be something to see. Speaking of writers, look out for a character named Reggie. That is one of the scriptwriters for the film, Jarrad Paul. Rated PG-13.
– “The Tale of Despereaux” adapted from the book, is the tale of an adventurous mouse, an unhappy rat, and a servant girl who have big adventures. Their are some big name voices behind the animation, with Matthew Broderick as Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracy Ullman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, and Stanley Tucci all supporting as Sigourney Weaver narrates the tale. This one may be for the kids, but adults who may still remember Fievel’s adventures in American Tail or The Secret Nimh, may rejoice in another brave mouse. Rated G.
– “Seven Pounds” may get an Oscar nod for Will Smith’s performance and a campaign has begun to nominate co-star Rosario Dawson. However, the chances of this film making it to Oxford are about 75%, said Malco manager Nathan Hanson. For those who may not want a light comedy or animated mouse, “Seven Pounds” would make a nice alternative for a serious story of a man who haunted by a past choice must save seven strangers to redeem himself. Director Gabriele Mucino last directed Smith in the “Pursuit of Happyness,” a full tissue-box kind of film, so go to the theater prepared. You will likely cry.
Christmas Day Openings
Most films have their widest distribution at Christmas, so it is a good bet that we will get all the Christmas day openers in Oxford. Not to mention, Christmas releases always have a little something for everyone.
– “Bedtime Stories” will have Carrey and Adam Sandler competing for your holiday comedy dollars as Sandler releases his touching comedy one week after Carrey’s.  Sandler plays a handyman named Skeeter and his sister asks him to watch her kids while she looks for a new job. After telling bedtime stories to his nephew and niece, the tales begin to come true, and Sandler has to find a way to survive them. Russell Brand, the hilarious British comic, stars as his best friend. Rated PG.
– “Marley & Me” is based on a hit book that I admit I have avoided completely. Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are a new couple that learn some major life lessons, and parental survival lessons, through their new dog Marley. If you’ve ever cried at Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, then this one will likely reach out and grab hold of your heart as well. Rated PG.
– Golden Globe nominee and serious Oscar contender, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” opens today as well. If you think there are similarities between this and Forest Gump, you are probably right. Eric Roth penned both fabulous scripts, along with the stunning Munich. Along with Director David Fincher, who previously worked with Brad Pitt on “Se7en,” this is bound to me one of the most touching and talked about films in quite a while. Those of us in the south might be a touch annoyed by the backdrop story of Hurricane Katrina, one that several critics say was unnecessary to the plot or character development. Rated PG-13.
– Nothing says Christmas like a good Nazi film. “Valkyrie” is “based on a true story” of the group that plotted to kill Hitler. Critics have said that Tom Cruise plays his usual action hero role and fits it into Nazi Germany but that overall the film is entertaining. Personally, anything Bryan Singer directs, I will watch (”The Usual Suspects,” “X-Men,” “X2”), but I am unsure of Cruise still has the box-office pull to give this film a successful theater run. Still, despite Cruise, it is still a tale of good fighting insurmountable evil, of people standing up for what they believe when so many remained quiet. We can always use a reminder of this type of good. Rated PG-13.
Two other great films that we may or may not see at the Malco this Christmas are “Revolutionary Road” and “The Spirit.”
“Revolutionary Road” is another serious Oscar contender and has also been nominated for several Golden Globes. Sam Mendes directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (yes you saw them together 11 years ago in Titanic) as a couple surviving 1950s Connecticut suburbia. Mendes has taken us into the drolls of suburban life before with the classic “American Beauty.” A chance to escape their dull life and move to France carries the characters through the film until that ultimately fails. Critics have been lukewarm in their reception to the film. As for Christmas day, it will not be the feel good film to put you in the holiday spirit, but might be a nice reminder right before New Year’s that life is meant to be lived. Rated R.
“The Spirit” is Frank Miller’s newest drama/thriller to follow “Sin City” and “300.” (”Sin City 2” and 3 are set for 2009 and 2010). Miller brings one of the most unique visual styles to film today. Bringing Will Eisner’s 1940s comic book character The Spirit to life minus one of the more questionable characters, Ebony White. Starring Gabriel Macht (yeah, you’ve seen him even if you don’t recognize the name yet) as “The Spirit” and Samuel L. Jackson as the bad guy, Octopus. This should make for a slightly less dark Miller story with a middle class hero that fights crime. Rated PG-13.
Also in Oxford:
On December 22nd, the Rainbow Reader series of children’s movies at the Oxford-Lafayette Public Library is “Always My Dad.” The story of a girl whose parents are divorced doesn’t get to see her father often but frequently thinks about him. On the 23rd, “Santa Clause” plays at the library. On December 29, the library also presents another Rainbow Reader film, “Man’s Best Friend.”

(Melanie works full time as a staff writer for the Eagle but in her spare time spends too much time at the movies and then writes about it at http://www.oxfordfilmfreak.com)
—melanie@oxfordeagle.com

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