Early Christmas presents abound this week, so instead of wasting time with a supposedly clever introduction, let’s just get right into it, shall we?
I wasn’t all that excited about Walking with Dinosaurs back in 2000 when it was just called Dinosaur. Because damned if I can see the difference between these two movies. And what really irks me is that the new film was originally not going to have voice-overs. But, just like Dinosaur, it was decided kids wouldn’t sit still for two hours of, I don’t know, really awesome dinosaurs unless there were cutesy, vaguely familiar voices coming out of them. So now we have John Leguizamo — who apparently can’t stay away from animated prehistoric animals — and Justin Long making dinosaur noises. The Walking with Dinosaurs TV specials were great in that, although narrated, they let the dinosaurs be dinosaurs. Too bad here they have to be Disney characters.
I’m on record as not being that big a fan of Will Ferrell, at least not when he’s the whole show. Small doses of him in stuff like Old School and Wedding Crashers, fine. But put him front and center for ninety minutes, he just gets on my nerves; his go-to schtick of loud non sequitur just doesn’t do all that much for me. So needless to say, I wasn’t all that enamored with Anchorman, and even more needlessly to say, I’m not all that excited about Anchorman 2. But I suspect we’re going to see an Austin Powers-type performance here, where an underwhelming film at the box office that becomes a cult hit spawns a massive hit of a sequel. I don’t think we’ll see The Spy Who Shagged Me numbers — it’s the wrong time of year and far too crowded — but don’t be surprised if there’s talk of Anchorman 3 sooner rather than later.
I’m a little puzzled by some of the reactions to Saving Mr. Banks. Did people really expect a movie about the making of Mary Poppins produced by Disney not to make Walt Disney look like a saint? I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a heavy dose of hagiography going on here. Besides, I’m not here for an exacting accurate depiction of the film’s production, I’m here to watch Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson play off each other for two hours. Now granted, glossing over some of Disney’s darker tendencies in favor of promoting the Uncle Walt image is pretty disingenuous, as is promoting the idea that P.L. Travers was eventually fine and dandy with how Mary Poppins turned out. But there’ll be plenty of voices out there screaming the true story, and like I said, I’d be shocked if this hadn’t turned out to be St. Walt and the Pesky British Lady.
I wonder how people would be viewing David O. Russell’s American Hustle is Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street had kept its original November release date. Hustle seems to owe such a debt to Scorsese that opening in the shadow of one of his films might have made it seem like a pale imitation. Scorsese got pushed back though, so now Hustle gets to strut its 70s stuff first. Not by much — just five days — but it might be enough to let Russell’s film carve out its own identity before the master comes along. Regardless of its similarities to Scorsese, I’m ridiculously excited for this. It looks like the kind of loud, audacious, sprawling piece of pure cinema that totally hits all my switches. And Jennifer Lawrence. Oh come on, like I was going to go all this time without mentioning her?
So that’s the stocking unpacked. Wednesday brings us all kinds of goodies under the tree. I don’t know if we’ll avoid any lumps of coal, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.