Christmas Day Film Four-Play

It’s like 24 hours of the Actor’s Studio, with all your favourites on screen — from Meryl Streep to Christopher Plummer to Daniel Day Lewis to Robert Downey Jr.
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Christmas Day film four-play…

itscomplicatedposter.jpgIt’s Complicated

Starring: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin

Is there a part Meryl Streep can’t play? Building on her momentum as a comedic heroine in Mamma Mia!, then as chef Julia Child in Julie & Julia, Streep combines her It’s Complicated character Jane’s juggling of more than one man and being foodie who owns a restaurant with her usual accomplished flair. Jane is the object of affection of not only the new architect (Martin) in her life, but her old flame and lawyer ex-husband (Baldwin) — who is now married to a much younger woman (a Zoomer theme if I’ve ever heard one!). Still smarting from her divorce from her cheating ex ten years later, Jane is suddenly also struck with empty nest syndrome, and is finally, totally alone. But, just as she’s attempting to adjust, fate flings her back into the arms of her suddenly amorous and regretful ex for a one-night stand that then leads to a hilarious chain of events and yet also a heart-breaking conclusion. Streep, who is nominated for a Golden Globe, Martin, Baldwin and The Office’s cutie, John Krasinski,     who more than rises to the challenge of sharing screen-time with these bold face names, are all at the top of their game — and leave you wanting more. Can you ever go back? Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not.


Starring: Daniel Day Lewis, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard

This all-star cast also features some short yet effective screen-time from Nicole Kidman, Fergie (The Black Eyed Peas), Kate Hudson and Sophia Loren. Sure Daniel Day Lewis can act, but did you know he can sing and dance, too? Rob Marshall, who directed a dancing Catherine Zeta-Jones right to an Oscar in Chicago, and now Day Lewis to a Golden Globe nomination) has revisited Broadway for his latest, Nine, based on the great white way hit musical. Day Lewis, in Fellini-esque character, is a tortured Italian director, looking to bounce back from his last flop and recapture the glory days of his early films — and his youth — by reflecting on the “9” women in his life: from his mother to his mistress. He struggles between the love of his wife (Cotillard), the sex with his mistress (Cruz) and the pull of his leading lady (Kidman), but in the end, it’s his desire for everything and nothing and losing it all that truly inspires him to dig deep and begin to create again.

sherlock_holmesposter.jpgSherlock Holmes

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

It seems elementary, my dear reader, that director Guy Richie would infuse his modern edge into this late-1800s detective series, with the iconic characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Richie’s trademark slow-motion action sequences mixed with the brilliant Downey’s character voice-over suits the inner workings of Holmes’ finely tuned intellect, and elevates the brutish brawling — another favourite of Richie’s — of Victorian England’s finest to a whole new level. Forget martial arts. The street fighter is alive and well in the ring, and out of it, as Holmes is not only a man with brains but with some measure of calculated brawn, as well. But Richie goes beyond the violence, and uses his technique to good effect for Holmes’ reasoning and observational prowess, too — call it CSI Victorian London. His sidekick, Dr. Watson, is much more than that, as played by Law, who is a pleasure to watch in this understated role. He is as central to Holmes’ forensic observations as he is to Holmes’ general wellbeing and their friendship is key to the secondary storyline. McAdams is, as usual, a refreshing actor, lovely and talented and, as Irene Adler, Holmes’ weakness in love. The trio set off to stop a most sinister plot, involving black magic and potential weapons of mass destruction, unleashed by Lord Blackwell (Mark Strong) that the world, at that point in its evolution, has yet to see. Of course, the case is solved, but in its final wake, rises a new foe, Holmes’ most infamous arch nemesis, Moriarty. The game’s afoot, and so could the sequel be.

imaginariumofdrposter.jpgThe Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Starring: Christopher Plummer, Health Ledger, Lily Cole

The imagination of director Terry Gilliam — and the rigours of visualizing it on film — have been well-documented. From the heady hilarity of Monty Python (think The Holy Grail or Life of Brian) to the reportedly near-tortuous set conditions on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (actor Sarah Polley claims she’s still scarred from the experience) to the incessant damp and rain that had most of the cast of Parnassus suffering from walking pneumonia (including Ledger). But Parnassus is a wonder. Less the confusing freak-show of Gilliam’s Brazil, and more the whimsical fantasy of his Tideland, the film’s juxtaposition of a quirky, old-fashioned circus act meandering its way through the mean streets of modern-day London is at once charming and a little eerie. The trick, you see, is that Parnussus, played presciently by Plummer, has sold his soul to a gambling-happy devil (Mr. Nick, played by Tom Waits), not for vanity, but for love and the love of his daughter (Cole). After his troupe rescues Tony (Ledger, brilliant as always) from a life-threatening situation, the old man realizes that it’s not only he who must repent his sins. Ledger’s sad passing, in mid-production, necessitated the use of other actors — Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell — to facilitate Tony’s transformation back from the precipice of greed, but somehow it works with the premise: that sometimes what we see in the mirror isn’t always a reflection of who we really are.

— Vivian Vassos