This week in Movies
Quite possibly the most expensive film ever made, Avatar (PG-13) is a 3D science fiction epic from writer-director James Cameron, who hasn't released a major film since 1997's Titanic. OK, so if anyone knows how to make a blockbuster film, it's this guy. But with a steady stream of buzz building for a long period of time (Cameron first developed the concept 15 years ago, and the production incorporated a number of breakthrough technologies), Avatar has a lot to live up to.
Fortunately for Cameron and 20th Century Fox, the early reviews are almost exclusively positive -- some effusively so. Nearly all reviewers praise the look of the film, and many critics feel that Avatar lives up to its hype as a new type of moviegoing experience. The negatives all involve the film's story, but with visual effects at this level, "the narrative seems almost beside the point," as USA Today's Claudia Puig states. And even famed Titanic-hater Kenneth Turan (the Los Angeles Times' senior film critic) has praise for Avatar:
“Avatar’s” shock and awe demand to be seen. You’ve never experienced anything like it, and neither has anyone else. ... [Cameron] restores a sense of wonder to the moviegoing experience that has been missing for far too long.
So it appears that rather than deciding whether or not to see Avatar, your only choice is the format: RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, Digital 3D, or 2D (otherwise known as "normal"). Our advice: stay away from the 4D.
There is another major release this week: Did You Hear About the Morgans? No, you didn't, and you probably won't. This romantic comedy stars Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as a married couple who attempt to save their rocky relationship while in the federal witness relocation program. There are only a handful of reviews published so far, but the movie has "ordinary" written all over it.
In limited release, two award contenders debut on a few screens in Los Angeles and New York. Crazy Heart, about an aging country music singer, is generating plenty of Best Actor buzz for star Jeff Bridges, and reviews have been very strong so far. And Rob Marshall's Nine is a musical based on a stage musical based on a play based on Federico Fellini's film 8½. Reviews are mixed, but the film has already earned several Golden Globe nominations. It opens wide on Christmas.
This week in Music
Fall Be Kind is a new EP from indie faves Animal Collective, and the music press had its usual kind things to say about group for its effort on the five-song disc, resulting in a very high Metascore of 87. Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys released her fourth album, The Element Of Freedom, to mostly positive press, although a few critics found it a little too low-key. And if the idea of a Sting album filled with winter-themed songs excites you, then you have reached a momentous week in your life.
This week in Television and GamesThanks to the holidays, you won't find any new games on retailers' shelves this week, and your TiVo won't have much to do. Did we mention that Avatar opens this week?
This week on DVD
Perhaps the year's top comedy, The Hangover (73) unleashed Zach Galifianakis on the world at large, and now can be yours to watch again and again. Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (69) entertained plenty of critics (if not their spellcheckers), although the war adventure failed to reach the critical heights of some of his previous films.
A few less-successful comedies also arrived in video stores this week: Ang Lee's gentle period piece Taking Woodstock (55), and the R-rated and poorly-reviewed The Goods (39), about a group of car salesmen led by Jeremy Piven.
Next week in Metacritic
For those of you keeping score at home, there will be no This Week in Metacritic next week due to the holidays, but our weekly summary will return in the new year.