The holiday movie season is nearly upon us. Charlie's Angels and The Legend of Bagger Vance open November 3rd. Charlie's Angels is of course an adaptation of the television show; the movie stars Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu, which is an exceptionally promising cast, even if the movie itself looks dubious. The Legend of Bagger Vance pairs Will Smith and Matt Damon, which is also a promising cast for a more promising film. Mars hasn't been good to the movies this year, and Red Planet, with Val Kilmer, doesn't look like it will change the pattern. That film opens November 10th with Little Nicky, another Adam Sandler flick, in which I am even less interested.
November 17th sees the first of the "big" holiday fare. Ron Howard's live action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas opens. I can't imagine anything being more perfect than the Chuck Jones' made-for-TV animated adaptation; nonetheless, Ron Howard is a spectacular filmmaker, and Jim Carrey's been off my bad list and on my good list ever since the Liar Liar, The Truman Show, and The Man on the Moon trifecta. Opening the same day is Bounce, a romantic drama starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. I'm not optimistic, but I do like Paltrow. Perhaps more interestingly, The Sixth Day also opens that weekend; it's the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi action flick for this year. It looks a whole lot better than End of Days, his last, and is being marketed as a "Total Recall meets The Matrix" film, which is, I'm sure, exactly the way the idea was pitched to the studio executives that greenlighted it. The talent behind the camera is mixed. The director is Roger Spottiswoode, who, in spite of my doubts during filming, managed to put together the best of Pierce Brosnan's three Bond films, Tomorrow Never Dies. Producer Jon Davison, on the other hand, has Starship Troopers as his most recent prominent credit. Meanwhile, on video, things really pick up with the November 21 direct-to-video release of, wait for it, Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman. Just the title, which sounds more like Calvin & Hobbes than a cheesy slasher flick, make it sound as comically humorous as the original, which is reviewed on It's a Bad Bad Bad Bad Movie.
On November 22nd, two more big films go up against each other: Disney's 102 Dalmatians, which needs no further introduction, and Unbreakable, which reunites Bruce Willis and director M. Night Shyamalan (and adds in Samuel L. Jackson and Robin Wright Penn) for a follow-up to The Sixth Sense. Do I think Unbreakable will match The Sixth Sense's brilliance of execution and shock and surprise of the final act? No. Do I think it's one of the most promising films of this upcoming holiday season nonetheless? Yup. Also that weekend, Quills opens wide. Quills has had excellent critical buzz since being pedalled around at film festivals earlier this year. It stars perennial Oscar bait such as Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, and Michael Caine.
Gus Van Sant has yet to prove himself to me. The amazing work that is Good Will Hunting I attribute more to the acting and writing than to the directing. Nonetheless, he has a number of followers, and Finding Forrester is his contribution to the Oscar/holiday season; it opens December 6th. On the 8th, things get more lowbrow: Dungeons and Dragons is a little late if it wants to turn heads with special effects and computer-generated dragons, but for people like me that'll watch swords and sorcery flicks no matter how bad they are, this is good news. I have no idea what actual Dungeons and Dragons fans think about it, though; I've never played it, nor yet read any of the books that were based on the game. Opening with it is Proof of Life, a Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe double bill; the movie is purportedly quite suspenseful. The director, Taylor Hackford, has had his ups and downs; Dolores Claiborne is probably the best film I've seen from him. On video, the animated Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker comes out on the 12th.
What Women Want, a romantic comedy starring Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Lauren Holly, and Marisa Tomei, is released on the 15th. The director is Nancy Meyers, who has a good track record with me. Some find her movies a little too syrupy, but I find them refreshingly gentle in a time when movies think they need to play hardball to connect with viewers. Opening with that are The Family Man, a Nicolas Cage comedy, and The Emperor's New Groove, a Disney animated comedy.
On December 22nd, there's Miss Congeniality, with Sandra Bullock, Traffic a Steven Soderbergh political thriller, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the latest from the Coen Brothers, and Cast Away, which teams Tom Hanks with director Robert Zemeckis. The holiday season rounds out with All the Pretty Horses, in which Billy Bob Thornton directs Matt Damon.
What did I miss? What are you looking forward to?
More thoughts on schooling, continuing ancient conversations from the last two months:
"I've had two math teachers in high school. Teacher A could explain concepts very well but never forced kids to do anything. Assignments might be "problems 3 through 9, every other odd" and optional. Only three people passed that class. Teacher B never slackens the pace, even during our busiest weeks. Extensive notes are required, and assignments are usually in the range of forty problems. The lowest grade in that class, I believe, is currently a B. Naturally, this won't always be the case. Students vary greatly in motivation, learning speed, home environment, and other areas. Still, the teacher plays a crucial role. Teacher B is the most respected teacher at the school, by both students and staff.
"I've gone to both a large and small school. The advantage of the large school was that it had programs and opportunities that a small school can't offer. The disadvantage is that the kids became shallow and materialistic. The small school I go to has enough money, it just lacks a brain in administration: the combined chemistry and physics budgets may be $18, but the football team has to come up with new ways to spend their thousands.
"So, my experience is the opposite of Dracimas', though for different reasons. One-on-one time with the teacher doesn't help if nothing is taught. I often wish I had been able to stay at the larger school. My friends there are so far ahead in some areas that it's sad. I am glad, however, that I came here -- I think I'd dislike the snobby little eighth grader who came from that wealthy area."
"Education nowadays is based on preparing the student for further education, with the end result being a degree of some fashion. All through middle school, we are taught what we'll be expected to know when we get to high school, where we learn what we'll be expected to know when we get to college. The difference is that we're not learning for any purpose except to be able to show that we've learned.
"All this previousness is in reference to secondary education. Upon reaching college, people have a career choice that will determine the fate of their education: people who proceed into labour-based careers -- engineers (mechanical, computer, whatever), medical practitioners, and the like -- will be trained for their career, and the schooling will be more difficult. Those who choose more esoteric paths -- students of, say, philosophy and religion -- will still face the same type of schooling as before, in which the goal is the degree rather than the education itself."