Friday movie roundup – Dec. 18

Did you know that there is a movie called “Avatar”?? It was made by James Cameron, his first non-documentary feature since “Titanic,” 12 years ago (almost to the day). Considering it’s not a sequel or based on a book or a superhero or anything, it’s pretty impressive how much attention “Avatar” has gotten. The visual effects are stunning. The rest of it — you know, the story, the dialogue, the characters — not so much.

The only other new wide release today is “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” (review at Cinematical), which isn’t as bad as it looks. That’s about all I can say for it. A curious thing occurred at the press screening, though, when two of the film’s reels were shown out of order. If it’s a six-reel film, we saw them in the sequence of 1, 2, 3, 5, 4, 6. The funny part is that we didn’t notice anything was amiss until the end. I noted, when we jumped from 3 to 5, that it seemed like the story had progressed faster than I thought it would, but then reel 4 didn’t really seem like it was backtracking. Apparently the only crucial action in the movie occurs in the first and last reels; everything in between could be shown in any sequence.

In limited release is a fantastic drama called “A Single Man” (review at, starring Colin Firth as a 1960s college professor mourning the loss of his partner. It’s probably the best performance of Firth’s career, and it was directed by Tom Ford, a fashion designer who’d never made a movie before. Quite impressive.

And I guess I forgot to do one of these roundups last Friday? Huh. Well, for the record, Disney’s delightful “The Princess and the Frog” and Clint Eastwood’s meh “Invictus” (review at opened. I happened to be at Disneyland the week before, when “Princess and the Frog” was only playing on one screen in L.A. and one in New York. The vast majority of people hadn’t seen it yet, but Disneyland sure was pimpin’ it like it was already a beloved treasure, with a live show, employees in character costumes, the whole shebang. I admire the boldness: “Even though you have no idea who these characters are, you will love them because they are in a Disney cartoon, and because we have told you to love them. SO LET IT BE DONE!”

“Nine,” “The Lovely Bones,” and “Up in the Air” are now playing in limited release and will go wide next week. I’m cranking out the reviews as fast as I can. I hope to have those — plus “Sherlock Holmes,” “It’s Complicated,” “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” and that damn Chipmunks thing — in next week’s edition of “In the Dark.” Watch for it on Wednesday, to get it out of the way before Christmas Eve, whereupon I will rest from my labors for a season.

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