By now you’ve noticed how things in Denton have slowed down. Chilled out. Taken a break.
The city is officially in the grand winter period known as the college break. Finals are over and grads have gotten their degrees.
What to do with the unstructured time abounding? (And working folks, don’t pretend like you’re dashing from meeting to presentation to quarter four cleanups. You’re very likely planning the next quarter’s projects while playing solitaire or computer golf.)
This is the time of year that cinema was made for. A crop of movies — for the family and for the grown-ups — is still at the local multiplex. And you? You’ve got the hours to burn and a good excuse to feast on movie popcorn.
Our Christmas week movie guide can help you land on a title that fits your situation. Have family in with all the kids? Check out Dreamworks’ latest creation. Sick of the holiday cheer and joy to the world and sugar plums? There’s a musical that will make you think thankfully of that temperature-controlled house you gripe about.
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Rise of the Guardians
Rated PG, 97 minutes. Now playing.
This bonanza from Dreamworks didn’t generate the buzz of Disney-Pixar’s Brave, but it’s got everything a family is looking for in an afternoon with all ages.
Children will identify mostly with the central character, Jack Frost (voiced by Chris Pine), an impish, silver-haired, elfin-eared youth who gets his jollies by freezing water and chilling the air in ways that surprise humans.
Then one day, a pair of fluffy Yetis nab him and take his to see North — a.k.a. Santa (Alec Baldwin). North has brought the Sandman (Jude Law), the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher), Jack Frost and Bunny (Hugh Jackman) together to save children from the worst monster anyone has known. An adventure ensues.
Dreamworks employs its signature sharp animation, clever gags and A-plus screenwriters (David Lindsay-Abaire adapting William Joyce’s book) to dazzling effect.
Christmas Day relevance: The scariest monsters are the monsters we conjure, but hope and courage can overcome monsters.
Good for: fans of Rankin/Bass’ most charming stop-motion animated films, and those who’d like to fit Santa’s sleigh with rocket power.
Not for: those who are sick to death of noisy holiday-time movies for children. Expect a racket.
Rated PG-13, 157 minutes. Opens Tuesday.
The longest-running musical on Broadway will be on the big screen starting Christmas Day.
Based on the beefy novel by Victor Hugo, Les Miserables tells the story of a Frenchman Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread, and his escape from crushing punishment that doesn’t fit the crime. Dogged by the bitter Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), Valjean becomes the keeper of little Cosette, taken from her sickly, prostituted mother, Fantine (Anne Hathaway).
Cosette grows into a sweet, beautiful young lady (Amanda Seyfried) who catches the eye of young revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne). As the beleaguered French populace grows more angry and agitated against the excesses of the aristocracy, Marius is torn between his new identity and the affections of his friend Eponine (Samantha Barks).
Tom Hooper directs the epic, and retains the celebrated score by Claude-Michel Schonberg and the English translation by Herbert Kretzmer. Families who frequent local musicals and operas are plum viewers for the film, as well as musical theater fans who have been in a lather over the film — both in anticipation and in horror at certain directorial decisions.
Christmas Day relevance: Transformation can be political, but it’s love that frees us from our bondage and makes us new.
Good for: literature buffs and epic movie lovers.
Not for: people who like their films to have happy endings.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Rated PG-13, 169 minutes. Now playing.
Sci-fi and fantasy nerds have been in ecstasy for the last month. New Zealand director Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth, this time to show us what happened before the battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings.
What happens is this: A humble hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is tapped by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) to journey all the way to the Lonely Mountain. His assignment is to join a band of lionhearted dwarves and plan to reclaim the hidden treasure from the dragon Smaug.
Sounds simple, but it’s a long journey to get the diminutive miners back to their shafts, and the way is littered with danger and temptation. Bilbo, an uncle to the famous Frodo, is fit for the task because he’s got a cunning mind and a pure heart. But will his heart be corrupted?
Christmas Day relevance: J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories are about the eternal wrestling match between ultimate good and ultimate evil. Things always get interesting when the stakes include God’s creation.
Good for: costume-play addicts, the Dungeons & Dragon set, and disciples of the incomparable Christian novelist and Middle Earth creator J.R.R. Tolkien.
Not for: movie buffs who are weary of watching white guys save the world. Young children might get bored by the film’s length or frightened during intense scenes.
Life of Pi
Rated PG, 127 minutes. Now playing.
Pi Patel is the teenage son of a zookeeper. When his parents decide to take some of the animals from their zoo in Pondicherry, India, and move to Canada, Pi prepares for a long haul on a huge freighter.
Then, a shipwreck.
Pi is adrift on a 26-foot lifeboat with a menagerie: a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The viewer watches the gripping journey across the Pacific, while a boy and a tiger learn to live in the same cramped quarters. Pi has time to consider his past, and his future. He encounters his deepest and best self under the canopy of the night sky and just above a world of water.
What he makes of his life on land will be the fruit of his solitary time at sea.
Christmas Day relevance: Novelist Yann Martel wrote Life of Pi as a parallel story about his own experience of existential transformation. He wrote Pi as a Hindu boy who begins to practice Christianity and Islam as a way to express a love of God.
Good for: animal lovers, fans of newly minted myths, and movie buffs who are tired of watching films about white guys saving the world (thanks to a fine cast of established and emerging Indian talent). Also, those who obsessively study Edgar Allan Poe.
Not for: people with pea-sized hearts of stone. People who aren’t so keen on religious universalism.