- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Why does Hollywood insist on releasing most of its best movies all during the time of the year when people are too busy to watch them?
I get that teens and college students have the holidays off, but are teens and college students the main demographic for movies such as "Lincoln," "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi" and "Anna Karenina"? Of course not. Meanwhile, the people who most want to see such movies are busy juggling jobs and family obligations during a hectic season, so they don’t have time to go to the movies. It’s like televising a college basketball game against the Super Bowl. Even if it’s Duke-North Carolina, you’re just not going to get the ratings you might get by playing the game in another time slot.
Nonetheless, we are overwhelmed with movies this holiday season. But help is on the way. Here’s a guide of 10 recent/upcoming releases for sports fans to sort out what is must-see from must-avoid.
Flight: Denzel Washington portrays an alcoholic/drug-addicted airline pilot who sobers up for his flight from a night of heavy boozing by snorting a line of cocaine, followed up by three vodkas, and then crash-lands the plane. It would be like having Ryan Leaf as your pilot. Like Leaf’s career, the movie begins with promise -- that crash-0landing scene is amazing! -- but alas, like Leaf, it nosedives. Foam puffy finger down.
Skyfall: I was really looking forward to this movie during the Olympics when I saw the awesome trailer for it on NBC that showed 007 and the Queen parachuting into the stadium during the opening ceremonies. But for some reason that scene is nowhere in the movie! And worse, Lolo Jones isn’t the new Bond girl! The movie starts well but soon grows ultraviolent and goes on so bloody long it was as if we had to wait for NBC to show the final scene on tape delay. Foam puffy finger down.
Lincoln: Even the BCS computer would make Daniel Day-Lewis the undisputed No. 1 in the Best Actor rankings. He is much more entertaining and believable as Honest Abe than Benjamin Walker was in this summer’s documentary "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (it was a documentary, wasn’t it?). Day-Lewis’ performance in the role of the Great Emancipator is even greater than the Lincoln mascot in the Washington Nationals' president races, where Abe has won an astounding 41 percent of the competitions and holds a 49-victory lead (214 wins) over his nearest competitor, Thomas Jefferson (155 wins). And Day-Lewis pulls off his incredible portrayal without the benefit of wearing a giant Lincoln costume head. Foam puffy finger way up!
Silver Linings Playbook: Forget the minor subplots of love, mental illness and the meaning of family -- this unique rom-com explores the far more pressing issue of when it is appropriate to wear a replica jersey. Bradley Cooper does so when he attends a dinner at his friend’s house, which he doesn’t realize is actually a setup with his friend’s widowed sister-in-law. And the sister-in-law doesn’t mind at all. As you’ve probably guessed, this movie takes place in Philadelphia. Foam puffy finger up!
Life of Pi: When I heard the title, I assumed this was going to be about Prince Fielder or Pablo Sandoval. When I saw how it was spelled, I feared it would be a documentary about baseball sabermetricians. Actually, it’s a faithful adaptation of Yann Martel’s wondrous best-seller about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a hungry tiger. The tiger is so brilliantly brought to life with computer imagery that Jim Leyland might want to try a CGI Fielder or Miguel Cabrera if Detroit reaches the World Series again. They might actually drive in some runs. Foam puffy finger way up!
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2: I didn’t go to this movie about vampires in remote Forks, Wash., because I see them in every major league city where blood-sucking billionaire owners blackmail taxpayers into building $500 million-plus facilities to further boost their already massive revenues. Sigh. They say this is the last installment in the Twilight series. Yeah, right. I fear this crappy series will last longer than the Pirates' streak of losing seasons, and be twice as miserable to watch. Foam puffy finger way down!
Les Miserables: I haven’t seen it yet but am eagerly looking forward to seeing the multitalented Hugh Jackman become the first actor in history to portray both Jean Valjean and the mutant superhero Wolverine. I mean, did you see Jackman’s ripped body in the "X-Men" movies? Forget about football, hockey, basketball, baseball, track and cycling -- where we really need steroid testing is Hollywood. If for no better reason than to suspend Sylvester Stallone from making a movie for four years. Foam puffy finger up.
Red Dawn: Somehow, this remake sounds even more ludicrous than the original version about high school kids Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen holding off a Soviet invasion of Colorado. This time, it’s a high school quarterback, his older military brother and his pals defeating a North Korean invasion of Spokane. North Korea invades Spokane? Apparently, basketball fan Kim Jong-un assumed Spokane would be an easy opening invasion target after watching Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament over the years. Foam puffy finger down.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Expanding on the successful "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" milk-them-dry game plan, director Peter Jackson plans to make three movies from one 320-page book. This is like a team owner pouring a 12-ounce beer into three four-ounce cups, and charging you $9 for each. Foam puffy finger down.
Anna Karenina: I was pretty jazzed to see this. And then I realized that I read the title wrong. This is Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina," not "Anna Kournikova." Still, it stars Keira Knightly, so ... Foam puffy finger slightly up.