Christmas weekend movie roundup: Horses, and wilder animals
Christmas Day is often the last day of the year when movies are released and, in this case, it's a day for a very good movie.
Before that, though, are three new movies opening today and two of them are pretty good.
"We Bought a Zoo" is writer-director Cameron Crowe's return to form (after misfiring with "Vanilla Sky" and "Elizabethtown"). He directs a sweet, whimsical story (based on true events) of Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon), a widower who decides to move his family to the country and the house they find turns out to be attached to a rundown zoo, so he gamely takes over operating it. The supporting cast includes Thomas Haden Church as Mee's doubting brother, Scarlett Johansson as a dedicated zookeeper and Elle Fanning as her country-girl cousin.
The other two movies opening today are French. One is "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life," an eye-opening and occasionally surrealistic biopic of French singer Serge Gainsbourg, who was as legendary for his music as he was for his bedroom conquests including Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. Actor Eric Elmosnino plays Gainsbourg with a rakish charm and a brooding dark side.
Also opening today is "The Women on the 6th Floor," a comedy that starts promising but never delivers. It stars Fabrice Luchini as a Parisian businessman, circa 1962, who starts noticing the conditions for the Spanish maids who live upstairs in his apartment building.
OK, now for the main Christmas Day opening: Steven Spielberg's "War Horse." (The review will be posted online later today.) It's a stately, old-fashioned epic built around the simple story of a teen, Albie (Jeremy Irvine), and his horse. What's not so simple is the setting: England, just before the start of World War I. The story follows the horse, Joey, as he is taken into that war. Joey experiences many episodes some harrowing, others uplifting and so does Albie. Spielberg's craftsmanship is on full display, and some of the scenes are astonishingly beautiful.
Lastly, there's another movie opening on Christmas Day: "The Darkest Hour," a thriller in which some American college kids in Moscow are the only thing standing between humanity and an alien invasion. The movie was not screened for critics.