This week's must list: 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo', 'American Horror Story'
Holiday blues getting you down? Poor thing. Trust me, I know what that's like. You should feel happy, but you don't, and you're not sure you can stand to eat another Christmas cookie or see the inside of another shopping mall without spiraling down into existential crisis. But don't worry, Grinch - you aren't really trapped in some twisted Horror Story Zoo of American consumerism; it just feels that way right now.
My advice? Engage in one or more Adventures of your choosing; get in touch with your inner Dreamer! Hell, why not go out and get that Tattoo you've always wanted, you know, the one with the Dragon? Look, whatever path you choose on your quest to gain some measure of holiday peace, just remember that feeling down this time of year is Common. The key to rebounding is finding that one mood-enhancing X-Factor to make everything feel right again.
TUESDAY, DEC. 20:
Common, "The Dreamer/The Believer" [Warner Bros. Records]
Must Factor: Having taken a little time off from rapping to focus on his acting career lately (along with his regular stint on AMC's "Hell on Wheels", he also stars in the 2012 Sundance entry "LUV"), Common is back in the music game this week with "The Dreamer/The Believer", his ninth studio set and his first since 2008's Grammy-nominated "Universal Mind Control".
The album reunites the rapper with producer and Def Jam Vice President No I.D., who worked with Common on his first three LPs (before the artist hit it big on a major label) and who here has helped him craft an "old-school hip-hop" sound that harkens back to their pre-"Like Water for Chocolate" collaborations.
Common interview for "Happy Feet Two":
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" [Columbia]
Must Factor: After months of build-up and a nifty viral marketing campaign, David Fincher's English-language "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" adaptation is finally here - but will it live up to the hype? The answer, according to Drew McWeeny anyway, seems to be no, sorta, though the HFPA was nonetheless clearly impressed enough with both Rooney Mara's performance and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score to honor them with Golden Globe nominations last week.
The National Board of Review and AFI liked it too (the latter to Gregory Ellwood's bafflement), seeing as both influential organizations named it one of their top ten films of the year. In any case, it's David Fincher for god's sake; he's one of those directors whose lesser films are still better than 90% of what's out there. Ok, so maybe not "Alien 3"...but we won't count that one (even if it isn't as bad as its reputation suggests).
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 21:
"The Adventures of Tintin" [Paramount Pictures]
Must Factor: I'm sorry, Steven Spielberg - but not even you, the most famous film director on the entire planet, can release two films in the same exact week and expect me to include them both on my HitFix Must List. It's just not going to happen, and I know that's gotta hurt, big time. (On a side note, yes, as a matter of fact I am still a little ticked off about "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull".)
So why did I go with "Tintin" over "War Horse"? For one thing, the intense relationship between the boy and his steed in the latter film can't help but creep me out a little in an "Equus" sort of way; for another, advance word has been quite a bit more positive for "Tintin" than for "Horse", including from our own Drew McWeeney as well as In Contention's Kristopher Tapley, the latter of whom recently included it on his top ten films of the year list. The big question now is: does the film merit a nod from the Academy for Best Animated Feature given its performance-capture roots? The HFPA certainly seem to think so - of course, they also really, really like hanging out with Steven Spielberg. So there's that.
Clip - "Lifeboat":
"American Horror Story" [FX, 10 PM]
Must Factor: Love him or hate him, there's no doubt Ryan Murphy not only knows how to craft a hit TV show but how to get people talking, and the now-Golden Globe-nominated (to the ire of many "Breaking Bad" fans, apparently) "American Horror Story" is no exception. Tonight sees the show's 90-minute-long first-season finale (good lord, where does the time go?), which fans can likely expect to be as twisted and bizarre as the preceding eleven episodes (if not more so). Alan Sepinwall still probably won't be watching it though. Oh, well...maybe next season?
THURSDAY, DEC. 22:
"The X-Factor" [FOX, 8 PM]
Must Factor: In a TV landscape now crowded with a veritable slew of talent competition shows, "The X-Factor" has nevertheless managed to maintain a consistent, if unspectacular, audience since its debut back in September. Tonight it's the final episode of season one, during which one of the remaining three contestants - Chris Rene, Melanie Amaro and Josh Krajcik - will go home with a big-deal $5 million recording contract with judge L.A. Reid's Epic Records. So who wins, and who goes home sobbing uncontrollably? Guess you'll have to tune in to find out, won't you? Or maybe just follow along with Daniel Fienberg's live-blog/recap.
If you're a fan of the show, make sure to sign up for instant alerts over at our "X-Factor" fan page.
Daniel Fienberg interviews judge/creator Simon Cowell:
FRIDAY, DEC. 23:
"We Bought a Zoo" [20th Century Fox]
Must Factor: While it's not exactly an awards-season heavyweight (even with big attention-grabbing celebs like Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson in the cast, the HFPA still couldn't be bothered to give it any Golden Globe nods), Cameron Crowe's "We Bought a Zoo" still looks to have a better chance of finding commercial success than the writer/director's last film, "Elizabethtown" - and could perhaps even score an Oscar nod for Best Original Song for Jonsi's "Gathering Stories" (interview) if all goes well.
Our own Drew McWeeney certainly liked the film (it may have even made him cry, just a little); Gregory Ellwood also had good things to say about it. All in all, seems like a fair good bet for a holiday film to see with the entire family. Hell, you could certainly do a lot worse.
Clip - "20 Seconds of Courage":
SATURDAY, DEC. 24:
"Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" [ABC, 8 PM]
Must Factor: Do you really need one? Skip the Jim Carrey live-action version; this animated take from 1966 is way, way better. Did you know that Boris "Frankenstein" Karloff voices the Grinch and also provides the film's narration? You're welcome.