October 23, 2016
        Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards                "Certain Women" showcases Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams                Ben Affleck is perhaps Hollywood's biggest and most diverse superstar                "The Birth of a Nation" looks to survive controversy and contend for awards                "The Girl on the Train" hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race        

Holiday movies boast boomers, sleuths and ‘Nine’ ladies dancing


Oscar hopefuls crowd the multiplexes this holiday season, and our attentions fall to Rob Marshall’s star-studded “Nine,” which would be an entertaining film if not for all of those obnoxious musical numbers.

Unfortunately for the “Chicago” director and his financial backers at The Weinstein Company, Marshall’s splashy song-and-dance routine is supposed to ride high on its songbook, yet the whole production grinds to a halt every time the cast members open their mouths to sing.

The usually brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis is woefully miscast as Guido, an Italian director searching for material for his next film. His muses are played by Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Kate Hudson, to name a few. But “Nine,” which adapts the Broadway stage production of the same name, suffers horrifically discordant tunes that dwell on Lewis’ vapidly insecure lead character.

You’ll find a similarly self-centered yet far more entertaining character occupying the spotlight in Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” which re-introduces Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective to a modern audience. Robert Downey Jr. continues his string of wise career choices by assuming Holmes’ inquisitive stance. The unpredictable performer is blessed with a smart, intricate screenplay (from Tony Peckham and Simon Kinberg), while his chemistry with straight-man Jude Law – as Dr. Watson – is explosive. I’m already anticipating the promised sequel, so long as it remains as intelligent as this introductory chapter.

Things aren’t quite as fresh and original in Nancy Meyers’ romantic comedy “It’s Complicated,” but with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in the leads, it’s hard to complain about the picture’s safe, unchallenging predictability. The two play divorced parents of three grown children who fall back into a casual affair despite the fact that he’s re-married and she’s dating (Steve Martin plays her soft-spoken suitor). Meyers has a knack for finding the right cast for her material – see Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in the clever “Something’s Got to Give” – but “It’s Contrived” might have been a more accurate title.

“Nine” – *1/2 out of 4
“Sherlock Holmes” – *** out of 4
“It’s Complicated” – **1/2 out of 4

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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