BIG RELEASE: Django Unchained (Dec. 25); Les Miserables (Dec. 25)
THE BIG PICTURE: In Django Unchained, pretty much everybody dies -- but they die with Quentin Tarantino's flair for style. In Les Miserables, pretty much everybody dies -- but they die with Europe's flair for melodrama. What does it say about our society when the two big Christmas releases this year are littered with corpses? To be fair, Les Miserables also offers an epic love story and periodic triumphs of the human spirit -- and it's a sure-fire Best Picture Oscar contender. Featuring a star-studded cast that includes Hugh Jackman as the fugitive Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as the dutiful cop Javert and Anne Hathaway as a tragic mother-turned-prostitute, this musical-drama received nearly-universal praise at an early screening for critics. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio borrows a page from Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs of New York, There Will Be Blood) to play a larger-than-life, depraved slave owner in the American West. Jamie Foxx plays a slave recruited by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) to take DiCaprio down. The catch? This one is personal. DiCaprio's character, Calvin Candie, keeps Django's wife in servitude on his plantation. This movie is essentially Kill Bill's revenge fantasy with guns instead of swords, and cowboys instead of ninjas.
FORECAST: You can't go wrong. Django Unchained will find Tarantino in the same fine form as his Oscar-winning Inglourious Basterds. It also bodes well to see the director paired up again with Waltz. But Les Miserables cast will be anything but sad come Oscar night. With The King's Speech only recently behind him, director Tom Hooper is already clearing off more space on the mantle. Life isn't going to kill the dream he dreamed any time soon.
BIG EVENT: Doctor Who: The Snowmen (Dec. 25, SPACE, 8 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: Call me old fashioned, but I prefer spending Christmas with a time-travelling alien. The Time Lord returns for his annual holiday special. Who needs Bing Crosby, a White Christmas - or a family - when you have The Tardis (Confession: statements like that are the reason I was a bachelor until my 30s). Tonight's outing is called The Snowmen for reason -- it features deadly creatures that give Frosty's "thumpety thump thump" a whole new meaning. The special also marks the debut of Doctor's new companion, Clara, (Jenna-Louise Coleman), who doesn't take much time to lock lips with the good Doctor. Of course, Clara is just as beautiful as many of the Doctor's recent companions (ah, to be a Time Lord).
FORECAST: Whoville be damned. Let the Grinch have it. There's only one Who who will make you truly feel at home for the holidays.
BIG RELEASE: Not Fade Away (soundtrack)
BIG PICTURE: Sure, this soundtrack technically came out last week (Dec. 18). But the music business has gone into hibernation for the holidays -- and the film these songs bring to life opens in North America in select markets on December 21. Produced by Steven Van Zandt, this soundtrack is a veritable who's who of musical legends. It includes music from the Rolling Stones, Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, Sex Pistols, Lead Belly, James Brown, The Small Faces, Van Morrison and Robert Johnson. Not Fade Way, the film debut of David Chase (The Sopranos), is a tribute to the power and influence of rock 'n' roll. It tells the story of three best friends from the New Jersey suburbs who form a band in 1964 called The Twylight Zones (Second confession: I had a band in high school, too. But our plan to attract girls was an abysmal failure. I wonder if it had something to do with the fact that every other song I wrote was about Doctor Who?).
FORECAST: Rock around the Christmas tree. For any lover of good music, this one makes for the perfect last second gift. (And it's the perfect excuse to replace mom's Christmas music before you go mad.)
-- Postmedia News
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture offerings is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.