Hollywood loves money. So does Ebenezer Scrooge. So what better way to launch the holiday season than putting the old money-grubber at the head of the line to separate movie-goers from their cash?
The latest version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” features Jim Carrey as Scrooge. Coming on Ebenezer’s coattails will be everything from vampire romance (“The Twilight Saga: New Moon”) and end-of-the-world stories (“2012,” ”The Road”) to epic science fiction (“Avatar”) and a new incarnation of the world’s greatest detective (“Sherlock Holmes”).
Presented in 3-D, “Disney’s A Christmas Carol” is the latest from Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”), who presents Dickens’ London with the same performance-capture technology he used on “The Polar Express” and “Beowulf.”
Carrey and such co-stars as Gary Oldman, Robin Wright Penn, Colin Firth and Bob Hoskins worked on a bare soundstage, their bodies covered with sensors so digital cameras could record their performances in 360 degrees. Sets, costumes and other details were filled in later by computer animation.
The process allowed actors to take on multiple roles, with Carrey playing Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come that teach him the meaning of the season.
While Zemeckis loves Alastair Sim’s 1951 “A Christmas Carol,” he said previous adaptations never captured the full impact of Dickens’ surreal images. As he made “Beowulf,” Zemeckis realized he now had the tools to bring “A Christmas Carol” to the screen the way he imagined it on the page.
“It was the idea of being able to actually recreate London and not have any limitations whatsoever. Anything that existed at the time we could present,” Zemeckis said. “Then the idea that Jim could play Scrooge in all the different ages, and the ghosts, they could be his alter-ego, and he could play those. Everything just fell into place.”
With “Sherlock Holmes,” Robert Downey Jr. and director Guy Ritchie also recreate old London while reinventing Arthur Conan Doyle’s brainy, monkish detective as an action hero, verbal quipster — and even a bit of a lover.
Downey’s Holmes fights with fists, clubs, pistols and hammers, trades odd-couple banter with best buddy and roommate Watson (Jude Law), and shares romantic moments with the one woman (Rachel McAdams) who never got the better of him.
It was a nice change of pace for Downey after he leaped to the boxoffice A-list with last year’s comicbook blockbuster “Iron Man.”
“It was such a radical departure,” Downey said. “A period piece. A very, very established kind of iconic image comes to mind when you think of Sherlock Holmes. Whereas Iron Man was a relatively unknown quote-unquote second tier superhero … until last year.”
Another series that jumped to blockbuster status last year was Hollywood’s take on author Stephenie Meyer’s love story between a sensitive schoolgirl (Kristen Stewart) and her immortal vampire boy toy (Robert Pattinson).
The second installment, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” is a lesson in teen heartache as Pattinson’s Edward dumps Stewart’s Bella, realizing the danger he represents to his human girlfriend.
The brooding Bella finds solace with a school chum (Taylor Lautner) and his werewolf gang and eventually winds up pulling Edward out of a jam.
“Edward breaks up with Bella for her own protection, but Bella believes it’s because he doesn’t love her any more, and she goes into a terrible depression,” said “New Moon” director Chris Weitz. “In the end, there’s kind of a lovely turnaround whereby Bella has to go and save Edward, having been saved by him throughout their past.”
Also in the fantasy realm, James Cameron is back with his first fictional film since 1997’s “Titanic” swamped Hollywood to become king of the Oscars and the biggest modern blockbuster. “Avatar” also marks Cameron’s return to his science fiction roots and a reunion with “Aliens” star Sigourney Weaver, who joins Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana among the cast of the filmmaker’s 3-D epic about humans taking on the form of extraterrestrials as they explore a distant world.
“What we have on the screen right now is 150 percent of what I imagined. The other 50 percent is the part I could not have imagined without having the actors there, without working with a team of artists who come up with all these amazing, outlandish designs,” Cameron said. “My job was really kind of herding the cats, getting the artists to kind of be cohesive about the aesthetic decision, so it was all one world, so it seemed like part of an evolutionary or ecological system.”
Hollywood has dozens of other films, big and small, coming before year’s end. Among other movies expected to attract considerable attention is “It’s Complicated,” a film centered on a messy love triangle among a bakery and restaurant owner (Meryl Streep), her ex-hubby (Alec Baldwin) and an architect (Steve Martin).